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Gordon Rees Partner Steps Down After 'Hannity' Comments

Mercedes Colwin, the managing partner of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani’s New York office, has stepped down from firm management following her controversial remarks on Fox News last week about the truthfulness of sexual harassment allegations brought by women. Colwin, a Fox News legal analyst, was a Nov. 9 guest of host Sean Hannity on his eponymous Fox News show. Her appearance came during a “Hannity” segment that discussed allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore, a former Alabama state judge serving as the Republican candidate to replace current U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions III in the U.S. Senate. In an exchange with Hannity, Colwin, herself a former administrative law judge for the New York State Division of Human Rights, told the Fox News personality that it is common for women to lie about instances of sexual harassment for money and political reasons. “And these individuals, a lot of these women, it’s all about money, and they bank on the fact that these corporations have the reputation that they want to save,” Colwin told Hannity, adding that the actual number of women who were victims of predators were “very few and far between.” Colwin, who has been with Fox News and Gordon Rees since 2005, took to Twitter in an attempt to clarify her televised remarks. “First and foremost, I am profoundly sympathetic of anyone who has been the victim of sexual harassment and believe they deserve full and complete protection under the law,” Colwin said in the first of several tweets defending her on-air statements. “Having considered the comments, especially my ‘very few and far between,’ remark which has regretfully caused tumult and pain, it was made in the context of civil cases of sexual harassment that I've handled as an attorney and as a judge,” she added. On Monday, Gordon Rees firmwide managing partner Dion Cominos released a statement addressing Colwin’s comments and confirmed that she had stepped down from all management roles within the firm, which adopted its current name in 2014. “The [firm] in no way endorses or agrees with any statements which could even remotely be interpreted as minimizing or trivializing the seriousness and gravity of sexual harassment or similarly predatory behaviors, and we renounce them in the strongest possible terms—in fact, contrary to what may have been inferred from what was said during the telecast,” Cominos said in a statement released Monday. Cominos added that the “sad reality is that the number of women who likely have not been exposed to such repugnant conduct over the course of their personal or professional lives is, unfortunately, few and far between.” Late Tuesday, Colwin provided The American Lawyer with a statement that further sought to clarify her comments and make amends for any hurt caused from her segment on “Hannity.” “As one who has personally experienced such treatment and also has a deceased sister who was a victim of domestic violence, it is entirely apparent to me that sexual predators do indeed exist in our society who deserve to be called out, civilly pursued and criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Colwin said. “My intent was not to trivialize or minimize the impact of sexual harassment on any victims of such practices or to condone such behaviors in any setting whether business or personal.” Colwin added that she did not mean to imply, nor does she believe, that the victims of sexual assault within society at large are “very few and far between,” a phrase that quickly made the media rounds last week after her most recent Fox News appearance. “I sincerely apologize and am deeply sorry for appearing to diminish this very important issue,” Colwin said in her statement. This isn’t the first time that Colwin has been embroiled in a scandal at Fox News. In the wake of former network news anchor Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment claims against late Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, Colwin told The Hollywood Reporter that she was “furious” when she heard about Carlson’s suit, which was resolved with a $20 million settlement last year. Colwin, a litigation partner at Gordon Rees, specializes in employment law, commercial litigation, professional liability and civil rights violations, according to her firm biography page, and she regularly defends Fortune 500 companies against claims of sexual misconduct. Among her many clients over the years include representing former New York Knicks center Eddy Curry in a sexual harassment case filed by his former driver, as well as Steve Zakheim, the former owner of Metropolitan Ambulance & First Aid Corp., in a sexual harassment suit filed by 10 of his employees. The case against Curry went to arbitration, while Zakheim settled the allegations against him for an undisclosed sum. Colwin also represented the ownership of hip-hop magazine “The Source” in its $7.9 million courtroom loss nearly a decade ago in a gender bias suit filed by Kimberly Osorio, a former editor-in-chief of the publication and graduate of New York Law School. UPDATE: 11/14/17 at 8:48 p.m. EST. A statement from Colwin was added to this story.

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