The Third Circuit Court of Appeal has reversed a summary judgment granted to a Lafayette law firm in a civil suit brought by a former receptionist who accused one of the firm’s owner/partners of raping her. Attorney Scott Hawkins of Hawkins & Villamarette pleaded guilty in December 2008 to a lesser felony charge of second-degree battery and was given a five-year suspended sentence. Hawkins is currently under suspension by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board and cannot practice law.

The civil suit, brought by the former female employee known only as J.K. in court papers, accuses the law firm of liability in the crime, citing a promiscuous, libidinous culture within the firm. A Lafayette judge dismissed the suit, but the appeals court reversed that judgment and remanded the case to district court for further proceedings.

Eye-opening accusations made in the appeal include testimony from former employees who described an office culture awash in alcohol and bristling with sexual innuendo, and a culture in which female employees considered themselves under siege by Hawkins’ booze-fueled sexual advances:
Some former employees testified that the term “drunk Fridays” was used to describe Friday afternoons at the firm. Former employees also testified that there was a sauna located in the office and Hawkins would walk through the firm’s office during business hours from the sauna to his individual office wrapped in a towel and that he made sexually-provocative comments and overtures to employees, including the plaintiff. Employee testimony further shows that some former employees feared Hawkins and felt his temper and his “drinking problem” endangered them.

Click here to read the full Third Circuit opinion, which includes even more graphic testimony from a former employee who details an encounter involving the sauna, a shower and an act derived from the Latin word fellatus.

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