Female Law Clerk Files Civil Suit Against Judge Who Slapped Her Ass With A Legal File

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According to the Billing Gazette, a lawsuit was filed against Fergus County District Court Judge E. Wayne Phillips by a female law clerk who says he "slapped her in the buttocks with a legal file" —I'm guessing the word "in" is a typo, but who knows— and now she is filing a civil lawsuit.

Britt T. Long filed the civil lawsuit in Fergus County District Court on Sept. 12, alleging that Phillips, her boss, caused her "extreme personal stress and embarrassment, anxiety, stress, interrupted sleep, elevated blood pressure, heart palpitations, and other symptoms associated with extreme anxiety."

Long is a lawyer who has worked in the judge's Lewistown office inside the county courthouse as a law clerk since 2008. The lawsuit alleges a civil claim of assault and seeks an unspecified amount for lost wages, medical bills and punitive damages.


Abovethelaw.com's David Lat suggests that this woman should be "made of sterner stuff" —"Britt Long, you live in Montana."— and that perhaps "women in the law need thicker skins." In other words, he believes she may be making a big deal out of a small incident.

Notwithstanding the importance and delicacy of Britt Long's buttocks, the lawsuit has other allegations as well:

The lawsuit also asserts that Phillips should resign from his elected position "to remedy and prevent further instances of this and other violations of his obligations as a judge damaging to the public trust." …
The last paragraph of the three-page complaint states that Phillips "has also inappropriately revealed personal sexual interests from the bench, experienced failures in short-term memory, failure to observe legal procedure and civil procedural rule requirements, repeated and lengthy absences and unavailability for judicial duties over a period of years in a manner detrimental to public safety and public trust."

Lat does making a point of saying that these additional details make the claim seem "a bit more serious than a playful whack on the butt with a manila folder," a vote of approval I'm sure Ms. Long really, really appreciates.

Lawsuit of the Day: This Law Clerk Needs Thicker Skin [AboveTheLaw]


Stranger Bird

Something about the fact that the suit is mostly based on Ms. Long's physical symptoms of stress - rather than the wrong-ness of sexual harassment - kind of bothers me. Like the accusation is skirting around the issue because her lawyers don't think anyone would actually take the sexual harassment charges seriously, but elevated blood pressure, that we can believe.

Not that I don't think her physical symptoms are trifling! I just worry about harassed people who don't have resulting physical symptoms to "prove" that the harassment was a bad thing. It reminds me too much of playing into the kind of attitude that also thinks, "You weren't injured/didn't fight back, so you weren't REALLY raped".