A New York federal judge has rebuked defense lawyers for making unfair demands on a plaintiff’s lawyer who needed an extension of a deadline because his wife had given birth prematurely. The judge granted the extension and reminded the defense lawyers to act decently.

The case is Johnson v. Everyrealm, Inc., a lawsuit filed by Teyo Johnson against Everyrealm, a metaverse real estate company, and its executives – Julia Schwartz, Janine Yorio, and William Kerr. Johnson, an ex-NFL player who worked as Everyrealm’s director of strategic partnerships, alleges sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation by Everyrealm executives.

In Johnson’s amended complaint, he stated that he experienced “unrelenting sexual harassment” throughout his time at the company, including instances of sexually explicit remarks, jokes, and tirades. In particular, Johnson’s amended complaint accuses Yorio and Schwartz of making unwanted comments about his sexual activity and his then-girlfriend’s period and of Yorio coercing him to have sex with coworkers and clients as part of a “game” that employees called “Know Your Personnel.”

Johnson’s lawyer, Shane Seppinni, emailed the court late at night on April 26, 2023, requesting a three-week adjournment of the deadline for filing his opposition to the defendant’s partial motion to dismiss. Seppinni explained that his wife had unexpectedly gone into labor and delivered their child the day before. He also attached an email chain in which Proskauer Rose lawyers, counsel for defendants, stated that they would only agree to the adjournment if Seppinni met five conditions, only two of which were related to this case. The other three conditions involved three other lawsuits that Seppinni had brought against Everyrealm on behalf of different clients, which were now in arbitration.

The defense lawyers’ conditions were:

1. The Rule 12(b)(6) briefing in Johnson is to be completed before commencement of your proposed stay, with no further extensions to Johnson’s Rule 12 briefing deadlines;
2. Virgil agrees to submit his Amended Statement of Claim by May 5, 2023, and the Rule 12 briefing in that arbitration must be completed before commencement of your proposed stay;
3. All discovery in Virgil must be stayed pending adjudication of the Rule 12 briefing in that arbitration;
4. Johnson serves his initial disclosures by April 28, 2023 (they were due on March 28); and
5. You agree to consolidate the Frimpong/Yost/Virgil arbitrations under Arbitrator Feliu, with the caveat that your clients can object to the holding of a single arbitration hearing as to all three arbitrations.

Judge Paul Engelmayer was not impressed by the defense lawyers’ attempt to use Seppinni’s personal situation as leverage. He unconditionally granted Seppinni’s request for a three-week extension for his opposition. He also gave the defendants a corresponding three-week extension for their reply. He added that Seppinni could seek a further extension if there were continuing medical complications, as Seppinni’s email suggested might be necessary.

The judge also congratulated Seppinni and his family on the birth of their child and wished Seppinni’s wife a speedy and full recovery. He then admonished the defense lawyers for their lack of professionalism and decency.

Judge Engelmayer wrote:

“The Court reminds defense counsel of the expectation of the judges in this District that counsel will comport themselves with decency. Counsel’s attempt to exploit a moment of obvious personal exigency to extract concessions from Mr. Seppinni, in other litigations no less, was unprofessional.”

A copy of the original filing can be found here.