Honey, sweetie, missy

A couple of weeks ago the New York Times on Facebook invited female attorneys to respond to their story on the ABA’s effort to get sexist remarks out of the courtroom. Many did. A sampling:

  • I have been an attorney in Colorado for 17 years and in late December 2015, in an attorney’s fees hearing in federal court for a case we won in July 2015, the federal judge said, on the record, that my job in the trial (by the way I was the only female portion of my trial team and there were no females on the opposing trial team), “could have been done by a legal secretary” (Note I was second chair). In that 5-day federal jury trial, I helped pick the jury, argued 2 motions (and won one), did the direct testimony of the client and the redirect of him, worked hard with the judge and opposing counsel “after hours” for 2 nights on jury instructions and drafted cross examinations with my first chair. So yes, sexism is alive and well here but I guess at least I wasn’t called, “Honey.”
  • I have been fortunate working in Oregon for the Oregon DOJ. That said, I have been called a soccer mom, sweetie, honey and to “calm down” over the last almost 30 years.
  • During a deposition, opposing counsel responded to me in an off-the-record discussion by saying “That’s a big word for such a little girl.” I was too astounded to respond. A judge once said he liked my braid and followed up by asking “Can I pull it?” Irecoiled but couldn’t really say anything because I have to appear in front of him often. I get sweetie, gorgeous, and honey all the time (not just by male attorneys,either, but older women are guilty of it, too). This is in New York.
  • The day of my first trial, Defense counsel told me in chambers that he was “glad he could be my first.” Then he and the male judge laughed as I squirmed in my chair. I have been called honey, sweetie, missy, and been told I am too young and pretty to be an attorney. I am also regularly mistaken for a non-attorney in the courtroom, even when I’m dressed in a full suit, carrying a briefcase, and in an area reserved for attorneys.
  • I have been casually asked (on the record) if I have children and what does my husband think about my working? I have also several times been mistaken for the court reporter or a paralegal instead of lead attorney.
  • I have a Spanish last name, so three times a judge assumed I could translate and asked me to do it on the record. Then, I have received the “sweetheart,” “young lady” meant in a degrading way, and the “honey” when I was once a law clerk. Often, I receive comments from opposing counsel based on the fact that I am young. Apparently, being young means you cannot interpret the court rules or cases.

That’s a small sample. It makes interesting reading.


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