Deanna Paul writes, "Buried in a footnote, the brief rebuke nonetheless marked a notable step in abridging gender discrimination in the legal workplace: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit scolded a veteran judge for making sexist comments in his Houston courtroom, calling his remarks 'demeaning, inappropriate, and beneath the dignity' of his profession.
U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes had been presiding over a criminal case against Simone Swenson, an adoption agency owner charged with fraud.
Under federal rules, prosecutors are permitted to wait until just before trial to turn over pieces of evidence, known as discovery. But when a female federal prosecutor delivered stacks of new documents during four pretrial conferences in early 2017 — weeks after the final discovery date set by Hughes — the septuagenarian judge was not impressed.
'You’re supposed to know what you’re doing,' Hughes said to an assistant U.S. attorney on Feb. 6, 2017. 'What else is out there that you misplaced or didn’t think was relevant so you didn’t check it at all?'
Hughes dismissed the Swenson indictment, faulting the prosecutor’s mistakes.
Then he said something else that eventually became the basis of the rebuke.
'It was a lot simpler when you guys wore dark suits, white shirts and navy ties,' Hughes said, according to the 5th Circuit. 'We didn’t let girls do it in the old days.'
The U.S. attorney’s office appealed the case’s dismissal, which set up a panel of appellate judges to send back its censorious response.
In reinstating the Swenson case, the appellate court also took an unusual action: It ordered Hughes, now 76, to be replaced with a different judge."