Lawyer who called female judge's opinion 'succubustic' sues over potential ethics charges

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A California lawyer contends that he was advocating within permissible bounds when he called a female judge’s opinion “succubustic,” a reference to a female demon that has intercourse with men in their sleep.

San Diego lawyer Benjamin Pavone filed an Aug. 11 federal lawsuit against the State Bar of California after he received a draft notice of disciplinary charges that contends that his wording displayed “manifested gender bias.” The notice also said Pavone failed to maintain respect to court officers when he accused the judge of intentionally refusing to follow the law.

Law360 and Bloomberg Law have coverage.

Pavone contends that the draft notice “infringes on permissible advocacy of a practicing attorney,” in violation of his First and 14th Amendment rights. He filed the suit after negotiations to resolve the potential charges failed to reach a resolution.

The trial judge targeted by Pavone had denied his request for attorney fees after he won about $8,000 for his male client in a sexual harassment suit against his employer. The client alleged that his supervisor made sexual advances and asked him to go on a same-sex cruise.

The state bar charges relate to documents that Pavone filed in the case.

In an April 2017 notice of appeal, Pavone wrote that the plaintiff appeals from the trial judge’s “disgraceful” order.

“The ruling’s succubustic adoption of the defense position, and resulting validation of the defendant’s spseudohermaphroditic misconduct, prompt one to entertain reverse peristalsis unto its four corners,” Pavone wrote.

In appellate briefs, Pavone said the trial judge’s tenor had changed after the plaintiff criticized the competency of a former judge in the case. The trial judge “issued a mindlessly one-sided ruling” on fees that “abandoned any interest in utilizing detached legal analysis,” Pavone said.

“Here, the trial judge was motivated to rule against [plaintiff] in what must be the intoxicating effects of wielding the power to break the law, in order to reach a desired result,” Pavone wrote.

In his federal lawsuit against the bar, Pavone says the “succubustic” statement “used a colorful (or caustic, depending on one’s viewpoint) metaphor to criticize a court ruling.” The bar misinterpreted the statement as a personal attack, he said.

Pavone said his criticisms of the judge in appellate briefs “were founded in an advocate’s legitimate rights to assert and allege judicial bias, so as to create and sow doubt in the minds of the state appellate court about the credibility and accuracy of the trial court ruling.”

See also: “Weekly Briefs: Walter Dellinger dies at 80; lawyer’s ‘succubustic’ comment deemed protected speech”

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