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Lawyer Reprimanded for Coded Sexism in Court

By Holly South | Last updated on

How much do some lawyers think they can get away with these days? Apparently a lot, especially when they face adversity or don't get what they want. A boo-boo to the ego? Boom, slap you with an insult — subtle or overt — and call it a win. In a San Diego courtroom, the line was clearly crossed as to how far an immature lawyer might go to prove a point.

If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say...

The minute order from July 13, 2022, says it all. Timothy A. Scott, of the firm McKenzie Scott, stated on the record to the court and opposing counsel at a June 30 status update hearing related to a personal injury case:

"…I hope this doesn't sound unctuous, but just to end the weekend on a good note, I want to thank the court staff. I want to say to have a good weekend to Mr. DeMaria. I want to say have a good weekend to Ms. Frerich. And I want to say have a good weekend to both MTS counsel. I'll See you next Tuesday. See you next Tuesday."

Unbeknownst to San Diego County Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon (who responded, "How kind."), Scott had deliberately insulted his opposing counsel. The phrase "See You Next Tuesday" is a coded derogatory phrase that is definitely too NSFW, not to mention offensive, for this blog.

Basically, Scott was throwing a little fit because the judge had dismissed his clients' case, and most likely more so because he lost to two women.

Code Cracked

That is, until the following Tuesday, coincidentally, when defense counsel Traci Legasse brought the derogatory second meaning to Sturgeon's attention, using an online slang dictionary definition as proof (Once again, look it up yourself if you're so interested).

The in-chambers meeting was recorded. And the kicker is, Scott tried to claim that he knew what the phrase meant and said it as an "inside joke" between him and a law firm employee. Apparently unaware that it's already 2022, he also claimed that he thought no one else would know what it meant. In simpler terms: he thought everyone else was too stupid to figure it out.

Keep the Inside Jokes Inside Your Mind, Next Time

Sturgeon said, "It is not a joke to this Court that Mr. Scott made this egregious and offensive insult intentionally to two female attorneys via a coded message. In fact, but for Ms. Lagasse bringing it to the Court's attention, this wrongdoing would have been undetected. Mr. Scott not only attempted to deceive all counsel, but also this Court, into believing he genuinely was wishing everyone a nice weekend when in fact he was purposefully directing a derogatory epithet toward the female defense attorneys who had just prevailed in a nonsuit in this case."

Sturgeon filed a Discipline Referral with the California State Bar Association. At the moment, there has been no news of disciplinary action (typical). However, the Bar Association's rules of professional conduct states that all licensed attorneys of California are prohibited from unlawfully harassing another person on the basis of any protected characteristic, including gender. You'd think that as a civil rights lawyer he'd know that's a no-no.

Following the publicity of his little stunt, Scott released a statement basically apologizing for what he'd done and claiming, "[it] was not consistent with my values," which — gross. Let's hope that even if California Bar Association declines to take action that he learned a very valuable lesson about not just respecting the court, but women in general.

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