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Judge Threatens Biglaw Partner With Sanctions Over Paternity Leave Request

pacifier gavelOne by one, Biglaw firms across the country have realized that in order to recruit and retain the best talent, they need to offer the best perks and policies for a progressive new generation of lawyers. That said, law firms continue to support attorneys who are embarking upon the fantastic journey into parenthood by offering lengthy, gender-neutral parental leave programs. But sadly, the courts these lawyers litigate in are often several steps behind, with judges in various jurisdictions refusing to accommodate continuance requests for child births and adoptions.

Alexander Fumagali — a partner at Lewis Brisbois who’s looking forward to the birth of his first child — now finds himself questioning his career thanks to what’s going on in court surrounding his child’s birth and his parental leave.

Fumagali, 36, is lead counsel in a case representing defendant South Florida Stadium LLC, the entity behind the Miami Dolphins franchise. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge David C. Miller set the case for trial during a time when Fumagali’s child is due. Fumagali has filed motions on three occasions seeking a parental-leave continuance, but Miller has denied them each time, and ruled that a fourth motion would result in sanctions.

In Florida, the Rule of Judicial Administration 2.570 requires judges to grant a presumptive three months of leave for the birth or adoption of a child should a lawyer be lead counsel on a case. Here, Miller has now thrice refused Fumagali’s motions, ruling that “someone else from the law firm will need to try the case if the baby is born at the time this is tried,” and that the case, filed in December 2020, has been in limbo for longer than the time the Florida Supreme Court “has determined to be reasonable for the conclusion of the case.” Fumagali shared his thoughts with the Daily Business Review:

“If this ruling stands, then other lawyers will have to choose between being present for the birth of their child or giving up their client,” Fumagali, 36, said. “I’m the lead counsel and the client hired me specifically. I love being a lawyer, but more importantly, I want to be a good father and husband. And I don’t know how this is going to affect those duties, which are most important.”

Fumagali is currently deciding whether to challenge Miller’s decision before Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal.

Baby or Client? Lawyer Claims He’ll Be Denied Paternity Leave as Judge Threatens Sanctions [Daily Business Review]

Staci ZaretskyStaci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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