US law office bars Israeli lawyer from displaying a photo with an IDF rifle

American-Israeli lawyer Debra Gassman presses charges against the Chicago Public Defender's Office alleging her supervisor said photo was same as 'displaying a Nazi swastika'

An Israeli-American attorney is suing her supervisors at the Chicago Public Defender's Office after being asked to remove a photo of herself holding an IDF-issued rifle against the backdrop of an Israeli flag claiming it is “akin to displaying a Nazi swastika".
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According to attorney Debra Gassman, assistant public defender of Cook County, the photo which had been taken during her volunteer service in the IDF during the first Gulf War, had been displayed in her office for over 20 years without it becoming a controversial issue.
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עו"ד דברה גסמן
עו"ד דברה גסמן
Debra Gassman's photo
After Hamas’s October 7 attack, she moved the photo to a communal area in the Skokie courthouse, where the offices of the county public defender are located, "to raise awareness of what had occurred in Israel," according to the lawsuit.
"She presented the photo to her colleagues by placing it in the mailbox area where employees are allowed to place photos and decorations," the lawsuit read. Gassman, a former Jerusalem resident, admitted she did so out of anger at her coworkers in the days following October 7 because they didn’t show sympathy for the victims of Hamas’s massacre.
Shortly thereafter, she was asked to remove the photo and received a letter from the public defender's office saying that displaying the photo violates the office's policy. "Tragic world events likely motivated this display. While there is no evidence that you acted with malice, the posting of a picture of an employee holding a firearm [is] inappropriate for the workplace," the letter read.
"Please remove any firearm-related picture from public view. In the future, we ask that you consider how others could interpret your actions as we all work to adhere to the Cook County Workplace Violence Policy.”
Following the letter, Gassman removed the photo from public display and returned it to her private office. However, a supervisor from the public defender's office entered her office and reprimanded her for the photo, alleging that it was "akin to displaying a Nazi swastika.”
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הפגנה פרו פלסטינית בשיקגו
הפגנה פרו פלסטינית בשיקגו
Pro-Palestinian protest in Chicago
(Photo: via X)
Gassman eventually received the photo back but was told she wasn’t allowed to display it anywhere visible from "any angle of the entryway to her office,” according to the lawsuit.
Gassman claims the order violates her right to freedom of expression as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit also alleges that the law office didn’t enforce a policy against displaying photos of firearms in other cases, making it essentially a non-uniform discrimination.
She quoted a colleague who included in his email a photo from a popular movie of a man holding a gun. In another example, she cited a tradition in the office of posting congratulatory messages to colleagues on case victories, including one where a photo of a gun was visible.
Gassman is seeking a court order allowing her to "prominently display the photo in her office,” as well as damages and attorney fees. The public defender's office responded, saying that they responded to the complaint “by requesting the employee who posted the picture of herself holding a firearm remove that picture from the common area.”
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