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Stropnicky v. Nathanson

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
19 M.D.L.R. 39 (1997)


Facts

Attorney Nathanson (defendant) ran a practice in which she limited her acceptance of divorce cases to the representation of female clients. Joseph Stropnicky (plaintiff) called Nathanson’s office to request assistance in his divorce proceedings and was informed about her policy of representing only women. Stropnicky insisted upon speaking directly with Nathanson. Upon returning Stropnicky’s call, Nathanson described differences in the typical circumstances of a wife in divorce proceedings relative to those of a husband and declined to represent Stropnicky without further inquiry into the particular issues and circumstances involved in his case. Stropnicky filed a complaint with the Massachussetts Commission Against Discrimination (Commission). In testimony before the Commission, Nathanson explained that her decision to limit her representation in divorce cases to women supported her own personal values, benefited her clients by affording Nathanson greater credibility in the courts, heightened clients’ comfort level, and helped address issues of gender bias in family law. Nathan testified that she would not refuse to represent men in issues not involving a conflict between a man and a woman. The Commission concluded that Nathanson’s refusal to represent a client solely due to gender amounted to unlawful discrimination.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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