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MoFo Can Get Some Personnel Records From Ex-Lawyers’ Other Firms

April 3, 2020, 6:18 PM

Two female attorneys suing Morrison & Foerster LLP for sex and pregnancy discrimination can’t block the firm from obtaining all employment records from one woman’s current employer and the other woman’s former employer, the Northern District of California ruled.

Some information relating to Sherry William’s pre-MoFo employment with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP is relevant to her claims and MoFo’s defense in what was once a proposed class action, the court said Thursday, partially denying her bid to quash a subpoena MoFo served on Freshfields.

Morrison & Foerster can seek from Freshfields communications between it and William regarding her job performance and Freshfields’ decision to initially classify her a class of 2011 associate, rather than class of 2010, when she joined the firm, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said. William’s “performance and demonstrated skills are central” to her claims against MoFo, the court said.

MoFo isn’t required to accept William’s testimony on those issues, Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley said. Whether information obtained from Freshfields will be admissible at trial is a separate question and not a reason for denying MoFo’s legitimate discovery request, the judge said.

Co-plaintiff Joshua Ashley Klayman similarly can’t entirely block the subpoena MoFo served on Linklaters LLP, where Klayman currently works, Corley said. The subpoena seeks records regarding communications between Klayman and Linklaters about her claims against MoFo, her Linklaters performance evaluations and disciplinary records for the one-year period after she joined the firm, and information about her Linklaters’ pay and benefits, including related negotiations.

Those records are relevant and MoFo doesn’t have to accept at face value the information Klayman has already provided on those issues, the court said. Her Linklaters job reviews and disciplinary history could support her bias claims against MoFo if they are “exemplary. Or MoFo’s defense might be bolstered if the records show problems with her Linklaters performance, the court said.

But both women were right that the subpoenas are unenforceable to the extent they seek all of their personnel records at the respective firms, Corley said. That would needlessly invade their privacy beyond the parameters of permissible discovery, she said, granting the motions to quash in part.

Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP represents William and Klayman. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP represents MoFo.

The case is William v. Morrison & Foerster LLP, N.D. Cal., No. 3:18-cv-2542, 4/2/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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