Hoist by his own petard? The case of Jack Tuckner and Lisa Brockington

by Ted Frank on June 5, 2008

Lisa Brockington hired employment-discrimination firm Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser to represent her in a discrimination lawsuit, and was impressed with her resulting settlement enough that she joined the firm as an office manager. But now Brockington is suing Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser on sexual harassment grounds, making a number of lurid accusations about the firm and about Jack Tuckner’s sexual practices (which the New York Post and Above the Law are kind enough to highlight for one’s titillation). Either the allegations are true, in which case the firm suffers from severe hypocrisy problems in addition to its legal troubles, or the allegations are false, in which case the firm wins settlements for plaintiffs who make false claims. Tuckner’s attorney, David Berlin, does indeed say the claims are false. More precisely, he says “[T]hese irrational and untrue charges are a reflection of the person bringing the charges.”  Brockington’s attorney is Louis Pechman. Tuckner regularly appears on television as a talking head on harassment law.

In the further irony department, Tuckner represents Krista Errickson, who just sued Planned Parenthood for pregnancy discrimination. (Phyllis Furman, “Moms-to-be claim work bias,” NY Daily News, May 19).

Amusing: as of June 5, the webpage for Mia Metzger, Tuckner’s alleged dom girlfriend, on the Tuckner firm’s website talks about her expertise in “Wholistic Medicine.” Gothamist has the cache of Brockington’s webpage, though one expects that will only last a while.

For reporters wanting to do a little more digging, the Brockington lawsuit where the Tuckner firm represented her was Lisa Brockington, James G. Janoleck, and Robin Cullinan v. Center for Animal Care and Control, New York City Animal Care and Control, Wesley Artope, and Marilyn Haggerty-Blohm, Case No. 1:03-cv-09429-BSJ-GWG (S.D.N.Y.), filed November 24, 2003. See also this 2003 Daily News story.

Update: Perhaps the allegations are true; perhaps they’re the reflections of someone who is deranged or dishonest.  We have no idea, and we take no position, though the implausibility of some of the allegations certainly cuts against the plaintiff if I were forced to take sides now.  We discussed the problems of the publicity of complaint allegations by the deranged in a 2005 post about Wesley Snipes. (Contrary to the claim of a commenter, I don’t dispute that some of Brockington’s allegations, if true, rise to the level of a hostile environment.)

{ 6 comments }

1 JT 06.05.08 at 3:58 pm

The shame of events like this is that it damages people’s trust in the law and in attorneys. Assumptions that politicians are corrupt, harassment lawyers harass their employees and so forth may seem funny, but they damage the legal profession and people’s faith in the ability of the law to produce justice.

2 NB 06.05.08 at 4:09 pm

Thats right. And more importantly if the lawyer in question is a politically progressive man, such accusations also further the assumption that left-leaning liberals are all perverts.
I think each case should be analyzed uniquely and in this instance I am not inclined to believe in the charges. Its true the ironies will be rich if there are charges of actual sexual harassment. But from what I read here, that is not the case…

3 H. Scott Leviant 06.06.08 at 3:21 am

“Either the allegations are true, in which case the firm suffers from severe hypocrisy problems in addition to its legal troubles, or the allegations are false, in which case the firm wins settlements for plaintiffs who make false claims.”

I have more than one problem with this construct. First, it excludes the real possibilities that Brockington was either actually harassed prior to her first suit, but not at the Tuckner firm, or, probably less likely, that she was not really harassed before her first suit but was at the Tuckner firm. I agree that one of the two all-or-nothing options posed in the post are more often the result, but we certainly don’t know that here with enough certainty to call Tuckner hypocrites or Brockington a claim fabricator.

Second, the post suggests to me the possibility that Brockington is just very easy to offend, and the Tuckner firm, for reasons unknown here, obtained a significant settlement for what would be mild, off-color humor to most people. Perhaps Brockington is a prude, but her prior employer also was engaged in inappropriate conduct and wanted to settle her case to shut down the risk that other would come forward.

I am also concerned by the suggestion (at least I took it that way) that, in your option where Tuckner prevailed on a false claim, that the Tuckner firm was aware of such a fact. It seems to me that, in the absence of something like e-mails to confirm harassment, it is very hard to know with any certainty whether a client’s claim of harassment actually or closely reflects the truth. Attorneys cannot be held to the standard of omniscience.

4 Melvin H. 06.06.08 at 11:24 am

Are you KIDDING??? Why shouldn’t attorneys be held to that standard, Mr. Leviant? Attornays hold quite a number of opponents to “the standard of ‘omniscience’ ” in many cases–how many cases, especially on Overlawyered, somewhere have the plaintiff’s lawyers say that the defendants ” . . . know OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN . . . ” about something???

5 T 06.06.08 at 9:31 pm

does anyone know when the law and order episode based on this is going to be on?

6 Nicelife 06.07.08 at 1:35 am

This story is becoming more interesting and a media war is already on. Looks to me like a case of yellow journalism at its best. the new twist is the statement from Tuckner himself-
http://womensrightsny.com/blog/2008/06/06/tuckner/

he says: “As anyone who has telephoned our firm from the moment of her hire until the day she quit would attest, Ms. Brockington only used kind and supportive words to describe my own lawyering skills, personality and deep commitment to my clients. Ms. Brockington’s own words completely undermine her present claims against me.

Her sensationalistic allegations, replete as they are with shocking and personally outrageous and destructive claims against me and this firm, are, simply stated, all lies. As a careful reading of her “story” will reveal, some of her allegations could not have actually occurred during the time period during which she worked for this firm, others are mere fantasy and pure fiction, and others are her attempt to conflate personal private, consensual behavior–of which I’ve been an outspoken champion for the entirety of my professional life–with non-existent workplace activity.

The local tabloid media reported these entirely unfounded and baseless claims against me and this firm raised by this one former disgruntled employee, yet did not feel it prudent or necessary to investigate her story in a quest for the whole truth.”

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