Elizabeth Holmes wants case deemed 'essential'; judge fires back

Theranos founder asks judge to allow them to defy coronavirus-spurred shelter-in-place orders

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A judge overseeing Elizabeth Holmes' case slammed the once-powerful Theranos founder's attorneys for requesting he deem their work "essential," to allow them to violate new coronavirus-prompted shelter-in-place orders and continue their trial preparations, according to court papers and recent reports.

"I look at the order, the tone of it is: Judge, if you want us to go forward, you're going to have order us to violate other jurisdictions' orders and that's what we are asking you to do in a very public way — a very publicly filed way," said U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila during a Wednesday telephone conference, according to Politico. "I was a little taken aback, candidly."

Holmes leaves after a hearing at a federal court in San Jose, California in July 2019. (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

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Just days earlier, Lance Wade and other defense attorneys asked Davila to grant them permission to meet with each other, serve subpoenas and conduct interviews, despite the issuance of a shelter-in-place order for the areas involved, such as California and Washington D.C., according to court papers.

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"Trial-preparation tasks will require members of the defense team or agents we retain to undertake actions that public health officials have deemed to be inadvisable and/or unlawful...Travel for meetings may in some circumstances also be unlawful," the attorneys wrote. "We expect many subpoena recipients and/or witnesses to respond with hostility to receipt of subpoenas or other contacts during this time, and to question the lawfulness of our actions."

In March, U.S. Attorney General William Barr wrote in a letter to all federal prosecutors that federal officials, such as themselves, have been exempted from the various nationwide lockdown and shelter-in-place orders. But the order does not extend to defense attorneys.

Holmes in January 2019. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Wade reiterated his request on Wednesday, asking Davila to allow their work to be considered "essential," the outlet reported.

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But Davila instead slammed the attorneys for inadvertently pushing him to delay the trial, which is set for this summer, according to the report.

The judge also referred to a statement issued by Williams & Connolly, the law office where Wade and the other attorneys work, which states that the firm "has carefully prepared for a crisis of this kind and given our outstanding IT capabilities, we have been able to move our firm temporarily to full-remote access."

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Prosecutors allege Holmes and Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, the company's former chief operating officer and president, deliberately misled investors, policymakers and the public about the accuracy of Theranos’ blood-testing technologies.

A logo sign outside of the headquarters of Theranos in Palo Alto, California on January 24, 2016. (Kristoffer Tripplaar/AP)

Theranos was founded in Feb. 2014 and was headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.

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The company claimed to be able to provide over 240 finger-prick blood tests, including ones that could reportedly detect cancer, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But an investigation by The Journal in 2015 found that Theranos' technology was inaccurate at best and that the company was using routine blood-testing equipment for the vast majority of its tests. The story raised concerns about the accuracy of Theranos' blood-testing technology, which put patients at risk of having conditions either misdiagnosed or ignored.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.