Now THIS is Sexual Harassment!

The Arizona Supreme Court has both censured  former municipal court judge Theodore “Ted” Abrams, prohibiting him from serving as a judge again, and disciplined him as an attorney, suspending his law license for two years. Why, you may well ask?

Well, it seems that before he resigned as a judge there was  a bit of a woman problem: if an attractive woman appeared before Abrams as an attorney, she had a problem.

The State Bar of Arizona determined that Abrams, while serving as a judge, “engaged in a prolonged and relentless effort to sexually harass a female assistant public defender who appeared in his court,” as well as, “in a gross misuse of his power, … inflict[ing] his retribution from the bench for the victim’s refusal to yield to his pursuit.”  Over a 14-month period, Abrams sent the woman at least 28 voice mails and 85 text messages, many of which were sexually overt, including one in which he described a sex act he wanted to perform on her. He repeatedly pressured the lawyer for sex, made slurping noises—I’m pretty sure there is something in the judicial code of conduct that prohibits that-– and once fondled her buttocks.

The public defender told him she wasn’t a slurping fan and thus not interested in his attentions. She reminded the judge that it would be inappropriate for them to have a relationship since he was a judge and was also married, as if this was likely to dissuade a judge that sent comely lawyers slurp-a-grams. Predictably, for this is the quid pro quo harasser’s MO, the judge “reminded” the public defender ” of her probationary employment status and his connections in the community,” what is known in the harassment game as “persuasion.”

He then carried through on his threat, subjecting the young woman, the Arizona Bar determined, to “uncharacteristically harsh and inappropriate treatment” in court, falsely accusing her of committing a fraud on the court when she questioned jurisdiction and declaring a mistrial in her first jury trial. Abrams, it seems, was used to getting what he wanted: the bar’s investigation found that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a private defense attorney who had appeared in his court. He also  sent sexually explicit email to an assistant city prosecutor. “And your point is…?,” was Abrams’ reaction: “The Bar’s characterization of me being abusive is not a fair characterization of who I am and who I was as a judge,” he said in his defense.

No, it’s the characterization of a classic sexual harasser with 19th Century sensibilities, who feels that his power and position entitles him to extort women into sexual relationships against their wills. For every one of these creeps that gets caught and punished, there are probably two dozen making women who work with them or for them miserable, depressed, frightened or worse. Sexual harassment laws have made forging legitimate romantic relationships in the workplace a mine field, but don’t blame the laws or the lawyer who help enforce them.

Blame horny, arrogant, power-abusing bullies like Ted Abrams, whose total lack of ethics and decency made, and continue to make, such laws necessary.

5 thoughts on “Now THIS is Sexual Harassment!

  1. Jack – Bravo – Well said…the judge’s conduct in this situation is unconscionable. That any judicial officer or officer of the court would engage in such behavior while being sworn to uphold and enforce the law of the land is truly mystifying. I suspect that the judge would somehow try to justify his actions by noting all the wonderful things he has done professionally. A classic defense that, of course, is flawed in the vast majority of cases. Why? Let’s posit the hypothetical jurist who is an absolute saint 95% of the time and only blatantly lies 5% of the time…isn’t he or she still a terrible liar? Of course! Case closed.

    • Thanks, Michael. And thanks so much for checking in.

      Mr. Daigneault, everyone, is one of the preeminent business, organization and professional ethicists in the US, and the one I am indebted to, because he personally introduced me to the field of ethics training, greatly influenced my approach and methods, and made it possible for me to embark on my own ethics career. He is quire simply the best I have ever seen.

  2. Dear Jack: In what Arizona city did this creature serve as judge? And for how long? If extorting sexual favors from female lawyers was his primary goal, one has to wonder how many miscarriages of justice were inherent in his rulings when the defense attorney in question was female. Did this compulsion of his likewise extend to court employees? Jurors? Defendents?? When a sexual predator is given that kind of authority, anything is possible.

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