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A white woman can't sue for racial discrimination, Deen's lawyer argues

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Paula Deen invokes same-sex marriage ruling in lawsuit defense

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 6:48 PM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013

Deen uses Prop 8 ruling in suit defense
  • NEW: Law professor says the Prop 8 ruling is not relevant to the Deen case
  • A white woman can't sue for racial discrimination, Deen's lawyer argues
  • Deen's motion cites last week's Supreme Court ruling on California's Prop 8
  • The high court ruled private citizens had "no standing" to appeal same-sex ruling

(CNN) -- Celebrity chef Paula Deen hopes the Supreme Court's ruling allowing same-sex marriage to be legal in California will help in her defense against a racial discrimination lawsuit.

The woman alleging that she was subjected to a hostile work environment while working as an assistant manager at Deen's restaurants is white and therefore doesn't have the "standing," or legal right, to claim racial discrimination, according to a motion filed Monday by Deen's lawyer.

The high court rejected an appeal of California's Proposition 8 law last week on the grounds that the private parties behind the appeal did not have standing to defend the ballot measure barring gay and lesbian couples from state-sanctioned wedlock.

Even if the federal judge in Savannah, Georgia, accepts the argument and tosses the lawsuit, much damage has already been done to Deen's career and businesses by the public fallout from a deposition in which she acknowledged using the "N-word."

She said she had probably used the racial slur when talking to her husband about "when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head" -- an incident that took place 30 years ago.

Asked if she had used it since then, she said, "I'm sure I have, but it's been a very long time." She noted that circumstances have changed "since the '60s in the South."

Many of Deen's lucrative business relationships have crumbled in the wake of media coverage of the lawsuit. She has lost at least nine endorsements along with her Food Network cooking show, and publication of her eagerly anticipated cookbook has been canceled.

Deen attorney William Franklin's motion, filed Monday with the U.S. District Court in Savannah, cited the June 26 Supreme Court decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the California case.

"Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts made this observation: Article III of the Constitution confines the judicial power of federal courts to deciding actual 'Cases' or 'Controversies,'" the motion said. "One essential aspect of this requirement is that any person invoking the power of a federal court must demonstrate standing to do so. This requires the litigant to prove that he has suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct, and is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision."

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told CNN Tuesday the contention that the Prop 8 ruling is relevant to the Deen case won't hold water.

The concept of standing is hardly new, and the Supreme Court bringing it into the spotlight in Hollingsworth v. Perry doesn't not advance Deen's motion to dismiss the case, Turley said.

Deen's accuser: 'This has never been about the N-word'

Lisa Jackson, the plaintiff in the suit against Deen is white, has no standing because she couldn't have suffered "a personal and tangible harm" from hearing the "N-word" on the job, the Franklin's , motion says.

In the Prop 8 case, state officials refused to pursue an appeal when a federal judge struck down the same-sex marriage ban. Private citizens picked it up, ultimately to be told by the high court last week that they had no standing to do so.

Jackson is a former manager at Deen's restaurants in Savannah, Georgia. She is suing Deen and her brother, Bubba Hier, alleging they committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of her five-year employment at Deen's Lady & Sons and Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House eateries in Savannah.

She gave a statement to CNN's Don Lemon through her lawyer, Matthew Billips, on Monday.

"This lawsuit has never been about the N-word," she said. "It is to address Ms. Deen's patterns of disrespect and degradation of people that she deems to be inferior. I may be a white woman, but I could no longer tolerate her abuse of power as a business owner, nor her condonation of Mr. Hier's despicable behavior on a day-to-day basis. I am what I am, and I am a human being that cares about all races, and that is why I feel it is important to be the voice for those who are too afraid to use theirs."

Deen's lawyer has called the allegations false, and Deen has said she does not tolerate prejudice.

Deen made an emotional appearance on NBC's "Today Show" last week in which she called the accusations "horrible, horrible lies."

"I believe that every creature on this Earth, every one of God's creatures, was created equal," she said. "... I believe that everyone ought to be treated equal."

Deen was raised to never be unkind to anyone, she said.


So what do you say?  Should a non minority be able sue for a hostile work environment due to the treatment of mintories in said work place even if the individual wasn't subjected directly to the discrimination and bias?  

by on Jul. 2, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Replies (51-56):
by Obama licker on Jul. 3, 2013 at 8:46 PM

Get back to me when you e actually read the lawsuit and you have something to argue...

Quoting DestinyHLewis:

So you choose to deflect, got it. 

Quoting Momniscient:

So that's a no. There are no lawsuits against spike lee for the same thing and you are just trying to vilify him to justify Paula Deens behavior.

Okie doke. Trying reading the lawsuit before making assumptions and she isn't losing everything by any means. Try again.

Quoting DestinyHLewis:

I actually had too lookup the GZ thing. That is not at all what I am speaking of. Paula is being smeared all over the media, and loosing everything. I wasn't referring to the exact contents of the lawsuit. My point is that Spike has been a known prejudicial person for a long time, yet he escapes backlash everytime. People accept or ignore it.  What he has done and continues to do was within the last 20 years, not before. Paula apologized, but yet she is seeing her worked for life crumble. Spike? Singing in the shower. I'm not ignoring what she is being sued for. I am speaking to what is happening to her as a whole. But you are plenty smart enough to know that. 

Quoting Momniscient:

Oh. Were there lawsuits I wasn't aware of? If there were and he got dropped on his endorsement deals, that is what he gets.

You obviously haven't read the lawsuit. Paula Deen is the one who made it about what she said.

It's funny that you are screaming about Spike Lee but he publicly and privately tried to make right when he did that horrible thing with tweeting the address of the wrong George Zimmerman. I'm sorry you are so focused on villifying Spike Lee that you are ignoring what a white woman is being sued for.

Quoting DestinyHLewis:

You said it isn't about what she said, but that is the focus of what I have read and seen. Not to mention... Spike Lee doesn't create hostility? Tell that to the white workers who were not hired on his sets because they are not minorities regardless if they were more qualified. I'd give you a source article if I could, but at the moment I cannot. If there is anything one could or would classify as reverse racism, although I think it  better falls under racial prejudice, he'd be the poster guy. But we never see people calling him on have to really search to see what his practices are. It's just accepted from him. 

Quoting Momniscient:

It isn't about what she said.

It's about the working environment created by hostility toward people who are not white.

If Spike Lee created those environments and he was sued then that would have been a better analogy.

Quoting DestinyHLewis:

This whole thing is insane. Paula is being crucified. Can you imagine if all of us were sued for statements we have made at one time in our life, and it cost is our careers? Just nuts. I love how she is dragged through the mud, but Spike Lee can say whatever the hell he wants, hire whomever he wants, and people just deal. Agh 

by Platinum Member on Jul. 3, 2013 at 8:54 PM

 Exactly.  I've never seen someone who has done more to exacerbate her situation and make it worse.

Quoting FromAtoZ:

The defense using this angle does not look well on their client.


by Obama licker on Jul. 3, 2013 at 8:56 PM
I wondered too. I think she thought she could brush it off and people were offended by her apology... And public opinion snowballed. To me it kinda speaks to the whole problem. She didn't take it seriously because she doesn't seem to understand that the whole nation isn't Savannah Georgia.

Quoting katy_kay08:

I was thinking the same thing, this would have been one lawsuit I would have settled if I had been in her place.   I would also be kicking my racist white trash brother Bubba to the curb.  

Quoting romalove:

I am trying to calculate how much money Paula Deen has lost, not just for herself, but for people who work for her, due to this disastrous lawsuit, and how much it would have cost for her to make it go away by settling.

I am betting settling would have been far cheaper.

by on Jul. 3, 2013 at 9:25 PM

 First of all, I don't think anyone should be able to sue a stockholder.

If those that were receiving poor treatment were also suing, then maybe others can join.  In this case, it is like she is suing on behalf of..and she can't gain from someone else's harm.  kwim

In this case the big problem is the lack of any EEOC complaints.


by Silver Member on Jul. 4, 2013 at 9:09 PM

Paula discriminated against a whole culture with the "n" word.Now she is facing her consequence and cowardly turns the tables??Good luck with that Paula.

by Bronze Member on Jul. 5, 2013 at 12:18 PM

sorry you don't do that shit...

Quoting adeber1:

What do changing the words to the National Anthem and stomping on the flag have to do with Paula Deen? Self-expression maybe, but that's about it!

Quoting juju40:

she's been criticized for using the N word like 20 years ago...yet Lady GAGA changes the words to the National Anthem and she's praised a hero....and LIL Wayne stomps on our flag and nobody says anything...something wrong here

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