Attorney Gloria Allred entered the 15th floor conference room of her law offices on Wilshire Boulevard earlier this week and took a seat behind a cluster of microphones cubed with logos from local, national and international news organizations: CNN, Reuters, Fox11, ABC7, KTLA, Inside Edition, Estrella TV and more.
“Today we’re filing a lawsuit against USC,” she declared solemnly, as camera shutters clicked and flash units fired.
It was Allred in her element, which is to say the famed lawyer skillfully addressing the media in a cause related to women’s rights, in this case a student who alleges USC gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall sexually violated her during a 2016 medical exam.
“We allege sexual battery in violation of California Civil Code 1708.5, also battery, gender violence in violation of California Civil Code 52.4, negligent hiring and retention,” Allred told the assembled reporters as her client sat next to her.
A similar scene of an Allred news conference unfolds near the beginning of the documentary Seeing Allred, directed by Roberta Grossman and Sophie Sartain, which Netflix is submitting for consideration in multiple Emmy categories. The film makes a strong case for Allred as a sterling advocate for women and gender equality over a career that stretches across several decades.
“What I seek to achieve is to have victims who come to me to be transformed into survivors, and ultimately fighters for change in some way in their lives,” Allred explains in an interview with Deadline, deflecting attention from herself onto women she represents. “I feel that for many who have seen this [documentary], they’re inspired by the very brave clients they see in the film. They realize that they don’t need to be hopeless and helpless…They can be empowered.”
Many people in the public eye might leap at the chance to have a documentary made about them. Grossman and Sartain insist that wasn’t the case with Allred. The attorney offers a concurring opinion.
“I had a number of concerns,” Allred acknowledges. “I didn’t know Sophie. I didn’t know Roberta prior to this, and I wanted to be sure that I could trust them with this narrative, essentially, about who I am, what I do, why I do it.”
The directors began filming just as Allred took on one of the most prominent cases of her career, representing a series of women who accused comedian Bill Cosby of raping them. His first trial would end in a hung jury and it wasn’t until after Seeing Allred came out that Cosby went on trial again.
Allred was in court in Norristown, Pennsylvania as several of her clients testified about an alleged pattern of misconduct by Cosby, asserting he had drugged and sexually assaulted them decades ago. A jury found him guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault and he awaits sentencing in September.
“He should be incarcerated. He should be sent to prison,” Allred tells Deadline. “For how long, I don’t have a statement about that but I do think for a length of time that is consistent with the severity of these three felonies of which he has been convicted.”
Allred sees the case as validation for the #MeToo movement and vindication for her clients. There was some personal vindication in it too, as Cosby’s attorney Tom Mesereau vainly attempted to impeach one witness on cross-examination by bringing up her association with Allred.
“I would think by this time a criminal defense attorney would understand that they act at their legal peril when they even bring up my name,” Allred comments. “That’s just such an old tactic…As a former English teacher I like creativity, and that is like such a boring script line.”
Allred says she’s used to hearing all sorts of criticism—that she’s self-serving or “in it for the money” (Seeing Allred maintains she represented the alleged Cosby victims pro bono; Allred wouldn’t confirm that to Deadline, saying as a rule she doesn’t comment on whether she is representing someone free of charge).
“Anyone who does seriously fight for women’s rights and for real change is going to be criticized. This is the price we pay for fighting for justice,” Allred states. “I’m willing to pay that price. And that’s fine; while they’re criticizing, I’m working to empower women and win change.”
The 76-year-old attorney is sometimes criticized as well for being humorless.
“That’s not true. She’s extremely funny,” Grossman insists. And indeed, next month Allred will become only the seventh woman roasted in the more than 100-year history of the Friars Club. She promises to come armed with jokes.
“The honoree gets the last word,” she points out. “So yeah, you have to take it, but then you get to give it.”
Allred famously sued to become the first dues-paying woman member of the club. She says club legend Milton Berle made it official.
“He said, ‘You think I’m going to do this because you’re a woman. Wrong, I’m going to make the motion for your admission to lower the average age of the club,’” she recalls. “He said, ‘The average age of the club is dead.’”
Even in her Friars Club experience there is a feminist point to be made. Allred says when she was invited to be the first woman to attend the Friars all-male stag roast at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, she couldn’t get a female friend to join her.
“No woman would go in with me…They were afraid of what men thought, and of course I never cared,” she says. “Because as the suffragists used to say, women who care about the displeasure of men will never win anything meaningful for women’s rights.”
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