My Life, Fighting for Justice
by Lisa Bloom
My Mom, Women’s Rights Shero
I was raised by one of our country’s most outspoken and effective fighters for justice, Gloria Allred. She took me out on the picket line when I was a kid, to teach me about workers’ rights. She helped me organize my sixth grade girlfriends to protest the faculty-student softball game’s exclusion of girls. (We won; policy changed.) She went to law school when I was a teenager, and dinner table conversations were often about the Equal Rights Amendment, which we both marched and fought for, and more broadly about justice for women and people of color. I joined my mom in her car in the Gay Pride March (now LGBTQ Pride), back when there were no corporate sponsors and huge groups of counter protestors screamed at us that we were going to hell.
Helping everyday people in need is something I was raised to do, long before kids got “community service” credits for being nice. In middle school (and again as an adult) I volunteered at a convalescent home, reading to seniors, holding their hands, and playing big band music to them in their rooms while we “danced” with just our arms. In high school I made it to the California state finals with my speech about how it was time to pass gay rights laws. It was 1979 and almost no laws protected LGBTQ folks. (I later discovered I am the B in LGBTQ.) I passionately called for that to change.
In college I volunteered at Santa Monica’s battered women’s shelter, listening to and helping to support children from abusive homes. In law school I volunteered in New Haven’s vegetarian soup kitchen, ladling soup to hungry folks, learning about the roots of homelessness and economic injustice.
Human Rights, Animal Rights: One and the Same
I’ve been vegetarian since age sixteen, and vegan for the last ten years. I march, speak, protest, lobby and host fundraisers for to improve the lives of animals, and contribute as much as I can to human rights and animal rights groups and activists every year,.
Fighting for Justice, the Early Years
As a Yale Law Student, I could have gone the corporate route that most of my classmates did, and earned big money, even for a summer job. Instead, in the summer I worked for Lambda Legal Defense, researching and writing briefs for lesbian and gay rights. The summer I was studying for the New York bar exam, I learned we had lost our big, important case. The US Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that states could constitutionally criminalize consensual gay sex. I sat down in the street with other activists, blocking traffic, facing police in riot gear. Though I had just graduated with accolades from America’s top law school, I was disgusted with our legal system’s inequalities and came very close to giving it all up.
Instead, I redoubled my efforts to fight for justice. Unlike nearly all my classmates, I rejected Big Law’s big bucks and worked for a small civil rights law firm, where I represented victims of discrimination (as well as other types of litigation). A few years later, I went to work for a bigger litigation firm, Robinson Silverman, and I secured a promise from them that a significant component of my work would always be representing victims of discrimination. After a few years, that firm offered me early partnership, which would have meant a salary in the seven figures within a few years, and likely several million a year after that. But I decided that doing civil rights work as just part of my work was not enough. I walked away from that offer, moved to California, and accepted a much, much lower salary working at my mother’s law firm, Allred, Maroko & Goldberg (AMG), representing victims full time.
During the nine years I worked at AMG, I learned that when you represent the powerless, you must be bold, creative, and willing to fight not just in the courtroom, but sometimes in the media, in the legislature, and in the streets. I represented an LAPD officer who spoke out against his fellow officers in the Rodney King case, and found himself reassigned to mopping floors. I litigated to a good settlement for him in his race discrimination case, but a few years later, I was devastating when I learned he took his own life. I often think of Officer Nichols as a reminder of the fragility of so many of my clients. I represented a fierce, smart girl who sued the Boy Scouts for sex discrimination. (Only now, twenty years later, has she been vindicated.) I took on the case of a wheelchair bound man who sued a major retail chain for disability discrimination when his coworkers locked him in a cage as a “joke.” I won a reported appeal on behalf of a child sexual abuse victim. My mother and I wrote articles together, trying to move the law forward to embrace equality for everyone. I continued to march and speak out and file lawsuits against injustice whenever I came upon it. I won a major repressed memory child sexual abuse trial, and television shows started having me on to comment not only on that, but on other cases as well.
Court TV, CNN, and my books
Court TV offered me my own show, and I accepted in 2001. For eight years, I hosted my own daily show, two hours a day, five days a week. In addition, CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS all eventually contracted with me to provide legal analysis for them. For thousands of broadcast hours, I stood up for the rights of women, people of color, LGBTQ rights, the rights of juveniles, mentally ill, and other groups that still struggle for respect. I wrote articles on these issues, and began thinking about the books I wanted to write on gender and race. I made enough money from working multiple jobs to support my kids as a single mom, to educate them, and to live a nice life in New York, but it was nowhere near the millions I could have earned as a partner in a big law firm, working for corporate America.
I was sexually harassed by a high ranking executive at one of these networks, and though I was quite anxious about reporting it, I did, in writing. The exec promptly admitted his bad behavior, apologized to me, and after a few uncomfortable weeks did the right thing by moving on and treating me with professionalism. Because I believe in apologies and redemption I am not naming him.
In 2008 I left Court TV to write my first book, Think, my clarion call to girls and women to turn away from the distractions of our celebrity, tabloid culture, a culture that tells us that what we look like matters more than what’s in our brains, and to live lives of substance and meaning, including standing up for justice. The book briefly became a New York Times bestseller. As I travelled the country talking about empowering women, mothers told me they bought my book for their daughters.
Parents also talked to me about troubles with their sons. As the mother of both a daughter and son, I realized I next needed to look at issues facing boys. I intended to write an article about it, but I kept digging deeper and deeper into the research, and what I found astonished me: boys were struggling profoundly in schools, our culture was teaching them all the wrong lessons, and especially for boys of color, mass incarceration awaited a shocking number of them. I wrote my next book, Swagger, and went around the country talking about what parents could do to rescue their boys from a culture that was out to get them.
With the amount of time I spent writing and speaking about my books, I probably would have made more working at McDonald’s. I expected that, going into it. But I was passionate about these issues and wanted to contribute what I could to improve the lives of both girls and boys.
I also started my law firm around this time, The Bloom Firm. From our beginning in 2010, we focused on representing victims of discrimination, harassment and abuse, and in addition, we sometimes represented people in business or family law disputes or those accused of wrongdoing.
My book on the Trayvon Martin Injustice
In 2013 NBC asked me to do a special project: would I take some time off from my law practice, watch via video every minute of the trial of George Zimmerman, and analyze it for all of its programs on NBC and MSNBC? I did. And what I saw shocked me: a trial that was patently unfair to the victim, Trayvon Martin, who had no advocate in the courtroom. A trial where the prosecutors failed to make their best arguments to convict, because they did not appear to believe that Trayvon was not the aggressor. A trial that was unjust and racist. (The New York Times asked me to write an op-ed piece at the end. I was honored, and I did, calling out the prosecution for failing to take an aggressive position on the racial profiling in the case.)
After the Zimmerman trial, I could not return to my law practice and go back to business as usual. Instead, I took more time off without pay (except a small book advance) to write the story of injustice that burned within me, the book that would spell out for all of history what went wrong in the Trayvon Martin case, an iconic case that I knew would be studied decades from now. I went to Florida, begged witnesses to talk to me, reviewed the trial and evidence again and wrote my third book, Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It.
Suspicion Nation was not a bestseller, but I was honored to be invited to speak at many African American bookstores, classes and events about it, where people embraced and thanked me for writing the book, and said they’d pray for me. I was disturbed that so few non-Black people read it, or cared about racism. I was disappointed that many people thought justice was done in the Trayvon Martin case, when it was so obvious to me that the system was riven with racial bias.
The Bloom Firm: Fighting the Good Fight Every Day
Since then I returned full time to my law firm, The Bloom Firm. We continue to focus on fighting for victims of discrimination, harassment and abuse. Daily I train my team on how to do this: with tremendous compassion for our clients, working with their mental health professionals and families to be sure they are supported, polite persistence with witnesses to get testimony we need, fierce but professional fighting with the other side, doing our research, keeping up with changing laws, writing the briefs, and all the rest. I talk to my clients about my own years of sexual abuse, and how I understand deeply the fear, the triggering, the anxiety, the depression and thoughts of suicide they are going through. And I also know that standing up for their rights is one of the healthiest actions they can take, just as telling my story to everyone around me years ago helped me heal. We have tissues in every room in my law firm, because daily, there are tears. Then I have my clients take a deep breath, stand tall, and take care of business like the brave badasses they are.
Respecting and empowering clients is of the highest importance. I’ve been selected by my peers as a SuperLawyer for the last five years in a row, and have a five star rating largely based on glowing client reviews on the lawyer rating site Avvo.com. The overwhelming majority of our clients send us lovely notes and flowers thanking us for standing up for them and for changing their lives. This is the best, best reward for all the courage and exhausting work it takes to fight for them.
Representing Four Trump accusers
As soon as Donald Trump said in 2015 that Mexicans were rapists and criminals, I called him out on television and in print as the racist he is. I also called him out frequently and publicly for his lifetime of misogyny and sexual misconduct. I did everything I could think of to try to prevent this disgusting, divisive man from getting elected. That included representing pro bono four women who accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment or sexual assault, though hundreds of attorney hours were involved and it became quite expensive to do this. The first was Jill Harth, who remains a friend and client to this day. The first to come out is the bravest, and that was Jill. I used my skills to help her navigate through a bunch of difficult media experiences, Trump and his team calling her a liar, and that very painful year for her. I also worked behind the scenes with three others, counseling them for many hours. Lisa Boyne spoke out publicly. The other two never did. This is how it is representing victims: every moment is wrapped in fear, and whether they can overcome it today or not. Some can speak out publicly, others are only comfortable remaining anonymous, and many more stay in the shadows. My job is to help them wherever they are.
For standing up for Trump’s accusers, I received many more threats than usual (I always get hate mail and threats), and we had to begin locking the doors to our law firm, a practice we unfortunately continue to date.
In 2017: The Colossal Mistake
Accused persons need lawyers too, and I have always respected my friends who are defense attorneys. Over the years a number of accused men have reached out to me, assuring me the allegations were false or overblown. Of course, some people are falsely accused, and over the years I chose to represent some men who I believed were in that camp. Just as I wrote a book for females and a book for males, I wanted to be fair to both men and women in my law practice.
A lawyer can never know for sure if a client is telling the truth, but in my law firm we investigate as much as we can and then use our best judgment. On both the accused and accuser side, as cases developed, and facts changed, I have sometimes had to withdraw. Any lawyer representing clients in this area will tell you that this happens, and it’s very painful for all involved.
When I make mistakes, I own them and say what I can given the strict rules banning attorneys from discussing anything about a former client’s case. In this case, I’ve said:
I thank [journalists] Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Ronan Farrow for forcing me to confront the colossal mistake I made in working for Weinstein. While painful, I learn so much more from my mistakes than my successes. When the first woman went on record accusing him of sexual assault, I immediately resigned and apologized, but that was not enough. My law firm went from 95% to 100% victim side and that’s where we stay, winning victories for clients against Bill Cosby, Paul Marciano, Bill O’Reilly, Alki David and many others you’ve never heard of. To those who missed my apology two years ago, and especially to the women, I apologize again. I judge others not by their one worst mistake but by their lifetime of work. In my case that is over three decades fighting mostly for underdogs against the powerful. Because of our many wins, my law firm has grown to one of the largest victims’ rights firms in the country. I’m always humbled by the trust that our many clients have in our hardworking team and our promise to them is that we will continue to fight tirelessly for their rights.
Many Recent Victories for Victims
We’ve remained true to that commitment. In just the last two years my law firm has continued to grow to one of the largest civil rights firms in the country, with offices in Los Angeles, New York and the San Francisco area, and we’ve won victory after victory for our clients. Of course, I don’t do any of this on my own. I have built a team composed of the the best, smartest, most compassionate and hardworking attorneys, paralegals, and staff anywhere. I am so proud to work with them every day. Here’s just some of what my Bloom Firm team and I have accomplished.
$11 million sexual harassment jury verdict
We won a major jury verdict that our client Chasity Jones was sexually harassed and retaliated against by Hollywood producer Alki David and his companies. The jury awarded her more than $11 million, one of the highest verdicts for an individual sexual harassment plaintiff in California history. I was lead trial counsel and worked around the clock for months on every aspect of the case. One of the male jurors sent me an email: “I’ve learned so much from you especially about the Me Too Movement . . . Please keep on doing this amazing job and keep inspiring more people like me.”
We just finished a second sexual harassment jury trial, working 24/7 for over a month for my beautiful, brave client Elizabeth Taylor. We won two claims 12-0 but the jury hung on the rest, so we will have to retry most of the case. We are up against one of the biggest law firms in the country on the other side, plus a defendant who posts online threats to my client and me and encourages his followers to harass us, so of course, they do, mercilessly.
Seven figure victory against LAPD on behalf of South LA African American mom and kids
After two years of intense litigation, we won a $1.35 million victory on behalf of a South LA African American mom and her children in a police brutality case against the LAPD, in which police had stormed their home and roughed up the family because two kids were seen playing dice in their front yard. Have any white kids playing dice in public ever been treated this way? We’ve been so proud to represent this family and to bring them accountability from their police department.
LGBT case victory for access to court, not secret arbitration
We won the right for our LGBT client Joseph Martinez to try his sexual orientation discrimination in court, rather than in secret arbitration: a herculean effort given that he had signed a workplace arbitration agreement and courts routinely order those cases to arbitration. Joseph marched with my law firm and me in LA’s Pride parade, and I told him that everyone there was cheering for him. At the end of the day he stood a little taller.
Victory against LAPD officer accused of revenge porn and domestic violence
We won a sweeping five year restraining order on behalf of our client, LAPD Detective Ysabel Villegas, in her revenge porn and sexual harassment case, against another LAPD officer. He must relinquish his guns as a result, effectively ending his career. The judge said from the bench that this was a severe outcome for the officer, but he had no other choice given the strong evidentiary showing we made at the hearing. Ysabel marched alongside my law firm staff and me in LA’s Women’s March last January, which I thought would bolster her confidence in standing up for herself. (It did.)
Victory for a sexually harassed city employee against a city councilmember
After a hard-fought sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit we filed on behalf of a sexually harassed City of Lynwood employee, and a press conference on the steps of city hall, we won a nonconfidential victory of $850,000 for our client, Monica Ochoa. The accused harasser stepped down from his city council seat. Our second accuser client, Marisela Santos, with my enthusiastic support, ran for and won his city council seat. I represented her pro bono (for free).
Fighting for a female CHP officer accusing a judge of sexual harassment
For the last year we’ve represented a female California Highway Patrol officer accusing a sitting Court of Appeals judge of sexual harassment, in disciplinary proceedings against him. Few law firms would be willing to take on a sitting appellate judge in their own district. The Commission on Judicial Performance has taken up the matter and we believe Justice Johnson will soon be removed from the bench.
Two big victories against Bill O’Reilly
I represented three women pro bono who accused Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment, and created the legal and media strategy that forced him out of Fox News. Next, we forced Bill O’Reilly to back down from a New York defamation case he’d filed against our client Michael Panter, who had posted on Facebook that he supported his ex-girlfriend, an O’Reilly accuser. We won a complete dismissal of the case after outmaneuvering O’Reilly in court.
Victory against U.S. Congressmember John Conyers
I represented pro bono (for free) Marion Brown, a congressional staffer who alleged she was sexually harassed by then sitting Congressmember John Conyers. After Marion and I spoke out and after my team gathered witness statements, we forced Mr. Conyers to resign.
Victory for actor Mischa Barton in revenge porn case
I obtained a complete court victory for Mischa Barton after reports surfaced that someone was shopping a sex tape of her. We obtained restraining orders and blocked any explicit images of her from being posted or distributed.
Victory for LGBTQ speaker banned for anti-Trump tweets
We won a First Amendment victory for our pro bono LGBTQ client, Melanie Nathan, who was fired as a Navy Pride event speaker due to anti-Trump tweets.
Victory for four sexual assault accusers against Guess CEO Paul Marciano
We won a groundbreaking open settlement against Paul Marciano and Guess on behalf of our four clients, all of whom accused Mr. Marciano of sexual assault, forcing his ouster as CEO.
Victory for Janice Dickinson against Bill Cosby
After four years of hard fought litigation up to the US Supreme Court and back, we won an epic settlement and two precedent setting appellate decisions benefiting rape victims on behalf of our client Janice Dickinson in her defamation case against Bill Cosby.
Fighting for six men accusing photographer Bruce Weber of sexual assault and sex trafficking
We filed two lawsuits in New York on behalf of a group of male models accusing Bruce Weber of sexual misconduct. In early proceedings the judge ruled in our favor, allowing our sex trafficking claims to go to trial.
Fighting for five Jeffrey Epstein victims
We currently represent five women accusing Jeffrey Epstein of sexual assault, and expect to be fighting his estate for years to obtain justice for them.
Fighting for sexual assault victims in Uber and Lyfts
We have been leaders in representing victims of sexual assault in ride shares, and continue to fight for their rights to receive full and fair compensation for their injuries. I have also spoken out often about the need for these companies to take women’s safety seriously.
Standing Up for Harassed and Assaulted Transgender and Gay Bar Patrons
When three transgender women and a gay man were the victims of hate in a Los Angeles bar, then physically thrown out for notifying security, I stood with them at a press conference demanding an apology, LGBTQ+ sensitivity training, and compensation for their injuries. We will continue to fight until we get full justice for these very deserving clients.
Many life-changing private settlements for clients who seek them
The Bloom Firm has fought for and won tens of millions of dollars for victims of discrimination, harassment and abuse in just the last two years. We stay in touch with our clients, who tell us they use the money for therapy, to change careers, to get out of debt, to go back to school, to educate their children, to pay off student loans, to take a breather, and so many other good uses. My favorite is the client who said she would use her settlement to go to law school and become a women’s rights attorney like me. I thought she was just being sweet, but she just finished her second year of law school and wants to intern with my firm next summer.
JUSTICE: THE BLOOM FAMILY BUSINESS
I raised my two children, Sarah and Sam, mostly as a single mom, teaching them the values I believe in, of sticking up for the underdog, of living a life of integrity, of working hard to achieve, of owning up to own’s mistakes. My daughter Sarah is now an attorney. She left a large, prestigious firm and decided to join The Bloom Firm a year ago (Hey, it already bears her name.) That is one of the greatest honors I could ever receive. Sarah and I traveled to Albany last year to lobby the New York legislature to pass a revenge porn law, of course pro bono. Revenge porn, a hideous, destructive form of sexual harassment of young women, had been the subject of a major law school research project for Sarah, and I’d successfully litigated to victory several revenge porn cases. When that law eventually passed, its sponsor thanked us in his victory speech. Sarah has worked hard alongside me in our last two sexual harassment trials. Clients are already writing her beautiful thank you notes too.
My son Sammy just took the LSAT and is headed to law school next year. He is also the reigning US Men’s National Pole (Dance) Champion, which has nothing whatsoever to do with me, but I’m just so proud of all of his hard work and gorgeous artistry that led him to that championship.
My husband Braden Pollock, while a full time tech investor, works in the law firm alongside me as well, overseeing the business end so that we can help as many people as possible, pay our team and our bills. He is the visionary who imagined that we could expand to the three locations (Los Angeles, Bay Area, New York) where we now have offices, who believed that we could become one of the largest civil rights law firms in the country, and then made it happen.
My earliest inspiration to fight for justice, my mom, recently said “my daughter is and always has been a champion for women’s rights. Nothing that has happened in the recent past has altered my views of her commitment to protect and advancing women’s rights.” My mother knows me perhaps better than anyone and I’m grateful for that.
If you have suffered from discrimination, harassment or abuse in any form, we would be happy to talk to you for free and confidentially, to let you know your rights and whether we can help. We stand with you.
Special Appearances and Honors: