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7th Circuit rules in favor of Locke Reynolds

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Indianapolis law firm Locke Reynolds has won an appeal in a case with a former paralegal who sued over allegations that she was fired because of her race.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago issued a 13-page decision Wednesday afternoon affirming the summary judgment in favor of the law firm. U.S. District Judge John Tinder had ruled against the plaintiff in March 2006.

Marcella Fane, who worked as a paralegal for about two years in the toxic tort/asbestos practice group, filed a claim with the EEOC after she was terminated in August 2003 for rude and improper behavior toward colleagues and insubordination toward a senior partner.

In reaching their decision, the circuit panel cited examples of rude and inappropriate e-mails Fane sent to fellow paralegals, as well as conduct toward clients in conversations and written communications. Another example was how she directed a senior partner – her boss – to "come in, have a seat, and shut the door" – conduct the circuit judges noted she did not think was inappropriate.

"Fane's failure to live up to the firm's expectations was amplified by her inability to evaluate her own behavior, including the manner in which she addressed a senior partner," Judge Joel Flaum wrote in the opinion. "Even if Fane could establish a prima facie case of discrimination, she has failed to provide evidence from which a jury could conclude that the firm 's proffered reasons for terminating her were pretextual."

Fane's attorney, Bobby Potters of Indianapolis, could not be reached Thursday for comment, but attorneys at Locke Reynolds say they are pleased with the outcome.

"We did not feel there was any basis; now we have two courts confirming that there was no evidence supporting those allegations," said Jim Dimos, a partner on the firm's management committee. "We've always prided ourselves on being a good place to work for all people in the community. This is an affirmation of what we do."

Read the full opinion of Marcella Fane v. Locke Reynolds, 06-2200.

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