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Law firm for JPMorgan in Epstein case fights disqualification bid

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of the law firm WilmerHale in Washington, D.C.

(This May 8 story has been refiled to correct a misspelled word in paragraph 7)

By Andrew Goudsward

(Reuters) - Law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr pushed back on Monday against an effort to bar the firm from defending JPMorgan Chase & Co in a lawsuit accusing the bank of helping to facilitate late financier Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of women and girls.

WilmerHale lawyers said in a court filing that the firm’s past work for an anti-sex trafficking organization that supported an alleged Epstein victim, Courtney Wild, was “unrelated to and had nothing to do” with the case against JPMorgan, which was brought by a different Epstein accuser in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

JPMorgan has denied aiding in Epstein's abuse.

A lawyer for the plaintiff, who is not named in court filings, claimed last week that WilmerHale has a conflict of interest and must be disqualified.

WilmerHale lawyers authored a friend-of-the-court brief in 2021 on behalf of the anti-trafficking organization ECPAT-USA urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take up an appeal by Wild, who had sued to invalidate a 2007 non-prosecution deal between Epstein and U.S. prosecutors.

The court opted not to take up the case.

WilmerHale said in Monday's filing that it did not represent Wild and that its work with ECPAT-USA was limited to filing the Supreme Court brief on a legal issue unrelated to the JPMorgan case. The firm argued that ECPAT-USA as an outside organization was not directly involved in Wild’s case.

WilmerHale attorneys accused the plaintiff of “gamesmanship” in attempting to disqualify JPMorgan’s preferred law firm.

A lawyer for the plaintiff, Bradley Edwards, who previously also represented Wild, said in a court filing that WilmerHale lawyers had communicated with Wild’s attorneys about legal strategy.

Wild is not a party in the New York case, but Edwards said that as a victim of Epstein, she is a potential member of the plaintiff class.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward)