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Slang or slur?

By: Heath Hamacher//July 27, 2016

Slang or slur?

By: Heath Hamacher//July 27, 2016

So much for being courteous and civil to opposing counsel.

According to multiple media reports, things got a toad, er, a tad ugly between two Texas lawyers who are facing off against each other in multiple lawsuits.

Texas Lawyer was among those reporting that Austin attorney Omar Rosales has filed a motion in federal court asking that opposing counsel, prominent civil rights attorney Jim Harrington, be punished for the contents of an email Harrington mistakenly sent to Rosales.

The email was reportedly intended for Harrington’s Spanish-speaking assistant but somehow ended up in Rosales inbox. In the message, Harrington — a white man — referred to Rosales, who is Mexican, as “El Sapo.”

Translated literally, it means “The Toad,” and, while not flattering, there are worse things one could be called. But according to Rosales’ motion (corroborated by Urban Dictionary) it means “snitch.” Rosales claims it is a racist term against Mexican-Americans that also means “South American piece of sh*t.”

Not nice.

In a holy-crap moment, Harrington realized his error — if not the error of his ways — and sent Rosales another message explaining that “El Sapo” isn’t an ethnic slur, but “a character description commonly used among us who speak Spanish and are familiar with border slang.”

Reversing roles, Harrington told Texas Lawyer that he is offended. “I’ve worked for over 50 years for the Hispanic people,” he said. “My children are half-Hispanic. My grandchildren are half-Hispanic.”

Rosales’ client is a man Harrington called a “serial plaintiff” that has filed hundreds of Americans with Disabilities Act suits over “minor” infractions by area businesses.

Rosales is also upset that Harrington scheduled a deposition with the client at a Mexican restaurant.

Rosales called the move racist and inflammatory, believing Harrington is making fun of his ancestry. Ironically, in his motion, Rosales asks if he were African-American, would Harrington have ordered the deposition held in a Church’s Fried Chicken?

Harrington noted Rosales’ own stereotyping and scoffed at the accusation, saying he scheduled the deposition at the restaurant because, since it’s one of the businesses that the client sued, it would be an opportunity for him to point out the alleged ADA violations.

Only Harrington knows what’s in his heart, but everyone now knows what was in the wayward email, which is another issue entirely.

Perhaps there’s a CLE somewhere that bundles sensitivity training with email etiquette. If so, let’s get both men registered.

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