Pierce Bainbridge alleges 'litigation soap opera' by sanctions-seeking ex-partner
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Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht and a fired partner aren’t showing any signs of retreat in continuing battles over dueling lawsuits that assert different reasons for the lawyer's dismissal.
The law firm and its former partner, Don Lewis, last week each filed motions to dismiss suits filed by the other party, while Lewis is also seeking sanctions against his former firm, report the New York Law Journal and Law360 in stories here and here.
Pierce Bainbridge’s motion to dismiss claims that Lewis created a “litigation soap opera,” while Lewis claims in a sanctions motion that the law firm is engaged in a “scorched-earth retaliatory campaign” against him.
Lewis filed the first suit in Manhattan state court May 15, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for his knowledge of financial improprieties by the firm. Pierce Bainbridge filed its own suit the same day in Los Angeles state court claiming that Lewis tried to extort it for $65 million by threatening litigation and couching his demands as a settlement. The suit also claims defamation by Lewis.
The law firm claims that Lewis was placed on leave in October 2018 because of an allegation of sexual impropriety and was fired the next month after he allegedly tried to obstruct the investigation. Lewis counters that the sexual allegation was fabricated and intended to counter his allegations of dysfunction and financial improprieties at the law firm. He also says the law firm’s claim that he made a $65 million settlement demand isn’t true.
Lewis filed a new complaint July 26 for defamation that alleged that Pierce Bainbridge was trying to destroy Lewis’ career and reputation by submitting “outright lies in court filings” and publishing “heinous and racist defamatory falsehoods.”
The Sept. 5 motion to dismiss by Pierce Bainbridge alleges that Lewis “has turned a basic employment case into a vexatious clutter of far-fetched and incomprehensible allegations spread over two convoluted lawsuits.”
“This case continues the vainglorious litigation soap opera produced and directed by plaintiff Donald Lewis,” the Pierce Bainbridge motion says.
Pierce Bainbridge says it filed the California lawsuit to protect its reputation and economic livelihood, and Lewis is targeting comments in the California suit that “are entitled to full immunity under bedrock, black letter law.” Comments by managing partner John Pierce are similarly privileged, Pierce Bainbridge says.
In his motion for sanctions, Lewis counters that Pierce Bainbridge’s California suit was a “baseless and retaliatory sham action” that was based on “demonstrable falsehoods” and filed to defame him. Lewis contends that the law firm enlisted an employee to fabricate false accusations of sexual misconduct, hired a law firm to conduct a sham investigation, and continued a “charade of settlement negotiations” so Lewis would withdraw his May 15 suit.
Lewis did withdraw the suit—and Pierce Bainbridge filed the California suit hours later. Lewis alleges that Pierce Bainbridge wanted to quickly file the suit to “mute the impact” of his allegations. Lewis refiled his suit.
Lewis’ motion to dismiss Pierce Bainbridge’s California suit says there was another lawsuit, “covertly” filed under seal by Pierce Bainbridge in New York on May 15, that is “based on the same nucleus of facts” as the California suit. The suit sought an injunction to bar Lewis from filing his suit, according to Lewis’ court filings. Lewis says he wasn’t notified of Pierce Bainbridge’s New York suit, which was withdrawn Aug. 21.
Lewis alleges that the New York suit contains false statements in sworn affidavits from two Pierce Bainbridge partners.
Lewis says he has written to the judge in Pierce Bainbridge’s withdrawn New York case seeking the unsealing of the records. Lewis says in the letter that the sealed records were publicized in the California case, and the “genie is out of the bottle.”