There is no criminal defense lawyer who hasn’t enjoyed the anger of their client’s family. Whether spouse, parent or child, someone will scream at you for their perceived view that you’ve failed them, whether by not doing what they believe you ought to do, not getting their loved one out, not winning the unwinnable case. The list goes on, and the experience is part of the job.
It’s not their fault they’re angry. It is their fault that they lash out at the lawyer, but they have to find some target for their ire, and better the lawyer than, say, screaming at the judge during a hearing. Just as we take our clients as we find them, we take their families as well.
Except in the Pink Ghetto, where Staci Zaretsky informs us that “No, sexual harassment is not part of being a female criminal defense lawyer.” As a general proposition, that’s obviously correct. But is this sexual harassment?
After a few months of really crazy office things where not a single lawyer was happy, I had a client’s father come in screaming about me not going to visit his son in jail in weeks. It wasn’t true, as I had been out there just a few days before, and I was also literally walking out to door to pick a jury in a robbery with a firearm case. I was in an urgent hurry because we were on call and the judge gave us very little time to get to court.
Client’s father made alllllllllll kinds of sexist remarks. He called me a little girl or something, incompetent, etc., etc. I told him not to speak to me that way and please call his son, as well as if he wanted to meet me, make an appointment with my assistant, and then I left. I didn’t yell or do anything unprofessional. He was shouting. My trial partner was there. More long story short: I was disciplined and cursed at, threatened, for my response to this client.
There seems to be a huge gap in the retelling of this story between the father making “alllllllllll kinds of sexist remarks” and discipline.
I told them the law says I don’t have to accept being sexually harassed like that and I was professional.
I WAS TOLD SEXUAL HARASSMENT WAS PART OF BEING A FEMALE CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AND IF I DIDN’T LIKE IT, TO QUIT.
Did her superior tell her that sexual harassment was part of the job, or dealing with a defendant’s father was part of the job, and because she decided (in all caps, no less) that it was sexual harassment, she twisted the words to suit her feelz?
This is becoming a new issue for female criminal defense lawyers, as reflected in the new rules promulgated by the New York City Legal Aid Society.
And yes, the clients. They’re in there. Apparently, no LAS lawyer need suffer a client who doesn’t respect their deepest and most delicate feelings. It’s unclear what this means, whether LAS will refuse to defend the rapist, the guy in the holding cell who calls a he a she? If racial slurs upset them, they’re not going to like going to the pens where the language tends to be a bit rougher than in gender studies class.
Criminal defense is a tough business. The lawyers who practice it tend to be tough lawyers, as anybody who isn’t can’t bear the pressure, the demands of the courtroom or the clients who, ahem, are often criminals. These were the types of lawyers who worked for Legal Aid, tough lawyers. Anyone who wasn’t tough enough found out soon enough that they weren’t a good fit for the trenches.
Zaretsky’s complainant went to the EEOC to complain of her workplace harassment, and despite the EEOC being as accommodating to sensitive feelings as possible, received no solace.
I quit and filed an EEOC claim. They got the county legal aid to represent them because the boss of my agency and the boss of legal aid were friends. I couldn’t afford a lawyer. My complaint was dismissed for no corroboration.
Yes, she did mention that her trial partner was present. No, I can’t explain this either, but then the woman telling the story is responsible for her own gaps. Don’t ask. But this emits an unpleasant odor. That the EEOC would dismiss a claim of sexual harassment for lack of corroboration seems improbable. Most sexual harassment occurs in private. It’s often uncorroborated. That’s an unlikely reason for dismissal of a claim.
So is it true that female criminal defense lawyers should not have to endure sexual harassment? Of course. The problem is that this didn’t come from her superior or co-workers, but from her client’s father.
He doesn’t have to play by her rules of propriety. Her feelings aren’t his concern. Her options were to manage her client’s family or suck it up. And frankly, making “alllllllllll kinds of sexist remarks,” is about as trivial a problem as a criminal defense lawyer can face. Try death threats by a psycho killer. That can get a bit scary.
We don’t get to defend only nice people who have sad stories and treat us gently. Sometimes we represent bad dudes, and sometimes, those bad dudes have bad fathers who say mean things. They may be sexist. They may be racist. They may be mean and threatening. It happens.
What’s disturbing isn’t just that this very poorly written, very poorly argued, very poorly conceived tale of sad tears is proffered as an example of the sexist state of affairs of the law,* but that younger criminal defense lawyers seem to think they’re entitled to defendants, and their families, who behave in a way that suits their feelings. They’re the client. They’re the client’s family. They aren’t there to make the lawyer feel good about herself.
The profession is so hostile to women and no one cares. I was such a good defense attorney. I’m a true believer in human rights and minority rights — it was my passion.
That’s adorable, but if you can’t manage an angry father who makes “alllllllllll kinds of sexist remarks,” then you have no place in the trenches. And there’s a good chance that the only person who thought you were a good defense attorney was you, which is likely the best explanation for why no one cared.
*The story is prefaced by this introduction:
Today, we have a story about a criminal defense attorney who was forced to endure an untold amount of sexual harassment throughout her career, and is disgusted by the fact that no one cares that the legal profession is so hostile to women.
Well, the characterization of “untold” may be the most accurate aspect of the intro.