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Fired King & Spalding Atty Gets Trial Date Pushed Back

By Melissa Angell · June 23, 2021, 9:53 PM EDT

A New York federal judge pushed back to the final quarter of the year a trial over claims that King & Spalding LLP fired an attorney for raising ethical concerns, asking the parties to say whether their trial attorneys and proposed witnesses have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a two-page order Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni directed ex-King & Spalding associate David Joffe and the BigLaw firm to share with the court by June 30 if their trial team or intended witnesses have any personal commitments during the fourth quarter "that they would prefer not to cancel due to this trial."

Judge Caproni's order further directed the parties to inform the court if their teams and witnesses intend to be fully vaccinated, with the judge spelling out that fully vaccinated means two weeks after a person receives their final dose: two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a dose of any one-shot series, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The order also noted that the Southern District of New York has reconfigured its courtrooms so that in-person proceedings can occur "as safely as possible" amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Joffe's trial, initially scheduled for April 2020, has already been pushed back a number of times due to the pandemic. Judge Caproni previously delayed an April 2021 start date but said at the time that she was "hopeful" that COVID-19 case numbers would be low enough around June to begin the trial.

Though the judge later told Joffe and King & Spalding that they "must be ready" to begin the trial on June 30, she acknowledged that another jury trial currently set to begin the same day might interfere as the Southern District works to accommodate trials in courthouses squeezed by social distancing measures.

Wednesday's order noted that the "clerk's office prioritizes criminal cases over civil cases."

Joffe's lawsuit dates back to 2017, when he sued King & Spalding alleging he was unlawfully fired after raising ethical concerns that two partners made false statements on behalf of then-client and Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp. in a breach of contract case.

Joffe first joined King & Spalding in January 2012 and worked in the firm's commercial litigation group, according to court documents. He said he was removed from the firm's partnership track, in addition to having his pay frozen and his bonus revoked, after raising concerns with the partners and reporting the alleged ethical snafus to the firm's general and outside counsel.

He was eventually fired in December 2016 and robbed of some of his retirement contributions in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, he said. Joffe agreed in November to forgo a jury trial on the ERISA claim, but he will proceed in front of a jury on his wrongful termination claims.

The firm has denied the allegations, claiming that Joffe was an active player in the litigation that gave rise to the alleged breaches.

Counsel and representatives for King & Spalding did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Joffe declined to comment.

Joffe is representing himself.

King & Spalding is represented by Joseph Baumgarten of Proskauer Rose LLP.

The case is Joffe v. King & Spalding LLP, case number 1:17-cv-03392, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Additional reporting by Rachel Scharf, Cara Salvatore and Vin Gurrieri. Editing by Steven Edelstone.

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