California Attorney Peter Bertling’s – “Sorry, not sorry.”

Peter Bertling: Not really all that sorry.


Sexist attorney offered a “she made me do it” defense.

Exhibit A in the area of meritless apologies.

A follow up to yesterday’s,  “Don’t Discuss:  Act!”  – comes the fabulous instance of routine sexism involving Bay Area civil rights attorney, Lori Rifkin.

Rifkin didn’t discuss anything with Peter Bertling, the sexist attorney who was abusing the discovery process.  Having zero interest in wasting more time, Rifkin filed a motion for sanctions against attorney Peter Bertling of Bertling & Clausen and off to court they went.  

Rifkin was awarded sanctions, and more.  Bertling’s apology that followed?



Bertling & Clausen – Sanctioned for Sexist comments to attorney Lori Rifkin

Professional tip:  Whenever an apology includes the word “if” — it’s not an apology.

While it’s no secret anyone using the word “if” during an apology is not apologizing:  What is revealed whenever “if” is used, is that individual’s desire to passive-aggressively telegraph their penchant to let everyone know how they really feel.

Those feelings include;

  • The individual apologizing believes themselves to be too clever by half;
  • The individual doesn’t care what anyone thinks. (More common),
  • Or, both.
  • In cases of sexism, the smart money is on “both.”

How to be a jerk during discovery – “Don’t raise your voice at me. It’s not becoming of a woman or an attorney.”

No-nonsense civil rights attorney, Lori Rifkin

Apparently medical malpractice attorney Peter Bertling, really likes to mess around with the discover process.  Perhaps more so when women are involved.

But Peter Bertling picked the wrong women to attempt to bully, in the case of  stellar civil rights attorney Lori Rifkin –  who had no trouble responding to Bertling’s conduct.  

Judge Paul Grewal likewise had no trouble at all, bringing Bertling to heel.

In reality, some attorneys enjoy messing around with discovery (the guts of all cases) process.

However Judge Grewal addressed Bertling’s, delay…deny…hide…hand over a non-functioning disc, conduct up front, as Bertling’s behavior crossed all  professional boundaries. Then kept going.  

Paul Grewal, San Jose Federal Magistrate Judge. photo by Jason Doiy 5-18-2011 055-2011

Paul Grewal, San Jose Federal Magistrate Judge.
photo by Jason Doiy

Rifkin’s motion and Judge Grewal’s response attracted news in legal publication in “Above the Law” as well as the San Francisco Recorder, here.

While discovery abuse is, to a degree, common; it’s just not generally common past all common sense.  Why?  Perhaps because Bertling couldn’t stop himself.  Judge Grewal wrote Bertling,  “repeatedly and unapologetically flout[ed] guideline after guideline” 

What was Bertling’s response

Peter Bertling’s responsive declaration blamed Rifkin for “creating a hostile environment.” Or, put another way:

You can’t make this stuff up!

Bertling also mewled a, “I thought you already had it”  (the information.)  

Judge Grewal was having none of it.  He wrote,

“A sexist remark is not just a professional discourtesy, although that in itself is regrettable and all too common. The bigger issue is that comments like Bertling’s reflect and reinforce the male-dominated attitude of our profession.”

Because Peter Bertling handed over important documents the day after the deadline of an important brief, Judge Grewal also ordered Berling make his client available for future depositions, for which Bertling was likewise ordered to pay.  

Below is part of Judge Grewal’s decision:

Sexism-Smackdown-Peter Bertling2

Sexism Smackdown-Peter Bertling1

Back to the now.  When it comes to corporate sexism, end discussions.  Act.  

Act to get the conversation out of the company and into another venue.  

Don’t expect men to change on their own.  As Peter Bertling repeatedly demonstrated, change is an area of no interest to them.


I enjoy belly dancers who speak with their eyes.




About bonnie russell

It's not about’s always about people.
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4 Responses to California Attorney Peter Bertling’s – “Sorry, not sorry.”

  1. Brandon Vandenburg pleads guilty in battery of security guard!


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