The lawsuit filed by an openly gay associate against his prestigious law firm, Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell, has been picked up by the mainstream media — big-time.
We expect that, after this rash of articles, the MSM will move on from this story. Rest assured, dear reader, that ATL will not.
We intend to cover the crap out of this case. If you have any information whatsoever about Aaron Charney, Sullivan & Cromwell’s treatment of gay lawyers, or related subjects, please email us. No detail is too small to escape our interest. If you shared your apple juice with Aaron Charney in kindergarten, we want to hear about it.
Okay. We have carefully read this morning’s coverage of the lawsuit by the New York Times, the New York Law Journal, and the Times of London — so you don’t have to. We’ve located the highlights, the juiciest details, and the money quotes.
The most notable news, as reported in the NYT and the NYLJ, is that Charney has been barred from the Sullivan & Cromwell offices while an internal investigation is underway. Considering the weirdness and tension that would have resulted otherwise, both Charney and the S&C partners are probably happy about his absence.
Excerpts and links to the full articles, after the jump (i.e., click on the “Continue reading” link below).
Aaron B. Charney, 28, who is a fourth-year associate [at S&C], asserts in the lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, that several partners in Sullivan & Cromwell’s highly regarded mergers and acquisitions practice subjected him to “lewd and illegal conduct,” beginning in the fall of 2005. He is seeking a jury trial and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
In his lawsuit, Mr. Charney accuses members of the firm of demanding he be terminated for carrying on an “unnatural” gay relationship with another Sullivan & Cromwell associate; Mr. Charney denies the relationship….
While Mr. Charney has not been terminated, he says he was told he should not come to the office while an internal investigation is continuing….
Another of the firm’s partners, David H. Braff, said that the firm had a strong culture of acceptance and that it had handled several landmark cases over the years that protected gay and lesbian rights.
“I’ve been openly gay since I arrived at this firm in 1984,” Mr. Braff added. “There’s absolutely no atmosphere of hostility toward gay people here.”
From the New York Law Journal:
In an interview Tuesday, Charney, a fourth-year associate, said he is representing himself because his lawyer had feared the “far-reaching tentacles” of Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the city’s most profitable and prestigious firms. Charney denied demanding a payment, though he said his lawyer at the time did attempt to negotiate settlement terms with the firm. The complaint he filed Tuesday does not specify damages.
Charney, 28, also said he did not mean to suggest in his suit that all lawyers at the firm were bigoted. Indeed, the suit describes a number of associates and one partner in particular as being sympathetic to Charney’s complaints. But he said Tuesday he believed discriminatory attitudes were perhaps more common in the M&A group in which he worked.
“It’s a macho culture that allows people to feel they can get away with these things,” said Charney, a 2003 graduate of Columbia Law School.
We kinda loved the NYLJ’s squeamish account of the Eric Krautheimer incident:
[Charney] claims partner Eric M. Krautheimer most directly expressed hostility toward him as a gay man, on one occasion allegedly throwing a document at the associate’s feet and making a disparaging comment about physical positions common in homosexual sex.
“Physical positions common in homosexual sex”? C’mon, New York Law Journal — get with the program! Don’t you know that anal sex is “increasingly popular in the hetero world”?
Finally, this story has even made it to the other side of the pond. Some coverage of the coverage, from the Times of London:
New York’s army of legal bloggers have, so far, avoided taking a stance on the issue but their readers have shown no such restraint. Responses to news of the lawsuit on Above The Law and The Wall Street Journal law blog varied from encouragement to contempt.
Mr Charney, who has recently set up his own website, has been branded an “opportunist” acting out of a selfish desire for “money and publicity”.
But other, mostly anonymous comments, expressed sympathy for Mr Charney and his case suggesting that Sullivan & Cromwell partners considered themselves “above the law”.
The case has attracted so much attention in New York because as well as addressing the emotive issue of sexual equality on Wall Street, it is extremely unusual. A handful of secretaries and other support staff have sued major law firms for discrimination but it is virtually unheard of for junior lawyers to attempt similar claims because of the effect they are perceived to have on their future employment prospects.
Also unusual – and reinforcing rumours that Mr Charney is a determined self-publicist – is the news that he will be representing himself in the case, prompting a Wall Street Journal reader to remind others of the well-known legal adage that: “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
Gay Lawyer’s Suit Accuses Firm of Bias [New York Times]
Associate Sues Sullivan & Cromwell for Sexual Orientation Discrimination [New York Law Journal]
Sullivan & Cromwell hit with gay bias suit [Times (U.K.)]
Gay Lawyer Accuses Top Firm of Discrimination [DealBook]
The Bottom Line: Anal sex is increasingly popular in the hetero world. [New York Magazine]