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Plaintiffs’ lawyers who prevailed in high-stakes employment law cases are fighting it out over fees — not with the defendants but with each other. The internal conflict between Gregory Schaer and Linda Kenney raged even as they were carrying on the cases, and it ultimately ended the Red Bank, N.J., firm known as Kenney, Schaer & Martin. Schaer is suing Kenney in Monmouth County Superior Court in New Jersey for at least $1.2 million in fees he says he is due but never received. He claims that in 1998 Kenney made him a partner in the firm and, at one point, suggested she might hand over control of the firm to him. But their relationship soured and Kenney kept the fees from some of his biggest cases, Schaer charges. Schaer’s papers focus on a period in which he litigated Holden v. Borough of Matawan, and Estate of Roach v. TRW. In Holden, Schaer won a $2.25 million verdict for a wheelchair-bound police dispatcher whose workplace was full of stairs and substandard ramps. Roach made new law in New Jersey, establishing that a whistleblower seeking protection and damages under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act need not show that his complaints furthered a public policy — merely that he believed the complaints would bring to light lawbreaking behavior. Schaer had handled the Roach case at trial in Monmouth County Superior Court, and at argument in the Appellate Division. The plaintiff ultimately won in the state Supreme Court, 164 N.J. 598 (2000), resulting in enhanced attorneys’ fees of $200,000 to the firm. The case was later settled for at least $1 million, Schaer says. It was in May 1998, before Roach had been won, that Kenney said she would make Schaer a partner, according to his suit. Schaer alleges that Kenney told him that if he were to “hang in there,” that one day the entire practice “will be yours.” Schaer’s name went onto the office door and letterhead. Between then and June 2000 Schaer made several attempts to commit Kenney’s partnership promise to paper and to collect his share of the settlements while she kept dodging him on both issues, Schaer claims. His salary stayed as it was when he was an associate. As Roach made its way from Superior Court to supreme court, the relationship between Schaer and Kenney turned “defensive and hostile,” according to Schaer, with Kenney refusing to speak to him or let him meet his clients. “The tension and hostility being evidenced by Ms. Kenney, along with Mr. Schaer’s realization that Ms. Kenney did not intend on honoring the partnership arrangement, led Mr. Schaer to announce his intention to Ms. Kenney and Ms. [Nancy] Martin to leave the firm,” Schaer states. “The daily tension and hostility within the office was so severe that it also prompted the firm’s paralegal of seven years and the firm’s bookkeeper to resign,” the suit charges. When the split finally came in June 2000 — the same time Roach was scheduled for argument in the supreme court — Kenney “surreptitiously sent a mass mailing to each of the firm’s clients … telling the clients that their files would be coming with her,” according to Schaer’s suit. Nevertheless, three clients came with Schaer, and Kenney sought liens on those cases, Schaer says. Schaer hung out his own shingle, and Kenney took over the Roach case and handled the supreme court arguments herself. In her answer to the complaint, Kenney states that Schaer was a non-equity partner, as was Nancy Martin, who still works with Kenney and is not named as a defendant. Kenney states further that Schaer “never tried a case until he became employed by the Law Offices of Linda B. Kenney.” In the last 18 months at the firm, she claims, Schaer demanded a $250,000 salary or half the firm’s profits without capital obligations to the firm. Schaer didn’t resign, but was fired after he “treated other lawyers in the office rudely as a matter of course, complained repeatedly about staff, was insubordinate and in sum made the work environment intolerable,” Kenney says in her court papers. Kenney also claims Schaer solicited clients from the firm before leaving. “This is an economic dispute between Linda Kenney and a former employee over cases that he took with him when he left the firm,” says Kenney’s lawyer, Michael O’Connor, of McMoran & O’Connor in Tinton Falls, N.J. “We expect it to be resolved in our favor.” EVER IN THE LIMELIGHT While Kenney and Schaer have had their successes in court, the pair have also maintained their media profiles. Schaer’s suit contains a list of 20 newspaper stories about himself and his cases as evidence of his success and the benefit it conferred on the Kenney firm. As for Kenney, she maintains a busy media schedule along with her legal work. Most recently she joined her husband, Michael Baden, the pathologist in the O.J. Simpson case, on an HBO documentary. She also functioned as a pundit on Paula Zahn’s CNN show during the “hockey dad” trial in Massachusetts, in which Thomas Junta was accused of beating to death another father at his son’s ice hockey game. Schaer alleges that Kenney’s “Workplace Advisor” column in The Asbury Park Press was sometimes written by him. In fact, the reason Kenney allegedly offered him a partnership role in the first place was that she wanted to pull back from legal work in order to pursue a career as a broadcast commentator or even host a TV show, he claims. When the two worked together, they both took high-profile cases. Since 1997, for instance, Kenney’s firm has represented a dozen state troopers who are suing their former bosses for retaliating against them when they blew the whistle on the police practice of racial profiling. Kenney is trying to force a deposition of two state Supreme Court justices on the issue, and Simpson Dream Team lawyers Johnny Cochran, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld are appearing pro hac vice for the clients. Schaer caught the eye of The New York Times and other papers when he represented Lieut. Leithland Golbourne of the North Brunswick Police Department in a racial discrimination claim. Golbourne claimed he was denied a promotion because he is black and that he was sent an “Application for Employment to Jesse Jackson’s Staff” from one of his colleagues with questions such as, “How many words can you jive per minute?” The suit against Kenney, however, was filed quietly last July and is being defended that way. The parties are debating discovery motions and waiting for Judge Clarkson Fisher to rule. Schaer’s attorney, Michael Schottland of Schottland, Manning, Caliendo & Thomson in Freehold, N.J., says that the backstage fighting did not distract the firm from the full representation of its clients. “She’s a tremendously high-profile lawyer with an excellent reputation,” Schottland says of Kenney, “[but] this thing could’ve been handled differently than it’s being handled … I’m concerned it could turn into a donnybrook.”

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