Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Chris Lazarini provided insight on the case of Williams vs. Rosenblatt Securities, Inc., in which a pro se Plaintiff claimed that he was fired in retaliation for issuing a research report suggesting that his firm's clients and high frequency trading firms were conspiring to fix securities prices and triggering an SEC investigation. Throughout the proceedings, the Court shows a great deal of patience in addressing Plaintiff's multiple motions and other filings. In the end, the Court directs Plaintiff to the Court's Manual For Pro Se Litigants and allows him a fifth opportunity to file a proper complaint, while preserving Defendants' right to move to dismiss.
Chris provided the analysis for Securities Litigation Commentator (SLC). The full text of the analysis is below and used with permission from the publication. If you would like to receive additional content from the SLC, please visit the SLC website to sign up for the newsletter.
Williams vs. Rosenblatt Securities, Inc., No. 14-CV-4390 (S.D. N.Y., 2/11/16)
*The decision to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration rests with the sound discretion of the trial court.
**The major grounds for reconsideration are an intervening change in controlling authority, availability of new evidence, and the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.
***Motions to disqualify counsel are viewed with disfavor and a party seeking disqualification faces a high hurdle.
****The witness-advocate rule primarily concerns the trial process, and does not bar counsel's participation in pre-trial proceedings.
Pro se Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a strategist for less than a year in 2012. He claims his termination was in retaliation for a research report he wrote suggesting that Defendant and its clients colluded with high frequency trading firms to manipulate the market price of an exchange-traded note. Shortly after Plaintiff published his report, the SEC opened an investigation into the alleged collusion. Plaintiff also claims to have been discriminated against because of the perception that he was mentally ill. In a prior opinion, the Court dismissed all claims against Defendants, except for those under Dodd-Frank, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"). Following entry of that order, Plaintiff filed a "torrent" of motions, which the Court now considers.
First, the Court categorizes several of Plaintiff's motions as procedural and related to Plaintiff's request for reconsideration of the Court's earlier denial of Plaintiff's application for a preliminary injunction. The Court states that the strict rules of evidence do not apply to a hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction, comments on Plaintiff's lack of authority supporting his request and failure to adhere to the procedural rules in filing his motions, and concludes that Defendants' affidavits in opposition to Plaintiff's injunction request were properly submitted and considered. The Court examines Plaintiff's "new evidence," some of which the Court notes was previously submitted, and concludes that nothing in Plaintiff's submissions justifies the issuance of a preliminary injunction. The Court also finds no basis for awarding sanctions against any Defendant, as Plaintiff has identified no sanctionable conduct.
The Court next considers Plaintiff's motion for "joinder of claims and parties," which the Court re-labels as a motion to file a fifth amended complaint. The essence of what Plaintiff seeks, the Court states, is to add additional claims under the ADA and NYSHRL for disability discrimination and retaliation for complaining about that discrimination. Even though Plaintiff failed to submit a proposed fifth amended complaint, as required by the rules, the Court grants the motion without prejudice to Defendants' rights to raise any defense or move to dismiss. The Court instructs Plaintiff to refer to the Manual for Pro Se Litigants, comply with the Federal Rules and file "a short and plain statement of the claim," with "simple, concise and direct" allegations.
Lastly, the Court considers Plaintiff's motion to disqualify Defendants' counsel on grounds that he is a material witness. Denying the motion, the Court notes the high standard required for disqualification and points out that the witness-advocate rule primarily concerns the trial process and does not bar counsel’s participation in pre-trial proceedings.
Many courts provide guidance to pro se litigants, and this case is an example of a judge going out of his way to give a pro se litigant the benefit of the doubt in procedural matters.