Ropes & Gray partner Diane Patrick took the stand in former associate John Ray III’s employment retaliation case on Tuesday to explain why she changed her deposition testimony about whether Ray had informed her that another partner uttered a racial slur in his presence.
Patrick, who is married to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, testified for the second time since the trial opened on Nov. 12. Each side will have 50 minutes to make closing arguments on Wednesday morning.
The trial tests whether the firm punished Ray by not giving him promised letters of recommendation and through i ts May 2011 release of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s initial determination letter about his case to the Above the Law website. That letter contained some of Ray’s personal information.
The EEOC rejected Ray’s discrimination claims but in February 2011 concluded that Ropes had retaliated against him for making the EEOC complaint.
The firm told Ray in December 2008 that he wouldn’t make partner and gave him six months with full pay to find a new job. He had joined Ropes in 2005 following stints at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Jenner & Block.
Patrick first said in the deposition that she learned of the alleged slur during a June 2008 meeting with Ray. Patrick, who at that time was a Ropes diversity committee member and now is its chairwoman, said she called the meeting because she heard from others that Ray had concerns about racial issues.
Patrick said on the stand that she had checked her meeting notes during a break in deposition then corrected herself. “I would have written it down. Clearly, John didn’t say that in my meeting,” Patrick said.
“You said that after you had the break and met with your lawyer,” said Ray’s lawyer, Latif Doman of Washington’s Doman Davis.
“After I reviewed my notes,” Patrick replied.
Ropes lawyer Michael Keating, litigation department chairman at Boston’s Foley Hoag, asked Patrick to explain.
“You asked me to look at my notes and I did, and I realized that I had misremembered what John had said,” she said.
Ropes partner John Donovan also took the stand on Tuesday for the second time. He testified that the firm sent the EEOC letter to Above the Law to “complete the story” after Ray sent the EEOC’s final letter to Harvard Law School officials and organizations.
“My view is it was no longer confidential,” Donovan said.
Donovan called Ray’s May 2009 demand for $8.5 million “nutty,” “a stickup” and “extortion.” He also explained why he told Ray in December 2007 that partnership would be an “uphill climb” for him.
“I wanted him to realize that getting there would be very difficult. I intended this as a negative message,” Donovan said.
Ropes lawyer Lisa Arrowood of Boston’s Arrowood Peters asked why Donovan told Ray that at the end of his seventh associate year, when the firm usually doesn’t tell associates who won’t make partner to leave until after their eighth year.
“From messages like this, they can realize that the odds of succeeding are low and they’re better off seeking a new opportunity,” Donovan said.
Former Ropes litigation department co-chairwoman Lisa Ropple, who now holds an in-house position at Staples Inc., testified about her time supervising Ray. She said spoke to Ray about the importance of acclimating to Ropes’ culture, by which she meant its professional standards.
“By the time he became senior associate, unfortunately, there were a lot of complaints. I started hearing from a number of partners that he wasn’t gelling very well with the firm [including concerning] interpersonal relationships with subordinates,” Ropple said.
Sheri Qualters can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.