At What Price Justice?

"In many cases there is no justice; there's just minimizing the injustice," says the lawyer. Doing so to the tune of many millions of dollars can have an "educational impact," she says.
  • Transcript


Question: Does a large monetary settlement really translate into justice?

Gloria Allred:  Well, in many cases there is no justice. There's just minimizing the injustice. We're mitigating the injustice. For example, if a woman has been raped or battered, you can't undo the rape and you can't do the battery, the bruises, the broken arm, the other injuries that may have been inflicted upon her. But what you can do is try to minimize the injustice by winning her compensation and sometimes criminal prosecution as well for the wrong that has been done to her, civilly and sometimes criminally.

It's all about accountability, and imposing appropriate consequences for the person and on the person who has inflicted the wrong and the harm, and the damage. For me, it's all about winning whatever it is my client is seeking that is possible in the legal system. We do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world that is somewhat flawed and we work in a flawed justice system. Having said that we want to win as much justice or minimize the injustice to the fullest extent possible.

So in some cases that means criminal prosecution and civil settlement. Sometimes it's just civil settlement but I would like to win whatever and whenever it is possible to do so, as much justice as the system can afford.

Do large monetary settlements actually serve as a deterrent for crime?

Gloria Allred: I do think it has an educational impact. Having to reach into one's wallet and pay out a large amount because of the wrong that one has done definitely makes one think about whether one wants to do this again to someone else, because there is a cost to inflicting wrongs.  The real question is who should bear the cost of the wrong?  I say it should not be the victim, should be the wrongdoer.  And that's the message I'm trying to send.  So for example in many cases involving sexual harassment—that's mainly what we do is plaintiff sexual harassment for individuals who have been sexually harassed. Then, you know, we want the full measure of damages that is possible under the law from the sexual harasser and/or those who might have condoned or encouraged that sexual harassment.  Because sexual harassment is a barrier to the enjoyment of equal employment opportunity. So, for example, a woman who is sexually harass in a workplace is going to have to battle that... fight that. If she says, yes to the sexual harassment because she's afraid she'll lose her job if she doesn't, then she's in a no-win situation. If she says no, then she's in a no-win situation. It's not fair. It's not right and it's against the law. So we want to get her compensation so she can go on with her life and be free of that barrier of sexual harassment.

We've done child sexual abuse cases, we've been able to get the abusers prosecuted—the child molesters prosecuted. And also sometimes filed civil lawsuits against them resulting in very significant damages that have to be paid to the victim of child sexual abuse. Same with rapists and others who have inflicted wrongs against women and children.

Recorded on June 9, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman