A former Holland & Knight partner who has waged a years-long court battle against the firm over what he says was his unfair dismissal from the partnership in 2002 received a further setback this week: A bill for $351,163 that a court ruled he now owes his one-time professional home.
John Weir, who had joined Holland & Knight in 1997 through its merger with Haight Gardner Poor & Havens and at one point led the firm’s New York labor and employment practice, first sued the firm in New York federal court in 2005 claiming he was let go because of his age—at the time, 55—and because the firm didn’t want to pay retirement benefits he says he was owed. In court filings, Holland & Knight argued that Weir’s termination stemmed from differences of opinion related to the direction of the firm’s labor and employment practice.
When the federal suit got thrown out on statute of limitation grounds, Weir brought new claims in New York state court in 2007, among them age discrimination and retaliation, breach of fiduciary duties, breach of contract, and fraudulent inducement. Last December, New York state court judge Marcy Friedman dismissed Weir’s suit entirely, arguing that Weir’s claims didn’t stand because he was a partner with some degree of control over the firm, rather than an employee.
At the same time, Friedman ruled in favor of counterclaims brought against Weir by Holland & Knight that accused him of breaching his fiduciary duties by violating a term of the firm’s partnership agreement that requires partners who are departing, either by choice or at the firm’s direction, to make reasonable efforts to bill and collect for all outstanding work. As The Am Law Daily reported at the time, Friedman ordered the two sides to calculate the money Weir owed the firm for his failure to bill clients from May 2002 until he was let go November 4 of that year.
Over a series of hearings earlier this year, special referee Ira Gammerman decided Holland & Knight could have made $68,828 during that May through November time frame for work Weir did for clients Stolt-Nielsen Transportation and US Aviation Insurance Group. Gammerman, a New York state court judicial hearing officer, also said Weir should return monthly draws totaling $114,070 that he earned in that same period.
In late September, New York state court judge Cynthia Kern confirmed Gammerman’s ruling that Weir pay $182,898 plus interest. Those hefty interest rates, which began accruing in 2002, bring the total Weir owes the firm to $351,163, the amount entered in a judgment against him October 17.
Weir, who now has a solo practice in New York and has been representing himself in the Holland & Knight case, did not return a call for comment Friday. During a February court hearing to determine the money owed, Weir told the court that he was hoping to change careers soon and go into the alternative dispute resolution field.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Mike Delikat, who represents Holland & Knight, said in an email Friday that the judgment confirms that Holland & Knight “acted properly when it expelled Mr. Weir from the partnership.” Delikat, the New York–based chair of Orrick’s employment practice, added: “It is rare to recover from the plaintiff in employment litigation.”