David W. Harleston appeared to have all the right stuff–and then some–to serve as general counsel for Al Jazeera America, where he was responsible for advancing and protecting the business and legal interests of the U.S. network and its holdings.
He served as counsel to Sony Music Entertainment, where he hammered out agreements for major artists like Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey, according to a biography at the news site. He also worked at Current TV, where he handled worldwide business and legal affairs.
That’s not all: Harleston is a cum laude graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School.
But now all of those accomplishments have been clouded by an investigation into whether he is licensed to practice law in New York State, where the news outlet is headquartered, according to The New York Times. He was suspended late last week.
From The Times:
In most states, it is unlawful for non-lawyers to give legal advice, perform legal work or present themselves as lawyers. The crime is rarely prosecuted in New York, especially against non-lawyers working in the role of internal counsel at a company.
Though there are no records that he ever gained admission to the bar, Mr. Harleston passed the New York State bar exam in February 1986, according to legal records. That means one of two things, according to court officials: Either he did not complete his application to the court for admission, or he failed the “character and fitness” review.
Al Jazeera America has had a rough start since its inception a little more than two years ago, with troubles including low ratings, employee complaints and employee lawsuits.
Experts told The Times the license issue could leave the outlet vulnerable to employee-discrimination lawsuits.
Harleston declined several requests to speak to The Times. For his sake, we hope the problem gets cleared up.
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