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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 5:28 pm | Fair 65º


Brian Burke (Column 187): Crypto-misogyny

The day after lunch at Tadich Grill, the future traffic commissioner drove north along the Pacific Coast for 90 minutes. Her destination was the western shore of Tomales Bay, where her sister lived in the village of Inverness.

Upon arrival, she ensconced herself in the best present she had ever given anyone: a framed platform tent she had had delivered and assembled 100 feet behind her sister’s house.

It was where she stayed during her visits — where she could be present, out of the way or left alone as she pleased.

Shortly after arrival, she took her nephew Mungo to the Point Reyes Bookstore. The store remained in business only because local residents made advance payments on their accounts of $100 or more at the beginning of every year.

This served as an effective incentive to spend at least that amount on books during the coming year. She always sent $500 on New Year’s Day.

When she and Mungo went out for a meal, she always instructed him to “order as much of anything you want.” And, upon entering the bookstore, she always said to him, “We will each purchase anything and everything we want to read.”

The tent was furnished with a small wood-burning stove and an oversized work table on which she lined up her new books. She placed tabs at the articles she wanted to read in the various magazines and journals and stacked them next to her books.

Wherever she worked she had an 11-by-17-inch pad of quarter-inch graph paper, a 12-inch metal ruler, a box of variously-colored pens of different line widths, and a plastic, two-dimensional right, equilateral triangle with eight-inch sides.

She used her tools and the graph paper to create a two-week calendar with the days broken into three-hour blocks. She prescribed an activity for every block and expected to spend about six hours a day reading.

For each reading block, she created a blend of nonfiction from her books, magazine and journal articles, and a limited amount of fiction.

During every reading block, she took a break to split, stack and carry the firewood used in both the house and the tent.


Bradford, the managing partner, called a meeting to determine why the associate (the firm’s best producer year after year) precipitously resigned during a lunch intended to celebrate the completion of her sixth year.

Beverly, in charge of the associate program, continued to explain why she had never cared for the future traffic commissioner. Beverly thought she was not only “too damn precious” but also a “crypto-misogynist.”

The latter slander required explanation, which Beverly was eager to provide.

“Yes, she’s bright and she brings lots of money into the firm. She’s generally well-regarded, but she’s also remote. And she’s ghostly,” Beverly said.

“I know we’re not supposed to attend to the way an employee looks, but the way she dresses is a good example. It’s not an easy thing to do; she works to make herself invisible,” she said.

“I’m responsible for the associate program, so I’ve paid particular attention to her — not to her work, of course, that’s too hard, but to the way she presents herself,” she said.

Beverly tapped on the conference table with perfectly manicured red nails and continued:

“Start with her hands. Her nails are short and never painted, and if –—tap, tap, tap — she has them manicured, she should get her money back.

“She wears what are probably her granny’s pearls, and she has a nice watch. That’s the total extent of her personal adornment. Her clothing is so boring that it’s almost an art form.

“During her first year with the firm, I offered her some tips on how to look like a grown-up. I told her that she didn’t have to look like a schoolgirl, and she didn’t have to look like her mother.

“She ignored the advice, and, when I offered to go shopping with her, I was rebuffed.”

Bradford interjected, “I don’t see her often, but, when I have, she’s looked completely appropriate.”

Beverly responded, “Brad, I hate to tell you this, but as bright as she is, she also happens to be a grown woman. She could be very attractive, and, in the law office of 2018, that should be okay. It is okay to be smart, stylish and feminine.

“Her suits are either navy blue or black. And her dresses always have sleeves and a high neck. You never see a label or a design feature, but you can tell that whatever she wears is expensive, very expensive, and expertly tailored to flatten any curve and disguise — or deny — her femininity.

“She could be pretty, even stunningly beautiful; yet, for some reason, maybe one she doesn’t even understand, she presents herself to the world as asexual.

“Women who deliberately hide themselves in plain sight can have a trivializing effect on those of us who are willingly womanly.”

HR said, “Beverly, you are in a position that determines whether the firm’s employee-attorneys are advanced or discarded, and you’ve just expressed a prejudice against asexual people.

“I’m included in these meetings to call out the expression of that kind of attitude. I’m glad no one is taking notes.”

Bradford asked, “Wait a minute, I need clarification. Did you tell her that she dressed like her mother?”

“Well, yes. It’s just girl talk. Would you be upset if someone compared your clothing to your father’s?”

“My clothing is the same as my father’s, which is hardly the point. How did she respond to your girl talk?”

“She said her mother and sister would probably dress the same way if they had the same job, but that both would beware of any job that required new clothing.”

Bradford said, “I’m starting to wonder how we were able to keep her for six years. Bing, what have you been able to find out about her?”

Bing said, “Quite a bit actually. It’s clear that she’s one smart cookie.” Bing waited for a response from his audience. There was none.

“Okay, no fortune cookie jokes for you. I’ll start with the mystery around the work she does. The work that no one understands even though it generates high fees and brings in that rare thing — happy clients who are willing and eager to pay what we bill them.”

“You all know that she has an undergraduate degree in math and statistics. Accordingly, she was a favored student of a professor named John Donohue when she was at Stanford Law School.

“Donohue is somewhat famous and has made a career of designing statistical techniques for application to various aspects of law. He has, for example, made what some say is a compelling demonstration of how the proliferation of guns increases the number of violent crimes.

“That relationship is obvious to some and inconceivable to others. But a mathematical showing of a rational basis for legal restrictions on gun ownership may be what the Supreme Court requires of any legislation that seeks to limit the Court’s expanded view of the Second Amendment that effectively ignores the reference to a well-regulated militia.”

Bradford asked, “Is he the guy who correlated a reversal and steady drop in the crime rate with the legalization of abortion? He claimed that if the unwanted pregnancies had not been terminated, the children born, particularly boys, would have been added to the population of those likely to commit crimes?”

Bing replied, “Exactly. He got a lot of blowback for that, as he is getting now for his work on gun control. Donohue is interested in the rationalization of public policy decisions.

“Our associate has found various commercial applications for Donohue’s statistical techniques. They’re especially useful in litigation involving discovery or production of millions of documents.”

Bradford said, “It sounds like we could have appealed to Donohue for help evaluating or supporting her work. If we couldn’t pay him to consult, he might have been able to give us the name of someone who could.”

Bing agreed, “Exactly. And with proper cultivation, we could look to Donohue to identify promising students we could recruit as associates to do this kind of work for us. Do you want to hear a little about her life outside the office?”

HR asked, “Is it relevant?”

Bing said, “Relevance. What does the Evidence Code say? A rhetorical question of course. Relevant evidence has a tendency in reason to prove or disprove a disputed fact of consequence to the determination of the action before the court.

“The rub comes with the phrase ‘tendency in reason’ and with the notion of ‘fact.’ But those are subjects for another conversation. When it comes to our [ah, former] Associate, she has a bit of color in her background that I think is delightful.”

HR was alarmed, “Did you say color?”

Bing explained, “Well, yes, in the sense of ‘colorful,’ not ethnicity.”

HR said, “This has been a tough meeting.”

This meeting will conclude in the next column.

— Brian Burke is a certified family law specialist practicing family law and mediation in Santa Barbara. A researcher and educator in the field of divorce and family conflicts, he also is the creator of the Legal Road Map™. Click here for more information, call 805.965.2888 or e-mail [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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