Witnessing FERGUSON V. JONAH

Based on Court Reporter Fran Insley’s experience

In June 2015, Ellen Grauer Court Reporting was asked to cover the FERGUSON, et al., vs. JONAH, et al. trial in New Jersey, a ground-breaking case that set a precedent for LGBT rights. At the heart of the case was the question of the legitimacy and morality of JONAH’s counseling services that claimed they could “cure” their clients from being gay. Their questionable conversion services were originally brought under scrutiny in 2012 when The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against JONAH that was finally brought to trial this past summer.
 
After a three-week trial argued by James Bromley, partner at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP, co-counsel with Southern Poverty Law Center, the jury concluded that JONAH’s commercial practices were misrepresented, fraudulent, and unconscionable. The ruling ordered JONAH to pay $72,400 to the plaintiffs, and the organization agreed to permanently shut down operations and dissolve. Such a finding has paved the way for homosexuality to no longer be represented as a mental illness or disorder. This is the first time in a United States court that such a ruling has been made.

During these momentous proceedings, Fran Insley was the stenographer who recounted the following first-person experience to EGCR’s Caroline Sprance:

The Ferguson Trial was the first time I participated in a trial as a stenographer. Usually I cover depositions and often don’t get to witness the conclusion of a case. In this instance, I was lucky enough to be part of such a monumental ruling and to bear witness to historical social change.

Judge Bariso, the judge assigned to the case, handled the issue in question with aplomb. He was strong with both sides, showed no favoritism or bias. He treated everyone involved fairly and equally and took care of his jurors and staff, knowing that we were all in a highly stressful environment.

From my perspective, the plaintiffs were lost boys who grew into beautiful young men. I saw all the emotions flash across their faces; the joy and the sorrow for all they have gone through. I heard them speak in detail about what their bodies and their minds endured. Despite the trauma inflicted by the alleged JONAH conversion therapy, they were able to remain positive. They were amazingly considerate and often had smiles on their faces, always very respectful of the process and everyone in the room. Their positive attitude serves as a reminder of how one can come through trials and tribulations with grace.

I was also impressed by the Cleary Gottlieb attorneys, as well as the attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center. They truly cared for their clients’ well-being and were very organized about presenting the facts of the case; proof of their hard work and dedication. When the verdict came in, I could see the immense sense of joy and accomplishment on both the plaintiffs’ and their counsels’ faces.

Being able to witness this case from beginning to end was an opportunity of a lifetime.