Lawyer Stoops to Indefensible Attack

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This is for the lawyers in the room, since the issue is professional conduct during depositions in a case pending in the Northern District of California, Claypole v. County of Monterey. There, Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal sanctioned defense counsel for overtly-sexist comments directed at plaintiff’s counsel, who is a woman.

In his January 12, 2016 decision and order, Judge Grewal described a series of roadblocks erected by defense counsel in opposition to reasonable discovery requests. It appears each time a discovery request was made, defense counsel sought to obstruct it.

And then there was a deposition which became contentious due, according to the court, to defense counsel’s repeated speaking objections and witness-coaching. When plaintiff’s counsel asked him to stop interrupting her questioning, he responded:

“[D]on’t raise your voice at me. It’s not becoming of a woman . . . .”

Acknowledging and exercising judicial restraint in matters of professional courtesy, Judge Grewal nonetheless took issue with counsel’s statement. Explaining that such comments “reflect and reinforce the male-dominated attitude of our profession,” he said that “it reflects not only on the attorney’s lack of professionalism, but also tarnishes the image of the entire legal profession and disgraces our system of justice.”

The sanction was modest, but it was meaningful :: a $250 donation to the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles Foundation.

Lisa Coppola

Written by Lisa Coppola

Founder of The Coppola Firm

Lisa A. Coppola, Esq. understands the challenges her clients face, whether they’re starting a new business, taking their existing operations in a new direction, or facing a claim or threat.

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