A federal magistrate judge in Long Island has ruled that a former prosecutor representing herself in a wrongful termination case against Suffolk County, N.Y., does not deserve the usual latitude afforded pro se plaintiffs.
Eastern District of New York Magistrate Judge William D. Wall declined in part a motion to compel disclosure filed by plaintiff M. Cameron Kenny 10 months after the end of discovery and four weeks after she took over control of her own case.
"Incoming counsel is bound by the actions of his or her predecessor, and 'to hold otherwise would allow parties to create 'good cause' simply by switching counsel,'" Wall wrote in Kenny v. County of Suffolk, 05-CV-6112. "Here, the 'incoming counsel' is the plaintiff, who is herself a lawyer. As such, she cannot expect 'the special allowances [courts] sometimes make for pro se litigants.'"
Kenny worked as an assistant district attorney in Suffolk County from 1997 until 2005. She filed the present suit shortly after her dismissal, alleging intentional discrimination, unlawful termination and slander.
In her complaint, Kenny set forth numerous purported examples of "misogyny" and the "conflict between men and women" in the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office during her eight-year tenure. Men received better pay, earlier promotions and more prestigious assignments, she claimed.
"Overall, since taking office in January 2002, [District Attorney Thomas] Spota retained and/or promoted approximately 15 men in bureau chief and deputy chief positions. He also brought in approximately 10 men from outside the office to fill the balance of vacancies among the bureau chief positions," Kenny claimed. "Mr. Spota did not bring any women with him upon transition to fill any management vacancies, and, in the course of his three years in office, either demoted or fired several women."
Kenny claimed she earned $66,000 her final year, while the only remaining male member of her class made $82,000.
She also alleged that a fellow prosecutor made "lascivious comments" about "her bottom."
On Oct. 2, 2008, Eastern District Judge Arthur D. Spatt granted a motion to withdraw filed by Kenny's attorney, Vincent E. Bauer.
On Oct. 29, Kenny filed the present motion on her own behalf, seeking an order compelling production of three employee files, salary charts by gender and "all information relative to the D.O.J. investigation of this matter."
In a decision Nov. 17, Wall denied the motion as to the gender information and employee files.
"The court finds that the plaintiff had ample opportunity to pursue discovery regarding the gender and employee file issues and has not demonstrated an adequate basis for reopening that discovery now," he held. "However diligent Ms. Kenny herself might have been, she is bound by the litigation decisions of her former counsel and has not shown good cause for the long delay in seeking discovery."
The court did, however, order Suffolk County to turn over for in camera review any documents the county shared with the Justice Department pursuant to a "privacy agreement."
Kenny, who now lives in Butte, Mont., did not return a call for comment.
Mary Ellen Donnelly and Randi Brooke Feldheim of Putney, Twombly, Hall & Hirson represented Suffolk County. Donnelly could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for Spota's office also did not return a call for comment.