It’s been almost a year since we’ve mentioned the name Gregory Berry here at Above the Law, but it wasn’t easy to forget him, what with his “superior legal mind” and all. In case you’ve somehow forgotten about him, Berry was a former first-year associate at Kasowitz Benson who decided to sue the firm in a pro se suit for more than $77 million after working there for less than a year. In his monstrous 50-page complaint, he asserted 14 causes of action, including wrongful termination, fraud, and breach of contract.
This guy thought he was God’s gift to the legal profession, but Justice Eileen Bransten of the New York Supreme Court wasn’t impressed — come on, the guy tapes his glasses together, for God’s sake. She failed to see the merit in his arguments, and dismissed his case outright, with prejudice. But Gregory Berry being the remarkable man that he is, the dismissal didn’t sit well with him, so he opted to file an appeal.
Berry was in court earlier this week for a hearing on the matter. How did he fare this time around?
Before we get to that, let’s reminisce about the email that got this Penn Law grad canned (emphasis added):
I am writing to see if you have any small cases I could manage for you. It has become clear that the only limiting factor on how much value I am to a case is how much responsibility I am given: the more responsibility I am given, the better the outcome. I am in kind of an uncomfortable position at the firm because although I am a “first year,” I have 15 years business and real world experience, as much as many senior associates. When I first got here I did not know what to expect, but after working here for several months now it has become clear that I have as much experience and ability as an associate many years my senior, as much skill writing, and a superior legal mind to most I have met.
There is a natural skepticism that someone without a lot of formal legal apprenticeship can do the job of a senior associate, but the truth is much of the learning and experience an associate acquires is parallel to any business experience — negotiating contracts, negotiating settlements, writing, analysis. If you will allow me to manage some cases for you I can guarantee without reservation that you will get a better result than you get now with many of the official resources you have available to you.
Sending a boastful email like that to a dozen partners isn’t going to get you very far in Biglaw. In fact, the only thing it’ll get you these days is a severance check, and it appears Gregory Berry learned that the hard way.
Berry’s complaint was dismissed in January 2012, and now, in January 2013, he’s trying to breathe new life into the case. Here’s some more info on his Wednesday court appearance from Law360 (sub. req.):
A former Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP associate asked a New York state appeals court on Wednesday to revive his $78 million lawsuit alleging the firm fired him after he bragged about his “superior legal mind,” arguing his former employer hadn’t honored a separation agreement.
Gregory Berry said during a hearing that Kasowitz had repudiated his separation agreement — which came with a $27,000 severance package — when it cut off his phone and email access as the agreement was being finalized, did not pay him the full severance amount, and did not properly compensate him for unused vacation days.
Although the separation agreement included a release of claims, it still allowed Berry to sue the firm if it didn’t hold up its end of the bargain, the former Kasowitz associate told the five-judge state appeals court panel.
It appears Berry is attempting to relitigate the exact same points that Justice Bransten thought were a load of hooey — that the firm was allegedly a day late and a dollar short with its severance payouts… err, 15 days late and $600 short, that is. Kasowitz partner Joseph A. Piesco Jr., who represents the firm, noted in court that releases are prohibited as jumping-off points for further litigation unless some grave injustice would occur. Here, it seems like the only grave injustice is that Berry’s “superior legal mind” continues to go unappreciated.
The transcript from Wednesday’s hearing isn’t available online yet, so we won’t speculate as to what the appellate panel might have said after Berry gave a lecture as to his interpretation of contract law, or what the end result might be. For now, we’ve got Berry’s appeal for you to peruse, and it’s available on the next page.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the attempted appeal of the Berry v. Kasowitz Benson suit? Feel free to sound off in the comments. If you know Berry personally and can shed light on what he’s like, please email us.
UPDATE (1/22/2013, 5:30 PM): Find out how the First Department ruled here (second link).