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Chadbourne Gender Discrimination Case Gets Amended Complaint

Oct. 27, 2016, 7:18 PM

The woman partner who filed a gender discrimination class-action against Chadbourne & Parke leveled new accusations in an amended complaint on Thursday, including that the firm’s head of litigation placed a cartoon of a fat man in a bowler hat on her wall and took a postcard from her office.

The complaint alleges the incident was recorded, although the video has not been released. It also adds new allegations from former partner Jaroslawa Z. Johnson, who ran the firm’s Kiev office for nearly ten years, and who is joining current partner Kerrie Campbell as a named plaintiff in the suit.

It also adds six individuals as named defendants, including Abbe Lowell, the head of litigation based in D.C., and four members of the management committee — Andrew Giaccia, the firm’s managing partner; Lawrence Rosenberg, Howard Seife, and Paul Weber, who are all located in New York City. Marc Alpert, a former member of the management committee, is also named as a defendant.

Echoing allegations made by Campbell, Johnson alleges the management committee ignored her requests for pay increases year after year, despite the fact that she consistently ranked higher in revenue collection than male counterparts who earned more.

“I would be listed in the top 20 or top 30 of collections, but my points were always in the lower 30 or lower half of partners,” she told Big Law Business. “The same people always appeared in the top ten list of points recipients and many were not in the top 10 list of collections.”

A Chadbourne spokesman took issue with the lawsuit:

After devoting themselves to fully two months of media publicity, Kerrie Campbell and her counsel have finally deigned to serve Chadbourne with their long-promised amended complaint. Now that this amended complaint at long last has been filed, Chadbourne can respond in court with the full force of the facts and law that are absent from their pleading and even more so from their unprofessional and irresponsible interviews. The amended complaint is as riddled with falsehoods as [is] the original complaint. The allegations about matters supposedly shown on a videotape are trivial and meaningless, and if anything show not harassment or retaliation but rather the opposite. Chadbourne continues to vehemently deny all the accusations against the Firm, including any charge of gender discrimination.

Read the amended Campbell v. Chadbournecomplaint on Bloomberg Law.

The individuals named as defendants declined to comment through a firm spokesman.

Johnson alleges she was repeatedly denied merit bonuses for things like “office management” and “increased responsibility” despite constantly having her hands full with managerial duties as head of the Kiev office.

“In addition to 15 to 20 lawyers, I had another 10 to 15 staff,” Johnson told Big Law Business. “I had an office to maintain. I did all of those things without the support structure that lawyers practicing in New York had. My collections were done under almost hardship circumstances at times.”

She said she left Chadbourne after the firm’s management committee decided in 2014 to close the Kiev office, without her input. The firm spokesman told Big Law Business the office was closed “after a number of money-losing years made worse by political turmoil and a challenging economic climate.”

Quite frankly, if I hadn’t found out about this lawsuit I wouldn’t have done anything. But once I saw this is still happening at the law firm, I thought, I’m doing a disservice to the young women still at the firm if I don’t do anything.

Johnson, who is now president and CEO of a private equity fund, said she was motivated to join the lawsuit by her sister, who sent her a news article about it.

“I’m not a litigious person by nature,” she explained. “Quite frankly, if I hadn’t found out about this lawsuit I wouldn’t have done anything. But once I saw this is still happening at the law firm, I thought, I’m doing a disservice to the young women still at the firm if I don’t do anything.”

Johnson said she has made a point not to talk about the suit with her former colleagues because she knows how sensitive of a topic it can be. Now that she’s out of Big Law altogether, Johnson has less to fear.

So far, Johnson and Campbell are the only plaintiffs but at least one former Chadbourne partner told Big Law Business she privately supports the allegations.

“I congratulate [Campbell] for having the guts to do it because it’s difficult if you ever want a job again,” she said. “It’s hard to make these issues into a big deal because nobody wants to talk about them.”

Campbell has said she’s received icy treatment since making her allegations, calling it “the coldest dog days of August I’ve ever experienced in Washington, D.C.”

Her complaint alleges that she captured Lowell on video in her office after she filed suit, placing a card of a cartoon of a fat man in a bowler hat on her wall and stealing a postcard that contained a quote by Nelson Mandela: “It will forever remain an accusation and a challenge to all men and women of conscience that it took as long as it has before all of us stood up to say: ‘enough is enough.”

As noted in his profile on the Chadbourne website:

Mr. Lowell has been counsel to the US House of Representatives twice, most recently when he was Chief Minority Counsel during impeachment proceedings against President Clinton and before that as special ethics counsel to the House Committee of Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics Committee).

Meanwhile, other female partners at Chadbourne have gone out of their way to distance themselves from Campbell’s claims. In September, 14 female partners released a letter written to Campbell’s attorney David Sanford, accusing him of not contacting them before filing the suit and insisting he withdraw his class-action allegations. The letter was written “independently from the firm as a whole,” according to Joy Langford, one of the signatories.

Chadbourne partner Mary Yelenick, the only current female partner who did not sign the letter, declined to comment.

The letter to Sanford did not address the merits of Campbell’s claims, leading some observers to believe it was primarily a calculated business move.