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Ballard Spahr Stumbles in Race to Court

Posted Oct 10, 2007 7:22 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Philadelphia judge has ruled that a law firm’s attempt to head off a gender discrimination complaint is premature.

Judge Gary DiVito ruled Sept. 24 that Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll could not obtain declaratory relief “in anticipation of an action at law by another party,” the Legal Intelligencer reports. He said administrative remedies must be exhausted first.

The firm filed the suit May 31 seeking a decision that it had not violated equal pay rights or a fiduciary duty to Baltimore real-estate partner Jane Ennis Sheehan. The suit was filed a day after lawyers held a conference call to discuss a resolution to Sheehan’s complaints.

Sheehan claims she was supposed to be an equal on a two-partner team, but the male partner took over her practice and was paid more for doing the same work, the Legal Intelligencer says. Her demand letter said she was downgraded from an equity partner to an income partner after she brought her complaints to light.

After the firm filed the lawsuit, Sheehan filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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