A former Jersey City judge ousted from his law firm after his affair with a bailiff came to light is gaining traction in his wrongful discharge suit.
Wilson Campbell won a ruling on March 28 allowing him to amend his complaint against Sedgwick Detert Moran & Arnold to add its general counsel as a defendant and to assert a breach-of-contract claim.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Mannion also denied most aspects of a protective order sought by Sedgwick and its request for sanctions over Campbell’s two missed court appearances in Campbell v. Sedgwick Detert Moran & Arnold, 11-cv-642.
Campbell, who is black, claims he was fired on Feb. 5, 2009, two days after he told the firm of his affair with the bailiff, who is white, and the same day a judicial ethics case against him over the relationship was made public.
He claims he was forced to resign and escorted out of the firm’s Newark office, where he had worked since 2006.
He says he was fired because of the interracial affair and his allegations of disparate treatment of minority lawyers. The firm, based in San Francisco, denies discriminating or firing Campbell.
Already named as individual defendants are Michael Tannenbaum, chairman of Sedgwick’s management committee; James Keale, managing partner in Newark; and Thomas Robertson, a Newark partner who allegedly had input into hiring and firing.
Campbell claims he learned of general counsel Michael McGeehon’s involvement in the alleged plan to terminate him through discovery in January 2012, which included a Feb. 4, 2009, email from McGeehon to Tannenbaum and human resources chief David Saunders, with the subject line "Associate Termination."
The discovery allegedly revealed that McGeehon was aware Campbell complained about discrimination by Keale twice in 2008.
Mannion allowed the claims against McGeehon, finding they "are not futile."
He also determined that there was no undue delay in asserting them or undue prejudice to McGeehon and that the claims are not barred under the two-year statute of limitations in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) because they relate back to the initial complaint filed on Feb. 3, 2009.
Mannion did, however, refuse to allow Campbell to bring Saunders into the case.
In addition to the email Saunders received from McGeehon, there was evidence he discussed the judicial ethics case with McGeehon and Robertson and directed Robertson to collect Campbell’s building access card.
Those facts did not support the "substantial support and encouragement" required for individual liability under the LAD, Mannion found.
The breach-of-contract claim he allowed was based on the alleged denial of benefits under the firm’s Employee Assistance Program. Campbell claims it provides legal assistance and should have covered consultations for which he incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The Sedgwick defendants sought a protective order on the grounds that Campbell’s discovery requests were voluminous, unduly burdensome and harassing.
They complained they had already provided more than 300 responses and faced another 98 requests seeking information on gross revenues, lawyer terminations and emails as far back as January 2007 and as recent as the present.
They wanted the court to prohibit Campbell from making any more requests and to let them out from much of what he had already requested.
Campbell, litigating pro se, pointed out in his opposition that Sedgwick was claiming an undue burden even though it has about 400 lawyers and is represented by a firm with 300.
Mannion allowed almost all the discovery.
He found the interrogatories relevant, but put a five-year time limit — from Feb. 5, 2004, to Feb. 5, 2009 — on one, which asked about sanctions against firm lawyers.
Campbell’s requests for admission were allowable, as were his 26 document requests, but Mannion bounced some that Campbell attached to deposition notices, saying they sought irrelevant financial data.
In addition, he amended a request for documents on nonpartner pay from 2001 to the present to cover only lawyers who graduated from law school between 1998 and 2000, around the same time as Campbell.
Mannion refused to block Campbell’s request to enter Sedgwick’s Newark premises to measure, photograph and videotape them so he could show jurors the location of his office "in proximity to several key witnesses," but he said Sedgwick could set the date and the time and allotted Campbell only 60 minutes.
Lastly, Campbell will not have to travel to California to depose Craig Barnes, a partner in Los Angeles, and Saunders, in San Francisco.
In ordering the depositions be done in Newark, Mannion reasoned that Campbell and defense counsel are in New Jersey, Sedgwick does business in the state and disputes are likely to arise during them that will require court resolution.
But Mannion gave Barnes and Saunders the option of testifying by video.
Campbell, now a Newark solo, and Joseph Guarino of Epstein Becker & Green in Newark, who represents the defendants, decline comment. McGeehon did not return a call.
Campbell, who was reprimanded over the affair, also sued the judiciary, claiming he was treated more harshly than a white judge who had a romantic relationship with his former law clerk.
Claims against all defendants except former Hudson County Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli have been dismissed in that matter, Campbell v. Supreme Court, 11-cv-555, also pending in federal court in Newark and assigned to Mannion and U.S. District Judge Esther Salas.