Teacups In The Trenches

Why are they so sad?  The ABA, who brought you the new rule that it’s unethical to use words that hurt feelings, tells of a study that it’s because they’re bullied.

Bullying is rampant at law firms, but many law firm leaders are reluctant to punish the offenders, according to a new survey.

Rampant? That’s horrifying and exhausting.  Nobody likes bullying. But then, what exactly does this terrible thing, “bullying,” mean?

The survey received responses from 124 law firms, including the nation’s top 100 law firms. Among the AmLaw 100 firms, there was a three-way tie for the most common detrimental behaviors. Ninety-three percent cited bullying and lack of respect; not being a team player and having a “me-first” agenda; and poor management habits such as getting in on time.

Nope. No clue there as to what bullying means. In fact, nowhere in the ABA Journal article is there any attempt to define bullying, or describe the conduct complained of. But fortunately, there is a link to another post which provides this: Continue reading

Funding The Entitlement Problem

When entitlement becomes an end in itself, you end up with people who are shocked when they’re told they can’t always get what they want.  An Aussie, James Norman, says he was “surprised to learn my career is actually a ‘lifestyle choice’.”

We appear to have reached the point in Australia where pursuing a creative career is considered a “lifestyle choice”. One that won’t lead to satisfactory career or economic outcomes, and is therefore unworthy of government assistance.

To put this in context, he’s not referring to the career itself, but to pursuing a particular career. Does he believe there’s an invisible hand pushing him? Hardly. It’s a rather common use of the word “choice.” Go to college and pick your major. That’s a choice. If he’s surprised, then it’s unlikely that pursuing a career in English would be the right choice for him. Every college student makes a choice of what major to pursue. For each of them, it’s a choice.

But that’s not his real issue. He’s not that much of an idiot.  What he’s upset about is that his choice, what he refers to as “creative careers,” will be denied support. Continue reading

Will Art Acevedo’s Rant Change Anything?

Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo was outed by one of this own.

In a profanity-laden tirade behind closed doors with his top brass, Acevedo questioned how anyone, much less one of his 18 commanders, could have disagreed with his assessment and desire to hold the officers responsible. He acknowledged the department had “taken a step back” and called upon them to push changes down to the rank-and-file — or to rethink their careers.

“We have got to raise our game,” Acevedo said in the August 10 meeting. “You are commanders. If you don’t like it, you can move on, or you can demote. I’m not going to hold that against anybody if it’s not for you, but we have got to step up.”

Austin has had problems. Serious problems. And Acevedo has reason to be pissed. Continue reading

The Eric Garner Rift Grows Wider (Update)

Remember Eric Garner? He was killed on July 17, 2014. It was captured on video. It was the subject of intense scrutiny. So how, then, is it possible that more than two years later, the Department of Justice is still “investigating” it? Well, they aren’t, exactly.

The Justice Department has replaced the New York team of agents and lawyers investigating the death of Eric Garner, officials said, a highly unusual shake-up that could jump-start the long-stalled case and put the government back on track to seek criminal charges.

While it’s unclear when the investigation “stalled,” the reason, that two years have elapsed and the memory has faded, is now clear.

Federal authorities have been investigating whether officers violated Mr. Garner’s civil rights in his fatal encounter with the police. But the case had been slowed by a dispute because federal prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials in New York opposed bringing charges, while prosecutors with the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department in Washington argued there was clear evidence to do so.

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Ways To Think (Max Planck Edition)

When Steph West Allen sent me a link to Farnam Street, I had no idea what to expect. Stephanie often sends me links without explanation. But I clicked and saw the subtitle:

Farnam Street helps you make better decisions, innovate, and avoid stupidity.

I want to avoid stupidity, for myself and others. And indeed, the post Steph referred to was fascinating. It began with a quote from Mortimer Adler that struck home.

“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.”

More to the point, we employ facile rationalizations to explain our feelings to ourselves and pretend they are well-conceived thoughts. But unless and until tested by explaining our feelings with sound cogent arguments, we’re just enjoying some mental masturbation. In one post, Farnam Street explains two ways of thinking (and this is such a great story, told by Charlie Munger at the 2007 commencement of USC Law School, that I can’t pass it up): Continue reading

Rape, Incest And Retribution

As of this moment, there are 106,673 “signatures” on a petition, or what the New York Times’ Public Editor, Liz Spayd, calls “an initiative.”  Its purpose is clear:

We the people of Montana, cannot sit by and watch the repeated injustice of our court system. There was an obvious bias toward the protection of the convicted child rapist, who was sentenced to less than the minimum required for his admitted crime. Justice for the victim was not served.

We want Judge McKeon impeached and his retirement benefits revoked. He acted in a way which was a direct violation to the Montana Correctional and Sentencing Policies and the Canons he is required to uphold as an elected Judge. He disregarded a plea deal of 100 years, with 75 suspended recommended by the prosecution and instead let the admitted, child rapist walk free on a minimal incarceration and probation. The convicted man admitted to repeatedly raping his 12 year old daughter and accepted the plea, knowing he would be sentenced to 100 years, yet because of Judge McKeon, he will be free to reoffend.


It’s unlikely that many of the signers at the change.org petition are constituents of the judge or the politicians to whom this letter will be sent. It’s unlikely that anyone with any knowledge of law will read the petition and find anything about it legally persuasive, as it’s the gibberish of outrage, the strung-together legally-meaningless sputtering of random people on the internet. Continue reading

The Dead, The Living And The Dots

If you’re of the view that homosexuality is a sin, then you’re in the wrong place. If a person is sexually attracted to someone of the same gender, what difference does that make to you, unless you’re such a true believer in zombie novels* that you can’t get over it, or you harbor latent concerns about your own desires.

Great Britain has decided to pardon the dead.

Britain’s decision to posthumously pardon the tens of thousands of gay men convicted of seeking or having sex is just and long overdue.

Overdue is an understatement. They’re dead. Lot of good it does now.

For British men who were stigmatized, imprisoned and beaten for their sexual orientation, clearing their records posthumously is a critical recognition of historical wrongs.

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The Surreal Unpleasantness of Going Viral

It was an obvious quip in response to New York Times assistant general counsel, David McCraw’s, letter to Donald Trump’s lawyers. McCraw’s letter was fine, but kinda dull. It was a yeoman’s response to a yeoman’s demand. Given the circumstances, he could have had a bit more fun with the letter, though most readers are so pedestrian, pompous and official that anything reflecting even an iota of wit would be off-putting.

No sense of humor. What is it with people gushing over boring, official-sounding lawyer letters? Why do people adore stuffy?

So, I jumped in with a reminder about my favorite lawyer letter ever on the twitters. For most of us, there was nothing new in the letter at all. We’ve all seen it, loved it, laughed at it. But as they say with summer re-runs, if you didn’t see it the first time, it’s new to you.

Cute, right? But no big deal. Certainly, my piece of the twit was nothing of note, and the letter from Cleveland Browns general counsel, James Bailey, was nothing new. But then the weirdest thing happened. It went viral. Continue reading

Fishing For Pleas

There is a good point to be found in former public defender, Gabriel Urza’s, op-ed. Unfortunately, it’s not the point he (I think, but can’t really be sure) tries to make.

When I landed a job as a public defender in my hometown, Reno, Nev., fresh out of law school in 2004, I had no practical experience with the criminal justice system. I hadn’t volunteered with a legal aid organization, hadn’t even been on the mock trial team in school. I had never sat at a counsel table.

So when Sean, an attorney in the office who had been a public defender for a decade, took it upon himself to show me the ropes, I was all too eager to listen. He showed me how to get into the jail to visit my clients, when to fill out a D.U.I. waiver or file a motion to dismiss, how to prepare for evidentiary hearings and how to deal with belligerent clients and prosecutors.

Perhaps most important, he taught me how to fly fish.

Fly fishing as metaphor is a valuable lesson for criminal defense lawyers. But as an actual thing to do, not so much. Continue reading

Danner’s Death And The Great Divide

When NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry arrived at Dorothy Danner’s door in response to a neighbor’s 911 call that she was acting “erratically,” whatever that means, he knew he was going to be dealing with a mentally ill woman. Danner was schizophrenic, and a regular for the cops.

On Tuesday, Ms. Danner, 66, was fatally shot by a police sergeant in her Bronx apartment in a confrontation that was condemned in swift and striking terms by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill.

Both the mayor and the commissioner said the officer had failed to follow the Police Department’s protocol for dealing with an emotionally disturbed person.

The mayor and PC were being disingenuous. There is a protocol in place, since the killing of Eleanor Bumpurs in 1984. They whip it out as needed, but it’s just there for show. Not only has the NYPD neglected to train its officers in dealing with the mentally ill,* but the protocol is nonsensical. The cops who respond to find a mentally ill person are to wait, call Emergency Services, and let them respond. Continue reading

When The Only Word That Means Anything Is The “Hat”

It seems unfair to stop reading after the first sentence, or clause, anticipating that what will follow will be a string of words that means nothing. And it gives pause. What is it that this is meaningful to others, but it reads as insanely nonsensical jargon that means absolutely nothing to me? Is it wrong? Am I not getting it? Are they nuts? Am I?

This isn’t a new phenomenon.

Many years ago, the great British neurologist Oliver Sacks, a man with a flair for subtle observations and the clear prose to describe them, wrote a book about strange cases of mental confusion he had encountered. Its title seizes your attention instantly: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

The title was no joke, nor was the man in question blind. His eyes registered the colors and the contours of his wife, but his mind had lost the capacity to interpret the messages correctly. The poor woman had to endure having her husband grasp her head with both hands as if to lift her and place her atop his head.

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PENsplaining Away The First Amendment

Free speech on campus is doing fine. Wait, better than fine. Great. You didn’t know that? Well, that’s why the august writers’ organization, PEN America, is here to explain it to you.

The conventional wisdom surrounding American college life these days views campuses as hotbeds of intolerance for free speech, with students themselves leading the charge.

But a new report by PEN America, to be released on Monday, questions that story line while warning of a different danger: a growing perception among young people that cries of “free speech” are too often used as a cudgel against them.

The report, titled “And Campus for All: Diversity, Inclusion and Freedom of Speech at U.S. Universities,” covers a broad range of hot-button topics, including trigger warnings, microaggressions, safe spaces and controversial campus speakers. While it cites “troubling incidents of speech curtailed,” it finds no “pervasive” crisis.

The organization, which purports to exist to “fight for freedom of expression,” tells us to chill out about all the wild and crazy things the kids are doing on campus. It’s all good. Continue reading