Well, maybe not quite. But we do find it interesting that, in the recent wave of publicity over Aaron Charney’s amended complaint, Sullivan & Cromwell’s public relations team at Sard Verbinnen reached out to us. They emailed the following statement to us:
“This is just a rehash of his original, now dismissed, complaint with the addition of some unsubstantiated allegations. We will continue to defend the Firm vigorously against these same baseless claims. Sullivan & Cromwell remains committed to fostering an inclusive workplace environment for all of its lawyers and staff and is proud of our track record of promoting diversity.”
It’s not a particularly exciting statement; but we were excited to receive it. Although they’ve been working extensively with the mainstream media over the past few months, Sard Verbinnen — which S&C hired specifically for L’Affaire Charney (a different media relations shop handles the firm’s general publicity) — had never contacted us before.
And we weren’t the only “new media” types to get the message. The PR gurus also emailed their statement to two leading Charneybloggers: Lavi Soloway and Professor Arthur Leonard.
Not to be outdone, Aaron Charney’s lawyers spoke to us on the phone. We had a quick conversation the other day with Dan Alterman, of Alterman & Boop, who had this to say:
“The amended complaint is a wonderful opportunity for us to get this case focused back on the main issues — especially the discrimination and retaliation claims.”
Leaving New York Supreme Court after last week’s hearing in Aaron Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell: Paul Caminiti of Sard Verbinnen, a former lawyer turned public relations guru, retained by S&C for the Charney matter; Vivia Chen of The American Lawyer, as stylish as ever; and Dan Alterman of Alterman & Boop, counsel to Aaron Charney, rocking the whole “lovable schlub” look.
A few more photographs, after the jump.
In the ongoing litigation between gay lawyer Aaron Charney and his former employer, mega-firm Sullivan & Cromwell, Charney has been on the defensive lately.
S&C has been making hay over Charney’s allegedly improper disclosures of firm and client information (in both a motion to dismiss his lawsuit against the firm, and in its own civil action against Charney). S&C has also scored some points over his destruction of his computer’s hard drive.
As the old saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Aaron Charney is retaking the initiative in the case. From the New York Law Journal:
Former Sullivan & Cromwell associate Aaron B. Charney has moved to dismiss the law firm’s suit against him for disclosing client and firm confidences, arguing that most of the alleged confidences had already been made public by the firm itself….
[I]n papers filed Thursday, Charney’s lawyer, Daniel L. Alterman of Alterman & Boop, argued that each of the client matters mentioned in Charney’s complaint were already described on the firm’s Web site, especially in partners’ biographies and archived press releases. He noted further that the Sullivan & Cromwell partnership agreement, which the firm also claimed Charney improperly disseminated with his complaint, had been previously published in an appendix to the 1998 book “A Law Unto Itself: The Untold Story of the Law Firm of Sullivan & Cromwell.”*
We like the sound of these arguments. As gossip bloggers, we’re big believers in the “it ain’t confidential if it’s already out there” rule. No violation of privacy or confidentiality occurs when you merely emphasize, draw attention to, or comment upon information that’s already publicly available.
We’ve in the process of obtaining copies of Charney’s filings. We’ll have more to say after we’ve had the chance to review them ourselves.
* Correction: A Law Unto Itself was published in 1988, not 1998. Ex-Sullivan Associate Moves to Dismiss Firm’s Suit [New York Law Journal]
This is the third post in our post-hearing coverage of Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney. Our prior posts are available here and here.
In this post, we collect our favorite quotations from our morning at 60 Centre Street, New York Supreme Court. Here they are: Before the hearing:
“Uh-oh, it’s the big guy!”
– Daniel Alterman of Alterman & Boop (Charney’s counsel), greeting Charles Stillman, counsel to Sullivan & Cromwell (and an eminence grise of the New York bar)
“You — you — you f***ed up!”
– Dan Alterman, greeting your undersigned blogger
Presumably he didn’t like this post very much. But he said the remark in good-natured fashion.
A few seconds later, after he had walked past us, he turned around and said (jokingly and within the earshot of about half a dozen people, so we feel okay in reporting it):
“And that was on background. Deep background!”
He also defended his fashion choices, pointing out the monogramming on his sleeve:
“My tie is clean. My wife dressed me this morning. My initials are on my shirt!”
Quotes from during and after the hearing, after the jump.
We got enough material from this morning’s hearing in Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney to fill several posts. Eventually we’ll do something for more organized (and fashion-focused).
For now, in no particular order, here are some highlights. We will update this list until we feel this post is “complete” (and then we’ll open a new thread).
We’re publishing this post now, and updating it constantly, to get you info as quickly as possible. Refresh your browser for the latest.
1. In addition to Zachary Fasman of Paul Hastings, Sullivan & Cromwell is now represented by Charles Stillman — a veteran litigator described by the New York Times as “known for representing clients with intricate legal difficulties.” S&C would seem to fit the bill.
Stillman took the lead in speaking for S&C at this morning’s hearing. Zach Fasman spoke only a handful of times. S&C litigation head David Braff, although seated at counsel table, was completely silent (and sans feather boa).
2. Plaintiff Aaron Charney was nowhere to be found at today’s hearing. Darn! We wanted to see him in the flesh. But his absence is understandable — some awkward moments would have arisen had he been around to be questioned (or, if not questioned, at least stared at during the many moments of factual ambiguity).
3. One of the juiciest details, as nicely summarized by Lavi Soloway:
Last Wednesday January 31 there was a secret settlement meeting at which Charney was offered an undisclosed sum in return for which he promised, among other things, to destroy the hard drive on his personal, home computer. The destruction of that hard drive moved to the center of the debate. Aaron Charney has been ordered to submit an affidavit to the court regarding the hard drive and the status of documents that were allegedly in his possession.
But no settlement was reached (as one could tell from the fact that a hearing took place today). And now Charney — who, at the time of the secret settlement meeting, was still pro se — is represented, once again, by counsel.
3. On the issue of the hard drive, Daniel Alterman, on behalf of Charney, represented to the court that the hard drive of his client’s personal computer had been “destroyed.” Charney has been ordered to provide greater information to the court about this (as noted above).
4. It seems, reading between the lines, that Justice Charles Ramos — who had the case initially — did grant a TRO to S&C last week. But he didn’t give them everything they wanted, “scratching out” various aspects of their request.
As far as we could tell, the upshot of the TRO was for Charney to not divulge any secrets or client confidences of S&C. This explains his sudden shyness towards press inquiries. Justice Ramos punted a bunch of other issues raised in the TRO, such as custody of documents, to Justice Fried.
5. Justice Bernard Fried is taking over both the S&C case against Charney and Charney’s original anti-discrimination action against S&C. Both actions will be handled by Justice Fried going forward.
6. Briefing schedule on the OSC: (a) Charney’s opposition to S&C’s Order to Show Cause (i.e., the preliminary injunction motion) is due on March 1 (and Charney will cross-move for some relief of his own on that date); (b) S&C’s response to the cross-motion is due two weeks later, on March 15; (c) Charney’s reply on the cross-motion is due one week later, on March 22; and (d) the next hearing on the Order to Show Cause will be held on March 27, at 11 AM, before Justice Fried.
7. Schedule for the pleadings: S&C’s Answer to Charney’s original Complaint — or, more likely, its motion to dismiss under CPLR 3211 — is due next week (apparently Tuesday, but there was some dispute over this).
8. Other procedural rulings: (a) discovery cutoff is February 5, 2008; (b) Note of Issue (placing the case on the trial calendar) set for February 12, 2008.
9. Rulings about S&C original documents: (a) various original S&C documents that Charney submitted to the Court, which S&C wants back, will be returned to S&C; (b) S&C will copy them and provide copies to the Court; and (c) next week — on Valentine’s Day, as noted by the Court — Charney must submit an affidavit or affirmation concerning S&C documents.
10. Rulings about the hard drive on Aaron Charney’s personal computer: (a) by the end of the day today, Charney must submit an affidavit or affirmation to the Court describing what happened to the “destroyed” hard drive; (b) if the hard drive has been merely erased, rather than physically destroyed, it must be produced to Judge Fried tomorrow; (c) if it still exists, a forensic computer expert will examine it, as requested by S&C.
11. Finally, Justice Fried entered a general preservation order, requiring all parties to preserve all documents relevant to these two cases (including attorney-client privileged documents).
Okay, that’s it for this post. Further commentary will appear in a new thread.
P.S. Comment wherever you like — this thread, the earlier thread, future threads. Commenting here at ATL has always been anarchic (which is why we love it so).
We’ve now had a chance to read the complaint in Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney (PDF), the countersuit filed by S&C against its former associate, Aaron Charney. The Complaint itself is only ten pages, so it’s a quick read.
Last month, Charney sued S&C, alleging anti-gay discrimination and retaliation. Last Thursday, the firm filed its own lawsuit against Charney, for breach of fiduciary duties, breach of contract, and conversion. The firm seeks injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for this Thursday, at 9:30 AM, before Justice Bernard Fried (New York Supreme Court, Commercial Division).
When he first filed his own lawsuit, Aaron Charney didn’t have a lawyer. But now he has two: Daniel Alterman of Alterman & Boop, and Herb Eisenberg of Eisenberg & Schnell. We aren’t experts in the field, but based on their bios, Alterman and Eisenberg strike us as experienced and well-credentialed advocates.
A few random ramblings on the S&C Complaint, after the jump.
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
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