Gloria Allred Responds to Criticism of Confidential Sexual Assault-Case Settlements

Gloria Allred -  September 6, 2018 - Getty- H 2019
Sarah Morris/Getty Images

In a piece for the Los Angeles Times, the attorney explained that such agreements don't prevent the victim from testifying against their predator in a criminal court.

In an opinion piece published Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times, women's rights attorney Gloria Allred responded to criticism from New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who have called her out in their new book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, for assisting clients in entering confidential agreements during the legal course of fighting sexual assault cases. The reporters argue that this action "silences" the victims and keeps their stories quiet, which can protect the investigation into the predator.

Allred's law firm has come under the microscope in recent months for negotiating confidentiality agreements for victims of Harvey Weinstein in particular. Since the case opened, she has represented several Weinstein accusers, including actress Heather Kerr, who claimed that Weinstein forced himself on her during a private meeting. Allred's daughter is civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom, who advised Weinstein before she withdrew from his legal team amid backlash. 

In August, Weinstein pled not guilty in a new indictment that includes revised charges of predatory sexual assault. Because of this development, his trial has been delayed until 2020.

In her opinion piece, Allred explains her decision to support victims who choose to enter confidential agreements. "The MeToo movement has elevated the voices of sexual assault victims," she wrote, "making it more likely that victims will come forward. But movement supporters are wrong to attack confidential settlement that can help vulnerable victims get a measure of justice."

Allred goes on to say, "Some people may be shocked that lawyers, especially a feminist lawyer like me, would ever assist a client to enter a confidential agreement. The alternative, however, would be to insist that victims be denied the choice to settle their case, and be forced to file lawsuits, appear for depositions, answer interrogatories, testify publicly under oath and take the risk that a jury will not believe them. Even if a jury finds in the victim's favor, the defendant could appeal and the victim may never collect anything at all if the defendant is successful."

Allred has been practicing law for 43 years, and in that time has represented numerous victims of rape and sexual assault. She explains that each victim should have choices when asserting their legal rights, and that includes entering into a settlement that avoids litigating their case publicly: "I fully support victims who choose to go public with their claims and I equally support victims who want to maintain their privacy and confidentially settle their claims. As a private victim’s rights attorney, my duty is to support my client in the choice she makes."

Allred emphasizes that many victims choose to enter these confidential agreements because they do not want family members, friends or members of the public learning of their case. "Advocates who call confidential settlements 'hush money' are ignorant of the law," writes the attorney, noting that even if a victim has entered into such an agreement, she may still testify in a criminal case against the predator and share what happened to her with law enforcement.

Concludes Allred: "We believe victims should have the right to choose whether or not to enter into a voluntary confidential settlement and no one, including the press and politicians, should take that right and choice away from victims."