California’s Unruh Act “provokes outrage”; it’s “invoked by the wrong people”

We’ve often covered the outrageous results of California’s Unruh Act, a lawyer-enriching, endlessly abusable enactment that awards damages without actual injury, generates surprising new grounds for litigation, and tilts the playing field of litigation toward plaintiffs with one-way fee shift entitlements and other goodies. Now, whether or not with dollar signs twinkling in their eyes, some busybodies have invoked it to go after a women-in-tech conference over alleged sex discrimination, and a whole new generation of commentators have discovered that in areas like the Unruh Act, “the legal system allows meritless claims to extort compliance” and that the “threat of a lawsuit is usually enough to shut a company down, even if the company stands a good chance of winning in court, simply for one reason: it costs less to settle than it does to fight in court.” Ken at Popehat does not offer a warm outpouring of sympathy:

Here’s the thing: if you only wake up to how broken the system is when it’s abused by one of your ideological enemies, you’re a vapid partisan hack. The legal system — including, but not “only” or “especially” civil rights laws — is a tool of extortion, deceit, and thuggery. I’ve seen nothing in my 21 years as a lawyer to make me think that civil rights plaintiffs are any more likely than other plaintiffs to abuse the system. But some laws lend themselves to abuse — like laws that are deliberately broad, deliberately flexible, and that award attorney fees only to prevailing plaintiffs, removing all deterrents against frivolous suits and piling on incentives to cave to extortion. The result is a system that’s profitable for lawyers, mediocre for individual plaintiffs, and a constant burden on potential defendants in a way that utterly fails to distinguish between wrongdoers and the innocent.

If you’re only irritated by this when a group of Wrong People target a group of Right People, you’re not to be taken seriously.


  • I was reading the comments at Popehat. It seems to me that as long as the Unruh Act is used to smack down the right people all is fine and well. As soon as it is used against a “protected class” it is evil and the people using it should be throw in jail.

    I wonder how many people commenting that the two men were wrong, support the gay couple that put the bakery out of business for not making a cake for a gay couple?

    Discrimination is a double edged sword. Last year a belligerent homosexual annoyed me to the point of violence. When I pushed him away and told him to leave me alone, he pretty much told me that if I slugged him, he would sue me for discrimination because he was gay. He sat down and shut up when I answered back that if I didn’t slug him when I would have slugged a straight guy, that would be discrimination too and I was willing to take my chances with a Judge.

  • Ken at Popehat does not offer a warm outpouring of sympathy

    In fairness, warm outpourings of sympathy aren’t really a thing the fine, fine folks at Popehat do…

    • Mr. Jacobs’ comment, above, is very tastefully understated. Which Ken at Popehat sometimes does, but Clark, never.

  • I’m glad they’re going after a “Women in Tech” group. These “women” have no interest in tech. They’re all about income-redistribution, and lowering standards.

    As an Asian (well, “mid-eastern”) silicon valley person, I can tell you first-hand that Silicon Valley has no “diversity” problem. The percentage of “white” people in tech companies, on average, is about 10% lower than the general population.

    Women In Tech don’t want women in tech. They already disrupted conferences like PyCon (see Adria Richards) and have bamboozled companies and conferences into adopting vague “Codes of Conduct” to prevent women from being stare-raped, or undergo the trauma of overhearing a joke that might have something to do with anatomy if you think about it too much. (Trigger Alert!)