A lawyer in Colorado who called a judge a “gay fat f*g,” a “fat f****t,” a “homo,” and “Judge Fatso” received three-month stayed suspension and will have to attend sensitivity training for 18 months.
In his defense, he said that he has a gay cousin.
Attorney Robert E. Abrams, who represented a straight married couple in a 2016 case against a contractor, was found to have violated the Colorado judicial system’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which bans lawyers from displaying bias when they’re representing clients.
In a meeting with Judge Phillip Douglass that Abrams and colleague Nicoli Pento attended but the clients didn’t, the judge took a “hostile” tone with Abrams and he had to explain to the husband and wife why their case wasn’t going well.
“The judge hates me,” Abrams wrote in an email to his clients. “It happens, it’s not the first time.”
“I probably remind him of someone who beat him up [when he] was a fat kid and now that he’s a big fat judge he gets even w/ the bullies. Maybe he just hates Jews, who knows?”
The couple asked some more questions about their case and Abrams let them in on the big reason why he was worried: “The judge is a gay, fat, f*g, now it’s out there.”
Things went south between Abrams and the couple, and they ended up filing several complaints against him and turned over the emails as evidence of his unprofessional conduct.
Colorado Supreme Court Judge William Lucero presided over the ethics trial against Abrams. At a hearing, Pento said that Abrams actually used a lot of insults when talking about Douglass, including calling him a “fat f****t,” a “homo,” “Judge Fatso,” and “derivatives of those terms,” according to the Lucero’s decision.
Abrams defended himself at the hearing, saying that he didn’t mean “f****t” as an anti-gay insult, but instead he used it because “that’s how the bullies talked to the weaklings when I grew up.”
He had to use the word f*g, he said, because it conveyed useful information to his clients.
“I can read people,” Abrams said at the ethics trial. “I read people very well. My street read on [Judge Douglass] is that he was a chubby little fat guy that was beaten up in high school, picked on constantly.”
His “street read” also told him that the judge “now has the role that he’s gonna get even with the bullies,” and the word “f*g” was just an insult that bullies used when he was a kid, not an anti-gay slur.
However, as the disciplinary judge wrote in his decision, Abrams did acknowledge that he’s aware that the word “f****t” is an anti-gay slur. And while Abrams claimed he also called the judge a “weakling,” Pento didn’t back him up and said that Abrams pretty much only used anti-gay and fat-phobic language when complaining about the judge.
But Abrams wasn’t done defending himself. He said that the disciplinary hearing was political correctness run amuck. If a lawyer can’t call a judge a “f****t” behind his back, then the America he once knew and loved doesn’t exist anymore… or something like that.
“I came down here to clear my name that I’m not a bigot,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Abrams brought in his gay cousin Steven Givot to testify on his behalf, and the court noted their “warm familial relationship.”
Abrams also said that he once represented Tracks, a Denver LGBTQ nightclub, and he still attends events at the club where he’s “always treated as a VIP.”
But his defense backfired. Lucero wrote in his decision: “Given [Abrams]’s other life experiences — corporate counsel to a major LGBTQ venue and close cousin to a gay man — we believe that [he] was well aware of that linguistic shift.”
That is, if Abrams is really such an ally, then he would already know that “f*g” is a slur – not just the schoolyard taunt he thought it was when he was a kid – and he can’t play dumb.
“The lawyer discipline system does not regulate bigotry. It regulates action,” Lucero concluded. “Here, we do not find that [Abrams] is a bigot or is biased. We find only that he engaged in conduct that exhibited bias, thereby violating his duties to the legal profession and the legal system to treat participants in the legal process with respect and dignity.”
“In his private life, [Abrams] is free to speak in whatever manner he chooses. When representing clients, however, [Abrams] must put aside the schoolyard code of conduct and adhere to professional standards.”
He also violated other professional rules when it came to billing the straight couple, Lucero wrote.
The court gave Abrams a three month suspension, stayed if he behaves himself for 18 months and attends both an ethics class and “eight hours of cultural awareness and sensitivity training.”
Abrams is appealing Lucero’s decision to the Colorado Supreme Court, arguing that the evidence at the ethics trial didn’t support Lucero’s decision.
“In my opinion, there was absolutely no clear and convincing evidence from the exhibits at trial that I exhibited any bias whatsoever,” Abrams told the American Bar Association Journal. “The whole thing is just obnoxiously political correctness.”