Government attorney Sarah Fabian was talking to a judge, but her real judge was Twitter.
Arguing about conditions for immigrant children detained at the U.S. border, Fabian was questioned about whether they needed soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and blankets. Judge A. Wallace Tashima asked if she agreed they were necessary for safe and sanitary conditions.
Fabian balked. Way wrong answer.
'Your Room in Hell'
Tashima, a judge at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, looked stunned, but Twitter was aghast. A video of the argument went viral on social media, which prompted scathing comments:
Lawyers are known to make bad arguments sometimes, but one commenter said Fabian made an "almost unimaginably unconscionable, inhuman AND inhumane argument." Another posted her phone number. She reportedly received death threats.
By then it was too late for Fabian to respond in court, but she explained herself on Facebook. "I personally believe that we should do our very best to care for kids while they are in our custody, and I try to always represent that value in my work," she wrote.
'Do Our Very Best'
Everybody has moments when they wish they could recall the words that come out of their mouths. It usually happens in the heat of an argument, when emotions get the best of them.
But lawyers should do better -- like Fabian said after her ill-advised argument. It's important in the courtroom, of course, but also in the court of public opinion.
In court, judges may rule against you or even sanction you for making bad arguments. But at the end of the day, you get to go home.
In social media, you can't get away from a public lashing. People will pillory the hell out of you.