Sunday, September 11, 2016

In the matter of Human Race v. Estrich

By Scott V. Sandford
Justice Correspondent

Our old friend Alessandra Stanley '77 today haled Susan Estrich before the bar of justice and surprisingly to us at least let her off with a warning.

We're not as kind as Alessandra.

The charges are grave: that Estrich did knowingly and willfully use her position and her reputation to smear innocent, indeed heroic, journalists for publishing truthful reports about her loathsome client, Roger “The Ladies' Man” Ailes, who was lately given his walking papers from Fox for tormenting and some cases rogering his female subordinates.

Those of a certain age will recall Susan Estrich as a pioneer if not a heroine: she survived both rape and serving as first female President of the Harvard Law Review.  Then she went on to join the brains trust running the 1988 campaign for Michael Dukakis, which made him what he is today.   A bright career as a smart politically-adept law professor and activist lay ahead of her.

Rogerin' Roger's mouthpiece, Susan Estrich
Then she made a fatal mistake: she moved to Los Angeles, and, after many years in the hot sun, she started writing about dieting and such, and became buddies with The Ladies' Man.  Still later, she became a big-bucks partner in a fancy California law firm.

As Ms. Stanley recounts, it was only natural when The Ladies' Man's sordid past finally caught up with him that he would turn to Ms. Estrich for the finest representation $1,100 an hour could buy (paid for naturally by his employer, the almost-equally-loathsome Rupert Murdoch).

Now we would be the last person to deny a smart person the right to earn big bucks as a mouthpiece, and we wouldn't object to representing the loathsome, like Rogerin' Roger.  After all, without horrible clients, lawyers would never be able to buy that $8 million fixer-upper in Malibu.

Zealous representation of odious clients in court rooms and pleadings is what lawyers do.  What they shouldn't be doing is out-of-court smearing of those exposing or opposing their client's depredations.  As Ms. Stanley reports, Counselor Estrich took the fatal step leading to a life of slime:
But what really turned heads was Ms. Estrich’s zeal in attacking the New York magazine reporter who first broke the scandal. Interviewed for an article in The Daily Beast, she said, “Ultimately, it will become clear that the real enemy of women is Gabe Sherman.”

That sounded a little like a “jerks and perks” defense, and Ms. Estrich went on to suggest that Mr. Sherman, who published an unflattering biography of Mr. Ailes in 2014, had his own agenda for pursuing the story. She told The Daily Beast that Mr. Sherman was willing to “use and abuse” vulnerable women to pursue a vendetta against Mr. Ailes. (Mr. Sherman declined to comment.)
Portia went on:
Gabe Sherman has made clear that nothing will stand in the way of his vendetta against Roger Ailes, and he will use any woman he can find — no matter how clearly and deeply troubled she is — to try to concoct allegations against Mr. Ailes.
What is going on here?  This isn't a legal pleading.  The journalist Gabe Sherman isn't a party to the any cases against Ailes.  He isn't even a witness (it would be hearsay).  What's happening is that Susan Estrich is using her position and her former reputation for integrity to smear an honest journalist.  Her goal is to intimidate Sherman and other intrepid reporters from pursuing stories about the revolting conduct of her client and indeed to intimidate other women from telling their stories of mistreatment at, uh, his hands.

She also sends the message to other victims of the rich and powerful that anyone who complains will be smeared and intimidated by high-priced lawyers, as long as the client or his employer continues to pay the bills.

We certainly hope the Boston Police did not write off her rape complaint as the concoction of a clearly and deeply troubled Wellesley College student, but given the climate of the time, who knows?

Oh, and by the way, Sherman has now written thousands of words about Ailes.  Despite the best efforts of Estrich, supported no doubt by a platoon of $500-an-hour associates at Quinn Emanuel, not a single one of Sherman's claims has been refuted on the merits.  Thus far, everything that has come to light, including Ailes's departure in disgrace, supports Sherman's reporting and refutes Estrich's ad hominem attacks.

Perhaps vile clients now expect out of court smearing as part of the services they purchase from mouthpieces like Estrich and her New York accomplice, Mark Mukasey.  And perhaps that infinity pool cost a hell of lot more than she anticipated.  But none of that erases the line between zealous representation in court and sliming those who dared at great personal risk to reveal the true hideousness of one's clients.

So we're not going to let Susan Estrich off as easily as Alessandra did.  We sentence her to life imprisonment in a hellish pit of fire, smoke, Kombucha tea colonics, and narcissistic entitlement.  In other words, Los Angeles.

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