The lawsuit by Elliott Greenleaf against a former partner and Stevens & Lee — which had been increasing in its contentiousness — has been settled about two weeks after the parties had a daylong, court-ordered mediation session.
The parties cited a confidentiality clause in refusing to divulge the details of the settlement in Elliott Greenleaf v. Balaban , which was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in February. U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Savage dismissed the case with prejudice and maintained jurisdiction to ensure the settlement was enforced, according to a one-page order filed Thursday.
Savage also issued an order placing the parties’ expert reports under seal.
The settlement conference was held August 1 before court-appointed mediator Stewart Cohen of Cohen Placitella & Roth.
“This settlement could not have been achieved without the skillful talents, patience and commitment of Stewart L. Cohen, Esquire, special master, who donated his fee to a designated charity,” Savage said in a footnote to his order. “The court, the parties and the justice system owe Mr. Cohen our appreciation.”
Elliott Greenleaf sued the former head of its Harrisburg office, William R. Balaban, days after he abruptly quit the firm to join Stevens & Lee. Elliott Greenleaf also sued Stevens & Lee and two former Elliott Greenleaf clients, Charles and Pamela Herron.
Elliott Greenleaf alleged that Balaban stole data from the firm before he quit January 31, that he and Stevens & Lee continued to access certain Elliott Greenleaf data through a Dropbox account after Balaban left the firm, and that Balaban misused Elliott Greenleaf escrow funds for personal uses.
Elliott Greenleaf alleged in court hearings that Balaban left the firm when Elliott Greenleaf wanted to collect on about $4 million in unpaid legal fees from the Herrons for litigation work the firm did on a deferred-payment basis. The Herrons’ company, MRS, handled tax lien sales in Pennsylvania and followed Balaban to Stevens & Lee. Additional court filings from Elliott Greenleaf alleged that the Herrons paid Balaban personally more than $50,000 in what should have been fees to Elliott Greenleaf.
Stevens & Lee fired Balaban on June 20, issuing a public statement to that effect without elaborating on its reasons. The cause for firing him became an issue in the case, and Elliott Greenleaf sought to depose Stevens & Lee President Ernie Choquette twice on that matter alone.
According to court documents in the case, Choquette testified that he fired Balaban when Choquette learned Balaban lied to him about placing Elliott Greenleaf data on Stevens & Lee’s computers and when he found out that Balaban had not paid taxes for the last three years.
Elliott Greenleaf Chairman John M. Elliott said Thursday the case “was inconceivable at so many levels, it was so shocking and so disappointing that I’m just happy that it moved to a swift resolution.”
He said a global settlement was reached in regard to all the parties. He said no amount of money could ever make one whole in light of the misconduct in this case.
“The case is settled and the allegations that we made in the various public filings in the case showed a pattern of misconduct that was very unfortunate and I think the defendants came to the realization that that pattern of misconduct, as it was further disclosed … in court, would be very damning in terms of their conduct,” Elliott said.
Michael Hayes of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads represented Balaban. He said only that the case settled and the terms were confidential. He did thank, on behalf of his client, Cohen for his work in mediating the case.
W. Patrick Delaney of MacDonald Illig Jones and Britton in Erie, Pa., represented the Herrons. He confirmed the settlement and declined to comment further.
Richard Bazelon of Bazelon Less & Feldman represented Stevens & Lee and did not return a call for comment.