Nicholas Rockefeller, a former partner at Perkins Coie in Los Angeles, has sued his former firm for allegedly discriminating against him because of his disabilities and his religion.
Rockefeller practiced as a “Christian fundamentalist” when he was at the firm, and other lawyers referred to it as a “kook religion,” he alleges in a March 14 complaint filed in Los Angeles federal district court. Lawyers at the firm also perceived him as being HIV positive, based on his disabilities, he alleges.
“This suit by a former partner who has not been with Perkins Coie since 2005 is baseless and subject to arbitration, just as a federal court ruled in 2010 in the previous lawsuit he filed. We will defend this matter vigorously since it is utterly without merit,” Terence Gordon, a spokesman for the firm, said in an emailed statement.
Jeremy Osher of Boren, Osher & Luftman in El Segundo, California, who represents Rockefeller, did not respond to requests for comment.
Rockefeller asserts that the firm hired him in 2000, offered him a partnership in 2003 and then granted him a medical leave of absence based on his disabilities in 2004.
During that same year, however, the firm lowered his compensation because of his disabilities, he alleges. Before his leave, he had earned $550,000 in annual compensation, he claims, but the firm proposed lowering his compensation by more than $100,000 after he took the medical leave. The firm attempted to force him to resign by threatening to sue him and then terminated him while he was still on medical leave in December 2005, the complaint says.
Rockefeller also alleges that the firm refused to repay him costs he incurred as a result of a lawsuit filed by a former corporate client, In4Network, which named the firm and Rockefeller as defendants.
In February 2007, a Washington state appeals court dismissed a lawsuit Rockefeller brought against Seth Landau, then the chief executive of In4Network. The court also affirmed sanctions of $225,000 against Rockefeller for bringing a frivolous claim. The Washington Supreme Court denied a petition for review in April 2008.
Rockefeller’s attorney in that litigation, Kenneth Sidle, did not respond to a request for comment. Sidle is a partner at Gipson Hoffman & Pancione in Los Angeles.
Rockefeller could not be reached for comment.
As the firm noted Tuesday, Rockefeller has also sued the firm previously. In a 2009 complaint, he sought declaratory relief from the court calling for the firm and its insurer to indemnify him against the potential liabilities arising from the Landau litigation. In the final order in that case, a federal judge ruled that Rockefeller is bound by an agreement to arbitrate his claims against Perkins Coie’s insurer.