Kelly v. Hunton & Williams
United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
1999 WL 408416 (1999)
Peter Kelly (plaintiff) began working for the law firm of Hunton & Williams (H&W) (defendant) in 1990. Kelly passed the bar in 1991 but did not finish his application for bar admission until 1997. In 1991, Kelly became aware that Scott Wolas, an H&W partner, was engaged in billing fraud. Kelly raised the issue to various partners in the firm, some of whom were involved in questionable investment dealings with Wolas (the investment partners). Eventually, the fraud allegations reached the current and former managing partners of the firm. In 1993, the day before Kelly was supposed to meet with a former managing partner about the allegations, the investment partners forced Kelly to resign. Kelly brought suit against H&W, alleging the firm breached its employment contract by forcing him to resign and threatening to give a poor employment reference, solely so that Kelly would not report Wolas’s fraud. Kelly argued an at-will lawyer cannot be fired for reporting a colleague’s violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility. H&W moved for summary judgment, claiming that Kelly was an at-will employee and non-attorney since he was not admitted to the bar at the time.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Gleeson, J.)
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