Friday, October 01, 2010

Does Gloria Allred Represent Her Clients Or Her Political Agenda And Craving For Media Attention?

Gloria Allred professes to be one of California's top employment lawyers, but her incessant appetite to see herself on TV and in print seems to take a real toll on the clients she supposedly represents. This week, she commanded a lot of media attention when she held a press conference to accuse Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who is locked in a tight race with former California Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown, of employing an illegal alien as a maid for nearly a decade. During the 2003 California gubernatorial election, Allred conducted a press conference shortly before the election on behalf of her client, Rhonda Miller, a Hollywood film stuntwoman, who claimed Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger had sexually assaulted her years earlier while working on a movie set with him. As with that case, Allred seems to actually cause more harm to her client's cause in the pursuit of media attention and impacting close elections to the benefit of the Democratic candidates she supports.

After Allred's highly-staged press conference in 2003 failed to defeat Schwarzenegger, she later tried to sue him and a campaign associate for defamation after the campaign aide sent an e-mail to reporters suggesting they look at Miller's criminal record. A Los Angeles judge later dismissed the case applying a "clear and convincing standard" to Miller's claim because Allred had made her client a public figure as a result of the highly-publicized press conference Allred conducted on her behalf to make Schwarzenegger out to be a sexual predator. Schwarzenegger's aide had mistaken Miller for another person with the same name who had a criminal record. Explaining his ruling, Judge Robert Hess wrote:

"The evidence before the court establishes that Mr. Schwarzenegger neither knew of nor approved the text of the disputed e-mail before it was sent," the judge wrote.

Moreover, the judge said, there was no proof that Schwarzenegger's campaign communications director, Sean Walsh, or others knew Miller had no criminal record when they attempted to respond to her accusations of being accosted by Schwarzenegger.

"This case presents an arguable failure to further investigate where a reasonable, prudent person might have done so; however, the court is not persuaded that it presents a purposeful avoidance of the truth," Hess said . . .
"Our position has always been the same: that Arnold Schwarzenegger should never have been sued in this case," said his attorney, Martin Singer. "As we have stated from Day One, this lawsuit was not filed on the merits. It was filed to try and hurt him."
Allred initially said her client would appeal the dismissal of Miller's lawsuit, but her client smartly decided not to follow Allred's advice and dropped the case.

In this latest case, Allred paraded her client in front of a bevy of reporters to announce to the world that she was an illegal alien who illegally worked as a maid for Meg Whitman for almost a decade. Whitman and her husband hired the maid after having her referred to them by an employment agency. She presented herself as a legal resident of the U.S. with a social security number. The Whitman's paid the maid $23 an hour for her work and paid all applicable payroll taxes on her income. When the maid, Nicky Diaz, told the Whitmans last year she was illegally in the country and using a bogus social security number, they fired her. Allred said that wasn't good enough because she said the Whitmans had received a notice from the Social Security Administration seven years ago, referred to as a "red flag" letter, that the social security number did not match the information furnished by the employee. The letter expressly stated SSA was not alleging the employee was an undocumented alien and should not be used by the employer to take adverse employment action againt the employee. Why the maid had the letter addressed to the Whitmans in her possession is unclear. Her client claims Whitman's husband penned a note on it to Nicky instructing her to help clear up the matter. Here's his take on the letter:

“The essential fact remains the same, neither Meg nor I believed there was a problem with Nicky’s legal status and I certainly don’t recall ever discussing it with my wife, nor did I ever show her any letter about it. The facts of this matter are very clear: Ms. Diaz broke the law and lied to us and to the employment agency. When she confessed her deception to us last year, we ended her employment immediately. Meg and I played by the rules and followed the law. Ms. Diaz did not. If, as she claims, she received this letter and note of inquiry from me, she never answered my request to look into this. Instead, she choose to continue her deception. This entire matter is a sad one and it’s timing is clearly the result of a calculated and cynical political smear by Meg’s opponents.”
During an interview with radio talk show host Mark Levin, Allred, who insists her client is an "undocumented worker" from Nicaragua, not an "illegal alien", says she is representing her in a claim against the Whitmans with the California Dept. of Labor claiming she wasn't paid overtime by the Whitmans or reimbursed mileage for errands she ran for the Whitmans using her car, a claim she just filed this week. Allred makes it clear she is not an immigration lawyer and is not representing her client in any capacity as an immigration lawyer. Levin asked Allred about exposing her client's status as an "undocumented worker" who worked unlawfully and used a fake social security number to do so. Allred insists Diaz was advised of the risks of coming forward and decided on her own to go public with the allegations knowing she could be subjected to removal proceedings for being in the country illegally or face criminal charges for using a false social security. Allred told Levin she thought it was outrageous for Levin to suggest she had "exploited" Diaz for political purposes. She repeatedly called Whitman a liar for not denying she had prior knowledge Diaz was working illegally.

Here's my take. If Allred wanted to represent Diaz in her unpaid wage claim, she should have simply filed the claim with the Dept. of Labor without conducting a press conference as attorneys do daily in this country in the course of their practices. For some reason, Allred thinks any attorney-client relationship she has is a matter of public interest and requires a highly-publicized press conference no matter how badly that media attention might harm her own client's interests. Allred insists the timing of her press conference was not politically-motivated despite her past political support for Brown's campaigns and the Democratic Party. That's total bull and she knows it. The purpose of her press conference was to announce to the world that the Whitmans employed an illegal alien and supposedly the Whitmans didn't treat their $23 an hour illegal domestic worker very nicely. I wonder how many unemployed workers there are out there who wish they had been so lucky to land a job as a maid at a luxury home for a corporate executive that paid $23 an hour. It seems to me the attorney-disciplinary commission in California ought to be taking a hard look at Allred's tactics, which in my opinion, adversely affect her clients' interests. Whether it is to further her political agenda or gain media attention for herself, her conduct is completely unbecoming of an attorney who takes an oath to abide by the rules of professional conduct. It's time for someone in a position of authority to put a lid on Allred before she harms more of her clients.


Carlos F. Lam said...

Her timing & statements does make one wonder. To be sure, perhaps the illegal maid would've been able to get even MORE money from Whitman had Allred not gone public with the story. I think that Allred's loyalties are definitely divided here, which means that she probably should not be representing the illegal maid.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Do all these people seeking attention on camera, for their complaints concerning people in the limelight, just land on Allred's doorway, or what? I wish someone would file ethics charges against her. Thanks for this additional info, AI.