Unethical Quote Of The Month (Lawyer Representing A Hypocritical And Unethical Client Division): Keith Wyatt

“She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher. She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn’t she be responsible for that?”

—-Lawyer Keith Wyatt, L.A. Unified School District’s trial attorney who successfully defended it in a law suit by the family of a middle school girl who had been engaged in a six month sexual relationship with her math teacher. The girl’s family claimed the district negligently permitted the teacher’s criminal conduct to occur and that the teacher’s exploitation of the girl had caused emotional damage to their daughter. Wyatt also told a radio interviewer that it was a more dangerous for a 14-year-old to cross a street in traffic than to have sex with her middle-school teacher.

Yes, he’s an idiot.

Yeah, those middle school tarts all want it, right, Keith?

Yeah, those middle school tarts all want it, right, Keith?

The school district fired him, disavowing and apologizing for his comments. Yet they were willing to let Wyatt argue in court—on the school’s behalf, remember— that a 14-year-old middle school student was mature enough to consent to having sex with her 28-year-old teacher, and that she shared responsibility for what happened. Wyatt introduced the girl’s sexual history into evidence as proof of his client’s lack of culpability.

There is nothing wrong or unethical about Wyatt’s tactics in the trial itself. State law is weird in this area—this is California, after all, home of Hollywood, Roman Polanski fans, Woody Allen enablers, Miley Cyrus and the Kardashians—for while the age of consent is 18 in criminal cases, two appellate court rulings have held that the argument that a minor can consent to sex with an adult is permissible in civil law suits. He did what the law permitted him to do in defense of his client. That’s not just ethical lawyering, it is at the core of legal ethics. The argument won. Wyatt did what he was trained to do, paid to do, and obligated to do if he agreed to take the case

However, it is a revolting and irresponsible argument for any school or school district to make. Wyatt should have made this clear, and maybe he did (though that quote doesn’t support such a supposition.) Who in their right mind–well, OK, this is L.A.–would send their child to a school system that takes the position that a 14-year-old student is responsible when she is raped by her 28-year-old teacher, and that she’s really not being harmed if he does? The teacher, Elkis Hermida, was convicted of lewd acts against a child and sentenced in July 2011 to three years in state prison. 

Wyatt’s post verdict statements were completely unnecessary, took legal arguments into the sphere of public relations and opinion, subjected his client to unfavorable media focus and criticism, and constituted yet another example of a lawyer being unable to resist publicity. The school district had to fire him, but the statement issued by Dave Holmquist, the school district’s general counsel, statement is beyond belief in its hypocrisy

“Mr. Wyatt’s comments yesterday were completely inappropriate, and they undermine the spirit of the environment we strive to offer our students every day. This spirit drives more than just our actions in the classroom, it defines how we approach all of our work—especially the way we discuss and handle the sensitive litigation matters that we deal with. These comments were a total violation of that spirit. Respect and empathy must be at the core of how we approach these cases, and Mr. Wyatt’s remarks did not reflect that commitment.”

Yes, Mr. Holmquist, and neither does the trail defense you approved for your client. If the L.A. Unified School District really had empathy and respect, you wouldn’t have hired Keith Wyatt to do the dirty work of dragging a 14-year-old girl through the mud to avoid paying damages. You would have agreed to an out of court settlement.

Wyatt was reckless and wrong to shoot off his mouth after the trial. Holmquist and the school district, however, cannot honestly disavow his comments, because they were an accurate representation of position they allowed him to make in court for their benefit.

__________________________

Facts: SCPR, LA Times

12 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Month (Lawyer Representing A Hypocritical And Unethical Client Division): Keith Wyatt

  1. What happened between the teacher and the girl occurred in a motel outside of school hours. Unless it can be shown that the school district had some cause to believe there may be something inappropriate going on between the teacher and student then I can not see how the school district should be held liable. It is not for the schools to moniter what teachers or students do outside of school hours.
    But it is part of the parents duties to look out for thair daughter, so where were they during these six months? Not looking out for their daughter that’s for sure. And after neglecting their parental duties they sue the school district in order to make some money.

    • The school hired the guy. The girl’s exposure to him was under school auspices. The school makes a representation of trust that its employees won’t harm the children Were there clear employee guidelines? Training? Previous hints and clues?

      • “Were there clear employee guidelines? Training?”
        What! Does a teacher actually have to be told that they can not have sex with students?

          • Okay, so it’s not different. So when they sued did they show there was no provision against sex with students in the manual or that the teacher had not signed the manual.
            It just seems odd that an employer needs to tell an employee (with the appropriate paper trail) that they can’t break the law and if they don’t they may be sued.

            • It may be odd, Errol, but that’s the way it is, certainly. Remember the warning on cigarette packs, beer cans and liquor bottles, cough syrup and glue and paint. Apparently, if you don’t TELL somebody that they are forbidden from engaging is illegal acts, we assume they are too stupid to figure it out. At the risk of starting another war, no such warnings are required by those states that have legalized marijuana.

              • But the purchase of cigarette packs, beer cans and liquor bottles, cough syrup and glue and paint is not illegal so the warnings on them are to warn purchasers that misuse of those legal items can be dangerous, whereas anything illegal can’t be legally purchased so why would the state require a warning on something people should not purchase anyway?
                Therefore warnings should be required in those states that have legalized marijuana.

                • Sorry, Errol, I was attempting to agree with you, albeit poorly. My point it, like yours, we are assuming that people are so stupid that they cannot figure out that breaking the law in a field in which NOT breaking the law is terribly important will get them fired. Therefore, it is obviously the schools fault he broke the law….NOT. The rest of the warnings I mentioned are a result of assuming people are too stupid to figure out that engaging in the associated behaviors are at the least not good for you.

  2. More than this lawyer’s antics, the attitude of the school district itself worries me. Did the implications of this case even sink in? A 14 year old girl was led into sexual promiscuity by her own teacher! This is going to have profound consequences on her life. It would have even if her name hadn’t been dragged around in public as well. Just as bad is the California court system. THREE years for this? That’s the next thing to being released on probation! Are children held so dismissively in Los Angeles?

  3. If the L.A. Unified School District really had empathy and respect, you wouldn’t have hired Keith Wyatt to do the dirty work of dragging a 14-year-old girl through the mud to avoid paying damages. You would have agreed to an out of court settlement.

    Why should LAUSD settle if they have appellate court precedent on their side?

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