The Firms

September 8, 2009 5:11 PM

Bryan Cave, Wilmer Hit with Labor Day Lawsuits

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: 9:10 a.m., Sept. 9. The fourth paragraph of this post has been updated with a link to a story by The National Law Journal. The NLJ also has the story on a suit filed against Hogan & Hartson and partner Robert Cave by a client who claims the firm was too devoted to him.

While everyone else was preparing for a weekend of beers, barbecue, and sunshine, Bryan Cave and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr were served with lawsuits by two former clients.

As the St. Louis Business Journal reports, Bryan Cave was sued in St. Louis County Circuit Court by Don Bryant, the chief executive of wealth management firm the Bryant Group and owner of Napa Valley's Bryant Family Vineyards.

Bryant sued the firm and private client partner Lawrence Brody for allegedly botching a prenuptial agreement that divvies up the proceeds from a valuable art collection that includes works by Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock.

According to the SLBJ, Brody and Bryan Cave drafted a prenup that didn't account for capital gains taxes on Bryant's marital estate with his ex-wife, Barbara. As a result, the suit claims, Bryant lost at least $10 million in capital gains deductions from the sale of appreciated assets. (Click here for a story on the case by The National Law Journal's Karen Sloan.)

Also upset with his attorneys is former Army captain and gay rights activist James Pietrangelo II, who sued his pro bono counsel at Wilmer for malpractice in D.C. Superior Court, the Washington Business Journal reports.

Pietrangelo also filed a complaint against the firm with the D.C. Bar Association, claiming that Wilmer lawyers struck a deal with the Obama administration not to pursue a legal challenge to the Defense Department's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military.

After President Barack Obama was elected, Pietrangelo claims Wilmer dropped the case Pietrangelo and 11 other discharged service members filed in 2004, and asked the Supreme Court not to hear an independent appeal by Pietrangelo. After the Court declined to review the case earlier this summer, Pietrangelo vented his outrage at the Obama administration in an interview with Time magazine.

The media has portrayed the decision not to pursue an appeal as a joint decision by gay rights activists and their lawyers to let the Obama administration deal with the policy internally and to clear the path for a challenge in California to proceed instead.

But Pietrangelo claims Wilmer backed down to curry favor with the Obama administration and secure government jobs for some partners, including Stuart Delery, who the WBJ reports signed the firm's engagement letter with Pietrangelo.

Wilmer denies Pietrangelo's claims.

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