It was like a scene written for television. After a long-drawn-out legal battle against her former employer, an ex-wealth manager is awarded a US$1.1-million-dollar verdict by the jury
— only to have it taken away by the presiding judge
Last week, US District Judge Denise Cote shot down a jury verdict that awarded Jennifer Sharkey, a former JPMorgan employee, US$563,000 in emotional damages and US$563,000 in back pay, reported Financial Advisor IQ.
Sharkey said she was fired for an attempt at whistle-blowing in 2009
Citing an article from Law360.com, the news outlet said Cote upended the jury’s decision barely an hour after they made it. Based on the fact that the back pay and emotional damages awarded were equal in value, she reportedly concluded that the jury was prejudiced and meant to award punitive damages to Sharkey, against Cote’s instructions. Cote also said Sharkey was a liar.
Speaking to Law360.com, Long Island malpractice lawyer Daniel Zahn said Cote “usurped the role of the jury.” He also noted that Cote had previous ties to Kaye Scholer LLP and to Curtis Mallet-Prevost Colt & Mosle LLP. JPMorgan had been represented against Sharkey by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholler LLP, a merger-formed firm; a client involved in the case, meanwhile, had been represented by Curtis Mallet-Prevost. Legal ethics expert Howard Elman of Matalon Shweky Elman PPLC was less critical, saying Cote’s statements were “somewhat gratuitous.”
Weighing in on the case, Pace University law professor Bennet Gershman said federal judges in the US have wide latitude to express their views. However, he said Cote went too far and acted inappropriately when she called the jury “prejudiced.” Still, he said suggesting that she’s biased based on her past affiliations would be “poor speculation”; she had her stint at Kaye Scholer from 1985 to 1991, and was at Curtis Mallet-Prevost in the 1970s.
As of Wednesday, Cote had not called for a new trial or a dismissal, but noted a new trial would be necessary if Sharkey and JPMorgan could not come to a settlement agreement, reported Law360.com. But the legal news site said multiple attempts at a settlement had already failed.
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