Posted January 16th, 2009.
On Wednesday we checked in on a small firm doing big-time work—David Sanford’s Sanford Wittels & Heisler, a litigation boutique with 15 well-pedigreed lawyers. (Last week’s hire: a Yale Law grad coming over from MoFo.) David, from Jones Day and Boies Schilller, attracts talent with high-profile plaintiff’s-side civil rights work—20/20 was in line for an interview after Bisnow—like the novel race discrimination class action he filed in the late fall against the U.S. Marshals. The twist? While EEOC rules limit classes alleging discrimination (here, biased promotion decisions) to employees going back 300 days, David is looking to certify a class going back at least 10 years, potentially opening the Marshals to massive liability. The suit puts the preliminary damage figure at $300 million.
The theory: The EEOC “quietly”—and improperly—closed down a similar class action proceeding back in 1998, after the then-lead plaintiff was awarded a $4 million judgment. David tells us there are as many as 1,000 African American Marshals who should be included in the class, who relied on the 1998 class action claim to protect their rights. He got to know the Marshals’ Service through another headline case—his representation of Marshal Arthur Lloyd, charged with first-degree murder after a road rage incident on Rockville Pike in which, David says, a crazed man was driving a Camaro toward Lloyd and his family when Lloyd shot him. Sanford Wittels attorney Stefanie Roemer got Lloyd acquitted on the murder charge; he was convicted of manslaughter.