For the JC Oct 23 2020
They call one the “Legal Fashionista” and the other the “Magenta Yenta”. But behind the catchy nicknames, Orthodox Jewish lawyers Sara Shulevitz (the “fashionista”) and Mindy Meyer, the New York-based pink peril, are go-getting tough lawyers who are out to “get the job done”.
The two women have a high national and international profile outside their local areas in which they practise, Miami and New York. Now the pair have been called in to represent the controversial Orthodox radio shock jock Heshy Tischler, who is facing charges of inciting a riot, false imprisonment, menacing and harassment. The charges were made after huge demonstrations by members of the strictly Orthodox community in Brooklyn, protesting against Covid-10 crackdowns by the mayor and governor of New York.
Shulevitz and Meyer sprang into action as soon as Simchat Torah concluded, arriving at New York’s central booking bureau at three in the morning and arguing that their client had been subject to double standards.
Mindy Meyer said: “There have been protests across New York City for many months; there was violence and looting and destruction of property damage, and here you have an innocent frum man who was protesting with others in Boro Park [a Brooklyn suburb, home to the strictly Orthodox]”. She said she and Sara Shulevitz believed he had been “unfairly singled out” because no-one else had been charged during the months of previous violence.
In the event, Tischler was released on his own cognisance, Shulevitz sharply observing that “even the staff” at the booking bureau said that his charges would normally merit “a desk appearance”, rather than a physical arraignment.
The two women are well aware of the impression they create: some is deliberate, to attract media attention, and some is to cause waves among the “boring” lawyers with whom they operate. They frequently dress in shocking pink (hence the Magenta Yenta nickname), but often appear in identical outfits in court, complete with matching sheitels.
The pink theme, says Meyer, stems from when she ran (unsuccessfully) for the New York State Senate in 2012, handing out flyers in the “get-you-noticed” colour in an effort to attract young voters. She says that the film, Legally Blonde, which starred Reese Witherspoon as a Californian awash in bright pink at Harvard Law School, is “the reason I went to law school”.
Shulevitz, a former prosecutor, is a member of both the Miami and New York bars but is primarily based in Florida. She “loves high fashion, haute couture… They used to say I walked the courthouse like a Paris runway. But I get the job done. I’ve represented football players, rabbis, all kinds of cases. I’ve been practising close to 20 years and my track record is impeccable”. She laughs, and says she has “kind of outgrown” the fashionista nickname.
“The clients don’t come to us because of the nicknames”, asserts Shulevitz. “They come because we do the job for them, working round the clock, six days a week except for Shabbat”.
Meyer interrupts. “The ends justify the means”, she proclaims. “It doesn’t matter how we go about doing it. [The nicknames] are certainly a reason for business”.
Shulevitz recalls that she was already a lawyer when Legally Blonde came out. “But I was giving out pink-scented business cards — so I think the movie copied me”.