A legal fight between a small, politically connected law firm and a former associate who happens to be the wife of Judge Gerardo Sandoval has turned ugly.
Amy Harrington accuses Hallisey & Johnson and its name partners, Democratic fundraiser Jeremiah Hallisey and Charlene Haught Johnson, of breaching their employment agreement with her and blocking her fee petitions. She also says in her complaint she was sexually harassed, though she does not say by whom.
Hallisey and Johnson, meanwhile, say Harrington was removing client files and scheming to set up a competing practice even as Hallisey was raising money for Sandoval’s 2008 judicial election campaign and recruiting political heavyweights for his induction ceremony.
“Plaintiffs were invited to defendant Amy Harrington’s wedding. Later, during the course of her employment, defendant asked plaintiffs to be the Godparents to her second child,” states Hallisey & Johnson's complaint. Then in 2008, “while at the same time secretly arranging for office space for her planned private practice to be in competition with plaintiffs, they prevailed upon plaintiff Jeremiah Hallisey to be master of ceremonies and to speak at Gerrardo [sic] Sandoval’s Judicial Installation and to induce Attorney General Edmund G. Brown to attend and to speak as well.”
Sandoval is not a named defendant and isn’t accused of doing anything wrong. He referred a question about the case Friday to Harrington’s attorney, Robert Moore, who described the litigation as “a simple partnership dispute … nothing more, nothing less.”
The entire San Francisco Superior Court bench has recused from the case, which has been assigned to retired Los Angeles Judge Edward Ross.
The arrangement apparently soured quickly. According to Harrington’s complaint, “it was understood that Harrington would continue to maintain her own separate practice” and that she would work six hours a day, five days a week. But in reality she “often had to work at least Eight (8) hours a day and often would have to stay at the H&J office until 2:00 a.m.” She received no secretarial support, she says, and the firm wouldn’t tell her when fee checks from her cases arrived. “Harrington ultimately left H&J due to the breach of the employment agreement, lack of cooperation, and sexual harassment,” Harrington alleges.
She sued March 2, seeking a return of fees and a declaration that she owes Hallisey & Johnson nothing.
The next day Hallisey and Johnson countersued, alleging fraud, unfair competition and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other things. “Many of the files belonging to the firm (including client files and cost sheets) which relate to cases on which Amy Harrington worked as an associate, are missing from the firm,” they allege, “and plaintiffs are informed and believe that said paper files were taken by Amy Harrington when she left the firm after two years.”
This came as a shock, Hallisey and Johnson say, because there was “a deep and personal, family like relationship between defendant, defendant’s husband and children and Plaintiffs Jeremiah Hallisey and Charlene Haught Johnson.”
Hallisey and Johnson are being represented by Edward Nevin of Nevin & Absalom. Harrington was represented initially by Joseph Breall of Breall & Breall, but substituted in Moore, a partner at Allen Matkins, earlier this month.