Ethics Corner: Third Circuit Vindicates Plaintiff's Attorney
Justin M. Swartz and Cara E. Greene. July, 2007. Ethics Corner is a regular contribution by the ABA, Labor & Employment Law Section’s Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee.
The Third Circuit recently overturned a district court order disqualifying a plaintiff’s attorney who had conducted an ex parte interview of the defendant’s administrative assistant. EEOC v. HORA, Inc., No. 05-5393, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 15705 (3d Cir. June 29, 2007) (unpublished decision). Characterizing the disqualification as “draconian,” the Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion because the lawyer did not violate any ethics rules, and, even if she had, there was no prejudice to the defendant.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Jana Barnett, represented Manessta Beverly in a sex harassment and retaliation case against a Days Inn franchise and its management company. During discovery, Barnett conducted an ex parte interview of Debbie Richardson, an administrative assistant at the Days Inn. The district court disqualified Barnett for conducting the interview, finding that she violated Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct (“PRPC”) Rules 4.2, 4.4, and 5.7.
The Third Circuit reversed, holding that Barnett did not violate Rule 4.2 because the administrative assistant was not a member of the organization with whom ex parte contact was forbidden. The Third Circuit recently overturned a district court order disqualifying a plaintiff’s attorney who had conducted an ex parte interview of the defendant’s administrative assistant.
Can Law Firm Partners Sue The Firm For Employment Discrimination?
Employment attorneys Wayne Outten and Justin Swartz. This article originally appeared in Law Journal Newsletters' Law Firm Partnership & Benefits Report, February 2004. For more information, visit www.ljnonline.com.
This article will first discuss reasons that law firms, especially large firms, are susceptible to discrimination suits by their partners. Next, it will explain two threshold requirements for law firm partners to sue their firms for employment discrimination. Both of these requirements turn on whether certain partners are deemed employees. Third, the article will discuss the Supreme Court’s Clackamas decision and lower court decisions that preceded Clackamas but used similar analyses. Finally, it will note that,under some federal and state laws, law firms are vulnerable even if their partners are not deemed employees.Discussion of: reasons law firms may be susceptible to discrimination suits by their partners; two required thresholds for filing such a suit; Supreme Court's Clackamas decision; and finally a note on why some law firms are vulnerable even if their partners are not deemed employees.