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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Guest Blog: Fear of Flying or Just Say Yes?

Posted By Jodie M. Williams, Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Guest Blog: Fear of Flying or Just Say Yes?

In spring 2017, I hosted a podcast for the ABA Section of Antitrust Law entitled, “Women in Antitrust.” I interviewed three outstanding women in the field: Lisa Phelan, Antitrust Division Chief for the Washington Criminal I Section of the Department of Justice; Tianna Russell, a trial attorney working with Ms. Phelan at the Department of Justice; and Kristen Anderson, a partner at Scott + Scott in New York (her firm also has an office in San Diego). 


Antitrust is economics-driven and particularly male-dominated, more so than many other areas of law. In the podcast, my guests discussed a range of topics relevant to women, from how to position yourself better in the workplace, to weathering the administration change (or any change in management, for that matter). While focused on antitrust practice, their words of wisdom transcend the antitrust niche and apply to any area of the law. I thought it was prime for posting here, and fortunately Lawyers Club agreed. (In that vein, I thought that a title with an homage to two famous women – one a
great feminist author and the other an iconic first lady – was appropriate.)


One thing that Ms. Phelan said struck me in particular: Don’t be afraid to say yes. She explained that women often don’t say yes because we’re too afraid of failing. As a result, we count ourselves out from the get-go. As I listened to her, I found myself reflecting on several times in my own practice where I did not step up, take on more work within my cases, or participate in extra-curricular programs for fear that I might not have enough time. What if it took away from my kids? What if I took on too much? What if I failed? I was so concerned I would not succeed, that I took myself out of the running before I even got started. So, when Ms. Phelan later asked me to put together a proposal for a Women in Antitrust subcommittee for the ABA Section of Antitrust Law, I took a healthy dose of her advice. I said yes. 


Time will tell if our proposal is accepted, but I will be ready if and (hopefully) when it is. I hope the words of these women similarly inspire you. Please,
take a listen

Guest blogger Jodie M. Williams is Counsel at MoginRubin LLP, a boutique antitrust firm in San Diego and Washington, D.C.

Tags:  ABA antitrust section  antitrust  LCB  podcast  yes 

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Guest Blog - Surviving Domestic Violence: My Personal Journey

Posted By Dovie Yoana King, Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Guest Blog - Surviving Domestic Violence: My Personal Journey

 

Domestic violence is a serious, preventable, public health epidemic that affects millions of Americans each year. It can happen to anyone regardless of age, education, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or national origin. Domestic violence is usually accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior that is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control.

 

Survivors of abuse tend to suffer alone in silence, leading lives of isolation, shame, fear and secrecy. It takes incredible determination for survivors to step forward and seek help. I speak from personal experience, as I too was once a victim of domestic violence.

 

In my case, I married over a decade ago with every illusion of living a happy life. I was a young attorney at the peak of my career and thriving in my personal and professional life. I had a bright future ahead of me; however, the illusion of happiness quickly shattered. I endured domestic violence in the form of emotional, verbal, sexual, physical, and financial abuse for years. 

 

Unfortunately, like many other professional women, I did not think it could happen to me. After all, I am educated, bright, and talented. I have high self-esteem and am successful in my career as a lawyer, fighting for social justice on behalf of my clients. Thus, I did not feel I fit the stereotype of an abused woman. But behind closed doors, I was hiding a dark secret – I was being constantly berated, belittled, humiliated, and devalued by my abuser, and all of this was compounded by other forms of abuse.

 

But all was not lost. I decided to break the silence and get help to escape the abuse. I contacted a hotline for help and was put in touch with my local police department. From there, I was referred to the San Diego Family Justice Center, which is an organization that provides free and comprehensive services to victims of abuse and their children. I filed for divorce and successfully obtained both a domestic violence restraining order and the sole, legal, and physical custody of my young child. I began attending weekly support groups and therapy sessions for abused women. In the process, I connected with other survivors who came from all walks of life, finding mutual support and inspiration that persists to this day. In time, my child and I were able to move from San Diego to Boston, where I accepted a position at Harvard Law School. We now enjoy greater peace and safety.

 

Despite that devastating chapter in my life, I consider myself lucky because I got help through it. My goal in publically sharing my story is to shatter stereotypes about who is affected by domestic violence. Often, intelligent and successful women like me fall victim to abuse and are quickly engulfed in shame. That shame is one way an abuser exerts power and control over a woman to keep her trapped in the abusive relationship, and reaching out is a good first step in breaking free. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers confidential 24/7 help at 1-800-799-7233.

Guest blogger Dovie Yoana King is the founder and director of SOAR for Justice (www.soarforjustice.org), an organization dedicated to helping survivors of abuse rise for justice. 

Tags:  abuse  custody  domestic violence  escape  family violence  guest blogger  hotline  LCB  National Domestic Violence Hotline  police  San Diego Family Justice Center  stereotypes  survivors 

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No advancement in anti-discrimination, as recognized by Professor Hill, and as demonstrated by Google

Posted By Kristen Marquis Fritz, Tuesday, August 15, 2017

No advancement in anti-discrimination, as recognized by Professor Hill, and as demonstrated by Google

 

At the 2017 Lawyers Club Annual Dinner, keynote speaker Anita Hill shared her experiences with both race and gender discrimination with a record audience.  Professor Hill acknowledged that while it is certainly more of a public issue now than it was in the 90s, solutions to the problem of discrimination have advanced little since that time. 

 

The truth of her statement was grandly demonstrated by an internal Google memo that was leaked to the media last week. The ten-page memo, penned by a male Google software engineer, is the epitome of an anti-diversity statement. The memo came to light at the same time as Google is battling a wage discrimination investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor. Thus far, that investigation has uncovered that Google routinely pays women less than men in comparable roles. The author argues that women are underrepresented in tech because of inherent psychological differences of their gender, not because they face bias and discrimination. 

 

The following is the memo author’s statement of his position: “I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.” The author then goes on to provide a bulleted list of “personality differences” of women which cause the disparity, which is simply too ridiculous and nonsensical to quote here. 

 

The release of this memo prompted Professor Hill to write an Op-Ed for the New York Times, wherein she discussed the male-dominated leadership of Silicon Valley, and reflected upon how deeply and passionately anti-equality attitudes are held. With words echoing the Lawyers Club mission statement, she said, “It’s time women in tech consider taking advantage of the law to disrupt the industry once and for all.” 

 

What do you think?

 

Kristen Marquis Fritz is an attorney with Smaha Law Group and is also the owner of Professional Fiduciaries of San Diego, Inc.

Tags:  Anita Hill  Google memo  LCB  mission  New York Times 

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My So-Called First World Problems: 5 Must-Reads for Feminist Bookworms

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Tuesday, May 23, 2017

5 Must-Reads for Feminist Bookworms

 

The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan

 

If you read one book on this list, choose this one. The book criticizes society for confining women to their sexual biological roles as wives and mothers, and explores “the problem that has no name:” The widespread misery of women in the 1950s and 1960s, despite material comfort, marriage and children. Friedan argues that women need to find and nurture their identity beyond that of a wife, mother, and homemaker.

 

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

 

Believe me, I debated whether to put this book on the list at all, but this book was one of the two most impactful I read in 2015, so here it is. (The other was Ghettoside by Jill Leovy, and if you have any interest in policing or social justice, close the blog and order Ghettoside right now.) Distilled, Ms. Kondo’s message is simple: Get rid of all your crap. I did. Fewer clothes, dishes, cosmetics and books litter our space, and the reward is a calmer home. It’s a quick read – just commit to her method, and Marie Kondo will truly offer you life-changing magic!   

 

Men Explain Things to Me -- Rebecca Solnit

 

This book is for any woman who has ever had her expertise on a subject dismissed because she is a woman.

Mansplain: To explain something to someone, characteristically by a man to a woman, in a matter regarded as condescending or patronizing. Example: Man explains that women did not write in the Middle Ages, to Kathryn Maude, a woman with a PhD on medieval women’s writing.

This book of essays explores the centuries-long history of men silencing women into submission, of men questioning the veracity of women. A memorable exchange details a man at a dinner party laughingly telling the story of his neighbor running out of her home, naked, screaming that her husband was going to kill her. While the man recounting the story clearly views the naked woman as crazy, he is incapable of imagining that her affluent husband might have been homicidal. Solnit astutely points out that what was a funny anecdote to the story-teller illustrates the potentially fatal consequences of disbelieving women.

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

 

Grab some peppermints, crawl out to the fire escape, and dive into this classic coming-of-age tale. The heroine, Francie Nolan, overcomes the uglier realities of life in Williamsburg through her love of books and writing. The attentive reader will love, admire, and empathize with Francie and her family. Available at any decent bookstore or library.

 

Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater -- Lois-Ann Yamanaka

 

An obscure book of colorful poetry, Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater explores the deprivations and adversities of an Asian-American girl growing up in a poor family in Hawaii. Prosaic enough to guarantee an enjoyable reading experience for the poetry skeptic, Saturday Night explores a rarely contemplated slice of Americana.

 

Rebecca Zipp is currently reading The Woman in Cabin Ten, and aspires to read the following: The Power and the Powerless; Russia and the Russians; and, When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, all of which have been sitting on her night table for a minimum of six months. 

Tags:  books  Feminist  Friedan  Kondo  LCB  literature 

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Life Imitates Law: Feisty Boys, Hysterical Dudes

Posted By Bobbi-Jo Dobush, Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Feisty Boys, Hysterical Dudes

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the words used to describe migrants – words that evoke a sense of fear, of disaster – stay with us as we learn about issues of migration and color our perception thereof. The post sparked some conversation and questions about the words typically used to describe women, including professional women, and how language choice affects each of our lives (including our careers). I’ve been doing some digging on this and I want to share these resources, which range from scholarly to smile-inducing:

 

Adult Female Humans = Women.

  • To paraphrase actress Mayim Bialik’s video, one can normally recognize a girl by the fact that she is under 18 and may live with her parents. Being CEO of a company or a mother is a decent indicator that the person in question is, in fact, a woman, not a girl. In line with my previous post, Bialik gets that “language sets expectations.” This is a fun watch. 
  • Gina M. Florio’s 2016 Bustle Article posits that calling women “girls” is infantilizing, creepy, and perpetuates an obsession with female youth. On top of that, we rarely call men “boys” and calling women “girls” prevent us from treating each other as equals. 

Feisty Boys, Hysterical Dudes. 

Gendered Language Bias in the Workplace.

  • In a study analyzing the language of hundreds of performance reviews from professional and technology services companies women were 2.5 times as likely to be called out for aggressive communication styles as men and twice as likely praised for their teamwork or collaboration than men.
  • This problem is not confined to the law: a 2016 Nature Geoscience article found that women are about half as likely as their male counterparts to be described as excellent in recommendation letters, whether the letters are written by women or men. 

Additional Resources:

Please comment and let your fellow Lawyers Club members and me know what you think: Are we perpetuating sexism by refusing to recognize it in its daily forms? Have you ever called anyone groomzilla? (I have, for the record.)   

 

Bobbi-Jo Dobush believes that sharing our diverse passions—for example the arts, the ocean, or salsa (the condiment)—can positively influence our practices. 

Tags:  art  awareness  bias  discrimination  equality  girl  language  LCB 

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Student’s Corner: For the Love of Law

Posted By Student's Corner, Tuesday, May 2, 2017

For the Love of Law 

 

When I try to describe what life is like after having stepped into my first law school course, I imagine it is similar to Sarah Jessica Parker trying to weave her way through the mean streets of New York. Like New York, law school is cynical, demanding, and leaves you prepared to multi-task like never before. In other words, you have to be savvy to survive the outlines, case briefs, and egotistical blows that await you. But once you've traversed through every borough, you will find that law school is what you make it. Every journey is about falling in love with the law, taking chances, and working as hard as you can for what you want, right? 

 

My name is Ashanti Cole and I have fallen madly in love with the law. I stay up late at night thinking of it, telling my friends about it, and obsessing over all of its characteristics. The law makes me a better person. Some more seasoned in this arena would label my feelings, "puppy love," but only time will tell. As I finish up my 1L school year, I have been challenged both mentally and physically in ways I never anticipated. Law school is preparation for life. It prepares you to do as much work as possible—with little-to-no room for excuses. It rips you apart, and puts you back together with the purpose of showing you exactly what you're made of. 

 

My grandmother wanted to me to be an attorney since I was seven years old. She pushed me to be the first in my family to go to college, but passed away shortly after I graduated. At that point, I got busy traveling the world (as a former military spouse), and met incredible people along the way. Though I had much to be grateful for, I also had an impending regret over not pursuing my purpose. I felt lost and unfulfilled in a world where I had so much to give. Now, with a bat-wielding two year old and a heart full of the dream I've wanted for 20 years, I'm here to fulfill my purpose. I hope to share this journey with Lawyers Club and to inspire and connect with many who came before me and those who might be sharing my path.  

 

Ashanti Cole is an aspiring chess master and distinguished advocate at California Western School of Law. 

Tags:  law student  LCB  student's corner 

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Guest Blog Post: "Big Law Study Provokes Misogyny, Rebuke"

Posted By Charles Bird, Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Big Law Study Provokes Misogyny, Rebuke"

 

The Recorder news feed last week reported a study by ALM Intelligence (ALI) titled “Where Do We Go From Here? Big Law’s Struggle With Recruiting and Retaining Female Talent.” Guess what? Female attorneys are concentrated in fields that have time flexibility and are not gladiatorial. And, achieving anything like parity in Big Law will take decades.

 

I rarely look at what gets posted in response to these articles. This time, there was one comment and I clicked on it:

 

J. Goodall, Apr 18, 2017

C’mon, please end ALM‘’s obsessive, ongoing microanalysis of gender differences already, would ya? Since the onset of humankind and till the end of time, guys and gals will be different, bringing naturally differing strengths and interests to their work and personal lives. This is true regardless of radical feminist post-deconstructionists’ efforts to convince Obammunist regulators otherwise. But even the Great Obama can‘t fight Mother Nature, ladies. So let it go and just try to be happy you don‘t live in a majority Muslim country where you‘d really have something to gripe about.

 

I couldn’t stomach that. So, for the first time in my life, I did a counter-post. I did not disguise my name. We'll see what comes of that. Here it is:

 

C. Bird, Apr 18, 2017

As a man who was a partner in a regional firm that merged into a national firm that merged into international Big Law, where I'm still a partner, the summary of the study rings true to me. Even firms that are good at diversity (and I think mine is), can do little with client demands for constant connectivity and all-hours work. Working in a score of time zones makes it worse. Courts are part of the problem when they adopt schedules advocated by male opposing counsel designedly to make life miserable for a woman on the other side. The solution for that is to accept as a valid declaration of principle, not a confession of weakness, to say "your honor, I can't meet that deadline because of my child care duties." For the former, contrary to the vitriolic comment of the guy who adopted a famous woman scientist's name, Congress and state legislatures should study extending anti-discrimination employment law to personal services contracting, and not just in the legal profession. It should take a great mind to practice great law, not testosterone and willingness to let one's children go functionally fatherless to serve the greed that has made much of our profession miserable. In major part, the solutions need to be imposed from the outside because (i) greed has too much power in law firm leadership and (ii) even some clients that take strong stands for their outside lawyers' diversity do not apply those principles when women's social inequality inconveniences the C-suite.

 

Fast-forward one week, and the ALM study has faded out of the news cycle. My comment circulated quietly among friends, several of whom spoke of the banality of misogyny and fatigue at countering it. I am not a target, and I heard and saw little of it in the legal culture of the last decade. That I hear and see it since the last U.S. presidential campaign is evidence misogyny-at-law never went away and never became banal. It is a visible and audible force. Its consequences need to be exposed, as in the ALI report. It needs to be confronted, refuted, and rebuked, which I advocate as a role for LC and members.

 

Charles Bird is an appellate lawyer at Dentons US LLC, successor to Luce Forward—and a retired, amateur rock climber.

Tags:  ALM  big law  LCB  recruit  retain  study 

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Life Imitates Law: Words Can Convey or Destroy Dignity

Posted By Bobbi-Jo Dobush, Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Life Imitates Law: Words Can Convey or Destroy Dignity

 

Bombastic litigators, craftsman brief writers, and shrewd contract drafters all stake their clients’ best interests on choosing the right words in the search for just outcomes. So, as much or more than to anyone else, lawyers should care how we refer to other humans, especially those most vulnerable.

 

Flood, wave, swarm – these words evoke a sense of fear, of disaster. Reading headlines with such words, I struggle to remember if should get under the desk or into a door-jam.  But these aren’t headlines about tsunamis, earthquakes, or hurricanes. Instead, a quick news search of articles in recent months comes up with titles like “Flood of Illegal Immigrants Continues at Texas Border,” “Illegals Pour Across Border Before Trump's Inauguration,” and “Illegals Swarm in.” After reading those, who wouldn’t be scared of migrants?

 

Helen Zaltzman, that’s who. Zaltzman fearlessly confronts language on a bi-weekly basis in her word-nerd podcast The Allusionist, Small Adventures in Language. (Catch me on my morning commute soaking in some etymology.) Allusionist Episode 53, The Away Team, is all about how terms used to describe migrants have become increasingly negative over time. The episode focuses on Britain, but is equally applicable to our side of the Atlantic. 

 

Zaltman and I are both offended by the misuse of words in the migration context. Many of us refer to fellow humans by category (refugee, asylee, unaccompanied minor). Propaganda and migration specialist Emma Briant opined that doing so gives “preference [for] how officials are sorting [people] over their very basic humanity.” To make matters worse, terms that were once neutral have become negative. Since when do “refugees” or “asylum seekers” (people who are, by definition, escaping persecution) invoke skepticism and not sympathy? Also—and this should really trouble us as lawyers—the term illegal gets tossed about lightly in this context. Most migrants have broken no laws, and even those who have are not “illegal” because, to quote Briant again, “people cannot be illegal.” 

 

Zaltzman, interviewing novelist and editor Nikesh Shukla, further highlights how often migration status is used as a proxy for race. All over the English-speaking world, wealthy or middle class whites who have chosen to live abroad are “expats” not “immigrants.” We never talk about a “swarm” of wealthy white people (well, maybe talking about Coachella, but that’s a conversation for another time.)

 

The Away Team ends with a reminder that most words in the English language are themselves immigrants (French, Latin, Germanic, Greek, and Scandinavian). Zaltzman warns that without such immigrant words, “you lose at least 60% of modern English plus most scientific and technological vocabulary.”   

Many Allusionist episodes are about fun stuff like sex (Episodes 50-51, Under the Covers) or manners on either side of the Atlantic (Episode 33, Please); however, there are other great listens with a focus on equality like Episode 12, Pride, or Episode 52, Sanctuary.

Bobbi-Jo Dobush believes that sharing our diverse passions—for example the arts, the ocean, or salsa (the condiment)—can positively influence our practices. 

 

Tags:  art  awareness  bias  discrimination  equality  immigration  language  LCB  podcasts  word choice 

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My So-Called First World Problems: "Wooly"

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Wooly

 

Here is how I experienced my grandpa’s last week of life and the first days after his death:

 

On Monday, staff at his New Jersey retirement home called him an ambulance. He was admitted to the hospital that afternoon. On Tuesday night, I booked a red-eye, and flew to Newark. I cabbed it straight from the airport to the hospital, where I settled in for the terrible waiting. When he drew his final breaths late Friday night, I was at his side. On Sunday, we buried him. I stayed with my mom for several days as she sat shiva, the traditional Jewish weeklong mourning period.

 

I missed six days of work—unplanned! When I returned to my day-to-day life, I realized something amazing: I had had no compunction about peacing-out of my professional life for an entire week. I had no concerns that my colleagues, (who pitched in to cover my cases), would judge me as uncommitted or unreliable. I wasted no energy on these kinds of thoughts. Instead, I was fully present with my grandpa for his last days. And when he died, I mourned.

 

I owe this privilege to a couple of factors: One, I am lucky to work in a large governmental office, so I am more professionally fungible than most. Two, I never faced the terrifying prospect of losing my job because I took time to care for a family member . . . and that, I have learned, is a privilege not afforded many American workers.

 

Why was I able to truly be present with my grandpa, but when my 18-month-old had pneumonia, I felt stressed and guilty about missing work to care for him? When I leave work early to take my boys for their annual check-ups, why the self-censure? Why do I slink into the office after attending a school play? I am embarrassed to admit that I once hired a complete stranger off of care.com to baby-sit due to the inadvisable “trial—travelling husband—sick toddler” trifecta.

 

Why did I feel okay taking the time to be a daughter and a granddaughter, but I almost never feel justified taking the time to be a mother during the holy hours of 8-5? The time with my grandpa at the end of his life was very special. Participating in his funeral was incredibly meaningful and mourning with my family was essential. So, too, is building happy memories with my children and participating in their lives with my whole being.  

 

 

Rebecca Zipp is a deputy district attorney and mother of two who has spotted wild black bears during day hikes in six different states.

Tags:  family  grandparents  LCB  mourning  My So-Called First World Problems  parenting  time off  work-life balance 

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Guest Blog Post: "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same..."

Posted By George Brewster, Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same . . .


I was on the Lawyers Club Board when, on September 9, 1991, we approved a statement written by then President Rebecca Prater that opposed the appointment of Judge Clarence Thomas to Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Testimony regarding his appointment was scheduled to begin the next day and Anita Hill testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee a month later.


I remember Hill’s testimony, and I remember the outrage, and I remember that the next year was the “Year of the Woman.” And here we are in 2017, with greater outrage. Any complacency that existed with respect to Lawyers Club’s mission to advance women in the law and in society has been trumped by renewed energy and angry motivation.


But thinking back to 1991, what I don’t remember was the Board debate about why, pre-Hill, we voted to oppose Thomas. The Board minutes reflect that we met for an hour and a half and discussed multiple topics. By counting lines devoted to any one topic in the minutes, we apparently spent the most time on the upcoming Wine and Cheese Reception (18 lines) and the least amount of time on my Treasurer’s Report (3 lines). The Thomas statement took up 4 lines.


The October Lawyers Club News was put together before the Hill testimony, so that issue does not reflect the ensuing firestorm. Prater’s statement, passed by the Board, was included. The basis for our opposition pre-Hill was several fold: (1) He did not support the right to choose, (2) He opposed affirmative action programs that benefited women and minorities, and (3) His performance as Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reflected an arrogant lack of respect for established laws, policies, and legal doctrines. 


Those significant concerns later took a back seat to the explosive testimony of Anita Hill who described Thomas’ sexually explicit comments to her while she worked with him at the EEOC. The television reports of that testimony cannot be shaken. Recent events have only brought that anger back to life, and then some.


George W. Brewster, Jr., is a Chief Deputy County Counsel for San Diego County, he has served as a Lawyers Club Board Member for more years than any other male, and he wrote this for the History and Archives Committee.


Editor’s Note: Archived Lawyers Club News issues are available, click here to view. 

Tags:  Anita Hill  Clarence Thomas  History and Archives Committee  LCB  Rebecca Prater  sexual harassment  United States Supreme Court  US Supreme Court 

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