Pro Se Litigants

Gregory Berry

Kasowitz Benson comes to bury Berry, not to praise him. The firm has moved to dismiss the $77 million lawsuit filed against it by Gregory S. Berry, the former first-year associate at Kasowitz who claimed that the firm wrongfully terminated his employment due to its inability to handle his “superior legal mind.” Berry also alleged fraud, breach of contract, and a host of other claims.

On Wednesday, Kasowitz Benson filed its motion to dismiss Gregory Berry’s complaint, accompanied by a 22-page memorandum of law. The firm’s brief is fairly straightforward, advancing the arguments you’d expect it to make.

But there are a few fun tidbits here and there. Let’s have a look, shall we?

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Gregory Berry

One of the most compelling characters to populate our pages lately is Gregory S. Berry. As you surely recall, Gregory Berry is the Penn Law grad and ex-associate at Kasowitz Benson who is now suing his former firm for a whopping $77 million.

Thus far, reader sentiment doesn’t seem favorable towards Berry. According to Above the Law sources, Greg Berry wasn’t popular at Penn Law, where he was known for sending strange emails about his traffic court misadventures to his classmates. A tipster who knew Berry during his first career, as a software engineer who “conquer[ed]” Silicon Valley, expressed the view that Berry was “very inflexible,” lacking in a sense of perspective, and “not a good fit with the dot.com 1.0 work-style.”

In fairness to Berry, however, we have heard more positive opinions as well. For example, one Penn classmate described Berry to us as “a nice, smart dude, and a go-getter.”

And now a second source has contacted us, also to defend Greg Berry — and to criticize Berry’s former employer, Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman….

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You didn’t think we’d just get one day out of the Gregory Berry story, did you?

Since we posted about Berry, the former Kasowitz Benson associate who is suing the firm for $77 million, Above the Law readers have been sharing their opinions about working with him.

Some of our readers went to Penn Law School with Berry. Others worked with him when he was busy “conquering” Silicon Valley. They remember an interesting guy.

Let’s take a look at their opinions….

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Gregory Berry: the $77 million man.

This morning we mentioned a lawsuit filed against litigation powerhouse Kasowitz Benson and two Kasowitz partners by Gregory S. Berry, a former first-year associate at the firm. Berry’s 50-page complaint, filed in New York state court, contains 14 causes of action, including wrongful termination, fraud, and breach of contract. Berry seeks a whopping $77 million in damages — $2.55 million in estimated lost income, and $75 million in punitives.

After working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley for several years, Gregory Berry matriculated at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He graduated from Penn Law in 2010 and was admitted to the New York bar in 2011. He summered at Kasowitz in 2009 and started working at the firm full-time in September 2010. Less than a year later, in May 2011, he was fired.

According to Berry’s complaint, he “immediately began doing superlative work” at Kasowitz. Alas, the law firm was unable to accommodate his “superior legal mind.” After he began seeking greater responsibility in a way that rubbed some colleagues the wrong way, he got canned.

“There’s simply no room in a big law firm for an intelligent, creative lawyer with real-world experience,” Greg Berry told Thomson Reuters News & Insight. “I had to find that out the hard way.”

Let’s have a look at his interesting allegations, plus hear from some tipsters….

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April’s Lawyer of the Month victor won in a landslide. He’s also the first person to win the contest for his practice of law (as opposed to his death or his desire to quit the practice of law).

Yes, I think I speak for all legal bloggers out there by wishing April’s Lawyer of the Month a warm congratulations…

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Andrew Shirvell (far right) and Chris Armstrong

Here’s a quick update on a past Lawsuit of the Day. Last month, Chris Armstrong, the openly gay ex-president of the University of Michigan student body, sued Andrew Shirvell, the former Michigan assistant attorney general and outspoken opponent of homosexuality. As you may recall, Shirvell criticized Armstrong in a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch, making allegations that according to Armstrong were false, and Shirvell also followed Armstrong around Ann Arbor. So Armstrong sued Shirvell for stalking, invasion of privacy, and defamation (among other claims).

Now Andrew Shirvell is firing back. Last week, Shirvell, proceeding pro se [FN1], moved to dismiss Chris Armstrong’s lawsuit.

Not surprisingly, Shirvell claimed in his motion to be a victim: “Plaintiff’s course of conduct was politically motivated and intended to make an example out of Defendant in order to deter others from criticizing Plaintiff’s homosexual activist agenda.” More specifically, Shirvell argued that certain counts of the Armstrong complaint fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted, that Shirvell’s criticism of Armstrong was protected by the First Amendment, and that Shirvell never had direct contact with Armstrong (e.g., by email or by phone).

In addition, Shirvell lodged some counterclaims against Armstrong. What is the basis for Shirvell suing Armstrong?

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We’re a little bit late with April’s lawyer of the month reader poll. First of all, we’ve been doing a lot of reader voting so far in this month. (There are still a few hours for you to vote in our Law Revue Video Contest.)

The other reason why we’re a bit delinquent this month is because we think we know who is going to win. It’s not every day that a recent law grad finds himself trying a murder case — and getting reprimanded by the judge for “lack[ing] knowledge of proper trial procedure.”

Such is life during the Obama “recovery.” Check out this month’s nominees below…

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Still shocked that yesterday our attorney lost to a pro se litigant that was immediately taken into custody after the verdict for drinking in court, being drunk while in court and blowing a .13!!!

Facebook status update of a person who works for a tow truck company who watched something horrible happen.

Here’s some good news for lawyers who enjoy blogging or instant-messenger services like Gchat. It’s right in the headline of this here National Law Journal story: Smiley face, snark, don’t render law grad unfit to practice.

Many of us get snarky in our personal writing, and many of us employ emoticons in email messages or Gchat exchanges. As litigators well know, sometimes a cold transcript doesn’t adequately convey tone. For this reason, I’ve even seen federal judges use winking smiley-face emoticons in email messages.

But you shouldn’t use smiley faces in documents you file with the court — even the super-icky courts that hear traffic appeals (yes, they exist). This is a lesson that Marilyn Ringstaff, a 2006 graduate of John Marshall Law School, learned the hard way….

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Jonathan Lee Riches and Jared Loughner

Over the past year, we haven’t covered a lot of the crazy lawsuits initiated by Jonathan Lee Riches. The man has sued everybody from Eliot Spitzer to Molly Ringwald. At some point, you get used to the drill. And there are always other crazy pro se litigants to write about.

But the embarrassment of riches in Riches’s latest complaint should remind everyone why he is still the king of pro se whackjobs. On January 24th, he filed for a temporary restraining order against Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged shooter in the Tucson attacks. Riches claims that if the Bureau of Prisons should transfer Loughner to the Lexington, Kentucky facility that currently holds Riches, Loughner might use “his bare hands or a prison shank to kill me for being a moderate Democrat.”

And if you know anything about Riches, you know that quote isn’t anywhere near the craziest claim in his complaint…

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