The big decisional news out of New York today is the guilty verdict in the Brooke Astor trial. Anthony Marshall, the son of the late socialite and philanthropist, was convicted in a scheme to defraud Mrs. Astor.
But we also have news of another notable ruling. Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the case of Jeremy Pitcock, the successful intellectual-property litigator who was fired from Kasowitz Benson in December 2007. The firm issued an unusual statement saying that Pitcock had engaged in “extremely inappropriate personal conduct.”
Pitcock sued Kasowitz for defamation. Kasowitz turned around and sued Pitcock, alleging in its complaint that he “subject[e]d at least twelve of the firm’s female employees…. to a pattern of unwelcome sexual advances.”
Now a judge has ruled in both of the cases. From Nate Raymond of the New York Law Journal:
A nearly two year-long public brawl between Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and a former partner it fired for sexual harassment could be quieting down now that a Manhattan Supreme Court judge has dismissed both parties’ lawsuits.
Justice Martin Shulman (See Profile) last week found “unavailing” and “unpersuasive” the arguments made against the firm by intellectual property lawyer Jeremy Pitcock, who sued for defamation, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
The judge also found Kasowitz Benson failed to show how Mr. Pitcock had damaged the firm.
Executive summary (or West headnote): “A pox on both your houses.”
Noteworthy lawyers represented both sides. Kasowitz was represented by Gandolfo “Vince” DiBlasi, the hard-charging Sullivan & Cromwell litigator known for boasting, in the Aaron Charney litigation, that S&C represented the Nazis. Pitcock was represented by Balestriere Lanza, an up-and-coming litigation boutique that’s already making a name for itself here in NYC.
What was the basis of the judge’s ruling? You can read the full ruling, but it’s summarized well in the NYLJ:
“Truth is always a defense to an allegation of defamation,” Justice Shulman wrote. The judge cited an apologetic e-mail Mr. Pitcock sent to a Kasowitz Benson partner.
“I wanted to have a chance to apologize to you for my recent behavior,” Mr. Pitcock wrote in the e-mail, according to the decision. “It is far from the standard that others expect of me, and that I expect for myself. I am truly sorry for the effect of that behavior on others at the firm, and I am willing to make amends as possible.”
In the e-mail, Mr. Pitcock said that after talking to his wife he was “committed to remaining at the firm if possible and proving that I will never again engage in any even arguably inappropriate behavior.” Mr. Pitcock said he would “accept whatever appropriate discipline you decide upon.”
And what about Kasowitz’s action against Pitcock?
Justice Shulman said Kasowitz Benson “failed to allege any actual losses that it suffered because of [Mr.] Pitcock’s actions.”
The firm not only did not identify any losses, but also provided no specific indication that Mr. Pitcock’s actions caused any reduction in business, Justice Shulman wrote. He noted the firm had previously asserted that no clients left because of Mr. Pitcock.
We haven’t investigated the record in this case, but there does seem to be a rough justice in this outcome. Neither side seems to have very clean hands (and who knows where Pitcock’s have been, if Kasowitz’s claims are true).
As for the parties, where are they now? To paraphrase this commenter, “KASOWITZ REMAINS.” The firm continues to be busy, getting involved in such high-profile matters as the Google Books case and the Qaddafi tent litigation. Earlier this year, it named four new partners. (Congratulations to Adina Storch, our law school classmate.)
As for Jeremy Pitcock, he has done what so many other lawyers have done lately: he’s hung up a shingle. He’s the founding partner of The Pitcock Law Group, in Nanuet, New York. From his website photo, it seems that the stress of the past several months has aged him (and perhaps added a few pounds to his frame).
Times aren’t the greatest for IP lawyers, but Pitcock’s professional skills and accomplishments can’t be denied (regardless of whatever personal issues he might have). We suspect that the world hasn’t seen the last of Jeremy S. Pitcock.
Dueling Suits Between Firm, Ex-Partner Are Dismissed [New York Law Journal via Am Law Daily]
Pitcock v. Kasowitz Benson [New York Law Journal]