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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Richard S. Rosenberg

If you’re wondering what it takes not just to prevail as an employer being charged in a lawsuit, but to be compensated for the attorneys fees into the bargain, you might want to check in with Richard S. Rosenberg, founding partner at Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt LLP in Universal City. Rosenberg was attorney in just such a precedent setting case, which, on appeal, ordered that the employee pay Rosenberg’s client nearly $1 million in attorney’s fees. “The court of appeals decision now is frequently cited for how egregious the employee behavior has to be to warrant this,” said Rosenberg of the case of Cook v. Gilbert, Kelly, Crowley & Jennett. The case was a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against the law firm by an employee who claimed she was impregnated by one of the firm’s partners. Not only did Rosenberg prove that the employee was not coerced into having sex, he also showed that she had fabricated a scenario of lies and deceit so outrageous as to render her subsequent lawsuit frivolous. “Not only did they not give her anything, they ordered her to pay the law firm $950,000 in attorney’s fees,” said Rosenberg, noting that in these cases, employers are not typically awarded attorneys fees, even when they prevail. In its decision, the court of appeals wrote, “We will affirm the award of attorney’s fees. It is more than amply supported by a voluminous record of egregious, vexatious, extortionate, etc., conduct by Saret-Cook, even recognizing that her conduct may have been fueled by poor mental health.” Rosenberg did not directly handle the appeal, but it was his groundwork at the trial level that helped to win the appellate court ruling. Just how egregious this employee’s behavior was may also help to explain why Rosenberg’s approach to this case was so atypical of most of his practice. The employment law specialist spends most of his time now resolving cases out of court rather than litigating them. “I don’t enjoy a lot of the mishigas,” said Rosenberg, using a Yiddish word meaning a kind of craziness that wreaks chaos and havoc. “A lot of what litigation is all about is not about finding the truth but about posturing. I do my best work when I have a client who is in distress and they need to be out of it.” Rosenberg said he focuses on getting clients past the anger that usually accompanies employment disputes to focus on what is in the best interest of the firm, and usually, that is settling, not litigating. But it’s not always easy to convince clients to settle. “You have to be very deft at how you do this,” Rosenberg said. “It takes a certain skill to convey this information at the right time and in the right dose so your client doesn’t get mad at you.” Sometimes, that means bringing the employee’s perspective to the table. Indeed, those who work with him say that what’s been integral to Rosenberg’s success is as much his ability to mediate conflict as it is his skill as an advocate in the court room. “In defending employment discrimination and harassment cases, it is too easy for defense lawyers to forget that there is a real person on the other side of the table, not just the plaintiff, but a person who has lost their job, maybe their dignity and is afraid that life will never be the same,” said Jeff Kichaven, a mediator with JAMS. “(Richard) has the unique ability to relate to plaintiffs as human beings, while of course never forgetting their duties as advocates for their clients’ interests.” Actually, Rosenberg never intended to be on the side of the big dog his early aspirations were filled with romantic notions of advocating for the little guy. Then he accepted a clerkship for a prominent labor law firm that was representing a union suing some of its members for crossing a picket line during a strike. “I went to see the managing partner who had one of those life changing conversations with me about what the business of the union was all about, and I was so uncomfortable about that experience that I figured I needed to see what the other side looked like,” said Rosenberg. Finding that he could have greater impact representing employers in labor and employment matters, Rosenberg never looked back. “If I can help the employer recognize that the feelings on the other side are real, it helps to get these cases resolved,” Rosenberg said. “My goal is to help my client get this case resolved at a figure that they’ll take.” Shelly Garcia

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