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A federal judge has ordered Weil, Gotshal & Manges to explain if partners at the firm “intimidated” an associate into backing out of a previous pledge to guarantee bail for her father, who is facing organized crime charges. Ardith Bronson, a fifth-year litigation associate in New York-based Weil Gotshal’s Miami office, last month told Eastern District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis that she would contribute $200,000 toward a $2 million bond for her father, lawyer Larry Bronson, who has been indicted for allegedly hosting meetings at his office for reputed organized crime figures and identifying possible informants and cooperating witnesses. But in an Oct. 12 hearing, Mr. Bronson’s lawyers said their client’s daughter had decided not to sign the bond because of a “personal situation.” In a previously sealed sidebar, one of Mr. Bronson’s lawyers, Kenneth Kaplan, told the judge Ms. Bronson was coming up for partnership and that clients, specifically insurer United Health Care, and at least one Miami partner were concerned about her involvement in her father’s case. “I think that all of this has probably been communicated to the partner at Weil Gotshal and obviously she’s been scared off in some way,” Kaplan said. “I’m not quite sure how and why, but I think it’s fair to say that she is a little intimidated by providing a financial affidavit and signing on a bond.” Unsealing the sidebar for the purpose of his order, Garaufis called the allegations “troubling” and instructed any relevant Weil Gotshal partners and employees to submit sworn statements by Nov. 4 explaining Ms. Bronson’s change of heart and whether her involvement in her father’s case would have damaged her career at the firm. He noted that he had the authority to issue sanctions against attorneys or firms who interfered with the court’s administration of a case. “The law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges has a national reputation for its practice of law, including the area of criminal defense,” the judge wrote. “That is all the more reason why the court is alarmed by assertions that its partner(s) made coercive statements towards Ms. Bronson in a manner that may adversely impact this court’s ability to administer justice.” The firm on Thursday strongly denied the allegation and said in a statement that Ms. Bronson is a highly regarded associate and the firm is “totally supportive of her as she deals with a difficult personal situation.” “Any suggestion that anyone at the Firm in any way discouraged her from participating in the provision of bail for Larry Bronson is totally false,” Weil Gotshal said in its statement. “Our understanding is that her decisions are based upon personal and family considerations having nothing to do with the Firm.” Richard Davis, a firm partner and its general counsel, said the associate had told him the same thing in a conversation Thursday morning. He also pointed out that because Ms. Bronson, a 2000 graduate of University of Miami School of Law, was only a fifth-year, she could not be up for partnership consideration. The firm has a policy of considering for partnership only those associates who have been out of law school at least 8 1/2 years. He said partners in New York would provide statements to Garaufis as soon as today, though he said statements from Miami, including that of Ms. Bronson, may be delayed because the office was closed due to Hurricane Wilma. At another hearing on Tuesday, Garaufis expressed anger over the situation, according to a transcript. “I’m going to want answers from her employer as to what, if anything, they have said to her with respect to her participation in this case as a suretor and their answers had better be good,” he said. The judge added during a sidebar: “He can get on the stand, whoever it is from this law firm and state what he said and why she is so afraid. She came here. She was willing to help her father. Now she is not willing.” Davis also said he did not believe any client of the firm, including United Health Care, was even aware of Ms. Bronson’s personal situation, much less concerned about it. Ms. Bronson has been part of a team of Weil Gotshal lawyers defending United Health Care in a class action suit filed in federal court in Miami by doctors who allege United and other health insurers colluded to lower physician reimbursements. The lead Miami partner on the case has been Edward Soto. A source familiar with the case said Ms. Bronson was intimidated not so much by the firm but by the actions of federal prosecutors toward her brother. He had also withdrawn from a bail pledge after prosecutors suggested they would investigate his ties to his father’s dealings. The factors that law firms consider in deciding which associates become partners is the subject of frequent debate and speculation among young lawyers. Associates have occasionally sued firms for race or sex discrimination in the process and one New York associate recently sued Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe for allegedly breaking a contract to make him a partner. Though an associate’s family situation is not specifically protected by civil rights law, Davis said Weil Gotshal would never hold a situation like Ms. Bronson’s against an associate in a partnership decision.

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