Using the Media to Make Your Case in Court

Question: You talk a lot about empowerment, yet in court you often present female clients as victims. Why?

Gloria Allred:  I don't believe that women should have to suffer in silence and I would say 99 percent of all or our cases no one has ever heard of, no one ever will hear of. They will not be discussed publicly unless and until they end up in a court of law. But most are settled confidentially, so you'll never hear about them. Yes they will have to describe what happened to them to the opposing party, and in a court of law if it gets to trial, which most cases won't. But some decide to speak out publicly and speaking out publicly helps them to be empowered actually, in many cases.

And also it helps to inspire other women to know that they can stand up and fight back. That they don't have to be victimized. If they are victimized, that they can move on to the next stage which is to become a survivor and then finally to the next stage which is to be a fighter for change. So they can evolve and make others accountable for the wrongs that have been inflicted upon them. It's about accountability, it's about transparency, and it's about change. It's about justice, most of all.

Question:
  How do you decide whether or not the media will be a useful tool in your cases?


Gloria Allred:  It really depends on the case. Sometimes it's, like, an educational moment or opportunity, and sometimes it's strategic, sometimes it's both. For example, we had a case years ago of AIDS discrimination. Our client went... Paul Jasperson went to Jessica's Nail Salon to get a pedicure. He made an appointment then they heard  that he had aids and they called and canceled it or that he was HIV positive at the time. They canceled it.

And we fought them for 16 years, we said: "That's discrimination." And my client spoke out and said, "I'm not going to take this type of discrimination. It's wrong and it's also illegal." And by doing so he let another businesses know that people who are HIV-positive need to be treated with respect and dignity and have a right to enjoy their rights, to be free of discrimination under the law. That sends a message not only to Jessica's Nail Salon but other businesses as well that you better watch yourself. That you might find yourself on the wrong end of a law suit and being spoke of publicly if you make the big mistake of discriminating.

So it's a teaching moment, and I know that Paul was very happy that he did that. He was never sorry that he did that, and even though he passed away at some point we continued the battle even after his death

It's a case-by-case analysis of what we're trying to accomplish in the case and how best to accomplish it. There's no one general rule, one-size-fits-all. It really depends on the case. As I said, most of the time you'll never hear about most of my cases, and every once in a while, for example, I'll get a call from the L.A. Times or someone else saying, "We just found out that you filed this case. Nobody told us." And they just find it but most of the time they will never know what we're doing and that's the way it should be because what is best for the client is what's most important.

Recorded on June 9, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman

The attorney says that there's no hard-and-fast rule about when and how to use the media to help a client in court. "Sometimes it's like an educational moment or opportunity and sometimes it's strategic—sometimes it's both."

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