Trump Organization on trial: Here's what it would look like

Letitia James Donald Trump Cyrus Vance

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Former President Donald Trump has long pitched himself as a savvy, dealmaking businessman with a multibillion-dollar fortune.

But the bedrock of his brand, the Trump Organization, could soon crumble under the weight of a criminal indictment.

After a three-year investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office appears poised to bring charges as early as this week against Trump’s namesake business. Any indictment against the Trump Organization or its executives would trigger an extraordinary legal proceeding. It would force the former president of the United States to defend the company he founded against criminal allegations.

It would also thrust another trouble upon a man still aggrieved over his loss in the 2020 presidential election — a defeat he continues to blame, baselessly, on electoral fraud.

Last week, The New York Times reported that the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. had informed Trump’s lawyers that it was weighing criminal charges connected to fringe benefits the Trump Organization awarded to a top executive. Prosecutors in Manhattan have been conducting the investigation alongside lawyers from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

allen weisselberg mike pence and donald trump in trump tower 2017

What would prosecutors allege?

In recent months, prosecutors have homed in on perks the Trump Organization provided to the company’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and other executives, The New York Times reported. Their scrutiny of those side benefits — including car leases, apartment rentals, and private-school tuition — has come as part of a bid to pressure Weisselberg to cooperate with the broader investigation into the Trump Organization, The Times said.

But Weisselberg has so far stood by Trump and his family business, refusing to flip on his employer. 

Trump, for his part, has condemned the inquiry as a “witch hunt.” His personal lawyer Ronald Fischetti told Politico that Vance’s team was considering charges against the Trump organization and some employees over allegations that they failed to pay taxes on corporate benefits and perks.

“It’s crazy that that’s all they had,” Fischetti said. 

“It’s like the Shakespeare play ‘Much Ado About Nothing,'” he added. “This is so small that I can’t believe I’m going to have to try a case like this.”

It is common for defense lawyers to make bold pronouncements undercutting a prosecutor’s allegations. But Fischetti’s remarks suggest that the Trump Organization is poised to have its day in court, rather than plead guilty to any charges.

Fischetti indicated that Vance’s team did not plan to bring charges related to the valuation of Trump Organization properties or hush-money payments to women who alleged they had affairs with Trump.

It is unclear whether Weisselberg or the Trump Organization would be indicted first — or whether they’d face charges at the same time.

Regardless, an indictment would raise the heat on Trump and bring a criminal prosecution to his doorstep.

trump tower

Why would prosecutors start with the Trump Organization?

In interviews, more than a half-dozen legal experts told Insider that it would be uncommon — but not unprecedented — for Vance’s office to begin with charges against the Trump Organization, rather than opening with prosecutions against the business’ executives and other employees.

But under New York law, any prosecution of the Trump Organization would necessarily implicate executives. The state law generally sets a higher bar than federal law for holding companies criminally liable.

Prosecutors would likely have to show that one or more executives — referred to as a “high managerial agent” in New York state law — engaged in or at least tolerated misconduct. It is rare for corporations to go to trial on federal charges, in part because they face criminal liability even for the actions of lower-level employees who engage in misconduct in the course of their work.

“This is in New York state court. It’s not controlled by federal law. It’s controlled by state law,” said Samuel Buell, a professor at Duke University School of Law who was previously a lead prosecutor on the Justice Department’s Enron task force. “There’s an additional element there that you don’t have under federal law and actually makes it harder for prosecutors, in some cases, in New York to hold the company liable.”

Legal experts told Insider that an initial indictment of the Trump Organization would raise the stakes of the investigation and prompt employees to consider cooperating.

Shanlon Wu, a former federal prosecutor, said it might seem “backwards” to start with a case against the Trump Organization. But opening with a case against the company, rather than building up through individual executives, could have a strategic benefit for prosecutors, legal experts said.

“It could be a way more palatable for the officers to want to cooperate if you say, ‘Look, we’re bringing charges against the company. This is not going away, so this is your chance to be helpful with us right now and tell us about the company,'” Wu said.

The threat to charge the Trump Organization, Wu said, “could be a way of further rattling the sabers” as prosecutors struggle to flip employees of the company.

Wu, who defended the former Trump advisor Rick Gates early in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, speculated that prosecutors “just don’t know enough, with a small company, about who was in a room really making these decisions.”

“Clearly, someone like Weisselberg is at the center of it, which is why they’re ratcheting up on him, threatening to charge him,” he said.

Trump Tower

What consequences could the Trump Organization face?

Even though the US Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people in certain cases, a company, of course, cannot be thrown in prison. 

But a conviction of the Trump Organization, and even an indictment, could still carry dire consequences for the people associated with it.

An indictment alone could bring reputational ruin upon the Trump Organization, prompting banks and other businesses to cut ties with the former president’s company. And a conviction on tax evasion, for instance, would likely come with an obligation to pay restitution to the state, along with steep fines and penalties.

Perhaps even more pressing, at least from Trump’s perspective, is the prospect of an exodus of staff who might go on to cooperate with prosecutors, legal experts said.

“If, and more likely when, the golden paint is tarnished or fades from what might become a Titanic of an organization post-indictment, not only will banks, lenders, and business associates begin to flee, the financial consequences may send employees running for lifeboats and pointing a finger at the captain to protect themselves before everyone is submerged along with the former president,” said Jeremy Saland, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who’s now in private practice at the law firm Crotty Saland in New York.

What would come up at the trial, and who might testify?

After a two-year court battle that reached the Supreme Court, Vance has obtained tax records that Trump had long tried to keep secret. 

In all, prosecutors in New York received millions of pages of documents, including Trump’s tax returns from 2011 to 2019, along with financial statements and other records related to the preparation and review of the tax returns.

Legal experts told Insider that a trial of the Trump Organization would almost surely feature some of the supersecret records that Vance obtained earlier this year — and that Trump sought to conceal from prosecutors and congressional investigators.

“It will be very document- and record-intensive,” Wu said. 

Legal experts predicted that a trial would be light on testimony from Trump Organization employees. Because the company is relatively small, many employees would likely invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to testify for fear of exposing themselves to criminal liability.

That reluctance to take the stand would extend to Trump, legal experts said.

“If I were defending Trump, I certainly would not want him anywhere near the witness stand, getting up and blathering on,” Wu said.

“From the company’s standpoint, they’re going to have a hard time doing their defense if a lot of their officers all have Fifth Amendment concerns,” he added.

“And that’s a big advantage for the prosecution, obviously, because it’s kind of like getting a free shot putting on your case, and they have to come up with some way to defend themselves,” Wu said. “It’s a difficult situation for a small company like this.”

The trial could come down to a battle of the experts. Expect the Trump Organization to present a narrative that it had valid reasons for its accounting and various financial moves.

“And so the prosecution is going to have to put on experts who say, ‘No, this accounting is kind of shady,’ or, ‘This is not the way you would normally attribute expenses or valuations and such,'” Wu said.

“So in that sense, it won’t look too much different from having an individual on trial,” he added. “The piece that will be missing is there won’t be this big question about whether the defendant is going to personally take the stand and testify or not.”

matthew calamari donald trump jr

Who are the other key players?

The investigation into Trump and his family business features a roster of longtime Trump Organization executives and high-powered defense lawyers.

Vance recruited a renowned former federal prosecutor, Mark Pomerantz, as his office ramped up its investigation into Trump. Pomerantz’s arrival brought added white-collar expertise to the office as it investigated whether Trump and his business took steps to evade taxes or engaged in other financial misconduct.

Fischetti, a personal lawyer for Trump, was once a law partner of Pomerantz’s. In his interview with Politico, he said Vance’s team told him that Trump himself would not be charged when the first indictment came down.

Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, has been represented by Mary Mulligan, a criminal-defense lawyer in New York who served from 1997 to 2002 as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

Another Trump Organization executive, Matthew Calamari, appears to also figure prominently into the investigation. The Wall Street Journal reported that New York prosecutors were investigating whether Calamari received tax-free fringe benefits as part of their inquiry into the company. The outlet reported prosecutors had advised Calamari and his son Matthew Calamari Jr., who also works at the company as its corporate director of security, to hire legal counsel.

Calamari, the Trump Organization’s chief operating officer, is represented by Nicholas Gravante Jr., a partner at Cadwalader who heads the firm’s commercial-litigation practice. On Tuesday, Gravante told Insider he did not expect the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to bring charges against the elder Calamari this week.

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The IPO boom has created tons of high-paying IR and legal jobs. Here's a rundown of who's hiring.

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A wave of IPOs is expected this summer, and companies are looking for investor relations and legal personnel to help prepare for their public debuts.

Over the past year, companies seeking IPOs have made key hires for pros to help navigate financial filings, Securities and Exchange Commission reporting, and other processes that come with the heightened scrutiny of being a publicly traded firm. And the demand for these experts is still high, with many companies looking to fill open roles.

In a bid to attract top talent, companies are sweetening the deal for investor relations hires with increased pay and large equity packages that can clock in at seven figures, Richard Marshall, global managing director for corporate affairs and investor relations at the recruiting firm Korn Ferry, said in an email to Insider.

Seasoned in-house lawyers are also in high demand. The number of clients seeking general counsel has surged 37% in the past year, said Monique Burt Williams, CEO of Cadence Counsel, which specializes in in-house legal recruiting.

“This year has created an atmosphere for more of a propensity to take risk, and people are maximizing on potential for growth. Everybody knows we’re on the brink of something,” said Williams.

You can read more about what recruiters are saying about the hiring frenzy here.

From lifestyle brands to fintechs, here are some of the companies that are looking to fill investor-relations and legal roles:

  • Health insurance startup Bright Health, with is backed by hedge fund Tiger Global and made its trading debut on June 24, is making multiple hires across its investor-relations and legal teams, according to job openings posted in late May and early June. Open positions include an investor relations director and vice presidents, as well as a senior corporate counsel role with responsibilities including supporting “public company securities work.”
  • Buzzfeed, which said in late June it’s going public via a SPAC deal that could close by the end of the year, is seeking an in-house counsel to manage “regulatory filings, approvals, and compliance,” as well as other corporate and commercial transactions.
  • Doximity, the 10-year-old digital health company that filed an S-1 earlier this month, is looking for an SEC reporting manager. The newly-created role will report to the senior director of technical accounting and reporting, and the ideal applicant is someone with knowledge of US generally accepted accounting principles and public-accounting experience, the posting said.
  • Virtual-card issuer Marqueta, which went public in early June, is hiring an investor-relations manager.
  • Social Finance, the online personal-finance company that goes by SoFi, became a publicly-traded company on June 1 after a SPAC merger. It is currently hiring compliance specialists to help respond to regulatory inquiries about its investing business from the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and other regulators. It is also hiring investor relations associates and senior associates.
  • Sprinklr, the customer-experience software company that started trading on June 23, is hiring a senior counsel to its legal department ot support corporate, security, and governance matters. The role will also have a “potential focus on SEC and public company matters,” the listing said. 
  • Trendy eyewear brand Warby Parker, which confidentially filed for its IPO on June 22, is hiring an assistant general counsel “armed with extensive knowledge of corporate and securities law for public companies, especially when it comes to SEC and stock exchange compliance.”
  • Robinhood, the trading app that confidentially filed to go public in March, is looking to boost its legal team. The company is hiring an attorney to handle “regulatory submissions and filings and reporting on regulatory requirements internally and in public filings;” a commercial senior counsel; and privacy senior counsel.
  • Shoemaker Allbirds, which has tapped Morgan Stanley to work on an IPO according to a June 27 Bloomberg report, is hiring an SEC reporting and technical-accounting manager and a senior stock administrator.
  • Softbank-backed freight logistics company Flexport has not filed for an IPO, but it could be considering the option more seriously now and is searching for a head of investor relations. The new hire will ideally bring 10-plus years of experience to the role and will be based at the company’s San Francisco headquarters.
  • The natural-products retailer Grove Collaborative, rumored to be considering an IPO, is seeking a San Francisco-based director of investor relations with more than seven years of experience. Responsibilities include developing press releases, investor presentations, earnings scripts, and other materials, according to the posting.

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An IPO frenzy means a hiring surge for investor relations and legal experts, with some soon-to-be-public companies offering 7-figure equity packages

warby parker

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It’s already been a record-breaking year for IPOs, and this summer is packed with more expected public debuts.

The wave of initial public offerings means there’s also lots of companies that need to prep for financial filings, reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other scrutiny that comes with being a publicly traded firm. 

Demand is high for investor-relations talent and other supporting services, and pay is rising,  especially with companies sweetening the deal through large equity packages, Richard Marshall, global managing director for corporate affairs and investor relations at the recruiting firm Korn Ferry, told Insider in an email.

“With the proliferation of SPACS and an IPO market that’s hotter now than before 2018 and 2019, top talent is really at a premium,” Marshall wrote.

Marshall said that while equity-compensation packages for top investor-relations roles vary widely by industry sector and geography, seven-figure packages aren’t uncommon.

US IPOs raised $171 billion so far in 2021, smashing a record $168 billion for all of last year, per Dealogic stats cited by Reuters in mid-June. And a big part of that was IPOs via special-purpose acquisition companies — debuts of shell companies that have not yet bought and taken another company public yet. 

Two of Korn Ferry’s recent clients, both large, publicly traded companies, had made formal offers to candidates for open roles, only to lose out to a pre-IPO company “that swooped in at the last minute to make an exceptionally big equity offer,” Marshall wrote.

Equity research analysts from Wall Street banks comprise a major talent pool for pre-IPO companies, given their in-depth knowledge of corporate finance. These equity-research jobs are under threat as banks’ research budgets decline due to challenges posed by both automation and regulation.

As equity research at these Wall Street banks “continues its secular decline,” Marshall said, equity analysts are moving over to investor-relations roles in droves. 

Legal recruiters are also seeing a surge in demand for seasoned in-house lawyers for companies looking to go public. The number of clients seeking GCs has increased 37% in the past year, said Monique Burt Williams, CEO of Cadence Counsel, which specializes in in-house legal recruiting.

Fintechs and financial services companies have especially been active in expanding their legal teams as they shore up for growth.

“This year has created an atmosphere for more of a propensity to take risk, and people are maximizing on potential for growth. Everybody knows we’re on the brink of something,” said Williams.

There’s also been an uptick in companies looking to contract in-house lawyers on an interim basis — a way for them to find the specialized legal talent they need to handle the transition without having to permanently take on risk, Williams said.

From lifestyle brands to fintechs, here are some of the companies that have made hires or have posted jobs looking to bolster their investor-relations and legal ranks:

Already went public or filed publicly available S-1 statements:


Affirm, the buy now, pay later fintech, went public in January. It hired Ronald Clark as its new vice president of investor relations in March, hiring him from Eventbrite, where he led its capital-markets and investor-relations group. Before that, Clark headed investor relations at Yelp, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Bright Health

The health insurance startup Bright Health, backed by the hedge fund Tiger Global, made its trading debut on June 24.

The company is hiring across its investor-relations and legal teams, according to job postings. Open positions have included director and vice president roles in investor relations as well as a senior corporate counsel role with responsibilities including supporting “public company securities work,” all posted in late May or early June.


Whitney Wolfe became the youngest female CEO to take her company public in February when Bumble, the social-media company best known for its female-first dating app, had its IPO. A few months earlier, Bumble hired Laura Franco from CBS — where she served as general counsel — as its chief legal and compliance officer, per her LinkedIn page.


In late June, the media company Buzzfeed announced that it’s going public through a deal with a SPAC, which is expected to close by the end of the year. The digital publisher is also acquiring Complex Networks, another media company, as part of the transaction, bringing the total valuation to $1.5 billion, according to its investor presentation. Buzzfeed has a job posting for an in-house counsel to manage “regulatory filings, approvals, and compliance,” as well as other corporate and commercial transactions.


The financial tech company dLocal, which was founded in 2016 and has been hailed as the first Uruguayan unicorn, hired Julia Vater Fernández in February as an investor-relations officer. Previously, she supervised investor relations at Mercado Libre, a leading e-commerce tech company in Latin America. dLocal, which specializes in cross-border payments in emerging markets, started trading on June 3.


The 10-year old digital-health company Doximity is looking for an SEC reporting manager, a newly created role at the firm that will report to the senior director of technical accounting and reporting. Doximity is seeking someone with knowledge of US generally accepted accounting principles and public-accounting experience, per the job posting.

The company filed an S-1, indicating its intent to go public, with the SEC in June. 


LegalZoom made waves in the legal-tech space when it filed for an IPO in early June. The company’s mission is to “democratize law” through flat-fee subscription services for small businesses, per its S-1 filing, and it has since expanded to provide more legal, compliance, tax, and business services.

LegalZoom hired Nicole Miller as its general counsel in June. She was previously an in-house lawyer at The Honest Company, the consumer-goods brand founded by the actress Jessica Alba, and before that she was an attorney at top law firms Cooley and Gibson Dunn. The Honest Company went public in May.


The virtual-card issuer Marqeta is looking for a manager on its investor-relations team with four to six years of public-company or equity research experience who will be based at the company’s Oakland, California, headquarters. Marqeta went public in early June. 


The used-fashion retailer Poshmark, which went public in January, hired Evan Ferl from Hired Inc., where he was general counsel, in November to be its new head lawyer, according to his LinkedIn profile. Christine Chen, formerly a strategic advisor at the women’s lifestyle brand Brit + Co, also joined Poshmark as head of investor relations last year, also according to LinkedIn.


The online personal-finance company SoFi, which helps users refinance their student loans, get personal loans, and invest, became a publicly traded company on June 1 after a SPAC merger. Also known as Social Finance, the company is looking for compliance specialists to help respond to regulatory inquiries about its investing business from the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and other regulators. Additionally, SoFi is hiring associates and senior associates for its investor-relations team.


Sprinklr, which started trading on June 23, was founded in 2009 and develops customer-experience management software that helps large companies with marketing, advertising, and engagement. Its legal department is looking for a senior counsel to do legal work focused on supporting corporate, security, and governance matters in addition to “a potential focus on SEC and public company matters.”

Confidentially filed S-1s:


The personal-finance startup NerdWallet confidentially filed to go public in April, according to Reuters. The company has steadily been growing  with a series of acquisitions, including Fundera, a small-business loan marketplace, in November. NerdWallet recently hired its new general counsel, Ekumene Lysonge, who joined in April and will be “essential” to its strategy and continuous growth into “a more mature, global company,” according to CEO Tim Chen.


Robinhood announced it confidentially filed for an IPO in March. The trading app has been hiring lawyers and some of the most well-connected law firms in the US to negotiate deals, scale up its compliance efforts, and spar with regulators.

Robinhood is looking to boost its legal team with new hires, including an attorney to handle “regulatory submissions and filings and reporting on regulatory requirements internally and in public filings;” a commercial senior counsel; and privacy senior counsel.

Warby Parker 

Warby Parker, the trendy eyewear brand, announced it has confidentially filed for its IPO on June 22. The company’s been on the lookout for an assistant general counsel “armed with extensive knowledge of corporate and securities law for public companies, especially when it comes to SEC and stock exchange compliance.” It also was hiring its first head of investor relations, who will be tasked with SEC compliance, public disclosures, and quarterly earnings reports. 

Warby Parker did not respond to requests for comment.

Reportedly hired bankers to prep for an IPO:


Rumors about the shoemaker Allbirds preparing a public offering started to emerge in late April after The New York Times reported that Allbirds was in discussions with banks. The Silicon Valley-based company, last valued at $1.7 billion, seems to be gearing up for a potential public debut with a slew of open roles. The firm is hiring an SEC reporting and technical-accounting manager and a senior stock administrator. It also had an internal-audit-manager role listed last week that has since been taken down. 

Allbirds did not respond to requests for comment.


Rivian, the Amazon-backed electric-vehicle startup, hired underwriters for an IPO that could come later this year, according to a Bloomberg report in May. In June, the Tesla rival hired Derek Mulvey, who spent six years at JPMorgan, as senior manager of its investor-relations and strategic-finance team, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Rivian declined to comment.

Other companies:


The freight-logistics company Flexport, founded in 2013 and backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, is searching for a head of investor relations to work out of its headquarters in Dallas. The new hire will ideally bring 10-plus years of experience to the role and will “develop and implement an investor relations program to communicate our strategy to the relevant stakeholders,” per the job posting on Linkedin. While the company has not announced plans to go public, the hiring push could signal it is now considering the option more seriously after undergoing a significant restructuring and a round of layoffs in February 2020. 

Grove Collaborative

The natural-products retailer Grove Collaborative is seeking a San Francisco-based director of investor relations with more than seven years of experience, according to a LinkedIn posting. Responsibilities include developing press releases, investor presentations, earnings scripts, and other materials, according to the posting. 

While the company has not announced concrete plans to go public, speculation about an imminent offering has been prevalent among investors, especially after its retail debut in Target stores in April. 

Grove Collaborative did not respond to requests for comment.


The online payment-processing company Stripe, which is advertising thousands of open roles, has been subject to fierce speculation about its IPO plans. The company, which is valued at $95 billion, made a few key hires last year, including Trish Walsh from Voya Financial to be its general counsel, per her LinkedIn page, and Sarah Fu, a former public investor at Fidelity who now leads corporate finance and investor relations, according to her LinkedIn.

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Anti-vaxxers like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are backing employee lawsuits over COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a white man with gray hair wearing a suit, appears outside of a courthouse with his mouth open in speech and his arms raised in the air.

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Jennifer Bridges worked as a nurse at Houston Methodist hospital for nearly seven years, until her employer became one of the first in the country to require staffers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Bridges was fired on Tuesday after refusing to get vaccinated.

Now Bridges is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the hospital. She and more than 100 of her former colleagues allege the COVID-19 vaccines are experimental in nature because they were approved under emergency use authorization. Bridges likens the vaccine initiative to the Nazis’ forced medical trials on Jewish concentration-camp prisoners during World War II.

“In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs falsely claimed that the COVID-19 vaccines are not safe. With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States alone, the vaccines have proven to be extremely safe,” Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom said in a statement.

“The number of both positive cases and hospitalizations continue to drop around the country, proving that the vaccines are working in keeping our community protected,” he added.

COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna have been deemed safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration, which granted emergency use authorization for all three shots. Pain at the injection site and flu-like side symptoms that typically last no more than several days are common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over the age of 12 get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Bridges said she initially protested the mandate with an internal petition. When her efforts went nowhere, she began to consider legal action. A leading vaccine-resistance group, the Informed Consent Action Network, led her to a lawyer willing to take her case, she said.

“I literally just sat at home one day, just Googling anything I could think of,” Bridges said. “A lot of people were like, ‘Hey look up this website,’ and so I went to the ICAN website, saw the lawyers they used, reached out to their firm, and they said I needed a Texas lawyer.”

Bridges is part of a growing group of employees taking legal action to fight COVID-19 vaccine mandates by using the argument that the drugs have not been approved by the FDA. But behind Bridges and other laypeople putting their jobs on the line is a network of lawyers and vaccine-resistance groups — including a nonprofit founded by the anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — helping them to navigate the courts. 

Anti-vaxxers hope to use COVID-19 lawsuits to grow the movement

At least four federal lawsuits have been filed against employers over COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and each has strong ties to the anti-vaccine movement. In addition to Bridges’ lawsuit, cases have been brought so far in Los Angeles, New Mexico, and North Carolina, and more are expected to crop up as businesses and schools fully reopen.

Bridges said she was unsure how to dispute her employer’s directive until she saw an advertisement seeking plaintiffs by ICAN, a nonprofit founded by the controversial TV producer and talk show host Del Bigtree that is dedicated to disputing vaccine requirements.

The anti-vax movement has historically focused on spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories about the efficacy and safety of children’s vaccines using scientifically debunked propaganda. Many known anti-vaxxers directly profit from products presented as alternatives to mainstream medicine. COVID-19 vaccine skeptics are a ripe new client base.

“For law firms willing to take anti-vaxxers’ tainted money, this is a great opportunity,” said Imran Ahmed, the CEO and founder of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit that combats disinformation online.

The ICAN advertisement directed Bridges to the Manhattan law firm Siri & Glimstad, she said. The law firm received $1.3 million from the nonprofit as an independent contractor in 2019, the most recent year for which its tax filing is available.

Siri & Glimstad, which staffs a team of lawyers dedicated to litigation involving vaccines, has been at the center of recent lawsuits against COVID-19 vaccines.

The law firm serves as cocounsel in a North Carolina lawsuit filed by former Durham County Deputy Christopher Neve against Sheriff Clarence Birkhead. Neve alleges Birkhead fired him for refusing the vaccine. The sheriff’s department has filed a motion for dismissal in the case. 

Siri advised Bridges to find a lawyer in Texas, she told Insider. She’s now represented by Jared Ryker Woodfill, the former Harris County GOP chairman and president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, which is deemed an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Woodfill represented plaintiffs in a multitude of lawsuits related to pandemic protocols last year, including a group of bar owners who sued Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in an effort to upend his shutdown order. Woodfill could not be reached for comment. 

Legal experts say the cases against COVID-19 vaccines face an uphill battle in the courts.

“Federal judges in particular are likely to be sympathetic to the positions of employers and sympathetic to the notion of vaccination,” Robert Nichols, a Houston labor and employment lawyer, said.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also declared that employers can legally mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.

Robert Kennedy Jr.’s anti-vax nonprofit threatens more lawsuits

Legal fees for vaccine-related litigation are often paid for by nonprofits dedicated to funding anti-vaccine lawsuits, such as Idaho’s Health Freedom Defense Fund, which is backing a lawsuit filed by employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

A leading voice among anti-vaxxers is Kennedy, who promotes his anti-vaccine view through the Children’s Health Defense fund, a nonprofit he founded in 2018. Kennedy was barred from Instagram earlier this year for sharing debunked claims about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Children’s Health Defense fund in January published a blog post urging readers who want to litigate over COVID-19 vaccine requirements to contact ICAN. 

Kennedy told Insider the organization had been advising lawyers fighting the COVID-19 mandates and had other litigation plans in the works. He said his nonprofit was planning cases against Rutgers University and the Los Angeles Unified School District over vaccine mandates.

He also said Children’s Health Defense planned to send letters to each of the roughly 400 colleges and universities that have said they will require students and/or employees to be vaccinated.

The anti-disinformation groups Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch have both named Kennedy as one of the top 12 purveyors of vaccine falsehoods online who together are responsible for almost two-thirds of the anti-vaccine rhetoric on social media.

Lawsuits against COVID-19 vaccine requirements are likely to drag on 

In New Mexico, Isaac Legaretta and 20 anonymous coworkers sued the Doña Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces in February, which was the first known case against a vaccine requirement. Legaretta eventually resigned, and the county has since filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Legaretta’s lawyer declined to make him available for an interview and scoffed at the question of why his client did not want to take the vaccine.

“If you don’t know the answer to that question, you have done very little research on the issue of this vaccine. Have you studied any of the side effects or the reason these adverse effects are happening?” said Jonathan Diener, an attorney with New Mexico Stands Up, a nonprofit dedicated to litigating pandemic protocols.

More than 150 million people in the US have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and the CDC and FDA report that serious side effects are rare.

In Houston, US District Judge Lynn N. Hughes tossed the case against Houston Methodist on June 13 in a ruling that condemned Bridges’ Nazi-experiment comparison.

“Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus,” Hughes wrote, referring to Houston Methodist’s employees.

Bridges has vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court, and her lawyer has already filed an appeal with the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Jeff Bezos accused his girlfriend's brother of hiding ownership of a $2.5 million property to avoid paying his legal fees, court filings show

Michael Sanchez Jeff Bezos

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday said in a court filing that his girlfriend’s brother tried to avoid reimbursing his legal fees by hiding his ownership of a $2.5 million property.

The brother, Michael Sanchez, unsuccessfully sued Bezos and his security chief, Gavin de Becker, for defamation. Sanchez was ordered to reimburse $254,404 in legal fees.

Bezos’ filing in Kings County Superior Court reportedly said Sanchez used a shell company to hide his ownership of a West Hollywood home, which was up for sale. The filing amounted to “bullying,” a lawyer for Sanchez told the Seattle Times.

“Earlier this week, Mr. Sanchez authorized his team to coordinate with Mr. Bezos’ counsel concerning payment of the judgment,” attorney Tom Warren said in a statement sent to the newspaper.

He added: “Had Mr. Bezos’ attorneys bothered to reach out to Mr. Sanchez’ counsel before filing a lawsuit against him, they would have known that to be the case.”

The filing marked the latest development in an ongoing legal battle between Bezos and Sanchez.

The pair have been in a legal squabble since The National Enquirer in 2019 broke the news of Bezos’ affair with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor. The outlet obtained nude photos of the Amazon founder, along with private texts. 

Bezos in a February 2019 blog post said The National Enquirer’s then-parent company, American Media, was blackmailing him. At the time, de Becker told The Daily Beast that Michael Sanchez was “among the people we’ve been speaking with and looking at” as they tried to figure out who leaked the texts and photos. 

Sanchez then filed a defamation suit against both Bezos and de Becker.

The suit was dismissed, and Bezos sought about $1.7 million to cover his legal fees. 

Judge John Doyle of Los Angeles County Superior Court in March said Bezos would instead receive $218,385 for legal fees, plus an additional $36,000 for other costs.

Sanchez has not yet paid Bezos and de Becker, the Seattle Times reported on Friday.

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George Floyd's brother asks judge to give Derek Chauvin longest prison term possible: 'My family and I have been given a life sentence.'

Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, wipes away tears as he speaks during an interview with broadcaster Roland Martin at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 25, 2021.

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George Floyd’s brother pleaded Friday for former police officer Derek Chauvin to be given the maximum sentence possible for his role in the killing, saying his own family has already been given a “life sentence.”

Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in April 2021 for killing Floyd last May in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Speaking at Chauvin’s sentencing hearing, Philonise Floyd said that he has been tormented by the murder of his brother, which sparked a summer of protests across the country. The video of George Floyd’s killing, in which Chauvin kneels on his neck for more than nine minutes, was seen around the world.

“For an entire year, I had to relive George being tortured to death every hour of the day, only taking naps and not knowing what a good night’s sleep is anymore,” Floyd said.

“With a smirk on his face… Officer Chauvin used excessive force and acted against his training. Chauvin had no regard for human life — George’s life,” he said.

He urged the judge to hand Chauvin the maximum sentence for each charge, or up to 75 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

“My family and I have been given a life sentence,” he said. “We will never be able to get George back.”

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US law firms are so hungry for talent they're poaching young Canadian lawyers, who are getting 30% pay bumps

A small Canadian flag in front of a blurred picture of the New York City skyline, including the Empire State Building.

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Elite US law firms have been casting a wide net for talent to cope with a tidal wave of deals and disputes. Now they’re even crossing borders to make new hires.

About 31 lawyers, overwhelmingly with transactional-law backgrounds, have moved from Canada to the 200 top US law firms since January 1, more than all of 2020, according to Firm Prospects, a legal-data firm. Twenty-eight lawyers made the same move in 2020, 35 in all of 2019 and 25 in all of 2018.

“There’s a ton of us moving down,” said one recent arrival from Canada who advises clients in the venture-capital industry and knows of two other Canadians about to join US firms. The associate spoke on condition of anonymity because they didn’t have their firm’s permission to be interviewed. “I feel like I’m doing the same job, except making a lot more money,” they added.

The new arrivals have landed at firms including Kirkland & Ellis; Cooley; Ropes & Gray; and Mayer Brown, mostly in New York and Silicon Valley. They’ve come from top Canadian “Bay Street” firms like Osler Hoskin & Harcourt; Blake Cassels & Graydon; and Stikeman Elliott.

Big law firms are in the middle of an industrywide salary increase, the first in three years. The base salary for entry-level lawyers at top corporate law firms has risen from $190,000 to $200,000 or higher, according to recent reports in legal-news outlets. Base pay for the most senior associates is now up to $365,000.

Comparatively, in Toronto, a first-year lawyer at a large firm can expect pay of about 100,000 Canadian dollars to CA$110,000, according to ZSA, a Canadian legal-recruitment firm. The high end of that range is equivalent to about $89,000. 

Canadian legal education and lawyer accreditation differ from those in the US, but the experience lawyers gain is often transferable, practitioners and recruiters say.

“If you’re a Canadian lawyer doing a private-equity deal, it’s the same clients. They use the same forms,” said Sean Burke, a recruiter with Whistler Partners who said raises of 30% or more were common for Canadians coming to the US. “So why are you working the same hours or maybe a little bit less, but you’re getting paid two-thirds?”

It’s also easy for Canadian lawyers to work in the US. Most lawyers without US citizenship have to cross their fingers for an H-1B visa, which are dished out according to a lottery. Mexican employees are required to apply for a visa before booking their flights, but many Canadians can just present a letter from their US employer and a few other documents at customs for entry into the US, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Burke said many Canadian law-firm partners worked in the US earlier in their careers to build relationships that they could then bring to bear on the Canadian aspects of global mergers and acquisitions. The Canadian associate who spoke with Insider said they anticipated spending about three years in the US.

Working from home for several months “really made me sort of think and wonder what else is out there,” the lawyer said. “If I don’t do this now, if I don’t go to the states now, I never will.”

It’s not just Canadians being courted by US law firms. reported that Australians were also being recruited by big law firms desperate for talent. But the number of Australian lawyers who have moved is smaller than the number of Canadians, with 11 having moved so far this year, compared with 14 in all of 2020, according to Firm Prospects data.

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Fort Bliss: Biden administration responds to report of inhumane conditions for migrant children at emergency shelter in Texas

Activist defending the rights of migrants holds a protest near Fort Bliss to call for the end of the detention of unaccompanied minors at the facility in El Paso, Texas, U.S, June 8, 2021. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

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The Biden administration is defending its handling of migrant children seeking asylum following testimony this week from young people and federal employees alike alleging poor conditions at an emergency intake facility in Texas.

“We take our humanitarian mission and the well-being of children in our care seriously,” said a statement emailed to reporters on Wednesday by Sarah Lovenheim, assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.

In court documents filed this week, migrant children suggested that commitment was lacking, complaining of severe depression caused at least in part by excruciating conditions at shelters such as the one at Fort Bliss, a US Army base in El Paso, Texas.

The facility was first used to house detained migrants during the Trump administration.

In response, HHS, which runs the site, says it has increased the number of case managers at such sites by 95%, from 909 to 1,776 as of May 21. At the same time, it has also reduced the number of children in detention at Fort Bliss, from around 5,000 to 1,500, and elsewhere: there are fewer than 15,000 children in HHS custody today, compared to nearly 23,000 at the end of April.

A 13-year-old girl from Honduras said she was placed on suicide watch after spending two months there.

“The food here is horrible,” she testified. “Yesterday we were given hamburgers but I couldn’t eat it because there was a foul odor coming from the bread.”

The child also described suffering insomnia due to the conditions, per the legal filing.

“It is really hard for me to sleep because my cot is right next to a light that stays on all night,” she said, adding that a request for sleeping pills had been denied due to her age. “For the past week or so I have only been sleeping during the day.”

In its statement, HHS insisted children are “receiving nutritionally-appropriate meals.”

“Our goal is to safely and expeditiously unite children with their parent or sponsor and we continue to improve and streamline this process,” it said.

Another 17-year-old girl at the same facility, however, described overcrowded conditions even with the decrease in the number of children there, with hundreds of girls sleeping under the same tent.

“A lot of the girls here cry a lot,” she testified. “A lot of them end up having to talk to someone because they have thoughts of cutting themselves.”

Federal officials, concerned about deteriorating mental health among the children, “banned pencils, pens, scissors, nail clippers, and regular toothbrushes” inside of such tents, CBS News reported.

“They’ve gone from a small cage at Border Patrol to a larger cage at Fort Bliss,” a former employee there told the outlet. “It’s a juvenile detention facility.”

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A Manhattan judge who has ruled on big Wall Street cases is tired of CEOs getting a pass from prosecutors. He says it's time to start arresting executives.

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Judges tend to be more restrained than revolutionary. But that hasn’t stopped Manhattan U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff from speaking out about what he sees as serious problems in the justice system.

Rakoff, a former prosecutor and white-collar defense attorney who became a judge in 1996, may be best known in Wall Street legal departments. In 2009, he refused to approve a $33 million settlement between Bank of America and the Securities and Exchange Commission over insufficient disclosures about its purchase of Merrill Lynch. (He approved the deal after it was raised to $150 million.) In 2011, he vetoed a $285 million deal between the SEC and Citigroup related to mortgage investments. That ruling was reversed on appeal.

Rakoff has for years criticized laws and prosecutorial practices that give a pass to privileged executives and while leading to high imprisonment rates for the poor and minorities. He has spoken up for civil liberties and called for judges to be given more authority.

Some of his rulings have reverberated across the country. In 2002, Rakoff ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, and while his decision was reversed on appeal, the weakness of witness testimony and the frequency of DNA-related exonerations are topics he has written about often. He has also lived through the anguish that families of murder victims feel, with his own brother, Jan Rakoff, having been murdered in the Philippines decades ago.

Earlier this year, Rakoff published a book, “Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free,” that describes issues with the justice system. It also includes sections on bad forensic science, including the historic misuse of neuroscience by courts, and on the often overlooked antisemitic parts of the Magna Carta, which checked the power of the English king.

Some judges hold back their criticism of laws and courts that they disagree with, but Rakoff dishes it out. He called mass incarceration “an evil” of which judges are a part, and said the war on terror led some courts to turn a blind eye to “horrifying” conduct by the executive branch. Some of his chapter titles, such as “Don’t Count on the Courts” and “You Won’t Get Your Day in Court,” seem downright pessimistic.

But Rakoff said all of the justice system’s problems have potential solutions. The judge spoke with Insider in late May about some of the themes from his book. A transcript, edited for clarity and length, is here. A summary of some of his major points follow.

America needs more judges, and the judges need more power

Much of the justice system, from police investigations to plea bargaining, has little judicial oversight. Once a person is charged and enters a perfunctory plea of not guilty, they usually don’t speak up again in court until a plea deal has been struck. Then a quick change-of-plea hearing takes place, followed by sentencing.

“In the state courts of the United States, the average time for a guilty-plea allocution is 13 minutes,” Rakoff said. “Of those 13 minutes, at least five, or more commonly 10, are spent advising the defendant of the rights he’s giving up.”

“After the judge has elicited that, yes, he’s willing to waive all those rights, the judge then has a few minutes, at best, to probe as to why he’s pleading guilty,” Rakoff continued.

In his book, Rakoff said plea bargains were rare for the first century of American history, and that trials were still common after World War II. But plea deals began to take off in the 1970s, when mandatory minimum sentences and strict guidelines gave prosecutors more leverage to demand that defendants plead out early — sparing prosecutorial resources — if they wanted a lighter sentence. Judges’ hands were often tied by such arrangements. Today, only a few states, such as Connecticut and Florida, give judges a role in plea bargaining.

If America had more judges, they could devote more time to cases, and junior or magistrate judges could mediate plea bargains, Rakoff said. That could lead to fairer results than the current system, where prosecutors hold all the cards..

“If you have no judicial involvement in the plea-bargaining process, what you’re saying is judges will have no involvement in 96% of cases in the federal criminal system, and that seems to me to be crazy,” Rakoff said.

Prosecutors need to charge more corporate executives

Rakoff isn’t the first person to point out that not a single banker faced criminal charges related to the 2009 financial crisis, in sharp contrast to the thousands of bankers who were prosecuted in the wake of the 1980s savings and loan crisis. But he has taken a hard line.

Deferred prosecution agreements and similar arrangements that come with a nine- or 10-digit price tag are attractive to prosecutors who don’t want to be accused of pushing a company into bankruptcy, but they mostly punish a company’s shareholders, Rakoff said, who almost never have anything to do with a company’s wrongdoing.

It’s also not clear that companies learn from their mistakes. From 2002 to 2012, Pfizer and its subsidiaries struck five DPAs with federal prosecutors. Human beings in the C-suite are more amenable to being scared straight, Rakoff said.

“All the studies indicate that you don’t need a lengthy sentence to achieve a major deterrent effect in white-collar crime,” he said. “These are people who their whole self-image is not being behind bars. If they wind up in prison, or they read about someone else spending time in prison, that’s their worst nightmare.”

Rakoff said state prosecutors can also take charge. Some prosecutors in New York have said state laws can make it hard to pursue financial fraudsters and ensure they get stiff sentences, but Rakoff said it comes down to having leaders, such as former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who prioritize white-collar enforcement.

“It is not, in my view, a function of the law in these jurisdictions, or anything else. It’s a function of leadership,” he said.

The legal profession needs reform, and law schools can lead the charge

One reason many judges don’t speak up against plea bargaining and other issues with the court system is that they have hundreds of cases to resolve and couldn’t possibly try them all, or even 10% of them. It’s not just judges who are overworked; lawyers suffer from burnout, and many have substance-abuse issues. At the same time, lawyers are less affordable than ever. In some states, 90% of all family-law and housing-court cases have at least one party who isn’t represented by a lawyer.

Rakoff said that the growing fiscal discipline in corporate legal departments has put pressure on the business of law firms. With routine real estate and contract review usually being performed in-house, outside counsel is often brought in for unusual or high-stakes situations, such as big mergers or litigation. That kind of specialization has helped law firms’ rates rise faster than inflation; at some elite firms, even associates are billed out for over $1,000 an hour.

Rakoff declined to weigh in on calls to abolish or reform bar exams, but said there is a need for “the legal equivalent of a nurse practitioner” to provide reasonably priced advice in run-of-the-mill legal situations. Echoing many economists, Rakoff said lawyers are a “cartel,” and that they can be expected to try to protect their monopoly on legal advice. The state of Washington has experimented with limited-license legal practitioners, and other states, such as Utah, are trying new business models to deliver legal services.

“I do think that the leadership in this area most naturally would come, or initiate, in law schools with law professors,” Rakoff said, adding that forward-thinking bar associations could also take a leading role. “I think they have historically been the source of much reform.”

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From 'vanilla' skirt suits to 'too-tight' shirts: Female lawyers describe how it's impossible to win when it comes to professional dress codes

A large hand holding a gavel with a woman of color with her hands on her hips and a white man next to her with a spotlight over him on a purple background.

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In 2009, Emily Galvin-Almanza, a public defender, drove five hours to a California state prison to visit a client. As she approached the metal detectors, a male officer turned her away.

The reason? Her bra.

Lawyers and loved ones who visit correctional facilities are subject to strict dress codes: no skirts shorter than 2 to 3 inches above the knee, no sleeveless tops, no open-toed shoes — and no underwire bras.

So Galvin-Almanza marched back to her car, tore up the stitching of her plain, beige Victoria’s Secret bra, and pulled out two C-shaped bands of wire from it. She sure as hell wasn’t going to drive home without doing her job, she told herself.

“These are 19th-century modesty rules,” Galvin-Almanza said. “There’s no rational basis for them.” 

The rules in that prison weren’t an anomaly. In prisons and courtrooms across the US, strict dress codes disproportionately affect female-presenting lawyers. As in-person prison visits and courtroom trials begin to reopen, women are contending with renewed concerns over how their wardrobes influence their work.

A persistent history of harsh dress codes for women

Professional dress codes for women have been relaxed since several decades back, when drab skirt suits with hems below the kneecaps were the fashion du jour and women in pants were taboo in office settings.

But even as recently as a handful of years ago, law firms, law schools, and bar associations instructed female lawyers on what they should and shouldn’t wear. In 2010, the Chicago Bar Association held a “What Not to Wear Fashion Show,” where a panel of judges commented on legal-fashion faux pas, from tightly fitted suits to dark nail polish and hair in a ponytail. 

According to a blogger who attended the show, one professor said, “Maybe you bought your suit at Express or somewhere … and you bent over to get a Danish and I can see your tramp stamp.”

While dress-code guidance has been made in the name of professionalism, female lawyers told Insider that the rules sought to hold women responsible for men’s reactions.

“These justifications are a vestige of white-male privilege that dominates our culture,” Jennifer Sellitti, a training director at the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, said. “It’s demeaning to see others think you can’t handle yourself as a professional.”

Sellitti said she had wasted countless hours changing her outfits before visiting clients in prison to make sure they wouldn’t be deemed inappropriate.

Professional dress codes also often fail to take into account the way that clothes look on different body types. 

“I once wore a flowy shirt that didn’t show any cleavage. But a former professor looked at me and said it looked like I was trying to show off my breasts, and my opposing counsel would think that’s what I was trying to do,” Ashley Kincaid Eve, a civil-rights attorney, said. “It floored me, and the worst thing is, it made me question myself.”

Judges sometimes weigh in on courtroom attire

Courts are traditionally conservative, and most US courts expect lawyers of all genders to adhere to specific dress codes as a sign of respect. But the rules often place a greater burden on female-presenting lawyers.

Corporette, a fashion and lifestyle blog for professional women, advises that women dress “vanilla” when appearing in court and “absolutely” recommends “wearing a skirt for the first few days, if only until you get a feel for the judge and the lay of the land.”

Female lawyers often share judges’ sartorial preferences — and attitudes toward nonmale attorneys — via whisper networks across the legal profession. There are some judges, for example, for whom “a skirt suit with pantyhose is pretty much mandatory,” Galvin-Almanza said. “All of these gendered norms are completely, overtly reinforced in the courthouse.”

While judges won’t explicitly issue such dicta, attorneys have been pulled aside by court marshals and told they should use all the buttons on their blouse or refrain from wearing too-tight suits, according to women who spoke with Insider. Other aspects of appearance, like makeup, hairstyles, and shoes, are scrutinized as well.

Women of color face heightened scrutiny

Things can be doubly difficult for women of color, who often have to contend with implicit biases based on their race.

“I practice in a jurisdiction where a lot of clients fortunately look like me, but I need to make sure I look different to make sure people take me seriously as a lawyer,” Heather Pinckney, a managing partner at the DC firm Harden & Pinckney, said.

Pinckney, who often has her hair in braids or “anything somebody’s rocking on the street,” said that she’d been stopped by marshals and court officials who assumed she wasn’t an attorney — and that her white colleagues, dressed in similar fashion, hadn’t been confronted in this way. 

“What about me doesn’t look like a lawyer? Is it because I’m a short Black woman?” she said.

Pregnancy can bring added dress-code complications

A few years ago, the human-rights attorney Jessica Jackson was denied a visit with an incarcerated client because her shirt was too stretchy. Jackson was eight months pregnant at the time. She drove up the road to the nearest Target and bought the biggest T-shirt she could find. By the time Jackson changed and returned to the correctional facility, half her allotted time with her client was over.

“It’s not just the delays,” Jackson said on the effect dress codes can have on her work. “You’re basically told you’re too young, too pretty — you’re totally discredited.”

Jackson hasn’t forgotten the incident. She’s pregnant again and worried about a repeat incident, she said. 

In early June, Jackson was preparing for her first in-person visit to a correctional facility since the start of the pandemic. Jackson, nearly five months pregnant, was stressed about what to wear and ultimately landed on a conservative all-black outfit — plus an extra pair of pants, in case the first pair was too tight.

“I shouldn’t need to think about all that stuff,” Jackson said. “I should’ve been able to relax and use that time I spent finding a sports bra to focus on my client’s case instead.”

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