Gay Lawyer Takes Stand in Defamation Suit

The gay attorney suing Anapol Schwartz for defamation took the stand Tuesday to outline his departure from the firm and his decision to accept a job at Raynes McCarty…

Source: www.thelegalintelligencer.com

Quite the case. The law firm associate, Jeffrey Downs, was planning to make a lateral move from a law firm called Anapol Schwartz to Raynes McCarty, but allegedly his former firm informed the new firm that Downs was preparing to sue the former firm for discrimination. Raynes McCarty then revoked its offer.

It’s like second had discrimination. If Downs purportedly suffered discriminated because he is gay, and decided to sue on that basis, is it then discrimination to refuse to hire someone who sued someone else for discrimination? I’m sure Raynes McCarty did not give one whit about Downs being gay, so revoking the offer likely had nothing to do with that fact.

Let’s say I run a products liability defense firm, and I extend an offer to a woman to come join the firm. But then I find out that the woman is a plaintiff in a products liability case against a manufacturer we represent, and I decide that the optics of having a products liability plaintiff working at my defense firm would be really bad for business, and revoke my offer. It would be a crappy thing to do, and she might have a violation of public policy claim, since I am terminating her for exercising her right to pursue legal action, but it would have nothing to do with gender discrimination.

Ironically, Downs is now suing Raynes McCarty for discrimination and defamation. Presumably, if the allegations are true, the firm revoked the offer because it feared that Downs was litigious and wanted to avoid being sued, but in the process bought itself a lawsuit in any event.

Equally ironic, before leaving Downs had sent an email to his firm, seeking eight months of severance pay. That is the email that the firm is pointing to to claim that Downs was threatening litigation before his departure, which would make the warning to the new firm absolutely true.

[Update 1-19-2022:]  I didn’t take a deep dive into the status of the case, but I came across my own blog post and was curious. Downs ended up suing both firms in the same action. He sued Anapol for (1) retaliation in violation of the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (“PFPO”); (2) defamation (Count II); and (3) false light invasion of privacy (Count III), and the Raynes Defendants for (1) sexual orientation discrimination (Count IV); (2) retaliation in violation of the PFPO (Count V); and (3) defamation, against Stephen Raynes only (Count VI).

Both firms moved for summary judgment, and as to the Anapol Defendants, the motion was granted with respect to Counts II and III (leaving the retaliation claim), and as to the the Raynes Defendants, it was granted as to Counts IV and VI (again leaving the retaliation claim).  Here is the ruling.

I saw two headlines for articles behind paywalls that don’t appear to bode well for Downs: Jury Absolves Anapol Schwartz in Philly Gay Bias Trial and Defense Seeks Sanctions Against Gay Lawyer in Defamation Suit. Obviously I can’t speak to the veracity of either headline.

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Aaron Morris
Morris & Stone, LLP
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