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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Lawyers Fight Over Johnnie Cochran’s Name

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A partner at The Cochran Law Firm claims in Superior Court that an attorney tried to wrest control of the name of the firm's famed founder, Johnnie Cochran, and dissipated the firm's assets by, among other things, paying an employee for sexual services.

Randy McMurray, of the firm's Los Angeles office, claims that his partner Brian Dunn plotted to oust him by bringing in another lawyer from the firm's Las Vegas office. Dunn also breached the firm's partnership agreement by, among other things, seizing control of the partnership's records, client files and email system, according to the 36-page complaint.

Elsewhere in the complaint, McMurray says Dunn and other defendants have "engaged in erratic, unprofessional and petty behavior," paying an employee a salary plus overtime for sexual services, and hiring a private investigator, who allegedly spent her time having sex with Dunn.

McMurray seeks compensatory damages and a court order dissolving and winding up his partnership with Dunn, whom he says was expelled from the partnership last year.

The Cochran firm has offices in every major city in the country. Johnnie Cochran, who shot to fame as lead defense lawyer in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, is the firm's founder. He died in March 2005 at 67.

In addition to Dunn and his corporation, Joseph Barrett, the Barrett Law Firm and the Cochran Law Firm are named as defendants.

The complaint states: "Plaintiff is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that, beginning at some time in the summer or fall of 2011, defendants Brian T. Dunn, a professional corporation and defendant, Brian T. Dunn formed the secret intention to take over the Cochran Law Firm, by bringing in another partner from Las Vegas, Nevada. Said defendants exploited their relationship with 'shareholders' of National Firm in order to deprive the partnership of rightful use of the name of former deceased partner Johnny L. Cochran."

According to the complaint, Dunn encouraged the firm's clients to cease communications with the partnership, and shut McMurray out the firm's email system. McMurray claims the defendants then sent him a letter telling him to stop using The Cochran Firm name, and threatened to sue him under the Lanham Act.

McMurray says that Dunn also locked out an office administrator from her computer, and cut off access to client files and accounting records.

The complaint states: "On the same date the plaintiffs were cut off from all access to the law partnership's computer and e-mail system, all of the defendants held a meeting in the offices of the law partnership and made an announcement to all of it [sic] employees that all of the defendants were the owners of the law partnership, its managing partners, and the plaintiffs including office administrator Rozann Levin and McMurray's wife, Yana Henriks were not allowed to be in the office of the partnership and even though all of the defendants knew that Yana Henricks was personally involved for years in assisting the plaintiff with the partnership's clients' case load as well as other cases being handled for clients by the partnership."

McMurray claims that Dunn also sent him a termination letter, removing him from his position as managing partner.

"Plaintiffs are informed and believe and based thereon allege that all of the defendants, and each of them, without lawful authority and in continuing breach of the partnership agreement are rapidly dissipating and despoiling the assets of The Cochran Firm Los Angeles - assets which are lawfully owned in part by plaintiffs," the complaint states.

McMurray claims that Dunn refused to repay a loan of more than $500,000 to the partnership, a personal loan of $115,000, a credit card bill of $31,000, and failed to indemnify McMurray for $1.3 million in rent on the law offices.

According to the complaint, since August 2011, "All of the defendants' erratic behavior has included at least the following: ... F. Providing free salary and overtime pay for an employee in exchange of sexual services. G. Paying with partnership funds for inflated services of a vendor, private investigator, who was billing the firm and clients for her time spent having sex with defendant, Brian T. Dunn."

McMurray seeks more than $100,000 in compensatory damages for breach of the partnership agreement and breach of fiduciary duty. He also seeks judicial supervision, an accounting, and an order that dissolves the partnership and winds up its affairs.

He is represented by Michael Murphy of Westlake.

The Cochran Law Firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Editor's Note: The complaint spells Cochran's first name with a 'y,' but the late attorney's legal name was Johnnie L. Cochran. His middle name "L" famously did not stand for anything.

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