Last Monday, local attorney Norm Pattis, who successfully defended Saifullah Khan from sexual assault charges in court last spring, posted a photo on Facebook. In the image, three Coors beer cans bearing white hoods surrounded a brown beer bottle, which hung from a refrigerator rack with its neck in a noose. Pattis captioned the photo “Ku Klux Coors.”
Pattis, who founded and leads Pattis & Smith Law Firm — a criminal defense and civil rights firm in Connecticut — was condemned by community members and organizations for posting the image to social media. The Greater New Haven NAACP was among the groups to criticize Pattis. Chapter president Dori Dumas called his conduct “damaging and racist” and called for the attorney “to be held accountable.”
Last Monday evening, Pattis responded to criticism with another Facebook post: “Let’s face it: If you’re white, you can’t be right.” By the following morning, the inflammatory image was censored by Facebook, and Pattis deleted his account.
“I enjoy being provocative for the sake of provocation,” Pattis told the New Haven Register. “It’s more than blood sport. I suppose I like the attention.”
In a blog post published on Friday, Pattis further justified his Facebook post. The blog piece focused on his disbelief that “status as a white male” confers “privilege.” Rather, the attorney writes that women and people of color make claims for “special treatment,” which he calls “bullshit.”
On his blog, the lawyer also calls himself a “racist,” “misogynist” and “misanthrope” who “[does not] trust folks of all races, genders or gender identities.”
In the post, Pattis noted that several people have expressed support for him after the incident. He claims that some have even thanked him for “calling out unctuous race pandering.” Among his supporters are a judge, a radio personality and a “white man” in an uniform, according to Pattis’ blog.
“I represent people of color, even though I don’t trust black race panderers,” Pattis wrote. “I represent Moslems, even though I am an Islamophobe and believe that the Islam and Western liberalism don’t mix. I represent women, even though I don’t believe them just because of their gender.”
“Suffice it to say, when I hear ‘white male privilege,’ I tune out,” Pattos said in an email to the News, referring to his blog page.
In an email to the News, John Shapiro, president of the Connecticut Bar Association, reaffirmed the association’s commitment “to promoting and respecting the diversity of all individuals, and to create inclusive environments that allow diverse individuals to succeed, grow, be respected and valued.” Shapiro also said that the association “opposes anything contrary to this commitment,” but did not comment on Pattis’ conduct.
On Pattis’ website, the lawyer self-identifies as one of the “most controversial” attorneys in the nation. This is not the first time he has received criticism for his media presence. Recently, he publicly supported Louis C.K., who made jokes about survivors of the Parkland shooting. C.K. admitted to sexually assaulting five women in 2017.
In an op-ed published by the Register earlier this year, Pattis also defended his cross-examination of the woman who Saifullah Khan allegedly assaulted.
“I attacked the accuser showing her text messages between her and the accused; I questioned her about her attire the night of the claimed assault; I challenged her on what she drank that night. Yes, I did all of that — and more,” Pattis wrote.
The attorney added that he did “nothing unusual” by asking the plaintiff to explain “obvious flirtatious remarks” in her texts or by calling her outfit from the night in question “scant and alluring” in court.
According to the attorney’s website, Pattis has won “civil rights verdicts” in police brutality, false arrest and discrimination cases at the federal level.
“I think it’s deeply troubling that someone who is charged with defending marginalized people in the legal system has these views that are contrary to what he’s supposed to be doing,” said Armin Thomas ’21, a prelaw student and cohost of The Patriot Report — a political podcast on campus. “I’m sure that as a white male, [Pattis] knows that there are things that he can do and get away with that somebody else who is not a white male would not be able to do.”
The offices of Pattis & Smith Law Firm are located in the Elm City.
Ruiyan Wang | firstname.lastname@example.org