By Helen Greenia
RIVERSIDE, CA – An arraignment occurred here recently in Riverside County Superior Court regarding a man who received a criminal protective order for domestic violence, and he couldn’t have direct or indirect contact with the individual mentioned on the form.
However, after agreeing with the judge he is not to have contact with the alleged victim of domestic violence, the man asked Judge Sean Cranell, “Do I have a female public defender or a male public defender?”
Judge Cranell paused for a moment at this question, and responded by stating he has a woman as his public defender, but added the accused could choose his own public defender.
The man replied, “A man is what I need.”
With that, the judge immediately ended the arraignment, stating, “We’re done, sir.”
This Riverside case is apparently not the first time a defendant has preferred a man as a public defender over a woman, and women who are attorneys in general face many sexist obstacles in and out of the courtroom, such as experiencing discrimination, gender bias, harassment, and the gender pay gap, according to reports.
Judge Ashleigh Parker Dunston from Wake County District Court has published anonymous stories from women and their experiences of sexism in the courtroom in “Sexism: The Elephant in the Courtroom.”
Dunston shared this story of discrimination, “‘I worked at a law firm where men were constantly scoping out new female hires to ‘grade’ them on their looks. If there was one who was deemed to be less attractive, they’d give the woman a nickname like ‘Fat So and So.’ I once heard them state that a very competent and kind female attorney had legs that looked like ‘pigs wrestling under her skirt.’”
She said women attorneys in the courtroom are often objectified by other attorneys, jurors, plaintiffs and defendants, clients, judges and other decision makers, and society. Their appearances and clothing attire are scrutinized and sexualized if they’re wearing makeup or if their blouse is too tight.
According to the report, “Unfinished Agenda: Women and the Legal Profession” by Deborah L. Rodhe, a law professor at Stanford, researched sexism in the courtroom and discovered women who are lawyers are perceived as “too ‘soft’ or too ‘strident,’ too aggressive or not aggressive enough. And what appears assertive in a man often appears abrasive in a woman.”
No further information was found about the man facing an arraignment in Riverside, and whether he ever received a “man” as his public defender.