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Did Lilly Ledbetter's Own Lawyers Screw Up Her Case?

By       Message Roger Shuler     Permalink
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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Who is primarily responsible for cheating Lilly Ledbetter, the Alabama resident at the heart of one of the most notorious discrimination cases in modern American history?

Many Americans probably would lay the blame mostly at the feet of the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned a $3.8-million jury verdict for Ledbetter and found she failed to meet the statutory deadline for filing her claim. Among these Americans would be Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who issued a stinging dissent in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Also in that group would be members of Congress and President Barack Obama, who signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 into law as a means of reversing the effects of the high court's ruling.

But Ledbetter's own lawyers, from the Birmingham firm of Wiggins Childs Quinn and Pantazis (WCQP), have largely escaped scrutiny. Our review of court documents in the case indicate that should change. In fact, Ledbetter's lawyers apparently made some key strategic decisions that proved to be costly to their client.

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Jon Goldfarb, Ledbetter's lead attorney, has said all the right things in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. In a statement after passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Goldfarb said U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon (now retired) got it right at the trial stage:

I would also like to thank Judge Clemon for getting the law right on this case the first time. Had the Appeals Court and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Judge Clemon's interpretation of the law, none of this legislation would have been necessary and Mrs. Ledbetter would have been able to keep the money that the Alabama jury awarded her.

Please understand that what the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act does is put the law back the way it was two years ago when Judge Clemon sent this case to that Jury and the Jury found in Mrs. Ledbetter's favor.

That statement, however, does nothing to achieve justice for Lilly Ledbetter, and Goldfarb went on to make that clear:

The one question I am most often asked is will Mrs. Ledbetter finally be able to receive any of the 3.8 million dollars the jury awarded her six years ago.

Unfortunately, although Congress and the President can fix the law, they can't give that Jury

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award back to Mrs. Ledbetter that the Appeals Courts took away. However, by not giving up and taking her cause to Washington, Mrs. Ledbetter has made sure that others can take action to fight pay discrimination and Mrs. Ledbetter will tell you that is an even a richer reward.

Lilly Ledbetter has become famous, and news reports indicate she might wind up with a book and/or movie deal. But in terms of justice at the courthouse steps, she was left holding the bag. And public documents indicate her own lawyers had something to do with that.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
 

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