You never know where you’ll find sexism in our society and our profession. It knows no party or ideology.
But it has no place in court. In a decision yesterday, 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner took a shot at a plaintiff’s attorney who thought this was still 1950.
The case, Thorogood v. Sears Roebuck, was perfectly set up for a sexist wisecrack by an attorney cheap enough to take it. The case involved stainless steel clothes dryers that nonetheless caused rust stains on some clothing. A massive class action suit was mounted against Sears because “stainless steel” was not used for every part of the appliance.
During oral argument, the plaintiff’s attorney suggested that the all-male bench “ask their wives” about the problems associated with rust stains from dryers.
Posner did not find this funny. Writing for the majority (and holding for Sears) Posner shot back:
At argument the plaintiff’s lawyer, skeptical that men ever operate clothes dryers–oddly, since his client does–asked us to ask our wives whether they are concerned about rust stains in their dryers. None is.
Prior ATL articles have shown that some men really expect their wives to do all the laundry, but they are a dying breed (I think). There’s no way that attorney would have joked about women washing clothes if there was a woman on the 7th Circuit panel.
Hopefully, getting smacked around by Posner will teach this attorney that he should not make sexist remarks in open court regardless of the gender diversity on the bench.
Earlier: And No, She Doesn’t Do Windows