CHICAGO — Seating a buxom woman at an opposing counsel's table is an unfair tactic in a small claims case, a Chicago lawyer says.
Attorney Thomas Gooch says his foe in the case, attorney Dmitry N. Feofanov, has seated his attractive Brazilian wife there "to draw the attention of the jury away from the relevant proceedings" — a dispute over a used car.
He asked a Cook County Circuit judge to order the woman to sit in the gallery with other spectators.
In responding to the pretrial motion, Feofanov, 53, said Daniella Atencia, 26, is also his paralegal assistant and contends Gooch cites no "good faith legal argument" why she can't sit at counsel's table. Feofanov, who in the past has described himself as a "consumer protection lawyer," asked the judge to impose sanctions on Gooch for his motion.
Feofanov, 53, told The Daily Telegraph of London that Atencia is university-educated, has a "brilliant legal mind" and is "actually overqualified as a paralegal."
"Ms. Atencia is quite shocked at the tenor of comments pertaining to her physical appearance," he said in a statement. "She thinks the comments made about her have no place in the twenty-first century."
Gooch told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin this week that he wasn't objecting to the woman because she is buxom, but because he doesn't think she is a paralegal.
"I object to somebody I don't think is a qualified paralegal sitting at the counsel table — when there's already two lawyers there — dressed in such a fashion as to call attention to herself," Gooch said.
But Feofanov said Atencia has been paid as a paralegal in two court orders by Cook County judges. Both times, the rate for the paralegal was $115 an hour.
"That's not a qualification," Gooch said. "That means Dmitry handed up a bill to a judge that said paralegal on it. I don't believe it's a legitimate thing. It's a sham."
Gooch, 65, is representing a car dealership against disgruntled customers represented by Feofanov. Trial is scheduled for Thursday.
This article includes reporting from The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff.