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No ‘Right to effective counsel’ in employment lawsuits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

You may think it's obvious, but it has taken a federal appeals court to make clear that employees have no federal right to competent employment-law counsel, as offered in criminal cases. Employees who pick incompetent attorneys don't get a second chance to sue. That's good news for employers, who won't have to face the same lawsuit again if an employee's less-than-stellar lawyer bumbles the case.

Recent case: After Boeing employee Michael Nelson was laid off, he filed a lawsuit alleging race, national origin and sex discrimination. Upon the court's urging, Nelson hired an attorney. But the attorney did very little, and the court dismissed the case. Nelson appealed, alleging he was entitled to competent assistance of counsel in an employment case and should get another chance to sue Boeing. The court disagreed, saying Nelson could sue his attorney for malpractice, but he isn't entitled to another trial. (Nelson v. Boeing, No. 05-3156, 10th Cir. 2006)  

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