Court Tosses Johnny Doc’s Malpractice Suit

He sued Pepper Hamilton law firm for disclosing FBI affidavit against him.

A Philadelphia court has dismissed a malpractice suit brought by union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty against the law firm that formerly represented him, Pepper Hamilton.

The Legal Intelligencer reports: “Pepper Hamilton represented Dougherty for a brief time through early 2007 when he was facing an FBI investigation and a search of his home. No charges were ever filed against Dougherty and the investigation and the firm’s representation ended.”

From there, things get complicated:

• The FBI affidavit to search Dougherty’s home was mistakenly filed — and open to the public — in the case of an unrelated defendant, Donald Dougherty.

• John Dougherty, meanwhile, sued The Philadelphia Inquirer for defamation for articles reporting he was under investigation. By this time, Pepper Hamilton was representing the paper.

• Hamilton, in its motion to dismiss Dougherty’s suit against the paper, also used the FBI affidavit in a court filing.

The Intelligencer reports: “Dougherty argued in the defamation case that Pepper Hamilton should be disqualified from representing the Inquirer for allegedly using information from its time representing Dougherty against him now that the firm had a different client. Dougherty also initiated the legal malpractice suit against Pepper Hamilton in February 2013, alleging similar claims.”

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark I. Bernstein on Wednesday dismissed Dougherty’s malpractice suit, noting that two other courts had ruled that the FBI affidavit was appropriately in the public domain. Dougherty’s current lawyer, Joseph R. Podraza Jr. of Sprague & Sprague, said his client will appeal.

Below, the request for summary judgment filed by Pepper Hamilton in May.