Ex-Jones Day lawyers lose bid to amend bias lawsuit

3 minute read

The law firm of Jones Day is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Amended lawsuit sought to name appeals practice head Traci Lovitt as a defendant
  • Judge said filing a new complaint without first getting permission violated procedural rules

(Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday rejected a bid by a pair of former Jones Day associates to expand their ongoing sex bias lawsuit against the law firm.

Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff in March filed a new complaint that would have added new claims and a new defendant to the case, which accuses Jones Day of discriminating against fathers. U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss in Washington, D.C., said Thursday that they violated procedural rules by updating the lawsuit without first getting permission from the court or the defendants.

The former Jones Day lawyers argued they could file the new complaint without permission as long as it was within 21 days of the law firm responding to an earlier version. Moss said that rule only applies in the beginning stages of litigation and could not be invoked now.

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Moss said following Savignac and Sheketoff's interpretation "would enable a party greatly (and justifiably) to expand the scope of a case years into the litigation, leading to unnecessary costs and delays and substantial prejudice to defendants."

Savignac and Sheketoff, who are married, declined to comment. A Jones Day attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The firm has defended its paternity leave practices in the case and said Savignac was fired after he said he would take on Jones Day in the "court of public opinion."

The complaint was the third amended version by the plaintiffs. It sought to name Traci Lovitt, head of Jones Day's issues and appeals practice, as a defendant. Savignac and Sheketoff alleged she worked on a "retaliatory" press statement the firm issued early in the litigation.

The proposed new complaint generated headlines in legal media by claiming Lovitt was in line to succeed Jones Day managing partner Stephen Brogan. The firm claimed in court papers that the couple, who left Jones Day three years ago, "could not possibly have a good faith basis" for their assertions and said several articles "repeat plaintiffs’ biased — and often false — narrative."

Lovitt is defending the firm in the case, and Jones Day also argued that her involvement in the statement was not a "proper subject of a retaliation claim."

Moss's opinion Friday did not address those arguments.

The former Jones Day lawyers sued the firm in 2019, alleging its family leave policy violates civil rights law because it offers paid disability leave for birth mothers but not fathers.

The case is Savignac v. Jones Day, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 19-cv-02443.

For Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff: pro se

For Jones Day: Anderson Bailey, Chris DiPompeo, Terri Chase and Traci Lovitt of Jones Day

Read more:

Jones Day slams ex-associates' bid to name appeals practice lead in lawsuit

Judge suspends damages discovery in bias case against Jones Day

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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, D.C., covers legal news related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at jacqueline.thomsen@thomsonreuters.com.