N.Y. judge finds lawyer’s ‘objectionable conduct’ toward opposing counsel reflected gender bias”

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From the NY Law Journal:

A New York judge has ordered court supervision of a lawyer for “objectionable conduct” toward a female opposing counsel who he said had a “cute little thing going on” during a deposition.

According to transcripts of the deposition, Thomas B. Decea of Danzig Fishman & Decea in White Plains also called Michelle A. Rice of Arkin Kaplan & Rice “hon” and “girl” and asked her why she was not wearing a wedding ring.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead ruled last week in Laddcap Value Partners, LP v. Lowenstein Sandler, PC , 600973-2007, that a special referee would oversee all future depositions in the case to monitor Decea’s conduct and that all depositions would take place in the courthouse.

The judge said Decea’s behavior reflected gender bias as well as “a lack of civility, good manners and common courtesy.” She said the appointment of a referee was a means of “guarding against future objectionable conduct” by Decea….

…The conduct Edmead found objectionable took place during the October deposition of Ladd. According to the transcript cited by the judge, Decea took issue with Rice’s use of leading questions and suggested that she did not know how to take a deposition.

Later in the deposition, Decea questioned Rice’s ability to try the case. “You better get somebody else here to try this case, otherwise you’re going to be one sorry girl,” he said. “This is not a white collar interview that you’re sitting here interviewing something with your cute little thing going on,” Decea said, according to the transcript, later telling her it was “nothing personal, dear.” After Rice told Decea she thought his comments were indeed personal and offensive, he said: “Your skin is getting thin now.” At another point in the deposition, Decea referred to Rice as “hon.” After she questioned his use of the term, Ladd jumped in to suggest that Decea had meant Hun “[a]s in Attila” and that the remark was not personal.

“As in Attila? I don’t even understand that,” Rice replied. Rice, who last year became a name partner at the white-collar defense boutique led by well-known litigator Stanley S. Arkin, moved for the appointment of a special referee a few days after the end of the depositions, arguing that Decea’s conduct was intended to intimidate her and interfere with her advocacy in violation of New York’s Code of Professional Responsibility as well as court rules adopted last year proscribing obstructive behavior at depositions.

Decea had opposed the motion on the grounds that he was “not aware of any rule or law which requires civility between counsel.”

The judge described his contention as “baffling.” She also noted that a number of judges had in the past been publicly reprimanded for referring to female lawyers as “little girl” or “young girl.” She pointed out that the Commission on Judicial Conduct had said such words were “calculated to demean the lawyer.”…

Via Tracy McGaugh, who noted: “I’m not sure what’s more shocking: that a male attorney thought he could get away with this behavior, that a female attorney was willing to step out on a limb and report it, or that a judge had the sense to sanction it.”

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0 Responses to N.Y. judge finds lawyer’s ‘objectionable conduct’ toward opposing counsel reflected gender bias”

  1. Ralph M. Stein says:

    This lawyer is, quite simply, a jackass. That said, civility between counsel is a very serious subject, certainly here in New York. Crude displays of sexism aside, there are too many lawyers who think they best serve their clients by an approach more common among jackals competing for the better parts of downed prey. Perhaps I get less of this as an academic who litigates because I’m largely in federal court and I deal, mostly, with very fine lawyers but many of my former students recount stories of incivility that makes one wonder.

    Of course severe incivility should be sanctioned and this judge, by ordering a monitor for depositions, was right on track.