|By Donald Wittkowski, The Press of
Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 27, 2011--ATLANTIC CITY -- Resorts Casino Hotel is trying to prevent celebrity attorney Gloria Allred from representing nine middle-aged former cocktail servers who claim they were fired to make way for younger, sexier women.
In response, Allred said in an interview with The Press of Atlantic City that Resorts "must be afraid of something. Otherwise, why would they be trying to block my representation of these women?"
Allred, a California attorney, and her partner, Nathan Goldberg, are seeking permission to represent the former cocktail servers in a discrimination lawsuit filed against Resorts in New Jersey Superior Court. They must receive court approval to appear in the case because they are not permitted to practice law in New Jersey.
Resorts is opposing Allred and Goldberg. In court papers, the casino argued that "the sort of flamboyant and specialized in by Ms. Allred and her firm" would add nothing to the case.
"While undoubtedly Ms. Allred, the 'G-woman' and 'celebrity lawyer' who seeks admission in this case, is singularly adept at generating media exposure for herself, it is respectfully submitted that no good cause exists for her admission or that of her partner in this litigation," Resorts said.
Resorts alluded to a highly publicized May 31 press conference in which Allred proclaimed herself a "G-woman" -- a twist on G-men, the slang term for federal agents in the Prohibition era -- who would aggressively represent the women in their legal battle.
"Resorts may have their G-men and Mr. Gomes, but my clients have their G-woman as their lawyer and advocate," Allred said during the press conference, held on the Boardwalk in front of Resorts, to announce the suit.
The litigation stems from Resorts' rebranding into a Roaring '20s theme, which involves having cocktail servers dress in costumes reminiscent of the sexy outfits worn by the Prohibition-era flapper girls. Allred singled out Dennis Gomes, Resorts' co-owner and chief executive officer, who has overseen the retheming.
The nine former cocktail servers contend they were fired because Gomes and Resorts considered them too old to wear the revealing costumes. Resorts has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that its hiring and firing practices are legal.
In March, Resorts was slapped with two other discrimination suits filed by 46 former cocktail servers who alleged they were fired because they did not look sexy enough in the Roaring '20s costumes. Those two suits were not filed by Allred. Attorneys expect all of the suits to be consolidated at some point.
Meanwhile, Resorts is fighting Allred's motion to be admitted to the case. The casino's attorney, Russell L. Lichtenstein, declined to comment beyond the court papers.
A hearing in the Allred dispute was scheduled for Sept. 16 in Atlantic City but was postponed. Superior Court Judge Joseph L. Marczyk will decide whether he wants to hear oral arguments before ruling whether to admit Allred and Goldberg.
Resorts claims that Allred and Goldberg have not met the standard for out-of-state attorneys to be admitted to a New Jersey case. The casino also criticizes Allred for her "grandstanding public behavior."
Allred, who is based in Los Angeles, said in a telephone interview last week that Resorts simply does not want to face a lawyer who has "a record of success." Allred has developed a national reputation for representing high-profile clients in discrimination and sexual harassment cases, winning hundreds of millions of dollars for them in the process.
"The defendants hired the lawyer of their choice. The women should have the same right," Allred said of Resorts and the former cocktail servers. "All we're trying to do is to even the playing field and make sure these women -- who served this casino faithfully for decades as cocktail servers -- have a fair opportunity to present their case in court."
Virginia L. Hardwick, a Pennsylvania attorney who is serving as co-counsel for the former cocktail servers, characterized Resorts' opposition to Allred as highly unusual. In other New Jersey cases, out-of-state attorneys are routinely allowed to appear, Hardwick said. She also said Allred and Goldberg have met all of the criteria for admission to the Resorts case.
"I think they are opposing it for tactical reasons, to prevent the plaintiffs from having their choice of a well-known law firm that has great expertise in handing complex discrimination cases," Hardwick said.
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