A long-running fight between two Pennsylvania law firms over alleged lateral poaching in Florida appears to be inching closer to trial.
To defend against allegations of trying to destroy Swartz Campbell’s business in Florida, Chartwell Law Offices is seeking to subpoena a former Swartz Campbell lawyer who is now a partner at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin.
In an Oct. 18 filing, Chartwell asked the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to issue a commission to a circuit court in Florida to subpoena David Henry, a partner in Marshall Dennehey’s Orlando office, for a video deposition. Henry, who joined Marshall Dennehey in 2015, was previously a partner at Swartz Campbell in Florida.
Swartz Campbell’s 2012 lawsuit alleged that Chartwell poached lawyers from Swartz Campbell in order to start an office in Fort Myers, Florida. Since then, the firm’s allegations have expanded, and involve other lawyers.
According to Chartwell’s newest filing, Swartz Campbell has alleged that beginning in 2010, Chartwell interfered with Swartz Campbell’s partners and employees, and that Henry worked with Chartwell to transfer his former firm’s Florida operations to Chartwell. Chartwell plans challenge those allegations through Henry’s testimony, the petition said.
The petition for subpoena is the first significant filing in the case in more than six months. Swartz Campbell filed the complaint in 2012, and Judge Patricia McInerney denied summary judgment to both parties in April. The case is scheduled for a pretrial conference Nov. 14.
Chartwell hired partner James Myers and then-associate Jessica Teitelbaum away from Swartz Campbell in 2012. The two had been Swartz Campbell’s only Fort Myers lawyers, so the firm closed the office after their lateral move.
The complaint said Myers violated his former firm’s limited liability company agreement by becoming affiliated with Chartwell and helping Chartwell take over the Fort Myers office before he officially withdrew from Swartz Campbell.
Candidus Dougherty, a partner at Swartz Campbell who is representing the firm, did not return a call seeking comment on the subpoena request. Kenneth Dubrow of Chartwell, who is representing his firm, declined to comment.
Henry confirmed that he previously worked at Swartz Campbell, but declined to comment further.
Chartwell’s growth in Florida has been the subject of multiple pieces of litigation. Chartwell is suing Wadsworth Huott, a firm with five offices across Florida, over their failed 2015 merger.
Chartwell has alleged civil theft and breach of contract after the Wadsworth Huott lawyers made a mass exodus from the combined firm. But Wadsworth Huott, in a counterclaim, said Chartwell had no intention of integrating the practices, and only planned to steal the Florida firm’s clients. The case is ongoing in Miami-Dade County court.