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Dyke v. Partners of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 19, 2013

SARA J. VAN DYKE, Plaintiff,

Pro Se Plaintiff Sara J. Van Dyke New York, NY.

Counsel for Defendant Dehevoise & Plimpton LLP Edwin G. Schallert, Vanessa De Simone, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, New York, NY.

Counsel for Defendant Breaking Media Jeffrey Craig Miller, Miller Korzenik Sommers LLP, New York, NY.

Counsel for Defendant Paul Galligan Eddy Salcedo, Melissa Starcic, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, New York, NY.


RONALD L. ELLIS, Magistrate Judge.


Pro se Plaintiff Sara Van Dyke brings this action for employment discrimination and retaliation against Defendants Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP ("Debevoise"), [1] Breaking Media, Inc. ("Breaking Media"), Paul Galligan ("Galligan"), and Does 1-6, [2] pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and related state laws. Van Dyke also alleges that she suffered intentional and negligent infliction of emotion distress by all Defendants. Debevoise and Galligan separately move to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and Defendant Breaking Media moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

For the reasons that follow, I recommend that the motions of Debevoise, Galligan, and Breaking Media be GRANTED.


Van Dyke is a 1999 graduate of Yale Law School and was employed as an associate in Debevoise's executive compensation and employee benefits department from February 2001 through February 2005. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 2.) Van Dyke alleges that she was singled out by partners at Debevoise by "vicious bullying, humiliation, " and "malicious gossip." ( Id. at ¶ 2.) Van Dyke argues that the discriminatory behavior included: (1) sexual harassment by Paul Bird ("Bird"), a Debevoise partner and graduate of Yale Law School; (2) sex discrimination by Lawrence Cagney ("Cagney"), the head of her department at Debevoise; (3) a hostile working environment "sponsored" by Elizabeth Pagel ("Pagel"), her mentor at Debevoise; and (4) a "withering attack" from Martin Frederic Evans ("Evans"), a Debevoise partner, in retaliation for Van Dyke's Title VII complaints, ( Id. ) Van Dyke left Debevoise in February 2005 for an unnamed "mid-sized" firm, then began working for Proskauer Rose LLP ("Proskauer") in the summer of 2006. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 19.)

Van Dyke does not indicate any dates for the alleged discriminatory actions, only that they took place while she was at Debevoise, that is, prior to March 2005. Van Dyke also alleges retaliation from Debevoise "for its failure and refusal to properly address its Title VII issues" by allegedly making comments directed at her on various online articles, which include (a) a reference by an anonymous comment contributor to a "van dyke beard, " (b) an anonymous comment to an article about a law student's death and that an unnamed person should "get over it, " (c) "intimidating comments by or on behalf of Debevoise partners in connection with Plaintiff's second EEOC charge." (Van Dyke Opp'n to Deb. at 9.) These events allegedly took place in 2011.

Van Dyke alleges that in 2004, Pagel "kicked off' a "witch hunt" which included "obnoxious statements, cruelty, and bad faith" from Burt Rosen, the head of the tax department at Debevoise. (Compl. at ¶¶ 4, 26.) She alleges that male partners at Debevoise, including Bird, Gary Kubek, and Cagney, denigrated her for her previous work experience at an investment bank. ( Id. at ¶ 18.) She alleges that after she left Debevoise, the firm came after her with an -orchestrated campaign of social aggression" and a "witch hunt." (Compl. ¶ 3.) Certain unnamed partners at Debevoise who graduated from Yale Law School, spread malicious gossip about her to an unnamed partner at the "mid-sized" firm. ( Id. at ¶ 5.) The gossip resulted in negative interactions with the unnamed partner at this "mid-sized" firm, forcing her to leave. ( Id. ) When she moved to Proskauer, Cagney "passed along a highly misogynist investment banking pretext [sicr to her new boss, Michael Sirkin. ( Id. ) ¶ 19.

Van Dyke alleges that a worker in her cooperative apartment ("co-op") treated her poorly because of "malicious sexual gossip" that was spread by a partner at the then-Dewey Ballantine, LLP. (Compl. ¶ 6.) She sent emails to Galligan, the attorney for her co-op, complaining about the co-op worker. (Compl. ¶ 32.) V Dyke claims that Galligan forwarded those emails to Debevoise partners and other individuals. ( Id. ) She claims that information included in her emails to Galligan surfaced on the legal blog Above the Law ("ATL") and that this caused her emotional distress, ( Id. )

Further, Van Dyke alleges that Debevoise intimidated and harassed her in various media outlets. ( Id. at ¶ 7.) Those media outlets referenced her "by way of context, details, fact patterns, and/or language in emails" that she had sent to a limited number of people. Van Dyke claims that it would be clear to someone reading one of the articles that she was being personally "demeaned and abused." ( Id. ) The behavior Van Dyke alleges includes: (1) "potshots"[3] at her in a September 2005 issue of American Lawyer magazine from Mary Jo White ("White"), the chair of the litigation department at Debevoise, and Michael Gillespie[4]; (2) a March 2007 Debevoise video campaign directed at her; and (3) an ATL thread titled "Blazing Saddles, " directed at her from a Debevoise partner, "likely Mary Jo White, " and published by Breaking Media. ( Id ) Van Dyke also alleges that this behavior continued in other unnamed ATL threads, including one by Doe 6 and allegedly threatening comments believed to come from Debevoise as she filed her second charge of discrimination with the EEOC. ( Id. )

In addition to the th eads, Van Dyke believes that three articles on ATL were related to her, including (1) an article authored by "Blazing Saddles"[5] in August 2009; (2) an article authored by Suzanna Dokupil[6] ("Dokupil") in November 2009; and (3) a comment on an article ...

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