New Lawyers for Deen After N-Word Debacle

     SAVANNAH, Ga. (CN) – Hemorrhaging endorsement deals since her recent admission to using the N-word, Paula Deen has hired a new legal team to fight for her in court.
     International law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius will now represent Deen, whose former lawyers with the Savannah-based firm Oliver Maner withdrew Thursday at Deen’s request.
     Oliver Maner called it a “privilege” to have successfully represented Deen and her companies in various matters “over many years.”
     Grace Speights, Jocelyn Cuttino and Alexis Thomas from the Washington, D.C., office of Morgan Lewis will head Deen’s new legal team as they battle employment discrimination claims from former employee Lisa Jackson.
     It was Jackson’s 2012 complaint against Deen; her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers; and their businesses that set off maelstrom for the celebrity chef.
     Deen has lost several business partners after she admitted using the “N-word” in a May 2013 deposition. Major partners such as Wal-Mart, JC Penney, Sears and Walgreens severed ties with Deen over the past weeks. The Food Network, which aired Deen’s cooking shows, was the first to let Deen go after her deposition resurfaced last month.
     Jackson, who is white, claims that Deen and Hiers engaged in a pattern of racial discrimination against black employees. The complaint also includes sexual harassment claims against Hiers, who managed Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, a restaurant he co-owns with Deen.
     The Savannah-based firm Weiner, Shearouse, Weitz, Greenberg & Shawe will join Morgan Lewis as local counsel for the case.
     In light of the public interest and national media coverage generated by the lawsuit, Deen and the other defendants asked the federal court to require a seal of all filings. The court apparently granted their request earlier this month, according to a motion to intervene by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV.
     The media intervenors said denying public access to documents and docket entries was unjustified. They asked the court to unseal documents filed after July 3, which include two motions for summary judgment, an order on a motion for sanctions, a motion for sequestred individual voir dire and the court’s order on the motion to seal.
     They also asked for access to Deen’s publicly filed videotaped deposition.
     The clerk has refused requests to copy the videotape, citing “judicial policy” and protection of court reporters, according to the July 10 motion.
     According to a July 10 letter from the clerk of the district court, the court has returned the deposition video to Jackson’s lawyer.

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