Judges apparently don’t take too kindly to terrible and tasteless attempts at humor.
During a deposition, a lawyer named Camilo Salas suggested that his opposing counsel Dora Monserrate-Peñagarícano might be going through menopause when Monserrate-Peñagarícano complained that the room was warm. In front of 14 attorneys, Salas said, “you’re still hot? You’re not getting menopause, I hope,” according to Bloomberg.
Salas claimed that he was concerned about Monserrate-Peñagarícano’s medical condition since “a hot room is a trigger for hot flashes in women who are going through menopause.” District Judge Francisco Besosa didn’t buy it. He determined that Salas had committed professional misconduct and ordered Salas to pay $1,000 in attorneys fees to Monserrate-Peñagarícano. Salas must also take a legal education class on professionalism.
“The comment was made to embarrass Ms. Monserrate,” Besosa said. He noted that menopause “implicates issues relating to a woman’s age, fertility, psychological state, sexuality, and physical condition,” according to Bloomberg.
Salas’s flub came at a time when the number of women in law firms’ top ranks has been stagnant. And sexist and hostile attitudes toward female attorneys may be persuading women to stay out of the courtroom. Just 27% of trial lawyers arguing civil cases are women; that portion is lower—21%—for criminal cases. An American Bar Association survey found that female trial lawyers contend with “inappropriate or stereotypical comments” from judges and fellow attorneys and that they have reported “being patronized and called ‘honey’ or ‘dear’ or referred to by their first name in the courtroom.”