Humpty Dumpty justice
Expanded from the 4-16-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
UPDATED 4-20-2006

"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."
—Humpty Dumpty

That damned liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has done it again. They've gone and rendered another decision to warm the cockles of the golden hearts of corporate America.

HITTING THE BRICKS & HARRAH'S, TOO (Reno, 2-16-2001) — Left to right, cocktail servers Nancy Standley, Leslie Williams and Kricket Martinez, bartender Darlene Jespersen and security guard Tom Stoneburner demonstrate against debilitating high heels and other worker-brutalizing policies, such as those which cost Jespersen her job. She attended the June 15, 2001, cocktail server protest in front of the Venetian Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and filed major civil rights litigation against Harrah's on July 6, 2001.


Jawohl. Last Friday, the flaming San Francisco blackrobes showed that like captains of industry, judges, too, have hearts of gold – cold, yellow and hard.

For all the trashing of the western appeals court, Clarence "Boom Boom" Thomas and Nino "Capo du Gats" Scalia could not have done it better.

In a 7-4 decision, the judges basically said that fired Harrah's bartender Darlene Jespersen should have submitted receipts for buying makeup and kept a log of how long it took her to apply same in order to conform with Harrah's grooming standards for females.

Keep in mind that all this shy, gentle woman wanted was her day in court, the proper place to present such evidence. Alas and alack, seven judges did their best Humpty Dumpty imitation and concocted a decision to fit their own prejudices, basically that uppity women should be taught their proper place in the corporate pecking order.

Jespersen, an acknowledged exemplary employee of 21 years standing, refused to wear makeup to comply with new grooming standards imposed by Harrah's-Reno in 2000. While Harrah's might like to tapdance around it, the standards not only said you must conform to Ole Bill's corporate cookiecutter code, but also that you must look the same as you do today forevermore. Aging is not permitted. That's why God made Botox and plastic surgeons. (Does Harrah's employee health coverage include perpetual cosmetic surgery and hard drugs?)

A reading of the torturous, tortuous and tortious 27-page decision reveals that the honorable judges are quite acrobatic – if they had to reach any further for their conclusion, they would qualify as astronauts.

"Jespersen did not submit any documentation or any evidence of the relative cost and time required to comply with the grooming requirements by men and women," stated Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, writing for the majority.

"As a result, we would have to speculate about those issues in order to then guess whether the policy creates unequal burdens for women," she added.

Her morally obtuse honor apparently ignored that Jespersen wanted to submit evidence — at a little ritual called a trial.

In dissent, Judge Alex Kozinski (NOTE: This is a GUY responding to a woman) wrote "You don’t need an expert witness to figure out that such items don’t grow on trees. Nor is there any rational doubt that application of makeup is an intricate and painstaking process that requires considerable time and care."

Harrah's males were forbidden to wear makeup, where it was required of women.


The 1995 precursor of the Jespersen decision: Yeager v. Harrah's Club
(897 P.2d 1093, 1995)

See also: Nevada workers have the right to lose

For want of a receipt from Macy's, the battle was lost. The bright side is that future plaintiffs now have some guidelines about what to bring to court and when.

This decision can now take its place with the Sands Regent v. Valgardsen case, whereby the Nevada Supreme Court ignored state law by legalizing age discrimination, and last month's decision in the Carson-Tahoe Hospital prevailing wage outrage where the Supremes screwed workers out of just compensation because the law ordering proper pay was not filed in a place they liked among the Nevada Revised Statutes.

Humpty Dumpty was an astronaut. Who knew?

ELLEN'S PARK UPDATE: Next Sunday, April 23, Washoe County Commissioner Dave Humke will headline a ceremony to commemorate the dedication and renaming of South Hills Park as Ellen's Park in honor of late open space advocate Ellen Steiner. The Rev. John Steinfeld will conduct a memorial service with a barbeque to follow. Those in attendance will have an opportunity to share remembrances of Ellen. The event begins at 1:00 and will last until 4:00 p.m. Food will be provided but people may bring pot luck-style dishes such as casseroles or salads. Because seating is limited, organizers ask celebrants to bring folding chairs or blankets. The barbecue will include hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and pork.

Please RSVP if you plan to attend and let Elaine Steiner know your meat or veggie preference. You may reach her at (775) 853-4059. You will find a map to the park linked to the web edition of this column.

The Steiner family goes back several generations in northern Nevada and we are much the richer for their having passed through our lives. Next Sunday, we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to say thanks.

NEWS ARE US. Join me tomorrow with the usual suspects on Sam Shad's Nevada Newsmakers. Reno Gazette-Journal political writer Ray Hagar will co-host along with Larry Matheis, Executive Director of the Nevada State Medical Association, the doctors' lobby. The special guest will be one of the best, Assemblymember Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. Joining me on the pundit panel will be attorney Leif Reid, Sen. Harry's kid, and Daryl Capurro, Managing Director of the Nevada Motor Transport Assn. (the big truck lobby).

The show premieres at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4. Sparks-Reno-Carson-Douglas victims of Charter cable may view the first rerun at 9:30 p.m. same day on channel 12. will have the complete statewide radio-TV schedule.

Turn on, tune in and tell a friend.

DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON YOUR WAY OUT. Decrying the current mess in congress and the White House, resigning Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, recently said "breaking up our leadership has taken its toll. We don’t have an agreed agenda."

But you do have a greed agenda.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns

Postmortem legal analysis by Jespersen attorney Jenny Pizer

NEVADALABOR.COM: The most detailed compendium on the web of Darlene Jespersen's lipstick lawsuit vs. Harrah's

Download the decision: Read it and weep
It's in Adobe Acrobat Reader .pdf format, which you may download free from

Desperately seeking disclaimers

EDITOR'S NOTE (4-20-2006): I have linked hereto neither the Reno Gazette-Journal's coverage of the Ninth Circuit decision nor its morally obtuse editorial followup. Since its acquisition by the mega-profitable Gannett chain, with respect to major corporate influence and conflict of interest, the region's major news source has simply not been forthcoming to its readers.

Photo copyright © 2000 Debra Reid, Sparks Tribune

Desperately Seeking Susan
D. Brian Burghart's definitive exposé of corporate conflict of interest
Reno News & Review 1-29-1997

AP: Critics protest newspaper
publisher's casino position

Las Vegas Sun 3-1-2000

Dawn of the Dead
BARBWIRE 7-22-2001

The Sagebrush Plantation
BARBWIRE 2-20-2000

The Awful Truth
BARBWIRE 4-11-1999


Former RGJ publisher Sue Clark Johnson sat on Harrah's board of directors for several years. The paper grudgingly began to disclaim a few editorials after her tenure became a major embarrassment nationally. She got promoted. No such disclaimer appears with the recent editorial siding with Harrah's in the Jespersen case. This is nothing new. See the Barbwires linked at right.

As a 35-year subscriber and sometime advertiser, I will not overlook their dereliction of duty.

To this day, reporters and editors in the RGJ newsroom stand on permanent notice not to screw with the paper's pet industries. On a panel discussion on KNPB TV-5, I confronted then-RGJ managing editor Ward Bushee as to why the paper had never informed its readers that two Union Pacific Railroad executives sat on Gannett's board. He responded that he didn't think it important for his readers to know that information. (Again, see the Barbwires linked at right.)

Union Pacific used corporate megajuice to impose hundreds of millions in new taxes upon the citizens of Washoe County to pay for a railroad trench through downtown Reno in order to better indemnify the railroad against future death and injury claims resulting from projected traffic increases after the Union Pacific-Southern Pacific merger. RGJ executives rudely broke an appointment and refused to meet with Teamsters Union/Writer's Guild/AFL-CIO representatives on that issue.

Whenever there's no corporate juice greasing the wheels or no advertising budget endangered, RGJ reporters and editors disappear into the nearest phone booth, lose their corporate identity and morph back into their journalistic superselves.

Needless to say, some of the newsies are sensitive over this point. One asserted never having seen any such influence in the newsroom. Perhaps they practice selective amnesia in forgetting the case of the late Rollan Melton, the man who engineered the Speidel chain's acquisition by Gannett. (Rollie told friends that he lived to regret the transaction which made him a very wealthy man.)

In his post-retirement incarnation as a regular RGJ society columnist, Mr. Melton was censored on at least two occasions when he dared criticize big casinos. The public incident involved the actual killing of a September 1999 column critical of — you guessed it — Harrah's, among others. The story and excerpts were published in the Reno News & Review on Nov. 24, 1999. The unpublished (until now) incident involved a column critical of the politically powerful Carano family, principals in the Eldorado Hotel-Casino and landlord/operators of the Silver Legacy, a joint venture with Mandalay Resorts' Circus-Circus/Reno. Everafterward, Melton's columns were printed under highly increased scrutiny for anything which might offend the Duke of Reno or his chips off the old jock.

The RGJ did not adorn its 4-18-2006 pro-Harrah's/anti-Jespersen/anti-worker/anti-women editorial by informing its readers regarding its corporate ties with the gambling industry behemoth, some of which still obtain even though those desperately seeking Susan must now look for her at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix. (Read the Phoenix alternative weekly New Times' extensive report about Sue darkening the Valley of the Sun.)



Feedback and Blowback


Hello Andy:

Good column yesterday.

I was surprised by the decision. I had thought the 9th Circuit was the most liberal court in the land, far better than the Supreme Court. It had a guy on it named Reinhardt (sp,?), a judge in the mold of Black and Douglas. But maybe the circuit has become stacked with Bush appointees. — J

Dear J:

Ed Reed, who originally threw out the case here in Reno, is a longtime respected judge known to me personally. He's a great guy.

Where I questioned his grounds for dismissal, the Ninth Circuit majority has produced a burlesque of justice.

As Judge Kozinski noted, any man who has ever waited for his wife to put on makeup knows that it costs first money, then time.

The woman who wrote the majority opinion apparently needs a credentialed expert on everything. I wonder if she would accept as fact — without a Ph.D. expert to affirm — that the sky is on occasion blue in color?

Probably not.

Be well. Raise hell.

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Copyright © 1982, 1984, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan, editor of and webmaster of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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