It happens to every lawyer at some point: You agree to represent a client and realize later it was a big mistake. The client goes rogue on you. You simply didn’t get the full story during intake.
And so it must be for Jack Tuckner, the lawyer for Debrahlee Lorenzana who claims she was fired from Citibank for dressing too sexy. When I heard the story and saw all the press she was getting, I speculated in a round-up that:
Did curvaceous New York banker Debrahlee Lorenzana get fired for being too sexy? Or do you think, as I do, that her lawsuit over it is merely a publicity ploy for a modeling career?
According to the Village Voice, which broke the story on June 1st:
Her bosses told her they couldn’t concentrate on their work because her appearance was too distracting. They ordered her to stop wearing turtlenecks. She was also forbidden to wear pencil skirts, three-inch heels, or fitted business suits. Lorenzana, a 33-year-old single mom, pointed out female colleagues whose clothing was far more revealing than hers: “They said their body shapes were different from mine, and I drew too much attention,” she says.
As Lorenzana’s lawsuit puts it, her bosses told her that “as a result of the shape of her figure, such clothes were purportedly ‘too distracting’ for her male colleagues and supervisors to bear.”
I thought it was pretty clear, given that she was busy modeling different outfits for the Village Voice, that the lawsuit was done to gain attention. The reaction of Tuckner, who took the case in, was obviously different than mine as can be seen from the photo above left that sits on the front page of his website. He is seeking the publicity.
But it’s doubtful he anticipated that his client was crazy. Nuts, as in the wacko kinds that go on television to discuss their plastic surgery, and how they do it so that others will look at them. As the Daily News subsequently reported, after doing a bit of sleuthing, she’s had two breast implant surgeries, as well as liposuction and a tummy tuck. Or at least, that’s what she had as of the time the show aired back in 2003. (Note to Daily News, that’s called giving proper attribution.) The paper reported:
A Discovery Health Channel series chronicled Lorenzana’s pursuit of plastic surgery perfection, in which she described her desire to be stacked like a Playboy Playmate.
“That’s what I want to be: t— on a stick,” she titters in “Plastic Surgery New York Style.”
The four-part series, which aired in 2003, features a then-26-year-old Lorenzana as she prepares for her fourth plastic surgery – a boob job by Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh that she hoped would make her a “huge, double-D” with “very perky” breasts.
“I love plastic surgery,” Lorenzana said. “I think it is the best thing that ever happened.”
And that is why the case is a 100% loser. If the client is found to be a liar — and it doesn’t really matter too much what she lied about — why would anyone trust her words on the substance of the suit? In the original Village Voice article, obviously done in conjunction with Tuckner, she said:
“Are you saying that just because I look this way genetically, that this should be a curse for me?”
And she also said this:
“It’s so tiring,” Lorenzana tells the Voice. “My entire life, I’ve been dealing with this. ‘Cause people say, ‘Oh, you got a job because you look that way.’
And yet more fodder for the wonderful cross-exams to come by defense counsel:
Meanwhile, she continues to receive unwanted attention. She says she gets hit on constantly and walks on the street as if she were wearing body armor: forward and straight, avoiding everyone’s gaze. “If being less good-looking,” she says, “means being happy and finding love and not being sexually harassed and having a job where no one bothers you and no one questions you because of your looks, then, definitely, I’d want that. I think of that every day.”
Unwanted attention? She had plastic surgery to make her breasts larger and wears tight clothes. She had a tummy tuck and liposuction. She seems to have acquired deeply sought after attention. Whether any of that attention went over a legal line is another question, but that will depend on her credibility.
And that, of course, is the problem. She didn’t always look that way and the curves aren’t genetic. She appears not only to be narcissistic, but if the prior stories and quotes are accurate, a liar as well.
When cases get submitted to juries, they are instructed on the law of liars. It’s called Falsus in Uno. It deals with prior inconsistent statements (which I dealt with in the story of Dr. Flea.) And while this case may go to arbitration instead of a jury, the same law applies, in that the arbitrator/jury can disregard any or all of the testimony of the person if she has testified falsely about a material fact. The exact language used by the court is:
If you find that any witness has wilfully testified falsely as to any material fact, that is as to an important matter, the law permits you to disregard completely the entire testimony of that witness upon the principle that one who testifies falsely about one material fact is likely to testify falsely about everything. You are not required, however, to consider such a witness as totally “unbelievable.” You may accept so much of his or her testimony as you deem true and disregard what you feel is false. By the processes which I have just described to you, you, as the sole judges of the facts, decide which of the witnesses you will believe, what portion of their testimony you accept and what weight you will give to it.
It’s doubtful Tuckner knew about the prior plastic surgery and the comments about her curves being genetic and whatnot. So now he is trying to deal with what lawyers like to call “bad facts.” In this case, he seems to have been dealt an unexpected terminal case of them. Nevertheless, he gamely said to the News:
“Whatever her assets are, they don’t have a right to comment on them or objectify her.”
Given that she was busy objectifying herself, it’s a pretty poor argument to blame others. But then, he doesn’t exactly have a briefcase filled with ammo at this point.
So now he is stuck with a rogue client, and that leaves him just a couple of options:
First: Sit back and get all the publicity and links to his website that he can muster, and the fact that the case is a dog doesn’t matter; or
Second: Do the professional thing and ask the client to get a new lawyer, and if she says no, make a motion to be relieved as counsel.
Personally, I think he should bail out, ASAP. There is a saying that any publicity is good publicity, but I’m not so sure that is true in the digital age where rotten stories seem to stick around longer than they otherwise would. In the old days, one might just remember seeing a name in the paper, without remembering all the details. Now the details are easy to find. And he has his own client as Exhibit A, as her TV appearance now comes back to haunt her and utterly discredit the lawsuit.
Future clients may not trust his judgment when they read about his representing this loser. It may be time to cut his losses, unless, like lawyer/dentist/birther/nutjob Orly Taitz, he thinks that even horrible publicity is a good thing.
Debrahlee Lorenzana: ‘I Want to Be Tits on a Stick’ (NY Mag)
Debrahlee Lorenzana’s Big (Boob) Mistake: Ever Going Into Banking (Village Voice)
Debrahlee Lorenzana’s Breasts: An Attractive Nuisance (Above the Law)
I hate to be an attractive nuisance (True/Slant)
Too Sexy for My Bosses: Why lawsuits based on looks discrimination—even good ones—are a bad idea (Slate)