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Federal Judge Sanctions Attorney for Sexist Remark
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Photo credit: Jason Morrison/FreeImages

Summary: After a male attorney made a sexist comment towards an opposing female counsel during a deposition, he will be forced to donate money to a foundation and pay for the deposition.

A Southern California attorney is being ordered to pay for his sexist remarks toward a fellow female attorney, The Recorder reported. Peter Bertling of Bertling & Clausen in Santa Barbara made a remark to the opposing attorney during a deposition that a federal judge agreed was inappropriate. Bertling commented that it wasn’t “becoming of a woman” to raise her voice at him. The deposition for a wrongful death suit in October had turned contentious.


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U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ordered Bertling to donate $250 to the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles Foundation as well as pay the deposition costs for the plaintiff. “A sexist remark is not just a professional discourtesy, although that in itself is regrettable and all too common,” Judge Grewal stated. “The bigger issue is that comments like Bertling’s reflect and reinforce the male-dominated attitude of our profession.”

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The target of Bertling’s remark was Oakland solo Lori Rifkin. She was an attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division from 2010 to 2013 before turning to private practice. Rifkin is concerned with the number of woman attorneys across the country who admit they have encountered similar remarks in their work.

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The wrongful death suit filed by Rifkin and other attorneys on behalf of Joshua Claypole’s mother claim the California municipalities, hospitals, law enforcement agencies and doctors that saw Claypole after his arrest for stabbing a taxi driver should have understood his fragile mental state if they had followed the standard protocols. Claypole hung himself with bed sheets three days after being arrested.

Bertling’s overall conduct was filled with problems including coaching witnesses, cutting them off and then answering for them during the deposition.


Photo credit: Jason Morrison/FreeImages


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