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In Going After Whitman, Allred Crosses Ethical Line

Feminist attorney Gloria Allred continued her attack on California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman this afternoon:

Gloria Allred just went after Meg Whitman with a vengeance waiving a letter from the Social Security Administration sent to Meg back in 2003, putting Meg and her husband on notice there was a problem with their housekeeper’s Social Security number a sign she was here illegally.

Allred is representing the housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan, who was eventually fired by Whitman in 2009, immediately after Whitman says she found out Santillan was in the country illegally.

Whitman says her opponent, Jerry Brown, is behind the attacks.  I haven’t seen any proof yet but I wouldn’t be surprised.  After all, Allred has contributed to Jerry Brown’s campaigns and has a long history of involvement in Democratic causes (she was a Hillary Clinton delegate in 2008).

But forget Jerry Brown’s involvement for the moment.  As a lawyer, I’m most concerned about Allred’s legal ethics.  Perhaps Allred does great legal work for women at least Democratic women behind the scenes.  But every time I hear about her “representing” a woman, it seems the woman is little more than a prop for getting Allred on TV or enabling Allred to pursue some political cause.  Remember, Allred is the attorney who held a press conference the day before Governor Schwarzenegger was first elected, accusing him of fondling her female client.  After the election, Allred’s lawsuit against Schwarzenegger was dropped.

To be fair, Allred is hardly the first lawyer to push up against the ethical line by taking a case because of its publicity value rather than a careful consideration of the client’s interests.  But this time, Allred seems to have gone way over the line by ostensibly representing Santillan while actually throwing her under the bus.

How could it possibly be in Nicky Santillan’s best interest for Allred to announce on national TV that Santillan is in the country illegally?  At very least, the publicity makes it virtually impossible for Santillan to hold another job in the U.S. after all, no employer can claim they didn’t know she was here illegally and makes Santillan a sitting duck for any ICE agent in the mood to do their job.  No wonder Santillan was crying at yesterday’s press conference.

Perhaps you could argue that Allred is acting ethically if the damage she inflicts on Santillan is likely to be outweighed by the damages Santillan receives from a lawsuit against Whitman.  But don’t count on Santillan collecting anything more than, perhaps, a little back pay. Whitman may be guilty of knowingly employing an illegal immigrant.  But if so, she was doing Santillan a favor by not firing her or reporting her to immigration authorities in 2003.  So what are the damages?

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