Lawyer Calls Chadbourne’s Gender Bias Defense ‘In Terrorem’

As it appeared on Bloomberg Big Law Business
By Stephanie Russell-Kraft

A Chadbourne & Parke partner who sued her firm on claims of gender discrimination said in court documents that the firm filed a “baseless” counterclaim against her as punishment.

Kerrie Campbell, a litigation partner in Washington, D.C. had sued her own firm in August, claiming she and other women are paid less than their male counterparts and leveling accusations of broad gender bias. In October, Jaroslawa Johnson, a second former Chadbourne partner, joined her suit as a plaintiff and an amended complaint added six male partners as named defendants.

In November court filings, Chadbourne denied their claims and accused Campbell of breaching her fiduciary duty to the partnership by filing the proposed class-action. The firm accused her and her attorney David Sanford, of Sanford Heisler, of lying to the press in a “nationwide smear campaign” to ruin the firm’s reputation.

On Friday, Campbell’s attorney asked a federal judge in Manhattan to dismiss the counterclaim against her, describing it as retribution for challenging the firm’s entrenched gender bias.

Sanford wrote, “If Chadbourne were permitted to proceed with this in terrorem tactic against Ms. Campbell, it would have a powerful chilling effect on female employees at Chadbourne and elsewhere who would otherwise speak out against employment discrimination.”

In an interview with Big Law Business, he described the counterclaim as retaliatory, and “anathema to the remedial purposes” of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act.

A firm spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the new filings.

Chadbourne has argued neither Campbell nor Johnson have standing to sue the firm since they were never employees who are covered under discrimination laws. According to the firm, they are not protected by the Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Washington D.C. Human Rights Act.

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