Chadbourne & Parke fired back Thursday night against two attorneys’ claims they were denied equal pay because of their gender, calling their proposed class action nothing more than an “unfortunate” attempt by the women to abuse anti-discrimination laws to “avoid responsibility for and divert attention from their own respective professional performances.”
The firm denied all allegations in its answer to a complaint filed by current partner Kerrie Campbell and former partner Jaroslawa Johnson that claimed they and other women at the firm are discriminated against by a “boys’ club” that awards females fewer points, and thus lower compensation, than male peers with similar performance records.
On top of the strongly worded answer, Chadbourne added a counterclaim against Campbell for breach of fiduciary duty, accusing her and her attorney David Sanford of lying to the press in a “nationwide smear campaign” intended solely to ruin the firm’s reputation.
“This campaign, which is separate from the instant litigation and outside any judicial proceeding, has no lawful purpose but rather is an effort to denigrate Chadbourne in the court of public opinion through false allegations and sensational hyperbole, with the implicit extortionate threat that this campaign of falsity would continue unless Chadbourne were to agree to a large settlement in this factually baseless and legally defective litigation,” the firm said.
Her attorney Sanford, of Sanford Heisler issued a statement: “Nothing in Chadbourne’s response surprises us, as the firm has communicated identical claims to us during the past few months.”
The bulk of the firm’s answer was directed at Campbell, who first filed suit in late August and still works at the firm.
Johnson, who ran the firm’s now-defunct Kiev office but departed the firm in 2014, and now heads a private equity fund, joined Campbell in an amended complaint that was filed in October. It also added six male Chadbourne partners as named defendants.
Among other things, the firm said Campbell was frequently absent from the office, became “notorious” among associates for giving false deadlines and communicating poorly, showed “questionable legal judgment,” and, on several occasions, became inappropriately drunk in a professional setting.
Chadbourne also responded to Campbell’s latest allegations that partners have retaliated against her since she sued the firm. She claims to have a video of partner Abbe Lowell stealing a postcard with a quote from Nelson Mandela from her office wall. The firm said Thursday that Lowell removed the Mandela postcard along with several other postings because he deemed them inappropriate for a professional environment, not as an act of retaliation.
The firm denied Johnson’s allegations she was denied pay increases and merit bonuses commensurate with her collections because of her gender. “Johnson was the respected leader of the Kiev office, the economics of which were challenging and affected her compensation,” the firm said in its answer.
UPDATED: Comments from the plaintiff’s attorney have been added to this post.