She is the most well-known female attorney practicing law today on the planet…GLORIA ALLRED has spent her career fighting for civil rights and victims’ rights. She along with two of her law school classmates Michael Maroko and Nathan Goldberg, founded Allred, Maroko & Goldberg and have been partners for 38 years. Allred, Maroko & Goldberg (AMG) now has ten attorneys. They have been engaged in some of the most famous cases of our time involving Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson and O.J. Simpson, and have successfully taken on more women’s rights cases than any other private law firm in the country. AM&G also represents victims who have been sexually harassed in their employment, or who have faced discrimination on account of their sexual orientation or account of their gender, age, religion, physical handicap or because they have AIDS, or are HIV positive. They also represent adult survivors of sexual child abuse and victims of rape or sexual assault.
Allred has received countless accolades for her extraordinary work throughout her stellar career including being named a So Cal “Super Lawyer” by Law & Politics and Los Angeles Magazine for the past decade and recently, the National Trial Lawyers honored her with their Lifetime Achievement Award. Her busy schedule currently includes ongoing cases in California as well as in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. When I ask her where she lives she refers to a quote in her book, ‘Fight Back and Win, My Thirty-Year Fight Against Injustice – And How You Can Win Your Own Battles’, from Mother Jones that reads, “My address is like my shoes. It travels with me. I abide where there is a fight against wrong.”
Recently, she obtained her license to practice law in New York. She is opening an office in the Big Apple in May 2014 and is also licensed in Washington D.C.
One of the recent cases Allred is most proud of involved San Diego’s former Mayor Bob Filner. Her firm represented the first woman identified as a sexual harassment victim of Filner’s. After filing a lawsuit and holding a news conference other women were encouraged to come forward; one did every single day for almost three weeks. Filner finally resigned, as a result of the mediation of the lawsuit that Ms. Allred filed against him. He was prosecuted for a felony and misdemeanor, pled “no contest” and was convicted. Allred won a $250,000 settlement for her client.
The day of this interview she was up at 5 a.m. to appear in court that morning to represent one of the victims of former NFL Player Darren Sharper (being investigated for allegations of sexual assault and more) then faced the press outside the court because…everybody is always interested in what Gloria Allred has to say. The Tolucan Times sat down with Allred at her L.A. offices for this candid interview.
During your early college years becoming a lawyer was not on your agenda.
I taught English for 6 ½ years in secondary schools in Philadelphia and also in Watts. I earned a secondary school supervision credential and wanted to be a high school principal in the African/American area of Watts but it was the time of the Black Power Movement; and there was a need to place African/American administrators in those schools. That meant I would have had to be a principal in the Valley which at the time was Caucasian. I thought I could make a greater contribution to improving education in those schools if I went to law school instead. Ultimately I did go but then I decided to go into civil rights and victims’ rights law.
Why choose the civil rights platform?
When I began practicing 38 years ago and became President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Organization for Women a number of people asked me to assist them in women’s rights cases. I thought it was my duty to do so, but I had no idea there would be such a continuing need to represent women who are victims of injustice.
Did you ever imagine that you would become a household name often appearing on national TV?
None whatsoever! (Laughs) I just felt I had a duty to speak out against injustice and help my clients; many of them have no voice, no power and no hope. I like to help them find their voice and to empower them to assert their rights. We can do that sometimes in the court of public opinion but more often in a court of law. The majority of the cases that we take are resolved confidentially; nobody even knows we are doing them. We have many cases going on at the same time; some against celebrities, some against businesses and some against typical people. We have an ongoing case against Kanye West right now on behalf of a videographer who was attacked by him at LAX airport.
How did you find the time to star in the Emmy-nominated TV series, “We the People, with Gloria Allred”?
I was sitting in a restaurant having dinner when I was approached by the executive producer Byron Allen to do a show. To my surprise he actually followed up and contacted me! Taking care of my law firm clients is always my priority; I managed to do the show a few days every other week and still take care of my clients. It all worked out. I taped hundreds of segments and it was a lot of fun. I am always interested in new adventures!
Why write ‘Fight Back and Win’?
It is not just a memoir about some of my cases; it is something meant to actually help people. After each chapter I include empowerment lessons to help readers if they are in a similar situation, for example domestic violence or if they are overcharged because they are a woman, or if they are a victim of sexual abuse, or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
What can people do for themselves if they feel they are helpless victims?
It is important to know that there are always options; there are benefits and risks to each one. They need to become informed and understand what their choices are and weigh the benefits vs. the risks, then make a decision about which option they would like to exercise. Doing nothing is a choice – it also has its benefits and risks… I also emphasize that not every battle needs to be fought. I suggest people look forward five years. If you looked back on your life five years from now what would you have wished you had done today?
Retirement is not an option for you right now!
I never plan to retire. I have a lot of energy and am blessed with very good health… I love working. My clients inspire me.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I think my record speaks for itself. We are the leading women’s rights private law firm in the nation, and we have won hundreds of millions of dollars for clients, so I hope people will remember me for fighting for equal rights for women and also for fighting for over 35 years for minority rights, especially gay and lesbian rights. We were the first to announce in California that we would challenge the law banning same sex marriage in California and we litigated that case for six years, twice to the California Supreme Court. As a result of our victory, our clients were allowed to marry and 18,000 other couples were as well. We were also the first to sue the Catholic Church on behalf of a woman who was sexually abused by seven Catholic priests and had a baby by one of them. This lawsuit opened up the conversation about priest sexual abuse within the church. We are pioneering many cases against colleges and universities right now suing them on behalf of rape or sexual assault victims. We are glad that in January President Obama addressed the issue from The White House, appointing a high-level task force from members of his cabinet because as he said to those college victims, “I’ve got your back.”
What do you do in your spare time?
I have no spare time. I am working constantly including on weekends, evenings and holidays. Occasionally, however, I do enjoy walking on the beach and going to the movies. I like being with my family. My daughter [Lisa Bloom] is an attorney. My granddaughter, Sarah, is completing her second year of law school so next year we will have three generations of women lawyers!