NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Opening arguments are expected to begin on Tuesday in the explosive gender-discrimination case against Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC.
Ellen Pao, the plaintiff who is interim CEO of the micro-blogging site Reddit, is seeking $16 million from Kleiner, accusing her former employer of gender discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation.
Pao has said that she went from being "the top performer" among junior partners at the powerful firm to a being seen as a crank who had "issues and clashes" with other partners -- after she complained about discrimination.
Kleiner said in court documents that Pao has "twisted facts and events in an attempt to create legal claims where none exist."
The battle is loaded with salacious talk. Pao says she was badgered into having an affair with a colleague who wound up undermining her when she cut the relationship off. Kleiner in a Feb. 17 court filing has referred to the same man as Pao's consensual "lover," adding that she "had told him she loved him and wanted a real relationship with him."
Soap opera sideshows aside, Kleiner told the court that there were a few things it would rather the jury not hear -- some of which the judge is allowing. Among them, all from motions dated Feb. 11 but filed with the court on Feb. 17:
Kleiner's discussions about the case with the media.
In one of 11 motions filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Feb. 17, Kleiner said that its interactions with the press are "flatly irrelevant to any of Pao's claims," and that the court should exclude such evidence from the trial. Pao would like to include depositions of Kleiner's media-relations partner and public-relations consultant, the firm said in its filing. If the court allows evidence of Kleiner's statements to the media to be admitted as evidence, "it will only be fair" to allow Kleiner to include press articles about a financial scandal related to Pao's husband, the firm said. The judge said he will rule on that before opening arguments.
Pao's emails to herself.
In another motion, Kleiner argued that a series of emails that Pao sent to herself -- summarizing conversations she claims to have been part of -- can't be admitted as evidence. Pao said in a deposition that she "began consulting with attorneys about suing KPCB as early as January 2008," according to Kleiner, which argues that most of the notes and emails she wrote to herself were biased and self-serving because they were written after she wanted to sue the firm. Pao sent one such email to herself on Oct. 15, 2009, noting that a colleague had said she was "a problem" and that she had "sharp elbows." The judge said he will revisit the motion later in the trial.