Monday, October 24, 2016

Lucky To Work With Caring People at Bratcher Gockel Law

I have met and served some amazing people in the thirty-three years in which I have practiced law. My job representing civil rights clients brings me immense joy, not in small part because of the kind, talented, intelligent people with whom I am blessed to work.

1.  My law partner Marie Gockel - I am fortunate that among the first people I called when I decided to start my firm was my law school chum Marie.  I remember her exact words, "Can I come, too."  And, a law firm was born. Marie is the hardest working, most tenacious, most intelligent lawyer I know. She never gives up. I kid her that she is the bull dog of the law profession. Perseverance is one of the most important traits of a lawyer. Plus, she and I work well together, brain-storming, with our strengths complimenting each other. For 22 years she has been great. And Marie is a great friend.

2.  Our amazing staff -  Ann Gloor leads our amazing staff. I have worked with her for 30 years, since both of our eldest girls were infants. She is wicked smart, hard working and kind, plus she reads my mind. Nancy Breuning has been with us for 15 years. She is diligent, a perfectionist when need be, and amazingly smart. Both Ann and Nancy are two of the kindest people I know. Within the last 5 years we hired paralegal Mike Bell.  Mike has worked many years as a paralegal and is not afraid to dig into files to assess what went wrong. He, too, is extremely intelligent and hard-working. All three of the staff have been recently been blessed with grandchildren and we see videos of first steps, first words, and wide toothless smiles. What a joy.

People in our office either bring their lunches or go downstairs to the food court to buy food and bring it up. We typically sit around our old conference table, often for a little more than the "allotted" hour, looking out over the Power & Light  district while chattering on about grandbabies, movies, books, our lives, or my stupid jokes to which they graciously smile. We talk about cases and what we need to do, but most of the time we just shoot the bull. We have a great team. We never give performance evaluations, because oftentimes employers feel they need to mark employees down and criticize. Our employees are so great, performance evaluations seem counter-productive. I hope everyone realize how much I  appreciate tand care about them. I know I am prejudiced, but I think our law office is a wonderful place to work.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tell Trump - We Are Better Than This

I voted already. I am going to be a poll observer in Florida, so I voted here. But, I cannot tear myself away from the horrible Trump train wreck. I just hope that through his horrible conduct, this scorched earth tactics, and his total lack of respect for large segments of the population, if not all of humanity, we learn a lesson.  I hope we are horrified by this wretch of a human being and we realize that he is not who we are.

Women should not be judged by how large their breast are. Grabbing a woman's crotch without her consent is a crime. We are more than the sum of our parts, literally. African-Americans are not thugs condemned to live in "inner cities" where they constantly must dodge their own bullets. Latinos and Latinas are hard-working, decent, and kind human beings by nature, just as are the majority of the rest of usl

Most people are good and kind and deserve our trust and respect. Most others are honorable unless they prove otherwise. We must see the best in others, not the worst. We must teach our children to help others, not to bully them. We have our differences, and our differences are what teaches us to grow and accept others.

We must fight bigotry, whether that fight amounts to going to the polls, or legally fighting against the racial and sexual bullying. We must set examples of tolerance, humility, and charity. I believe Americans are essentially kind, caring and have moral values. We are strong and self-assured and need not denigrate others to nurse our egos.  That is characteristic of Trump and his ilk, not us.

Trump is a test of our character and our resolve and we will pass this test. We are better than the horrible America he sees. We will survive this election and grow and learn from this. We are better than this. Trump is a cult-like leader who will lose. I know Americans are decent, compassionate and generous.  I know that the kind, decent, caring people of this country will continue. We are a country of immigrants. We take in, "your tired, your poor, your yearning to be free."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Donald Trump - The Most Dangerous Man Alive

I usually hate when people are unfairly compared to Adolph Hitler. I attempt to refrain from Hitler comparisons, because Hitler was an unimaginable monster-Svengali, bringing out the worst possible nature of millions of people. Hitler was filled with hatred. Hitler convinced millions of normal people to join his hatred and commit genocide. Hitler was the devil if there ever was a Satan in human form.

Hitler's reign of terror began with xenophobia and antisemitism and ended with horrors indescribable. Hitler started by preying on Germans' fear and anger. Within months of his election, he abolished civilized protections, ostracized Jews, gays, gypsies and others, and ended up annihilating millions.

Trump may not be a Hitler, at least I pray he is not. But like Hitler, he preys on an angry people's xenophobia and racism. Trump cares only about Trump. He has no empathy, no compassion. His rhetoric ignores Constitutional protections. He promises to engage in acts which the founding fathers wisely placed outside of a president's power.

I first voted for a presidential candidate in 1972. Retrospectively, I realize my first vote was not my wisest. I was a starry-eyed Idealist at age 19. I, at 63, am much more of a realist.  Three great-uncles, three great-aunts and a cousin all perished in Auschwitz. These were my grandparents' sisters and brothers.  My mother's family was lucky to escape three weeks before Kristallnacht.

This is the first time that a presidential candidate has really terrified me. He personifies hatred.  History can repeat itself. We must be vigilant. No one expected a paper hanger from Austria to murder millions. This election feels like the most important election of my life.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What Terrifies Me About Donald Trump!!!!!!!!

This blog is dedicated to courageous plaintiffs, but I notice I spend much of my time worrying about Donald Trump.  I decided to write down all of the things about a potential Trump presidency that scare the shit out of me:

1.  I am concerned about his personality, his lack of introspection, depth, and critical thinking.

2.  Would he use atomic bombs?  Maybe. He doesn't rule it out.

3.  Would he use executive orders to violate the Constitution?
       A.  Change "libel" laws - violating the First Amendment.
       B.  Refuse to allow attorneys to U.S. Citizens charged with crimes.  In violation of 6th Amendment.
       C.  Refuse citizens charged with crimes to be afforded jury trial - violation of 6th Amendment.
       D. Profile and frisk "suspicious" people - violation of 14th Amendment.
       E.  Torture - violation of 8th and 4th, 5th Amendments.

4.  He doesn't realize that there are three branches of government and he can't make and enforce laws.

5.  He brings out the worst in people -   Racism, sexism, xenophobia, hatred, violence.

6.   He is narcissistic and self-involved.

7.  He is inherently dishonest and opportunistic. I WANT TO SEE THOSE TAX RETURNS.  He swindles people and takes advantage of those he can.

8.  He is extremely insecure. I do not want my president to literally get into dick measuring contests. He is easily offended. A President must have thick skin and think of the country's before his.  He is vindictive.

9.   He is greedy  and ungenerous.

10.  He lacks diplomacy, intellectual curiosity and intelligence - NARCISSISM is his most obvious personality trait.

I am scared of him.  I have never felt this way before in the past ten elections in which I was able to and did vote. This election is important.  YIKES!!!!!!!!!!!!  This is serious. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

My Friends Are My Friends - So Leave Me Alone

Lately, I have been criticized in the Comments section on my blog because I have a good relationship  with Tony Botello. Several people indicate I shouldn't like because he is a sexist, or racist, or mean - blah, blah, blah. In fact, I got a couple of comments about Mr. Botello on a tribute I wrote about an amazing, courageous woman who just passed away. I considered deleting the comments, since they had nothing to do with the legacy of this amazing woman, but I did not. I only delete troll comments, and these comments were fair comments, but inserted in a place which I thought was inappropriate.

Apparently, as a feminist, I am supposed to have only friends or people with whom share my every view and share all of the views of all of the people who generally agree with me. I believe we are multi-faceted beings and I find it offensive that my choice of friends is subject to comment.

I am sure many people disagree with many of my beliefs or actions. So be it.  That does not mean I hate people with whom I disagree. I admire that Tony believes in the First Amendment and chooses not to delete troll comments, no matter how disgusting, racist, sexist or just pathetic the commenters may be. I disagree with Tony on the comment issue. I delete troll comments. I don't post photos of women in bikinis either, nor do I intend to do so. Tony may write things you find to be offensive. Some things I find to be offensive. However, he has done some amazing work exposing malfeasance and corruption. And sometimes he makes me laugh.

I saw Louis CK and he was hilarious, and said many, many offensive things. But, he was very funny. Actually, I will forgive a lot if someone makes me laugh. Laughter is one of my most favorite things in this world. I laugh at sick things at times.  Mt favorite joke is, "I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather.  I don't want to die screaming and afraid like his passengers."   Perhaps I am shallow or hypocritical that way, but get over it. We are all multi-faceted and hopefully we are complex human beings. Life is not black and white. I appreciate shades of grey.

Now, Tony, I will not be voting for you for president, or governor, or even mayor. You may say things with which I do not agree, but, I am not going to tell you to do or be anything but who you are. So, you commenters, or Facebook peeps who are upset with my friend choice,  get over it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Brief, Brave Life of Denise Henning

Denise Henning died yesterday.  I don't know if it is appropriate for me to write this blog about her, but I feel compelled to do so. I cannot stop thinking about who she was and the life she lived. I feel like everyone should know her name, she was such an amazing person.  I knew Denise for more than twenty years.  I always liked her, always admired her, but we were not really girlfriends,

Denise was a trial lawyer.  She had guts.  She went to trial when others were too afraid.  And, she won. I remember when she started her own firm across the street from ours.  Unlike me, Denise was not satisfied just practicing law.  She was truly a role model.  She was a leader.  She volunteered her time doing charitable things.  She had celebrations for women who achieved recognition in the field of law.  Denise excelled, and she gave back.

Denise founded a charitable branch of the Association of Women Lawyers.  She started a mentoring group for young women lawyers.  Her energy seemed inexhaustible.  I remember her pregnancies, giving birth to two healthy boys a dozen or more years ago.  I remember meeting her husband, Denise's high school sweetheart.

I remember years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her announcement that she had it beat.  She deservedly received award after award.  When she was on the cover of Kansas City Magazine as a Super Lawyer, I read with interest about her life.  The article is attached.  Denise Henning.  That was in 2011.

Then, in 2012, when her boys were playing baseball, Tim, Denise's husband, had a major heart attack and died.  He was only 47 years old.  I felt so bad for Denise.  I think, I hope, I let her know.

What I did not know then, but came soon to find out, was that just a few months before Tim's death, Denise discovered that her cancer had returned.  Her boys were young.  Denise called and asked if I knew who could hire her secretary, because she didn't want to leave her employee out in the cold while she ended her practice to tend to her boys and to her health.

Then, Denise started a foundation in memory of her husband, The Henning Family Foundation. She held golf tournaments to purchase AED devices so that if someone had a heart attack in a public, perhaps, unlike her husband, their lives could be saved. Every year we contributed to the foundation so another AED could be purchased.  In 2015, with an AED in her car, Denise saved a man's life whose heart had stopped.  Henning News Article She received an another award, this time from the Red Cross.

This past May I did not hear from Denise.  May is when she held the Tim Henning golf tournaments. I feared her health was deteriorating further.  In June, I learned that the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys was honoring Denise with its highest award, the Tom Strong award.  I made sure that I attended the banquet.  There is no one I know who was and is more deserving of that award.  I sent Denise a long email telling her how much I admired her.  Denise accepted the award at the annual banquet.  She needed help getting onto the stage.  Her boys were with her.  She did not look well.  I made my way to her and hugged her and told her again how deserving she was.

That was is the last time I ever talked to Denise.  I noticed that within the past few weeks, her friends on Facebook had been posting photos of Denise.  Denise's oldest son, a teenager, posted a loving tribute to his mother.  He wrote of how much his mother had sacrificed for he and his brother in the wake of their father's death.

On Sunday evening, September 11, 2016, Denise died.  I cannot stop thinking about her.  I cannot stop worrying about her sons.  I cannot stop mourning the loss of this wonderful women.  I can just imagine how hard Denise's passing is for her loved ones.  Denise Henning is irreplaceable.  The world is a better place for her having lived among us for oh too short a time. What an amazing person she was.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


I watched 60 Minutes tonight. They broadcast an expose of Manhattan lawyers asked to launder money for a fictional African politician, who was seeking to buy a building, a jet, and a yacht, without divulging the true ownership. Out of the 16 lawyers unknowingly being videotaped, only one flatly refused. The president of the American Bar Association was interviewed. In the videotape, he expressed some reservations and stated that if the funds were gained illegally, he would report the crime. Apparently, the other lawyers expressed no reservations.  What was most troubling to me was one lawyer declaring that lawyers would not get in trouble, because lawyers run this country. All of a sudden, I wondered if I was an accomplice in this sleazy behavior.

Lawyers do seem to run this country. President Obama is a lawyer and so is Governor Jay Nixon. Senator Claire MCaskill is also a member of the bar. Jason Kander, my choice for Senator is, guess what, a lawyer. Lawyers have a lot of power in our government. And what about the lobbyists. Lawyers are in the money and power making business, for sure.

Are lawyers up to the task of running this country? I have my doubts whether any profession measures up. I do not know what profession is immune from greed and deceit. Money complicates everything, as does power and sex. I am not here to talk about the corrupting power of sex, but I have wondered if society would be different if humans were devoid of testosterone and estrogen. But, I digress.

I earn my living by accepting contingent fees. That means I am not paid on a regular basis. I am paid when my clients recover. My clients, by and large, cannot afford to pay the hourly fees I could bill in working on a case. In employment discrimination cases, fees through trial usually amount to six figure amounts. It's possible that when a case settles, my client is handsomely compensated, and so am I. I try my darnedest to separate my client's interests from mine. My duty as a lawyer is to my client, not to me, nor my family, nor to the bank holding my mortgage. In theory, I heartily believe in the ethical code and I abhor a lawyer who puts his or her interests ahead of the client's. However, when the bills are due, or my dog is sick, or when my kids need money, or when I want to go on vacation, it is a greater challenge to only consider my client's best interest. I have successfully rationalized my dilemma and have convinced myself that my ethics are intact. But, in reality, what other occupation requires someone to work for hundreds of hours with no immediate pay, and with the real possibility of not getting paid at all. Workers in America expect compensation for their work. I feel that I, in reality, am merely a professional gambler, which doesn't really comport with my perception of what a lawyer should be.

Those lawyers on 60 Minutes are undoubtedly not paid by contingent fee, but to recover their $1,000 an hour hourly fees, they have to get the business. Lawyers are held to high ethical standards, as we should be. But, lawyers, as humans, can be blinded by greed. While I was embarrassed by the 60 Minutes expose, I also understand the dilemma those lawyers who were  surreptitiously recorded faced. Fortunately, I can't fathom being asked to launder money, since I have no expertise whatsoever in setting up shell companies or hiding assets.  So, my immediate dilemma is avoided. If I had such "expertise," I hope I would act as the lawyer who threw the bums out of his office. I have to believe that I would. I really hope I would. Theoretical moral dilemmas are easier to solve than real ones.

We lawyers rationalize that people hate us because we are misunderstood. We rationalize that people hate us because of the tacky lawyers ads that are beneath those of us who do not buy television time.
We lawyers rationalize that people hate us because of the few bad apples like Saul of "Better Call Saul."  Those reasons may partially explain the lawyer hatred dating back to Shakespeare's time. I wonder if other lawyers worry, as I do, that lawyers are really, deep down, hated because sometimes we just act despicably.