Federal Judge Paul Grewal from the Northern District of California recently issued an order in a civil rights case against the defense counsel on a Motion Seeking Sanctions and to Compel Discovery when the defense counsel, during a deposition, said it was not “becoming of a woman” to raise her voice during a contentious deposition. The Court noted that the defense counsel engaged in other discovery misconduct and also noted the defense counsel’s failure to tender any meaningful apology despite many opportunities to do so. Refreshingly, Judge Grewal noted that there were several obvious problems with the defense counsel’s, “Don’t raise your voice at me. It is not becoming of a woman…” statement.
First, the defense counsel endorsed a stereotype that women are subject to a different standard of behavior than their fellow attorneys. Bad.
Second, Judge Grewal noted that the sexist remark in itself is unfortunately all too common.
Third, comments such as this “reflect and reinforce the male-dominated attitude of our profession.” Judge Grewal cites to a recent ABA report that found that inappropriate stereotypical comments towards women attorneys are among the overt indicators of discrimination and contribute to their underrepresentation in the legal field.
It is refreshing to see a Judge cut through the typical defense discovery abuses and, more importantly, identify how sexist comments in the legal profession by male lawyers reinforce the male-dominated attitude of our legal profession.
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