Gloria Allred on Bad Men, Feminism, and Leaving Philly Behind
Gloria Allred has made a career and a sizable fortune out of making miserable the lives of famous men accused of misdeeds, malfeasance, and murder, from Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson to Arnold Schwarzenegger and, most recently, fellow Philadelphia native Bill Cosby. But back in the early 1960s, she was a single mom with a diploma from Girls’ High and $100 to her name. We caught up with the feared legal titan at her office in Los Angeles for a quick chat.
Your website describes you as, among other things, a “feminist lawyer.” Decades after the peak of the women’s lib movement, what does that mean exactly, and why is it important?
I didn’t know that it had peaked, Victor, but that’s OK. I believe in political and social and economic equality for women with men, and I believe in equal protection for women under the law and in equality in every aspect of life. That’s it.
At this point, I don’t have any cases involving this issue, but individuals should contact me so that I can evaluate the facts and the law to determine if I can help them.
Other than Bill Cosby, what types of cases are you working on right now?
We are the best-known and most successful private women’s rights law firm in the nation. Our main focus is really employment. We handle many plaintiffs’ sexual harassment cases, but also race discrimination, age discrimination, national origin, religious discrimination, sexual orientation, and AIDS discrimination. These are the main areas of expertise. And we represent individuals suing powerful, famous wrongdoers of all types: batterers, sexual harassers, murderers, and others who have inflicted injustice on our clients.
Have you ever represented one plaintiff group larger than the one that has accused Cosby? You have more than 20 clients in that case.
It’s actually 29 now, but there’s only one lawsuit. She alleges that she was 16 years old when she became the victim of sexual misconduct by Cosby at the Playboy Mansion. That’s the case where we recently took his deposition.
But it’s not the largest group. Many years ago, we represented 57 young women who were secretly videotaped changing their clothes. They were changing into Hooters uniforms when they applied for a job at Hooters. I think that’s the largest.
What’s the next step in the Cosby case?
The next step is that we are going to be seeking a second deposition of Mr. Cosby and, in addition, Mr. Cosby’s attorney will be taking the deposition of our client on January 29th.
Why do you need a second deposition? What was wrong with the first?
I can’t elaborate on the reasons. I’m not permitted to comment on any aspect of that deposition that I did in Boston. There is a protective order. That said, there is going to be a hearing to lift that protective order.
For a long time, the Cosby allegations couldn’t get much major media attention, and then over the last year, we’ve been bombarded, so much so that a sort of Cosby fatigue has set in, I think. Are there more stories out there? Or have we heard pretty much all of what there is to say?
There is absolutely more. More women have contacted me who have not yet spoken out publicly, some of whom may do so in the future and some of whom have chosen not to do so. They wanted me to know the information that they had so it would be of assistance to us and our victim. There are definitely more women who wish to speak out in the future who allege that they are victims of Mr. Cosby.
I’ve heard that some accusers have been contacted by detectives in Montgomery County recently. How would a criminal indictment affect the civil cases?
We will proceed with our civil case even if there is a criminal case that is being prosecuted. There’s a different burden of proof, of course. For criminal, it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest burden of proof that exists in law. But a civil case is much lower. We need only prove our case by a preponderance of the evidence. Well, if we’re seeking punitive damages, we need to prove it by “clear and convincing” evidence, which is more than a preponderance and less than reasonable doubt.
What are you hearing about a potential indictment?
Only the prosecutor knows this. But I believe that the statute of limitations in the Pennsylvania case runs out in January. There is also a criminal investigation in Los Angeles.
After spending the majority of your life in Los Angeles, do you miss Philadelphia?
I actually love Philadelphia. I grew up there. Went to Mitchell Elementary, Shaw Junior High. I graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls and the University of Pennsylvania. I taught at Benjamin Franklin High School, and I was also an assistant buyer at Gimbels department store. I still come back on a fairly regular basis. My best friend lives in Philly.
What made you leave?
I wanted to take my five-year-old to California. I took her and one suitcase and $100 and moved to Los Angeles, taking a job teaching in Watts at Jordan High School. When I was in Philadelphia, they had sent recruiters from Los Angeles seeking teachers. I met with a recruiter and asked if I could teach in Watts, and they said, How soon can you come?
There had been white flight out of the schools in Watts after the Watts riots — or rebellion depending on your point of view — and I definitely wanted to teach in Watts. If I was going to be poor and have a limited income as a teacher and as a single parent, I preferred to be poor in the sunshine, and that’s why I left. I left to start a new life.