Lawyers for four women seeking to keep their identities hidden in a gender bias suit against Jones Day argued Thursday that it should be an easy decision for the federal judge handling the matter.
The Sanford Heisler Sharp attorneys representing former California Jones Day associates Nilab Rahyar Tolton and Andrea Mazingo and four unnamed women said that the firm’s lawyers fell short of a crucial requirement that they confer with the plaintiffs about anonymity before seeking judicial intervention.
“Had Jones Day not flouted its threshold obligation to meet and confer with plaintiffs, many if not all of its concerns about plaintiffs’ pseudonymity might have been alleviated. Jones Day’s failure to even acknowledge, let alone fulfill this basic requirement is, by itself, sufficient basis to deny its motion,” they said in a motion filed late Thursday night in Washington, D.C., federal court.
Jones Day earlier this week asked U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss to unmask the four women, arguing that the use of pseudonyms in the litigation prevents the public from fully evaluating their allegations and credibility.
But the plaintiffs responded that the firm failed to comply with a local rule mandating that before filing any “non-dispositive motion,” counsel must meet with opposing counsel in a good-faith effort to reach a resolution or narrow the scope of disagreement.
They noted that such a meeting might have helped navigate a solution to some of Jones Day’s concerns, such as the obstacles the firm faced in pursuing an internal investigation while the plaintiffs remained under a pseudonym.
The filing also addressed the merits of the four women’s desire to remain anonymous. The attorneys emphasized that their position in the early stages of their legal career raised the stakes over the public disclosure of their identities, and that the alternative of a protective order would not be able to ensure that “relevant but sensitive facts,” such as one of the plaintiff’s miscarriage, would remain under wraps.
Consequently, the women could conceivably be branded with a “scarlet letter” that would result in them being blacklisted from other firms, according to the filing.
The women also blasted Jones Day for its assertion, in the table of contents, that “Secrecy Is Prejudicial to Jones Day,” suggesting the firm was being hypocritical.
They quoted the firm’s website: ”[W]hat is sometimes critically referred to by those outside Jones Day as a ‘lack of transparency’ is almost universally viewed inside Jones Day as one of its great strengths.”
“It’s newfound interest in transparency thus smacks of an ulterior motive; how consistently it abides by this battlefield conversion will likely become apparent as this case moves into the discovery phase,” the women said.
A spokesman for Jones Day did not immediately respond to a request for comment.