A Stanford professor has been criticized for writing ‘offensive and disparaging’ tweets describing female attorneys who represent men accused of assault as ‘skirts’ who are ‘desperate to prove they are real lawyers’.
Michele Dauber, who is based in California, criticized a number of lawyers including Camille Vasquez, who played a key role in Johnny Depp’s recent defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard.
Following the case, in which a which a jury in Virginia found Ms Heard liable for three counts of defamation against Mr Depp, and him liable for one count against her, Ms Vasquez shot to international prominence.
While much of the attention given to the lawyer has been positive, she has also faced some negativity, including the tweets by Michele Dauber, which described the attorney as a ‘pick me girl’ – a phrase normally used to refer to women who crave male validation.
Johnny Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez, who shot to prominence after the highly publicised trial, was branded a ‘Pick Me Girl lawyer’ by Ms Dauber
Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife for defamation, being awarded in excess of $10 million in damages, when a jury found her liable for three counts of defamation against him
Michele Dauber (pictured) is a professor of law and sociology at Stanford University in California
Taking to Twitter, Ms Dauber wrote: ‘In a society that strips women of real power, some women have learned to seek male approval in the hopes they won’t be raped or abused or humiliated. Sucking up to power might feel good to you but it won’t work. You will be next.’
Continuing the thread, she shared an image of Camille Vasquez, with the words: ‘Of all the women who suck up to male power, women lawyers are the absolute worst of the bunch.
‘Desperate to prove they are “real lawyers” and understanding that being a woman undermines their identity as lawyers, they throw women under the bus as hard and fast as they can.’
When a Twitter user suggested that if Ms Dauber’s son were accused of domestic abuse, she would be happy to have Mrs Vaquez represent him, she replied: ‘If my son was accused of DV [domestic violence] he would have a lot more to worry about than some Pick Me Girl lawyer.’
These tweets have been criticised by British barrister Daniel Shensmith, who runs a YouTube channel providing commentary on legal cases and describing legal terms called Black Belt Barrister.
Michele Dauber, a Stanford professor of law and sociology, referred to Johnny Depp’s attorney Camille Vasquez as a ‘pick me girl’ on Twitter
The tweet was part of a series posted by Ms Dauber, in which she criticised female lawyers, calling them ‘skirts’
Mr Shensmith told FEMAIL the tweets were ‘disappointing’ to read, adding: ‘It is frankly rather shocking to read such offensive and disparaging comments directed toward women lawyers and women in general, let alone from an award-winning Stanford law professor. I had to check the Stanford directory to confirm the same.
‘Ironically, it is my view that such tweets and comments are likely to worsen prejudicial views held by some, rather than help to eliminate them.’
He explained that in the UK, within the Bar Standards Board handbook, acting in a way that is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in the legal profession is considered misconduct.
While lawyers can argue with others online, he suggested ‘tweets such as these would almost certainly cross the threshold’ when it comes to UK guidelines around comments that are ‘likely to diminish public trust and confidence in the profession’.
He added: ‘I would expect that there are similar rules for lawyers in the US and, perhaps, in Stanford’s policies. When joining the legal profession, one assumes and commits to a more measured approach to uphold the trust and integrity in the legal profession and the legal system as a whole.’
With regards to the Tweets about Camilla Vasquez, he said: ‘I believe [they] are potentially defamatory and, in any event, totally unacceptable from any legal professional.
‘Yet further irony is that Ms Vasquez just won a multi-million lawsuit for defamation for an article that did not mention the claimant’s name.
‘In my view, Ms Dauber’s tweet with a screenshot photograph of Ms Vasquez may also for the basis for a defamation claim.’
Ms Dauber highlighted a number of female lawyers who have worked on unpalatable cases, representing clients including Harvey Weinstein, branding them ‘skirts’
As well as Ms Vasquez, Ms Dauber also shared tweets listing female lawyers she called ‘skirts’, including those who had represented Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Andrew Cuomo among others.
Discussing the representation of clients accused of particularly egregious charges, Mr Shensmith told FEMAIL that lawyers, and in particular barristers, are required to represent clients ‘promote fearlessly and by all proper and lawful means the lay client’s best interests and to do so without regard to their own interests’.
He added that while some cases may seem unpalatable, in the UK, we also have a ‘cab-rank’ rule, ‘whereby a barrister must take the case without regard to his/her/their personal feelings on the issue if they are available, competent, and offered a proper fee’.
Mr Shensmith explained: ‘I know both male and female barristers that actively seek out such instructions including immigration, human rights, animal protection, domestic violence, sexual violence…we have mechanisms in place that seek to provide fair access to competent representation wherever possible.
‘Where this proves difficult, there are many pro bono establishments such as weareadvocate.org.uk, from whom I have also undertaken pro bono work.’
Since posting the Tweets, Michele Dauber has revealed that she has received horrific online abuse.
She shared a Tweet posted by a fake account, boasting the name and profile picture of her daughter, who died by suicide in 2018.
Amber Heard, pictured here arriving for the reading of the verdict in her case against Johnny Depp, was awarded $2 million by the jury
Addressing the abuse Ms Dauber has received, Mr Shensmith described it as ‘clearly unacceptable’, saying it ‘should invoke a response from authorities to prosecute offenders’.
He added: ‘The fake account is particularly grotesque. Online abuse is never acceptable, any more than it would be in person.’
Ms Dauber’s Tweets follow the contentious six-week defamation trial held in the commonwealth of Virginia, in which a jury of seven found Ms Heard liable for three counts of defamation against Mr Depp.
The jury awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages, and $5 million in punitive, which was adjusted to $350,000.00 to reflect the statutory limit in Virginia, for a total of $10,350,000.
The jury found Mr Depp liable for one count of defamation, awarding Ms Heard $2 million in compensatory damages and nothing in punitive damages.