Ropes & Gray Cleared on Bias Claim: Business of Law

A Boston federal jury ruled against a former Ropes & Gray LLP associate who alleged the law firm retaliated when he complained of racial discrimination after failing to make partner, the National Law Journal reported.

John H. Ray III, a Harvard-trained attorney who is black, joined the Boston office of Ropes & Gray as a fifth-year litigation associate in 2005. After initial positive performance reviews, his evaluations declined with time and in 2008 he was told he wouldn’t make partner.

Ropes & Gray has what’s known as an “up or out” policy -- associates who won’t become partners must leave the firm after a severance period. Ray asked for extensions of the six months offered. The firm refused in 2009, before ultimately suggesting a two-month extension if Ray agreed to release the firm from any claims, according to court papers.

Ray rejected the offer and sent one partner a draft discrimination complaint he planned to file with the Equal Employment Opportunity unless the firm offered either an indefinite severance period or a payment of $8.5 million, according to court papers. The firm rejected the offer and told Ray he couldn’t return to the office.

Ray filed his claim with the EEOC, which in 2011 rejected the discrimination claim while saying there was “probable cause to believe that Ropes had retaliated against Ray for filing the charge,” according to court papers.

Mediation was unsuccessful and Ray sent the EEOC’s finding to members of Congress, the president of the NAACP and Martha Minow, the dean of Harvard Law School, as well as others, according to court records.

The jury determined Nov. 20 that Ray hadn’t filed his claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in good faith or contacted the dean in good faith, according to the NLJ.

In an Aug. 16 ruling dismissing a discrimination claim, a federal judge found that Ray had “not come forward with plausible evidence” that the firm’s decision was “tinged with or influenced by racial animus.” The court, however, said that a jury should decide whether Ropes & Gray’s dissemination of the EEOC determination, which contained “severely damaging information about Ray,” was retaliatory.

The court also said that a jury could find that a partner’s refusal to provide a recommendation following Ray’s EEOC complaint could be found to be “in retaliation for filing an EEOC charge.”

Ray’s lawyer, Latif Doman of Washington’s Doman Davis LLP, told Bloomberg News at the time of the August ruling that, “We were surprised by the decision dismissing the discrimination claim and we will probably appeal, but we can’t until after the trial on retaliation slated for November.”

Doman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the verdict yesterday.

Ropes & Gray was represented by Michael Keating of Foley Hoag LLP, according to the newspaper.

“We are gratified at the decisions in this case, which affirm our steadfast commitment to fairness and equality,” the firm said in an e-mailed statement. “We are proud of our policies and practices we have implemented to support the advancement of talented people regardless of age, gender, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The case is Ray v. Ropes & Gray, 11-cv-11370, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

News

Boies-Olson Legal Duo Proud Allies in Same-Sex Marriage War

Lawyers David Boies and Theodore Olson, legal frenemies on opposite sides of the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court fight over presidential election vote counting, remain allies on the fight for same-sex marriage.

The duo talked about how and why they came to collaborate on a lawsuit to overturn California’s voter-enacted gay marriage ban yesterday as part of The Year Ahead: 2014, a two-day conference for an audience of business people in Chicago sponsored by Bloomberg LP.

“Ted called me in early 2009,” Boies began the discussion.

“He thought I was the devil,” Olson said.

Olson told the moderator, Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella, that as someone who grew up in California, he saw the state’s ban as “a tragedy.”

He said that because he was identified as a conservative, reaching out to his adversary in the case of Bush v. Gore would make it easier for people to accept a ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

It’s important that “the American people accept that decision and say, ‘Yes, that’s the right decision,’” Olson said.

The bar to same-sex marriage “was causing enormous pain and damage to our fellow citizens” without justification, Boies said.

The 30-minute dialog with Abella, staged in the former Chicago Stock Exchange trading room now on permanent exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, also touched on political free speech and affirmative action.

Olson, 73, a Washington-based partner with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, served the George W. Bush administration as U.S. solicitor general, the federal government’s top litigator and Supreme Court advocate. He is a law graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, once officially known as Boalt Hall.

Boies, 72, is chairman of Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP, an Armonk, New York-based law firm, and is a graduate of Yale Law School.

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JPMorgan Deal Offers Turning Point for Attorney General Holder

The Justice Department’s $13 billion mortgage securities settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a record and also a rarity -- Attorney General Eric Holder’s first big win against a bank at the heart of 2008’s financial crisis.

For Holder, the part of the deal announced this week that requires the bank to pay $9 billion to resolve allegations it knowingly sold bad mortgage securities is a potential turning point after a tenure studded with controversy.

Several more announcements are on the way to bring financial institutions to account, Holder has said.

“You have to wait until we are finished with all the work that we will do,” Holder said in an interview. “When we get to that point you will see that we have taken the mandate that we were given seriously, that we held people accountable, that we held institutions accountable.”

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Firm News

Taft Stettinius Merges in Move to Expand to Chicago

Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP is merging with Shefsky & Froelich to create a 400-lawyer law firm with offices in eight cities in the U.S. Midwest.

Taft, which will retain its name after the merger, has seven U.S. offices, including four in Ohio. The others are in Indianapolis; Covington, Kentucky; and Phoenix. The combination with Shefsky & Froelich gives the firm a Chicago presence.

“Our mission is to be preeminent in our region, and to achieve that, a major presence in Chicago is essential,” Thomas Terp, Taft chairman and managing partner, said in a statement. “As business becomes more global and regional, having such a respected firm with talented attorneys on the ground in Chicago will benefit our clients in all of our offices.”

Shefsky & Froelich, which has 70 lawyers, has experience in complex commercial transactions and specializes in litigation and gaming.

“With this merger, we will strengthen our core practices, but we also will be able to provide many services and cover areas of expertise that we just couldn’t before,” Cezar M. Froelich, of Shefsky & Froelich, said in a statement. “Best of all, we will not change our client service culture and we will maintain our direct relationships with them.”

Taft traces its roots to 1885. In 1923, Robert A. Taft and Charles P. Taft II, sons of former President William Howard Taft, joined the firm.

Moves

Davis Polk Adds Former U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride

Neil MacBride, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, is joining Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP as a partner in the Washington office in the white-collar criminal defense and government investigations groups.

MacBride was a U.S. attorney from 2009 to 2013. Before that, he was associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department in 2009. He worked as chief counsel and staff director for then-Senator Joe Biden from 2001 to 2005 on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“His experience will be invaluable in offering the critical and decisive advice in New York and D.C. that great companies have always called upon us to provide,” Thomas J. Reid, Davis Polk’s managing partner, said in a statement.

While a U.S. attorney, MacBride handled cases involving financial fraud, international corruption, copyright infringement and trade secret theft, defense procurement fraud, money laundering, terrorism and cybersecurity, the firm said. Among them is the case against Kim Dotcom, who is accused of copyright piracy for running the website Megaupload.

MacBride also handled matters involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as well as securities and wire and fraud statutes. Last year, his office announced that Tyco International Ltd. agreed to pay more than $26 million to resolve U.S. charges that it bribed officials of companies including Saudi Aramco to win contracts.

Former government officials in Davis Polk’s Washington office include ex-chairman of the Federal Trade Commission Jon Leibowitz, former State Department official John Reynolds III, and former SEC Enforcement Director Linda Chatman Thomsen.

Davis Polk has about 900 lawyers at offices in New York, Washington, Sao Paulo, London, Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo and Menlo Park, California.

Motley Rice Hires New York Antitrust Lawyer for Expanded Office

Antitrust lawyer Michael M. Buchman is joining Motley Rice LLC as a partner in New York, where the firm is expanding and relocating its office to Midtown East from Chelsea.

Buchman, who was co-managing partner of the antitrust/consumer protection practice at Pomerantz Haudek Grossman & Gross LLP, joins along with an associate.

“With the downturn of the economy and changing landscape of the financial world and corporate greed, we have unfortunately seen the growing need for regulation in the form of private actions, including antitrust, securities and consumer fraud litigation,” Donald A. Migliori, managing member of the New York City office, said in a statement.

Buchman is currently representing retailers in an antitrust case over merchant swipe fees.

Motley Rice more than 70 lawyers at eight U.S. offices.

MoloLamken Hires Illinois AUSA DeVooght as Partner

U.S. litigation boutique MoloLamken LLP announced that trial lawyer Andrew R. DeVooght joined the firm as a partner from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

DeVooght worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the office’s criminal division, where his cases involved investor fraud, health-care fraud, criminal copyright infringement, and theft of government program funds, the firm said.

Before joining the government, DeVooght was a partner with Winston & Strawn LLP, where he handled complex civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense.

“We are delighted to have Andy join us and expect he will hit the ground running,” firm co-founder Steven Molo said in a statement. “He is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer who has handled matters in all the substantive areas in which we practice.”

Molo and Jeffrey Lamken formed the firm in October 2009. Its 21 lawyers are at three U.S. offices in New York, Washington and Chicago.

Litigation

Apple Wins Do-Over Trial Using Same Tactics as Earlier Victory

Apple Inc. won more than $290 million from Samsung Electronics Co. in a do-over damages trial by relying on the same tactics it used in a 2012 victory -- and a witness who jurors said tipped the balance in Apple’s favor.

The federal jury of six women and two men, after a week-long trial in San Jose, California, yesterday restored most of the amount cut from a $1.05 billion verdict in favor of the iPhone maker last year over copying of technology used in smartphones.

Apple used the same lead lawyers, arguments, and witnesses for this trial as it did last year, with the exception of a new damages expert to replace a witness who died. Jurors said after the verdict that the new expert, Julie L. Davis, a Chicago-based certified public accountant, provided clear evidence they could use to arrive at their damages sum and was unflappable on the stand.

“Ms. Davis was on it,” jury forewoman Colleen Allen, a former U.S. military medic who served a tour in Afghanistan and now runs a mobile blood-collecting business, said in an interview. Davis was a “superstar witness” who remained steady “even when she was cross-examined,” Allen said.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh cut $410.5 million from the first verdict in March after finding it was flawed because jurors miscalculated the period that the infringement occurred for 13 Samsung devices. In the retrial, Apple sought to restore $380 million of the amount cut, while Samsung recommended that the jury award $52 million.

In closing arguments, Apple lawyer Bill Lee of WilmerHale, employing a tactic from the 2012 trial, urged jurors to focus on documents that he said revealed Samsung’s motive for copying, including a Samsung executive’s e-mail lamenting that the company was experiencing a “crisis of design” due to competition from the iPhone.

Bill Price of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, an attorney for Samsung, told jurors to resist Apple’s “emotional” argument. In his opening and closing arguments, Price argued Apple sought a “windfall” of damages based on its attempt to patent “beautiful and sexy,” when in fact the patents at issue are “very narrow.”

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-01846, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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