As trial lawyers, we appear in court often. We all have felt the urge to tell the judge how we really feel. Most of us resist it. But, not Elizabeth McLaughlin in San Antonio. Ms. McLaughlin objected to being assigned to a visiting judge. The judge who heard her objection overruled her objection. Ms. McLauglin, on a Zoom hearing, called the female judge a “bitch.” It was quite audible to some 100 participants. McLaughlin quickly apologized, but that was not good enough. The Presiding Judge, Mary Lou Alvarez, excused Ms. Mclaughlin from Presiding Court for two days. Later, Ms. McLaughlin asked to be admitted to Presiding Court and was allowed. See San Antonio Express News report here.
Judge Alvarez believes the comment was motivated by racism or ageism. She thinks Ms. McLaughlin would not have uttered a similar comment to a white, male judge. I cannot agree. I think many lawyers feel what McLaughlin felt. Most of us just are better at keeping our comments to ourselves. When I was a brand new lawyer in upstate Louisiana, an African-American lawyer, well-respected, heard a ruling from Judge Lauve, Caucasian, in Alexandria, Louisiana. The black lawyer did not like the ruling. “Your decision makes me sick!’ exclaimed the lawyer in court.
As lawyers, we care about our cases. Generally, the longer we represent a client, the more invested in his/her case we become. Judge Lauve in update Louisiana took the comment with equanimity. He always maintained a remarkable level of professionalism. I was too new at the time to notice. But, I am sure the African-American lawyer apologized later. In a small town, enmity cannot last long. You are just too likely to run into each other in a small town.
Too, as I learned many years ago playing football, you cannot let yourself get too angry or focused on the referees. You have to play well enough that you can beat the ref’s. The same analogy applies to the judges. You must present your case well enough that you can overcome less than perfect decisions from the judges.
Eliozabeth McLaughlin ought to know better. But, high emotions – on an occasional basis – are part of the job.