Chadbourne to vote on expelling partner who brought $100m gender bias suit against firm

Kerrie-Campbell

Chadbourne & Parke is holding a partnership vote to determine the future of a female partner who filed a $100m gender bias suit against the firm seven months ago.

A spokesman for the US firm, which will merge with Norton Rose Fulbright this quarter, said in a statement that a partnership meeting will be scheduled to “consider and vote upon a motion to expel Kerrie Campbell from the partnership”.

The firm, as it has stated in court filings, noted that Campbell was asked by Chadbourne’s management committee to leave voluntarily last year.

Chadbourne, in its statement, cited Campbell’s alleged “questionable legal judgement, her serious and disruptive failures in practice management, and her displaying poor personal judgement, among other things”, as necessitating her departure from the firm. Chadbourne said it tried to extricate Campbell from its ranks in a quiet manner in order to allow her to “achieve better results with a fresh start” somewhere else.

“She decided not to do so and, instead, chose to pursue baseless claims in the cynical pursuit of a big and undeserved payday,” said Chadbourne. “The firm has been exceedingly patient and sought to avoid having a formal expulsion vote if other outcomes were possible.

“As Chadbourne prepares for a new future, the choices Ms Campbell has made have left the firm no alternative but to seek to bring this relationship to an end in this manner. No matter how she will try to mischaracterise it, this decision is the inevitable result of the choices Ms Campbell has made.”

David Sanford, a name partner at Sanford Heisler representing Campbell, said in a statement of his own that Chadbourne had hit a “new low” by publicly announcing the potential dismissal of his client from its partnership.

“By calling the planned expulsion vote ‘the inevitable result of the choices Ms Campbell has made’ in bringing suit against the firm, Chadbourne openly admits that the vote to terminate Ms Campbell is retaliatory,” Sanford said.

“Unfortunately for Norton Rose Fulbright, this discriminatory and overtly retaliatory act is a liability that will not disappear with the firm’s upcoming merger. We will pursue discovery to determine Norton Rose Fulbright’s role in directing or approving Ms Campbell’s expulsion.”

Two spokesmen for Norton Rose Fulbright did not return requests for comment on the matter. A call to Campbell at her office in Washington DC was not immediately returned by the time of this story.

Campbell, who joined Chadbourne in early 2014 in a lateral move from Manatt Phelps & Phillips, has since been joined in her suit against Chadbourne by former Kiev office managing partner Jaroslawa Zelinsky Johnson and ex-products liability chair Mary Yelenick, now of counsel at Chadbourne after retiring from the firm’s partnership in December.

Yelenick, in a declaration filed last month in a New York federal court, attacked Chadbourne’s origination credit system as being inherently unfair to women partners.

A letter filed in the suit Wednesday by Yelenick, Johnson and Campbell states that “the parties have been unable to reach a settlement” and that “litigation remains ongoing”.

US District Judge J Paul Oetken has yet to rule on Chadbourne’s motion to dismiss the case and request for summary judgment, or the plaintiffs’ request for class certification and Campbell’s bid to scuttle counterclaims filed against her by Chadbourne.

Proskauer Rose, which in 2013 settled a case filed against the firm by a client of Sanford’s, is representing Chadbourne in its dispute with Campbell, Johnson and Yelenick.