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Judge chastises BigLaw lawyers for making demands after opposing counsel seeks delay for newborn

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Updated: A federal judge in New York City has chastised lawyers for Proskauer Rose for demanding five concessions from the opposing counsel in a job-bias case before granting his request for a pushed-back deadline because of the birth of his child.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York emphasized the word “unconditionally” when he granted the delay request by Shane Seppinni, a lawyer for the plaintiff.

Above the Law has the story.

Seppinni had sought a three-week delay for an April 28 filing deadline because his wife had unexpectedly gone into labor and delivered their baby April 25. Besides granting the delay, Engelmayer said Sappini could seek a further extension “in the event of continuing medical complications” that Seppinni’s email to the court “suggests may become necessary.”

Lawyers for the defendants had made five demands, only two of which related to the litigation before Engelmayer. The other demands related to three lawsuits, now in arbitration, filed by Seppinni on behalf of other clients against defendants represented by Proskauer Rose.

The April 28 deadline was for the filing of an opposition to the defendants’ partial motion to dismiss. Proskauer Rose lawyers wanted a Rule 12(b)(6) briefing in the case to be completed before the stay takes effect and wanted the plaintiff to serve his initial disclosures by April 28.

“The court congratulates Mr. Seppinni and his family on the birth of their child and wishes Mr. Seppinni’ s wife a speedy and full recovery,” Engelmayer wrote in an order posted by Above the Law. “The court reminds defense counsel of the expectation of the judges in this district that counsel will comport themselves with decency. Counsel’s attempt to exploit a moment of obvious personal exigency to extract concessions from Mr. Seppinni, in other litigations no less, was unprofessional. The court expects better.”

Seppinni represents Teyo Johnson, who alleges sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation by Everyrealm Inc., its former general counsel and two board members. The third amended complaint describes Everyrealm as an immersive media company that invests in and develops virtual worlds.

One allegation in the suit is that Everyrealm’s former general counsel, William Kerr, referred to Everyrealm investor and hotel heiress Paris Hilton as “A Night in Paris,” which “is the name of the revenge pornography film that leaked online involving Ms. Hilton.”

Proskauer Rose’s motion to dismiss called the third amended complaint “a wholesale fiction composed of either outright lies or assertions that have been twisted beyond recognition since their initial iteration.”

PACER documents identify two Proskauer Rose lawyers in the litigation. They are partner Lloyd B. Chinn and associate Hayden F. Bashinski, who was granted permission to represent the defendants pro hac vice April 6.

Chinn issued a statement after speaking with the ABA Journal and receiving a Journal summary of the conversation, which was sent to Chinn for an accuracy check. The statement incorporated part of the Journal summary.

The statement said Seppinni had failed to make Engelmayer aware of the context behind the extension request and Everyrealm’s response.

“Seppinni did not tell Judge Engelmayer that a few weeks earlier, Proskauer lawyers had already agreed to his request for a two-month stay of the entire case due to the impending birth of his child,” the statement said. “The stay agreement was conditioned only on Seppinni completing his brief in response to the pending dismissal motion prior to the commencement of the requested stay (to which Seppinni registered no objection).

“Seppinni had also stated when seeking the stay in the Johnson matter that he would also do the same in the related arbitration matters, so Seppinni himself had linked the various cases together in terms of scheduling.”

The statement alleged that Johnson’s allegations in the case “had been sensationalized in the press for months,” and Proskauer Rose’s clients “were eager to have them dismissed without further delay. They did not then nor do they now intend any incivility towards his counsel.”

Updated May 9 at 9:33 a.m. to indicate that the Paris Hilton allegation related to Everyrealm Inc.’s former general counsel.

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