Law Firms

Sex-bias plaintiffs may search personal emails of Chadbourne's former leaders, judge rules

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Kerrie Campbell

ABA Journal file photo of Kerrie Campbell by T.J. Kirkpatrick.

Updated: Three former partners who sued Chadbourne & Parke for alleged sex discrimination will be allowed to search the personal emails of leaders of the now-defunct firm who are lawsuit defendants.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses allowed the search in a ruling from the bench on Thursday, (sub. req.) reports.

A lawyer for Kerrie Campbell and two other lawsuit plaintiffs had sought to search the leaders’ emails for information about treatment of partners, according to a letter filed with the court Tuesday. The New York Law Journal (sub. req.) posted the letter (PDF) and reported on the controversy.

Chadbourne took the position that only the plaintiffs’ personal emails should be searched. The lawyer for the plaintiffs, David Sanford, contended that both parties should be treated the same.

Moses agreed with Sanford. “My inclination is to say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander here,” Moses said.

Sanford also sought to search the emails of three former Chadbourne partners who had disagreements with the management committee. He said he wants information in the emails about “the management committee’s overarching control over Chadbourne and its partners.”

Sanford said the emails “will show in practice how little power ordinary partners had over the affairs of Chadbourne.” One issue in the case is whether the plaintiffs are covered by employment laws because of their status as former partners.

Moses turned down that request, at least for now, according to the account. Moses said documents to be disclosed by the management committee would likely have the emails.

The suit claims female partners at Chadbourne were “disparately underpaid, systematically shut out of firm leadership, demoted, de-equitized and terminated.”

Chadbourne has merged with Norton Rose Fulbright, which has been added as a defendant to the suit.

Updated on Nov. 10 to report on Moses’ decision.

See also: Pay Up: Female lawyers are working for income fairness—by suing their firms

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