Has there ever been a more perfect pairing of lawyer and
client than Orin Snyder and Nancy Grace? The telegenic
take-no-prisoners Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner is defending
the telegenic take-no-prisoners host of the syndicated legal
show Swift Justice with Nancy Grace in a $15 million contract
dispute with Grace's onetime friend and producer Patricia
Caruso. And if anyone doubted that Snyder is willing to follow
through on threats of dire consequences for lawyers who file
purportedly frivolous claims against his clients-are you listening, DLA Piper?-the fast-moving Grace case should put
those questions to rest.
Caruso and her lawyers at Clarick Gueron Reisbaum claim
that Grace made an oral promise to develop a legal show with
Caruso, then reneged on the promise when she made the deal to
host Swift Justice. They filed a breach of contract suit
against Grace in New York state supreme court in March. Snyder,
who has previously represented high-profile women such as
Jessica Seinfeld, Barbara Walters, and Elizabeth Hasselbeck,
immediately had the case removed to Manhattan federal court.
According to the motion to dismiss he filed on May 6, Caruso's
claims aren't worth the paper her oral agreement isn't printed
on. "The claims asserted in this case are so lacking in merit
that they could not have been filed in good faith," Snyder
wrote, in a not-so-veiled warning to Caruso's counsel.
In case Clarick Gueron refused to take the hint and slink
away, Snyder drafted a Rule 11 sanctions motion and sent it to
Caruso's lawyers, along with a letter advising the firm that he
would file the sanctions motion if Caruso refused to drop
claims against Grace. She didn't and he did. In a June 22 Rule 11 sanctions motion, Snyder said that Judge Shira Scheindlin,
who is presiding over the case, had already informed Caruso's
counsel that she was likely to dismiss the case because the
purported oral agreement was just an unenforceable "agreement
to agree," and that opposition to Grace dismissal motion seemed
like a waste of her time.
"It is 'patently clear' that the complaint in this case
'has absolutely no chance of success,'" Snyder wrote.
"Sanctions are therefore warranted against Caruso and her
counsel for filing a frivolous complaint, for refusing to
withdraw that complaint, and for advocating the claims in that
complaint before this Court, both at the initial pretrial
conference and in opposing Grace's motion to dismiss."
Caruso counsel Gregory Clarick refused to back down. In a
July 13 response to Snyder's motion, Clarick accused Snyder of
belligerence, bullying, and a "stubborn refusal to acknowledge
the substance of [Caruso's] arguments, which are well supported
by controlling law," the brief says. "Rather than own up to her
distortion of the complaint and engage in an honest dispute
about the application of the law, Grace just pounded the table
harder, at most offering new rationalizations for misguided
opening arguments that artificially distort the complaint's
Clarick disclosed that "in an abundance of caution," his
firm had "sought advice from outside counsel" after Snyder
filed the sanctions motion. He didn't name the outside lawyer
but described him or her as a former Manhattan federal
prosecutor who is now "a current partner at an esteemed New
York City law firm." That lawyer, Clarick said, concluded that
Caruso's claims had a reasonable basis in law.
On Wednesday, Snyder fired off a response that specifically
addressed this anonymous lawyer's endorsement of Caruso's suit.
"It is telling that this supposedly authoritative 'partner at a
prestigious New York City law firm' chose not to submit a sworn
affidavit to vouch for the reasonableness of Caruso's claims,"
he wrote. "Absent such a submission, the court should
categorically disregard this anonymous hearsay. Indeed, the
fact that Caruso and her counsel see the need to seek refuge in
the anonymous hearsay of another firm's lawyer speaks for
Snyder declined to comment on the sanctions fight. Clarick
told me his firm filed Caruso's case in good faith. "We think
the motion for sanctions is absolutely inappropriate and
meritless," he said.
I usually hate to resort to TV talk, but in this instance
it seems justified: Stay tuned.
(Reporting by Alison Frankel)