Legal Aid Society, Where A Reasonable Lawyer Is A “Raging Racist”

The nature of lawyers who work at New York City’s Legal Aid Society has always been extremely liberal, deeply passionate about equality. Even back in the 70s, when LAS lawyers were known as party animals, they sobered up when it came to their politics, and stood fearless against those who would hate their clients. This probably comes as no surprise, but it needed sayin’.

Lawyers at the Legal Aid Society of New York have been telling me their stories of hysterical baby lawyers attacking their more experienced colleagues.* Other than Appellate Squawk, no one wanted to go public. My guess is that they put the mission of LAS ahead of their treatment at the hands of the ideologically-stunted children, and took the hit rather than harm the cause. Of course, they also could have feared the retaliation by the outraged mob.

Finally, one experienced Legal Aid lawyer, Cynthia Taylor, was pushed too far and sued for its hostile work environment and wrongful termination.

When she asked why she was denied the post she was told it was because of “diversity considerations,” her Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit claims.

She soon discovered that a black man with “16 years less experience” than she was given the job instead, the court papers charge.

This was bad enough, but it was just the beginning of the onslaught of abuse she received at the hands of her fellow travelers. As another experienced Legal Aid lawyer told me, she “committed the sin of saying reasonable things when people are being hysterical.” And as the complaint states, they let her know that her thoughts were not appreciated. And the complaint names names, not just of the lawyers who attacked her but of the supervisors, and the head of the union, Debbie Wright, who not only did nothing to stop it but enabled it.

15. Southeast Asian Attorney in the AGV, Bharati Narumanchi, accused Ms. Taylor
of being a racist and classist, and stated that Ms. Taylor had no business working at LAS.
16. When Ms. Taylor asked to see the e-mail, Ms. Wright refused to provide it.
17. Ms. Narumanchi requested a mediation to resolve the accusations, and Ms. Taylor
agreed to this request when Ms. Wright stated the union would provide an experienced mediator at their expense.
18. Ms. Narumanchi later withdrew her request for mediation when Ms. Wright
prohibited two other members of the AGV Unit from joining the mediation.
19. Ms. Wright then advised Ms. Taylor to remove herself from the AGV Unit and
Ms. Narumanchi, who said several times to Ms. Taylor, “Senior Attorneys are lazy-do-nothings
that should be taken off the payroll.”

And more.

28. In June 2017, Jason Wu, Staff Attorney, sent an email to all the Staff Attorneys in
Ms. Taylor’s office, accusing her of being biased against Black men.
29. Ms. Taylor began to feel incredibly isolated in the office and worried that Mr.
Wu’s false accusations had affected the staff, as new hires seemed uncomfortable around her and unwilling to speak with her.
30. On July 30, 2017, Scott Rosenberg, Secretary and General Counsel of LAS,
informed Ms. Taylor that Mr. Wu filed a complaint against her.

And more.

31. After the complaint was filed, Ms. Taylor received an email full of insults from
ACLA member Marlen Bodden, which was copied to all staff members of LAS.
32. In the email, Ms. Bodden accused Ms. Taylor of being right-wing, entitled and
silencing the oppressed.

And more.

54. Ms. Bodden called Ms. Taylor a “raging racist,” told her to “put on a hood and
burn a cross in front of a Legal Aid building,” and threatened her with “consequences.”

What did Cynthia Taylor do to engender this outrage and these attacks from her fellow Legal Aid Lawyers? She sought a promotion based on her experience and qualifications, even though she was a white female lawyer. And she was, apparently, an inadequate “ally” to the cause. It wasn’t enough to be liberal to the core to protect her from the vitriolic ad hominem attacked of the inside LAS mob, and it wasn’t enough to have its management, or even its union, come to her defense and do something to calm the attacks.

If ever there was a hostile work environment, this is it, where even someone whose life and career were dedicated to liberal principles and equality found herself the victim of constant harrassment and attack.

55. Feeling as if it would be impossible for her to return to work under these
conditions, Ms. Taylor was forced to resign.

If ever there was a well-founded assertion that she had no choice but to resign in the face of both the harassment she endured, and the complete failure of management or union to protect her from it, this is the case.

It’s not that there weren’t other experienced lawyers at LAS who didn’t provide support and comfort to Taylor, but they couldn’t prevent the screams of “raging racist” unless they too wanted to become the target of the hysterical warriors. The screamers were out of control, and there was no grown-up in management or the union either willing, or desirous, to stem their attacks. Other experienced lawyers realize that if they spoke up, they too would be burned at the stake by their own mob.

Dennis Murphy, who trained lawyers at LAS before he retired and subsequently passed, told me a few years back that he feared the new lawyers coming in. They didn’t get it. They wouldn’t listen. They couldn’t be taught. It wasn’t just that they believed they knew it all, but they believed the experienced lawyers at LAS, deeply liberal, deeply committed to equality, but invariably committed to the defense of their clients, were now the enemy.

One “enemy” has decided not to go down without a fight, and by doing so, has opened a window on what’s become of the Legal Aid Society in the hands of the outraged mob.

*To be clear, not all young LAS lawyers were hysterical baby lawyers. Indeed, I’ve also heard from some young lawyers who have serious concerns about the hysteria of their brethren, but fear speaking out as they don’t want to become pariahs and the next victim of the mob.

49 thoughts on “Legal Aid Society, Where A Reasonable Lawyer Is A “Raging Racist”

  1. Joe O.

    Disheartening, to say the least. LAS needs more people to speak up, be assholes, and reclaim the singular objective of indigent defense. There are plenty of other places to work on social justice. I heard the ACLU is hiring.

    1. SHG Post author

      They should, but they won’t. They will be crucified internally and become hated pariahs. Nobody wants to find themselves in Taylor’s position for being insufficiently hysterical.

      Hell, they won’t even comment here, even anonymously, for fear of someone recognizing them. They’ll email me. They’ll DM me. They will not take any chance of being the next victim of the mob.

  2. Richard Kopf


    Through my rheumy eyes I see an important connection between your two posts today. But, perhaps that is a bad Niemöller analogy.

    All the best.


  3. Lorca Morello

    LAS sent out the following no-reply email forbidding discussion on social media:
    We were disappointed to learn that one of our former employees filed a complaint yesterday in New York State Supreme Court alleging that she had been subjected to a hostile work environment based on her race (white) and her age, forcing her to resign. We believe the complaint is entirely without merit, and we intend to defend against it vigorously. As many of you know, the filing was picked up by a reporter for the New York Post, and an article about the complaint appears in today’s edition. Although many of you may have strong opinions and emotions about the issues raised and would like to share them, we ask you to refrain from engaging in e-mail and social media discussions about the case. We would like to remind everyone that e-mails and social media posts are subject to discovery in litigation and may be introduced in evidence in court. Staff who would like to discuss the issues are welcome to contact me privately.

    1. SHG Post author

      That they don’t want their dirty laundry aired in public is understandable, given the allegations and the exposure. Those final two lines are particularly curious for separate reasons. Presumably, they haven’t sanitized their internal email, and private contact is just as much subject to discovery as public.

      1. LocoYokel

        Not being a lawyer, the above quote raises a question for me. Could this statement

        Although many of you may have strong opinions and emotions about the issues raised and would like to share them, we ask you to refrain from engaging in e-mail and social media discussions about the case. We would like to remind everyone that e-mails and social media posts are subject to discovery in litigation and may be introduced in evidence in court. Staff who would like to discuss the issues are welcome to contact me privately.

        be construed as a negative inference against the LAS in court? Seems to me that they are acknowledging that there is harassment and telling the people to tone it down until after the lawsuit.

        1. SHG Post author

          No. There’s nothing about having “strong opinions and emotions” that suggests anything negative in itself. However, it does suggest that the author of the email should be questioned during depositions about what he/she has been strongly told.

      2. Scott Jacobs

        If the plaintiff doesn’t have every email saved already on her own, she screwed up.

        1. SHG Post author

          I’m sure she does, but when it comes to getting evidence admitted at trial, it’s always best to have it produced by the other side.

          1. Scott Jacobs

            Though having saved emails that are somehow not included by what the other side produces can give rise to some very pointed questions, I would imagine.

            1. SHG Post author

              They can, but concealment or destruction of evidence is a different problem. I would hope that such a problem wouldn’t come from LAS under any circumstances, but their hope now it to not create more evidence against them.

        2. Raging Racist

          Everything was saved or contemporaneously documented. I’m a pretty good litigator even though that fact gets lost in the sauce. When I was a newbie I looked up to the senior attorneys and learned how to win cases on the facts and the law. Too bad that institutional knowledge is being lost now.

          1. B. McLeod

            Well, the operative concern now seems to be getting the pronouns down. So long as LAS can manage that, the win/loss thing is just a collateral nit.

            1. MelK

              I think it likely that their priorities might shift with their win/loss ratio. Being hanged in a fortnight, and all that. And if not?

    2. Scott Jacobs

      Well, that’s a flag that the directors need to be deposed about what those discussions detail.

      I mean, doesn’t it basically make their private emails and texts subject to discovery too? They are all but saying “lets talk about this via means that aren’t work emails, they’ll never find them there.”

  4. Raccoon Strait

    Wouldn’t the ABA find the hierarchy of the LAS to not be considered member’s in good standing of the legal profession for having committed and then defended the repugnant action of creating a hostile work environment and exhibiting racist behavior?

    1. B. McLeod

      ABA will ignore this. One of the twin elements of the complaint is age discrimination, and ABA’s dues structure is basically a proxy for age discrimination. Older lawyers pay more, but get no more benefits.

      Not that the ABA minds at all when it comes to being monumentally hypocritical, but the leadership likes to avoid putting that on show.

  5. Tom Moran

    On its face, this seems like the end of a long string of management failures. When baby lawyers refuse to be trained and insult more experienced lawyers who are trying to train them, it’s time for a change. Can you imagine a big law firm accepting crap like that from a first year associate?
    That was the first step in a string of management failures. When people start broadcasting e-mails accusing a colleague of being prejudiced against black men, it’s time for senior management to call that lawyer in and ask what the heck’s going on and what makes that lawyer think the target is a racist.
    I don’t know how hard it is for legal aid in New York to hire lawyers or to keep lawyers for careers but there are lots of lawyers out there who want jobs and who like being criminal defense lawyers. In my jurisdiction, we have a relatively new state public defender. He has hired a good staff and they do a good job of representing their clients. If Alex can do it, others can too.
    The type of infighting laid out in this post are damaging to the organization and most important damaging to the clients’ defense. Somebody needs to look at top management.

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s unclear whether mgmt agrees with the SJWs, is afraid of the SJWs or both, but this is the universe of young lawyers who seek to become public defenders. Very passionate.

  6. Lorca Morello

    Except that none of the people named in the complaint are baby lawyers. Some are quite long in the tooth.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s far more disconcerting, and could explain much about why there is so little reasonable mature influence over the baby lawyers. You prompted to me to take a look, and I’m frankly blown away by the fact some are, indeed, very experienced lawyers. Young people have the excuse of youthful exuberance. Older lawyers do not.

    2. David

      Name and year of admission:
      Jason Wu 2011
      Bharati Narumanchi 2006
      Lisa R. Edwards 1991
      and the LAS lawyer who called Ms. Taylor a “raging racist”…
      Marlen Bodden 1988

      Except for Wu, hardly baby lawyers. If senior lawyers are behaving this way, no wonder there is no hope for the babies.

      1. SHG Post author

        It’s worth bearing in mind that this case is at the complaint stage, lest anyone forget that there’s been no answer, no less a trial, and no evidence that any of these individuals did what was alleged, or that there isn’t a defense to the allegations.

  7. Raging Racist

    Thank you for your support! I finally feel understood by some of my colleagues.

    love and peace to all of you,
    Raging Racist

    1. SHG Post author

      Thank you for being brave enough to pull back the curtains. This can’t go on if LAS and indigent defense in NYC is going to survive.

      1. B. McLeod

        Well, an alternative approach would have been to work within the system, for example, giving up cisgendered status. As an aging [Ed. note], the plaintiff would have had more diversity points than a black male applicant, and hirs 16 years of experience could then have been counted, to reach a completely different result in determining the promotion.

  8. Raging Racist

    Some of the attorneys named in the complaint were and still are serving on the EB and they just elected one of the baby lawyers as president so nothing is going to change soon. In fact it will get worse before it gets better. They aren’t going to stop until everyone is silenced. I know I’m not supposed to use the N word here (as in WW2) so I’ll leave it at that.

    It is a good question whether management agrees or is afraid. I ponder that daily.

    I worry about Squawk though. They will not stop until all the undesirables are eliminated. Walk on eggshells and be careful.

      1. Raging Racist

        This American Girl will never Back Down.

        Disclaimer: This is a nod to the late great Tom Petty and not an anti-immigrant slur. The baby lawyers don’t know music from the 70s. Another minefield, so tread lightly senior attorneys.

  9. RebeLioness

    Interesting that age discrimination is one of the allegations and yet junior lawyers are being referred to as “baby lawyers” so often, both in the article and the comments. Secondly, why is calling someone out on their racist views/behavior deemed hysterical? It’s highly unlikely that someone would be called racist just for “seeking a promotion”. Finally, why was a Black male getting the position over this more experienced attorney so objectionable? Experience is but one criteria used in hiring; and the quality, not quantity, of those years should be valued. It would be interesting to see what those allegations of racism include.

    1. SHG Post author

      I hope that someday you’ll gain the experience to realize how silly and infantile your “points” are. Sadly, you may not have anyone left to help you to mature to reach that point.

      1. RebeLioness

        The fact that you’re calling my points “silly” and “infantile” rather than addressing the questions says more about you than me and speaks volumes of your maturity.

        1. SHG Post author

          Well then, according to the rules of Twitter, you win. Aren’t you proud of yourself?

          What you fail to grasp is that your points needed no rebuttal. I posted your comment and people will either find your points persuasive or infantile. They require no further discussion on my part, as I trust people of more than a minimal capacity to reason will be fully capable of making their own decision.

        2. Miles

          “,,,says more about you than me and speaks volumes of your maturity.”

          This is true. It says he has sufficient faith in the intelligence of readers to recognize the absurdity of your arguments without having to explain in small words why they’re wrong. A child can’t let it go without a fight, no matter how inane their arguments. An adult sees no reason to respond to silly childish arguments.

    2. Raging Racist

      For starters, read up on the law; you have to be over the age of 40 to raise an age discrimination claim.

      “My feelings were hurt” is not a legal theory. Grown up lawyers know this to be true.

      1. RebeLioness

        But clearly your feelings were hurt, which is why you have brought this frivolous lawsuit rather than reflect on the views and behavior that got you in this mess in the first place. Then you have the unmitigated gall to adopt the very moniker that you claim caused you so much angst. In the words of your beloved president: “fake news”.

        1. B. McLeod

          I think the court (as opposed to some anonymous poster on a comment board) will determine whether this is a “frivolous lawsuit.” Selecting someone with no experience over someone with sixteen years’ experience, and then saying that action was based on “diversity considerations” seems to me to state a plausible claim under the letter of the NY statute. That is before the plaintiff even gets to all the retaliatory/harassment conduct over the course of subsequent years.

        2. Raging Racist

          You should not have skipped Con Law to attend the the anti-free speech rallies on your law school campus. I’m not in any mess, I’m liberated from the SJWs like yourself. Now get off this blog and go represent a client. That’s what you’re paid to do.

    3. Miles

      You presume a 20-year LAS lawyer not only was a racist, but was a racist on an “all lawyers” email? Seems totally reasonable.

      1. SHG Post author

        Context matters. Not only is this presumed, but at a time when the SJWs roamed the hallways looking for LAS lawyers to burn at the stake for heresy.

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