Public Interest Positions:
Option for New Associates?
In MC&A Newsletter Volume IV
, we brought you news of the
trend where law firms pay incoming associates a stipend to work in the public
interest arena and defer their job offers for one year. For example, deferred associates are finding
positions with government and non-profit organizations such as the Legal Aid
Society and New York City Law Department, to name a few. These associates take on their own cases
representing clients in various areas of the law, including housing and
immigration. This trend is the
by-product of a fledgling economy in which law firms that had provided legal
services to investment banks were hardest hit.
This trend has caught on and sparked discussions among law
firms, non-profits and law schools to extend the program for years to
come. This would give new law school
graduates the option of joining a public interest group for a year before
practicing law as an associate at law firm.
The non-profit organizations are pushing for the permanent program, as
it would continue to provide the organizations with top-notch graduates at no
cost. This is especially appealing
during these difficult times where the Interest on Lawyer Account Fund (IOLA),
which provides money to public interest groups, is smaller than in past
years. Large law firms, such as Cravath,
Swaine & Moore, have also shown an interest in the program, but are
hesitant to agree to anything permanent until they can see how the deferred
associates fare on the job.
Recent law graduates have much to benefit from such a
program because they would gain hands-on experience in advocacy, develop legal
research skills, public speaking, courtroom experience, client interaction -
all while providing a great service to indigent defendants and plaintiffs. It's not such a bad deal for law firms either
- they get new associates who possess the substantive skills necessary to
thrive in a legal environment. While it
seems a win-win situation from the perspective of associates, law firms and
public interest organizations, only time will tell if a permanent program will
be truly beneficial for everyone.
Sources: "Deferred Associates
'Hit the Ground Running' at Temporary Positions" by Nate Raymond, November
3, 2009, New York Law Journal; "Informal
Talks Mull Permanent 1-Year Public-Interest Stints for Associates" by Debra
Cassens Weiss, November 3, 2009, www.abajournal.com.
When Zealous Advocacy Goes Too Far:
The Dangers of Coaching Clients
Under Rule 3.3 and 3.4 of the Model Rules of Professional
Conduct, an attorney may not falsify evidence or counsel or assist a witness to
offer false testimony. While an attorney
may assist a witness in preparation for testimony, a recent Connecticut judge's
sanctioning of a lawyer for coaching her witness during a deposition will have
lawyers question their methods of witness preparation.
Madonna Sacco, a Connecticut medical malpractice defense
attorney, was handed down an $11,484 fee sanction from Judge Robert Shapiro of
the Hartford Superior Court after she made statements during a deposition that
were considered by the court as an "inappropriate suggestion to the witness as to
how to testify." The court determined
that Sacco violated not only the discovery orders and rules of practice, but
also the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Sacco's clients were sued for medical malpractice. An example of Sacco's behavior
at deposition, which Judge Shapiro determined to be witness steering, was
Sacco's interruption when opposing counsel questioned the witness about a scan
showing a "brisk bleed." Sacco
commented, asking where it said there was a brisk bleed, and when opposing
counsel read from a medical report about a scan showing multiple images that
suggested a brisk, active hemorrhage, she continued, "[b]ut that doesn't say
that there's an active bleed." Such
comments suggested to the witness how Sacco wanted him to testify. Sacco's behavior led opposing counsel to
request that Sacco be barred from attending depositions in the case. While Judge Shapiro felt such punishment was
"draconian" as it would deprive a client from representation by an attorney of
his or her choice, he felt that handing down a financial penalty was an
appropriate sanction for pushing the boundaries of representation too far.
Sacco, upset at the accusations, claimed that Katz should be
sanctioned for misusing ethical rules and threatening a grievance against her
as a tactical means. In addition, she
claimed that Judge Shapiro improperly invoked the ethical rules by failing to
provide fair notice.
This is not the first judicial reprimand for Sacco. Judge Shapiro sanctioned Sacco in the same case
in 2008 for coaching witnesses being deposed and ordered that she be fined
$2,368. In addition, between 1997 and
2007, Connecticut judges sanctioned Sacco in four other medical malpractice
cases for violating the Practice Book rules for discovery.
Misconduct Draws Rare Sanction" by Thomas B. Scheffey, November 2, 2009,
Connecticut Law Tribune; "Judge
Sanctions Lawyer $11.5K for Coaching Witness at Deposition" by Martha Neil,
November 2, 2009, www.abajournal.com.
David Letterman Scandal Raises Issues of Sexual
Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a new concept, but
with David Letterman in the spotlight, it has been a hot topic in recent
weeks. After being threatened with
extortion, Letterman confessed during his October 1, 2009 taping of "The Late
Show" to having had sexual relations with female staff members. According to Letterman, such affairs were
consensual, but given Letterman's high-powered status, some people are left
wondering if the women involved felt they really had a choice.
Sex in the workplace is not considered sexual harassment
when between two consenting adults.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that sexual
harassment is any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects an
individual's employment. The U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) specifically states that "[u]nwelcome
sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical
conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct
explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably
interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile,
or offensive work environment." Whether
sex in the workplace rises to the level of harassment hinges on consent and
simply because the boss is involved in the sexual relation, it does not
automatically create a situation of sexual harassment. The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome, and
the harasser can be any person within the workplace holding any status.
Thus far, none of the women involved with David Letterman
have made claims of sexual harassment.
While society might be okay with subordinates engaged in sexual
relations with one another, when a subordinate is involved in a relationship
with the boss, there could be various implications. Although unwelcome sexual advances constitute
sexual harassment no matter the seniority of those involved, society is much
more uncomfortable with the notion of inter-office sex where one participant
believes that refusal to engage in the behavior will lead to job loss or a
demotion. One issue is that of
favoritism for the person involved in the affair - since Letterman was the
decision maker when it came to hiring and firing, those having sex with him may
have been looking to either keep their job or move up the ranks. And for those who opted out of canoodling
with the boss, a feeling of job insecurity may haunt them.
Whether David Letterman's sexual escapades with female
staffers was consensual or not, at least one writer for the show felt he played
sexual favoritism with his female staff.
Nell Scovell left the show in 1990 after working with the "Late Night
with David Letterman" for approximately five months. Scovell chose to leave the show in part due
to the sexual politics in the workplace, stating: "I was not going to thrive professionally in
that workplace. And although there were
various reasons for that, sexual politics did play a major part." With her coming forward, it's possible that
others will soon follow suit.
Letterman's Sexual Favoritism" October 28, 2009, www.myfoxny.com (no writer's name was given for this
article); "David Letterman Reveals
Extortion Plot and Confesses to Sex With Staffers" by Michael S. James and
Lindsay Goldwert, October 1, 2009, www.abcnews.com;
"The Letterman Situation: What
Constitutes Harassment?" by John Schwartz, October 2, 2009, New York Times;
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MC&A Welcomes New Staff department. Ms. Walker received a
Bachelor of Arts in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland
College Park and a Juris Doctorate from the American University, Washington
College of Law where she served as a Junior Editor of the Business Law Brief,
was a Marshall-Brennan Fellow, and member of the Moot Court Honor
Society. She also worked as a summer intern at the New York
State Office of the Attorney General Antitrust Bureau, and clerked for the
Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. Ms. Walker is admitted to
the New York and New Jersey State Bars.
Genese N. Walker
Genese joined MC&A as a Litigation Analyst in February
2009 and has been promoted to Special Counsel.
Ms. Walker worked at the law firm of Ventantonio
& Wildenhain PC as an associate, where she practiced in the
Robyn joined MC&A in October 2009 as a legal intern with
the firm. She graduated with honors in
2008 from Emory University School of Law and is admitted to both the New York
and Massachusetts State Bars. While a
student at Emory, Robyn worked as a student public defender with the school's
Indigent Criminal Defense Clinic and had the opportunity to try a criminal jury
case as lead attorney where she won an acquittal for her client on all charges. Robyn completed her undergraduate studies at
the University of Maryland, College Park where she was an active member of her
sorority and co-captain of the university's equestrian team.
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