In a move that combines two of last week’s biggest headlines, Paula Deen is trying a legal maneuver that she hopes will get some of the heat off her beleaguered image and empire. First, a little background.
As we explained yesterday, the reason the news from the United States Supreme Court was so good for Prop 8 opponents last week was not because the Court found FOR same-sex marriage. Rather, it was because the Court declined to hear any argument at all in the case, finding instead that those parties that were contesting the district court ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional had no “standing” to argue the case.
That term, “standing”, is very important in matters of civil jurisprudence. Essentially, what that means is that any plaintiff in a lawsuit must show that they themselves were directly harmed in some way by the actions of another. The Court was saying that the backers of Prop 8 were in no position to be harmed by the overturn of the amendment. Gay marriage did not hurt them. So SCOTUS didn’t even bother to hear arguments in the case. They simply tossed it out as baseless because the plaintiffs had no “standing”.
The same principle of a plaintiff needing “standing” is what has gotten several “birther” lawsuits thrown out of court over the past several years. No one was able to prove that they were personally damaged by not having seen a birth certificate for President Obama that they thought passed muster. The suits have been tossed out before the whole game even started.
This principle is important because it prevents me from going to work, witnessing a co-worker in an argument with another person in which the “n-word” or some other form of harassment gets used, then taking it upon myself to sue the offender simply as a bystander. If anyone is going to sue, it must be the person harmed or offended.
As we also reported yesterday, Paul Deen’s accuser Lisa Jackson has charged that Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers fostered a working environment rife with sexual harassment and racial epithets. Most of those charges seem to be specifically leveled at Hiers. But she did specifically accuse Deen of using racial epithets. It is that accusation that has led to all the public crying and denials for the past week.
But the question is: did White have “standing” to complain about racial epithets? As many have pointed out, White is, well, white. She is not African-American. Therefore, the “n-word” was never leveled at her by anyone. Surely her attorneys would have had some notion of “standing”. So White contends that she is “African-American adjacent”. She claims that her nieces are mixed race, with a black father. Therefore she was offended by the alleged use of the “n-word” in her presence because she has family that is black.
However, Paula Deen has already retorted that Lisa White’s nieces are not black. They are Hispanic. Whether that is true or not, it is certainly established that White herself is, well, white. And as such, she can not claim racial discrimination of herself. So Deen and Hier’s attorneys are now quoting from the SCOTUS statements dismissing the Prop 8 suit, pointing specifically to the notion of “standing”. They say that the lines of questioning about racial discrimination should have never even been a part of the suit.
All this may be too little too late, even if it succeeds. And it still leaves the sexual harassment side of the suit. But one really has to ask: Why did Deen’s lawyers take this long and let her sit through a deposition answering those questions before bringing up the notion of “standing”? This is not an obscure principle. It was so common, in fact, that White tried to cover it with her own “African-American adjacent” statements.