Following a harassment allegation, the law firm Kirkland & Ellis has withdrawn from representing Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar in the Trump campaign case.
According to the substitution of counsel memorandum dated Friday, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel partner Barry Berke will appear on behalf of Boockvar as Kirkland & Ellis lead attorney Daniel Donovan along with associates Susan Davies and Michael Glick submitted their motion for withdrawal.
This is not the first time Berke has faced off against Trump’s legal team, The National Law Journal reported. Berke, who chairs Kramer Levin’s litigation department, took a leave of absence from the firm in February to serve as special counsel to the Judiciary Committee under the House of Representatives, which was tasked at the time with building the impeachment case against President Donald Trump.
This comes after a lawyer spearheading Trump’s legal efforts to dispute the election results in Pennsylvania reported that she received a minute-long harassing voicemail from an unnamed junior attorney based at Kirkland's Washington, D.C. office.
Trump campaign lawyer Linda Kerns of Philadelphia complained about the abusive telephone message to a federal court Sunday, stating that the action “by any measure falls afoul of standards of professional conduct.”
Another Kirkland associate working on the Pennsylvania suit told Kerns that the staffer who made the call was not involved in the state's case. According to Politico, the contacting attorney admitted that the communication was “discourteous” and apologized for wasting her time.
In a response filed Monday morning, Donovan confirmed that he viewed the call as “discourteous and not appropriate,” but disagreed with the characterization that Kerns used.
“That associate was acting unilaterally, in his personal capacity, without the knowledge or authorization of undersigned counsel or the Firm,” Donovan wrote. “The associate provided a personal email and had a baby babbling in the background during the voicemail….The Firm expects that every lawyer will conduct themselves with the highest standards of professional conduct, including being respectful of and courteous to other members of the bar.”
Donovan argued that the associate was not aware of the firm’s role in the case, pressing that further action by the judge was not required.
"A Kirkland & Ellis associate engaged in behavior that could lead to disbarment for not only the associate, but several partners," conservative commentator Mike Cernovich tweeted. "K&E tried to play the, 'It wasn't our fault game,' but that's now how the law works."
In her filing submitted just before midnight on Sunday, Kerns claimed that the call in question was just one of many abusive incidents that Team Trump has faced in recent weeks.
“Since this case was filed, undersigned counsel has been subjected to continuous harassment in the form of abusive e-mails, phone calls, physical and economic threats, and even accusations of treason — all for representing the President of the United States’ campaign in this litigation,” Kerns attested.
Kerns told US District Court Judge Matthew Brann that the correspondence was a troubling breach of professional norms, adding: “If there needs to be a rule saying that Kirkland & Ellis associates should not call opposing counsel and leave an abusive voicemail then all hope is lost.”