Edward Cerasia II JD '91

Midtown Manhattan is a far cry from Canastota, N.Y., population 5,000, where Edward Cerasia II grew up.

Cerasia applies the lessons he learned there to the practice of law: work hard and treat your adversaries fairly. It has paid off. His career includes partnerships at three big-name firms: Seyfarth Shaw, Proskauer Rose and now Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which he joined in 2007.

He was attracted by the firm's nationwide presence. "My work is national in scope, particularly class action suits, and clients want to hire lawyers who have a footprint around the nation," he said.

Cerasia represents corporate clients against claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. In one memorable case, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission had sued Cerasia's client, an airline services company. During the discovery portion of that lawsuit, Cerasia and his client learned about a pre-determination letter that the EEOC investigator had prepared during the mandatory agency investigation stage. The letter stated there was no violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because the job applicant who had filed the EEOC charge against Cerasia's client was asked for medical information after he received a real job offer, as defined by the ADA.

Without explanation, the investigator reversed her initial conclusion, and the EEOC then determined there was reasonable cause to believe that Cerasia's client violated the ADA. Thereafter, the EEOC filed suit against the company. When Cerasia learned about the investigator's initial and subsequent decisions during discovery, he asked for the deposition of the investigator, but the EEOC refused, citing a government deliberative process privilege.

But Cerasia convinced the judge otherwise. Using knowledge he learned in an evidence class, Cerasia argued that the EEOC's letter and testimony were not protected by privilege because they were deemed to be an admission of a party, and lawyers are entitled to examine parties about admissions.

The judge ordered the EEOC investigator and an EEOC trial lawyer who advised the investigator to submit to a deposition, which was supervised by the judge's law clerks to ensure the EEOC did not obstruct testimony.

Cerasia credits his success in part to his professors' practical approach. "They teach you to think creatively about solutions to problems--to think like a lawyer, not like a law student."

Cerasia has endowed a School of Law scholarship, a gesture that stems from another small-town value: showing gratitude. "I've always believed in giving back. This is my way of saying thanks."

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