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New Haven, Conn., attorney Rebecca L. Johnson was onto something, or so she thought. The judge who ruled against each of the 10 counts in her client’s complaint against Yale-New Haven Hospital, Johnson discovered, tutored at Yale Law School. What’s more, so did the lawyer opposing Johnson in the wrongful-termination case tried over 20 days last summer. But Johnson’s bid to disqualify New Haven Superior Court Judge Patty Jenkins Pittman for having an “inappropriate” professional relationship with defense counsel Margaret P. Mason fell well short of winning Johnson’s client a new trial. As it turns out, Jenkins and Mason not only never taught Yale’s trial advocacy course together, they never even tutored at the school during the same semester, Judge Richard E. Arnold found in rejecting Johnson’s motion for a new trial June 26. In his 13-page decision, Arnold also ruled that Pittman’s affiliation with the law school wouldn’t lead a “reasonable person” to believe she had any interest in the outcome of the case against Yale-New Haven Hospital that would jeopardize her impartiality. LAW SCHOOL TIES Reached last week, a deeply disappointed Johnson vowed to bring an appeal. “The way this entire case has gone, it’s turned me off to the practice of law,” she fumed. Her client, Elizabeth Hayes, sued Yale-New Haven Hospital after losing her job in 1996. A longtime hospital employee, Hayes’ position was eliminated as the result of a restructuring. She then successfully filed an internal grievance when she was denied a transfer to another unit, but was terminated shortly after being appointed to the new post. Among other allegations, Hayes, who is black, claims that her employer breached its implied contract to provide her a reasonable amount of time to master her new job duties, failed to retrain reassigned employees as called for by its restructuring plan, and discriminated against her on the basis of her race. After a lengthy trial, Pittman, however, found in favor of the defendant on each count, as well as its special defense that Hayes failed to mitigate damages by conducting a job search “so sporadic and so highly selective as to guarantee failure.” Only after the trial ended did Johnson learn that Pittman and Mason, a partner in Tyler Cooper & Alcorn’s New Haven office, taught at the law school, Johnson said. In dismissing her motion, Arnold, Johnson maintained, overlooked the state supreme court’s 1981 ruling in Dacey v. Connecticut Bar Association, in which the trial judge was disqualified for being a member of the CBA. Pittman, Johnson contended, has “more of a connection” to Yale-New Haven Hospital than the judge in Dacey had to the bar association. “She’s a paid employee of Yale University,” which, in turn, is “inextricably affiliated” with the hospital due to the fact that both institutions have common members on their governing boards, Johnson argued. Mason declined to comment because the case is pending. But in successfully opposing Johnson’s motion, the defense countered that the hospital and the university are “separate and distinct legal entities.” Unlike in Dacey, Pittman is not a “member” of Yale University or Yale-New Haven Hospital, Arnold concluded. Approximately 10 state and federal judges have tutored at Yale since 1997, he noted. Pittman last taught the clinical studies program in 1999.

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