We all knew that there would be consequences after the Supreme Court decided the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard case, but did we know how far and wide its tentacles would reach?
Here’s one example: America First Legal has filed a formal complaint against several judges in the Southern District of Illinois, alleging that these three judges are accused of “ongoing unlawful judicial race and sex discrimination that violates Rule for Judicial-Conduct and Judicial-Disability Proceedings 4(a), Judicial Code of Conduct Canon 2(A), and the Fifth Amendment.” The judicial complaint alleges that certain standing orders allowing newer women and minority lawyers to argue cases in the circuit “have established policies of granting oral argument in a case based partly on a lawyer’s sex and race. Those policies constitute judicial misconduct because they unlawfully discriminate, evidence judicial bias, undermine faith in the judiciary’s integrity, and violate the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.” Phooey.
Just let a newer woman or minority attorney try to get some chances that men have always had in the profession and they pout (yes, men do pout). How far may a judge in his or her discretion provide courtroom opportunities for younger lawyers without ignoring Students for Fair Admissions? Is it up to the individual judge to decide how to handle? Could that be considered a matter of “judicial discretion”? It’s the old story of how do you get experience unless you get experience.
After close to 50 years in practice, I feel like Sisyphus, schlepping that rock up the mountain and never reaching the summit. One friend fulminated on a regular basis that white guy lawyers like him were being discriminated against. Now, after Students for Fair Admissions, he can stop whining.
Rant Two: And if women had ever had the audacity to think (yes, we do think) that sexual harassment was pretty much a thing of the past, just look at the hijinks, or rather, lowjinks at the most recent Legalweek conference.
A few examples: An invitation to a threesome; a proposition by a needy male lawyer prompted by his pregnant wife on bed rest; pestering a woman to the extent that he had to be escorted out, even after a drink thrown at him did not deter him; being grabbed under the skirt by a coworker; being pulled into the men’s room and not allowed to leave; and other similar horror stories. I am not making these up. I wish I were.
Do you think that the clueless will ever understand that a conference is not a sex-themed Disneyland ticket? Does going to a conference give attendees a pass to act despicably and not worry about whether what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? No carte blanche for frat party antics, please. I thought we had moved beyond that, but I was wrong. My bad. Perhaps taking away the alcohol consumption might make the conferences more dry, literally and figuratively, but would that be such a bad idea?
Meanwhile, even though the federal district here in Los Angeles has ruled that disgraced and disbarred lawyer Tom Girardi is competent to stand trial for his various alleged misdeeds, his attorney in Chicago is asking for a second competency hearing. Because the charges in the Chicago case do not mirror the ones in the Los Angeles case, Girardi might not be competent to understand them, so argues his lawyer. The judge presiding over the Chicago case suggested that the request for a second competency hearing be deferred until after the conclusion of Girardi’s Los Angeles case, which is scheduled for May. The Chicago judge also severed Girardi’s case from those of the other defendants, so he will be tried separately at a date to be determined.
And two of the attorneys in Girardi’s defunct law firm have had their wrists slapped by the California State Bar. While the Office of Chief Trial Counsel pushed for David Lira’s interim suspension from the bar, pending trial, the State Bar Court trial judge instead imposed upon Lira, Girardi’s son-in-law, interim restrictions placed on his ability to practice.
The other attorney, Keith Griffin, received a one-year suspension, with six months actual suspension, and placed on one year’s probation with certain terms and conditions. The State Bar Court trial judge determined that Griffin did not conspire with Girardi to steal client funds, nor did Griffin “act with venality. Though some of Griffin’s acts of concealment were intentional, this court has no doubt that Griffin wanted the clients to be fully and timely paid. But it was the manner and approach taken by Griffin that was ineffectual and misguided, breaching his fiduciary duties.”
The stories do not end there, as the California Supreme Court makes the final calls on disciplinary decisions. Stay tuned.
Jill Switzer has been an active member of the State Bar of California for over 40 years. She remembers practicing law in a kinder, gentler time. She’s had a diverse legal career, including stints as a deputy district attorney, a solo practice, and several senior in-house gigs. She now mediates full-time, which gives her the opportunity to see dinosaurs, millennials, and those in-between interact — it’s not always civil. You can reach her by email at [email protected].