Judge Tears Into Attorney For Using The Wrong Pronoun

Benchslapped-01Judge Martha C. Warner of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Florida was NOT happy with a lawyer who — repeatedly — referred to her as “he” in court filings. And she is not afraid to let everyone know exactly how she felt about the slight.

According to reports, in referring to a previous dissent in a parental rights case written by Warner, attorney Thomas J. Butler repeatedly used “he.” So, in her current dissent, Judge Warner went off saying the multiple uses of “he” “does not appear to be a typographical error.” She continued, noting “gendered pronouns are tricky in this day and age,” but wants it to be clear that “‘he’ is not the default universal personal pronoun.” And the mistake “reveals the tenacious grip that the male image has in the legal profession to the detriment of women who have joined the profession in droves since I began practicing forty-eight years ago.”

Louder for the people in the back.

“No man would suffer that same misidentification, which relegates the woman to a less important role,” Judge Warner wrote. “We all need to be cognizant and remove from our thinking the male-centric image of lawyers and judges. It is not hard, but it requires raising one’s consciousness of the issue.”

“And it is somewhat of a surprise that it has persisted for so long. After all, the iconic figure holding the scales of justice is a lady,” the judge concluded.

In commenting on the kerfuffle, Butler appears appropriately chagrined: “I made a mistake in referencing Judge Martha Warner as ‘he’ instead of ‘she.’ I had confused Judge Warner with a different judge. I apologize for the mistake. I believe we should all be mindful of pronouns when referring to everyone.”

And I bet it’s not a mistake Butler is likely to make again.

Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

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