Bikini baristas’ lawyer seeks to bow out of Everett lawsuit

Derek Newman says his clients aren’t listening to him or paying their legal bills.

EVERETT — The Everett bikini baristas face a new challenge in their legal battle: Their lawyer wants out.

Seattle attorney Derek Newman says the baristas aren’t listening to him or paying him as promised, according to paperwork filed May 24. Newman is seeking a judge’s permission to leave the case.

“There has been a substantial breakdown in the attorney-client relationship … ” he wrote. “(They) have declined material advice from counsel. This is their prerogative, but it makes representation difficult.”

The baristas have been fighting with the city of Everett since filing a federal lawsuit in September. That followed the city passing legislation banning their business model. Most of the arguments in court have been focused on how much or how little clothing the employees can wear, and if such rules violate their civil rights.

In December, a U.S. District Court judge approved a temporary ban on Everett enforcing the rules until the lawsuit was resolved. The city then asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the ban, also known as a preliminary injunction.

The dress code requires quick service employees to wear clothing that covers the upper and lower body. (City of Everett)

The dress code requires quick service employees to wear clothing that covers the upper and lower body. (City of Everett)

That step led to the parties meeting to discuss a potential settlement, with a gathering scheduled May 7. The mediation was unsuccessful, the city later told the court.

In his motion to withdraw, Newman said he had warned his clients in person about the unpaid bills and suggested they find another attorney. His firm is out thousands of dollars, he said.

His main concerns are with one of the clients, who has ties to the bikini barista business. That client is not named as a plaintiff, unlike the Hillbilly Hotties owner, Jovanna Edge, and several of her employees.

Newman could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Edge referred questions to a spokesman, Schuyler Lifschultz. He said a new attorney, an appeals specialist from California, should be added to the case in the coming days.

“Not only is this not going away but we’re bringing in the proverbial big guns,” he said.

Newman’s motion said he expects the court to extend the June 25 deadline for the baristas to respond to the city’s appeal.


This story was first published in the Everett Herald. Rikki King can be reached at 425-339-3449 or Twitter: @rikkiking.