Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Sweet Little Thing in the Big Bad World

Posted by Maggie on December 12, 2007

I have been called just about every feminine diminuitive possible since I started working in the South. Sweet Little Thing and Hon and Honey Pie and Sweetheart and Cutie and Sugar and plenty of Darlin’. I just have the face for it, I guess. (I can still pass for a college student when I feel like it.) I still haven’t quite decided how I feel about it. I never really minded it from the elderly bailiffs in the rural courthouse I worked in, they always felt like a bunch of sweet old grandfathers. And I was fortunate enough never to be talked to that way by Judges, who were surrounded by plenty of young-ish women in their courtrooms and probably knew better. I’ve also been lucky enough never to encounter it from opposing counsel, but if I did I hope it would be dealt with along these lines.

The short version is that a lawyer during a deposition called opposing counsel “hon” and referenced her “cute little thing going on.” The whole point of a deposition is to get a transcript, so unfortunately for this guy everything was written down. His excuses are somewhat pitiful. He claims, of course, they were said “out of context” and had the nerve to say that he meant “Hun” as in Attila, not “hon” as in honey. He repeatedly called her “girl” and overall seemed to be a big fat jerk. The Judge in the case ordered he be supervised at all future depositions.

But I honestly have to wonder if a male Judge would have taken the same action. (This case involved a female Judge.) I don’t know if some men in our profession would even understand how patronizing it is to call a fellow attorney “girl” as if we were in pigtails. Down here, it’s still very much a boy’s club, especially when it comes to criminal law. Whenever I come to court, I’m usually one of a handful of female attorneys, if there are any others at all. The type of man who calls you “darlin'” and other such things tends to be either old and sweet or middle-aged and misogynistic.

Is this a Southern thing? The case I noted is from New York, so I tend to think not. But I hope most of the female crim attorneys aren’t subjected to this type of thing. And if you are, hopefully you can find some appropriate channel to address it. I’m curious to hear the thoughts of other female attorneys on the matter. Is the Judge’s involement too much? Too little? Is this a more common problem than people think? How much progress are we making?

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2 Responses to “Sweet Little Thing in the Big Bad World”

  1. Audacity said

    I’ve been fortunate to never encounter such a thing, but I think it’s because criminal work (on both sides) is much more gender equal than civil practice.

    But I’m not really sure why the Judge stepped in to order supervision. The female attorney shouldn’t have to put up with that kind of talk, but surely she can handle it on her own.

  2. Maggie said

    I haven’t ever had a problem with a Judge or Prosecutor. But I have had a lot of it from good ol’ boy local criminal defense attorneys in more rural areas. They definitely seem to have their own little club sometimes, but usually I don’t chat much with them since they don’t seem too interested in my company.

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