An attorney who has spent most of his career fighting for the rights of women, minorities and whistleblowers is now blowing the whistle on the California State Bar.
For more than 25 years, nationally acclaimed lawyer Philip Kay has won millions of dollars for victims of sexual harassment and discrimination. Kay now faces a three-year suspension for being too effective an advocate. Kay is asking the California Supreme Court to address and remedy the State Bar's abuse of authority, with far reaching ramifications to all lawyers and clients in the state.
In 1994, Kay tried the landmark sex harassment case of Weeks v. Baker & McKenzie. Since then, his office has successfully prosecuted cases against some of the world's largest and most high-profile companies, from Sony and AIG to Bank of America and Home Depot.
In the 2002 case of Gober v. Ralphs Grocery Company, a San Diego jury awarded $30.6 million to six clients whom Kay represented against the subsidiary of grocery giant Kroger. Their store manager subjected workers and customers to repeated harassment, including violence, while the company knowingly allowed the abuse to continue.
Following the verdict, Judge Michael Anello drew criticism in national news reports about his handling of the trial, including charges of bias from the jurors. Subsequently, the embarrassed judge initiated punitive actions against Kay in the Bar. In his complaint, Anello falsely accused Kay of attorney misconduct contradicting the judge's own statements and rulings during trial that Kay committed no such violations.
The Bar concedes it knew Anello falsely accused Kay of denying Ralphs a fair trial. Kay says the Bar is, thus, guilty of malicious prosecution.
"These charges and findings were pursued based on Anello's false complaint and reached without due process or trial," notes Kay.
According to public records, there have never been any complaints against Kay by any of his clients, nor sanctions against him by any judges during his extensive career as a trial lawyer. A former State Bar prosecutor admitted that the purpose of this prosecution was to coerce an apology from Kay in hopes of salvaging Anello's damaged reputation.
"Such a system of vagaries denies justice and replaces it with an anything goes approach by the Bar officials who prosecuted this matter," says Kay.
"The State Bar proceeding is driven by politics, in which the Bar officials have created their own set of rules and facts. Legitimate and successful advocacy protected by the First Amendment on behalf of my clients is being wrongly punished along with the undermining of legitimate civil rights verdicts," says Kay. "The result of this matter is that an effective civil rights advocate is being removed from the practice of law without any cause or due process, because the State Bar has no oversight."
Kay graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. He attended San Francisco Law School while working as a San Francisco Firefighter. He has been repeatedly included in Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers of Northern California as a specialist in employment discrimination, harassment and whistleblower cases.
The National Law Journal named Kay to the list of "Top Ten Litigators" for 2002 and "Litigator of the Month" for May 2002.
The above is a press release. It was not written by the editors of this blog.