Friday, December 31, 2010

The End of 2010

Well, 2010 is almost over. We are ready for a new start. I decided to write a top ten list of things I would like to see in the upcoming year, or hopefully in the upcoming decade, at least:

1. It is unlawful in the state of Missouri to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or preference;

2. It is unlawful in the state of Missouri to discriminate against employees over the age of 70 (yes, employers in Missouri can currently discriminate against people over 70);

3. The Missouri Legislature has the good sense to protect the rights of Missourians and reject the proposed amendments to Missouri human rights laws that benefit unscrupulous corporations;

4. The good citizens of Kansas City, Missouri refuse to re-elect Mark Funkhouser and elect someone who has the best interest of the city at heart;

5. The Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl;

6. The Kansas City Royals get better, hopefully with a new owner, and stay in Kansas City;

7. We bring home our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq;

8. We recognize the importance of education in this country and offer free public colleges to all;

9. We pay our teachers the same as we pay our doctors and lawyers and have the best teachers in the world for our children;

10. We treat each other with dignity and respect and love our fellow creatures on this earth.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Keeping Writing

It's hard to keep up with a blog when your daughter decides to get married in ten weeks! I need to work to be able to pay for this wedding, which takes time and energy away from blogging. I hope to be writing more frequently soon.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I am very fortunate.  I practice law with two of the best lawyers I know, and fortunately, they are my closest friends.  We are a partnership of three non-traditional lawyers.  Non-traditional because we are all trial lawyers and we are all also mothers and wives.  Few, if any, firms like ours existed when I was a child, at least not to my knowledge.  Our firm is coming heading toward our sixteenth anniversary.  

All of the lawyers in our firm work cooperatively.  We have little ego; what egotistical behavior there is is usual comes from me.  We all try cases, we all write briefs, we all argue before Courts of Appeals.  When one of us has a case going to trial, another of us pitches in as second-chair.  Sometimes, more often than not, the remaining lawyer takes the laboring oar on motions and jury instructions.  Today, we helped Kristi get ready for her Court of Appeals argument scheduled tomorrow.  Thankfully, this time our client is the respondent. 

When Marie and I started this firm, we did not know what to expect. I decided to leave my previous firm and go out on my own and called, Marie, my friend and law school classmate just to tell someone.  I was surprised with her response, "Can I join you?"   I did not know if we could make it.  We have.  Kristi joined us the following year, still in law school, recommended by my mother, who was Kristi's co-worker selling tickets for basketball and theatre events.  The three of us have survived ups and downs and have changed and grown.  Four of our kids have been through or are in college, two have been born, and now one is getting married.  We take care of each other, our clients, and our families.

We are also fortunate to have the finest staff in all of Kansas City.  They have been with us for many years.  I don't know where we would be without them, especially Ann who has been with me more than 25 years. 

Sometimes, it just feels good to think about who makes this firm possible so that we can represent the courageous people that we represent.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cancer and Existentialism

This weekend was a strange weekend for me. It has been about a year since what my son callS "Mom's Existential Crisis At the World War I Museum." This past Friday evening started with a multi- network television program targeting the curing of cancer. I started thinking about how cancer, and death, has affected so many people I care about

This past year, cancer has affected more people I know and care about, including clients, friends, and relatives, than any year I remember. Early this year the husband/ client of another client called me to tell me that my dear, brave client had succumbed to breast cancer. Even though it was more than fifteen years before that I had represented the pair of scientists, I still heard from them even though they had left the area. The wife would tell me about her breast cancer research and I admired her determination. Ironically, it was breast cancer that was her doom. I did not expect her to die. I still grieve when I think of her and how well she treated my then eight year old daughter. They fussed over my little girl ( who is now 25) and my daughter basked in their attention. My client was devoted to her research and boundvand determinedvto find inroads into breast cancer's cure. In the end, it was not she who defeated the cancer, but the cancer that smote this brilliant, delicate woman.

My own husband's physician discovered atypical moles on his face and chest, which turned out to be skin cancer, but fortunately not melanoma. His cancer was simply cut away and he is fine, with recurring dermatologist visits and my daughter insistence that he endure another colonoscopy. However, other friends are not so fortunate. I have written about my brave clients, a married couple, who both suffer serious life- threatening cancer. They continue to inspire and awe me with their courage and commitment to each other. I learned one of my colleagues locally recently discovered she has breast cancer and she will be undergoing chemotherapy for six months while her partners who love her cover her cases.

One of my lawyer friends in another city whom I have known for many years recently discovered he, too, has a serious form of cancer. He is undergoing treatment in a well-renown hospital. I sent him an email. I was heartened by his upbeat response and his gratefulness to his
Wife and partner. All of these friends and clients exhibit courage in the face of death
This weekend i watched all episodes so far of the Showtime series "The Big C," about a woman with stage 4 melanoma who cannot face telling her family that she is dying. Couple these shows with the HBO Special Movie on Dr. Kevorkian and end of life issues keep invading my consciousness.

This leads me to my own "existential crisis" at the World War I museum last year. On the walls of this museum are statistics of how many soldiers were killed fighting this war over nationalism. My ancestors fought for the Central powers, since my relatives were, at that time in either Germany or Poland. My grandfather received an Iron Cross that I gave to my son. It's hard to get into the "justice" of the war when my ancestors fought on the losing side. It became clear to me that one purpose of war is to "cull the herds" of humans, since we really have no predators except ourselves.

I stood in the hall of the museum and thought, "What is the purpose of all of this? What is the purpose of life? We all are born and we die. How are we diffent from insects?
Life seemed so meaningless. As you may suspect, I am not particularly religious.

Within the next few weeks, I read some of Eckhart Tolle's book about living in the moment. I ready "The Art of Happiness" by his Holiness the Dalai Lama. These books reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of people and the importance of trying to lead a giving life. However, it was not until I learned of these friends and clients stricken by cancer and saw the good they continued to do for themselves, their families, and for society that I was convinced that life can have meaning, that we can make a difference. I feel sadness when I think these special, courageous people are suffering, but I have learned so much about human dignity and the sanctity of human life.

I only hope that when my times comes, and it could at any time, that I can muster the courage that I have seen in these fine, wonderful people. I thank each and every one of you and pray for the best.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Joke Issue

I decided to write a new post, because, quite frankly, my last two entries have been depressing me. My daughter is much better. She discontinued a medication she was on and she is feeling much better. Thank goodness.

Practicing law is serious business. In discrimination cases, emotions run high. Sometimes, you just need a break. I have one client who sends me humorous accounts of very serious matters, and I really appreciate his emails. Sometimes it becomes necessary, for spiritual, physical and psychological reasons, to laugh. I love to laugh. I love people who make me laugh. I love situations that make me laugh. I love movies that make me laugh out loud, embarrassing timid souls who are shocked by my guffaws in movie theaters (spoiler alert) for example - The Other Guys when Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock jump off the building.

So, I am going to share one of my favorite jokes, probably first told to me by John Nolte:

"When I die, I want to die peacefully in my sleep, the way my grandfather died. I do not want to die screaming and in pain like his passengers."

If you are reading this and are so inclined, please share your favorite joke. I love puns. I would prefer no potty humor or raunchy jokes. Please, make me laugh.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I sit here, in the emergency room going in the fifth hour of our wait, still not back in an examination room, waiting for my daughter to be seen. It's our thirty-sixth wedding anniversary. Emergency rooms are not new to us, but it's been over a year since we have been here for her devastating migraine pain. This is not a migraine, though. She has worked hard and got those mainly under control, with the help of the incredible neurologist who works at this hospital. This time she is here because of intensifying abdominal pain and nausea. She has already been to her internist, who told her to come to the emergency room. Hopefully, we will learn the source of this problem sooner rather than later and she can move forward on her plans, and begin to accomplish those dreams. She and here boyfriend want to marry and move to Florida. She wants to become a psychiatric nurse, or an ER nurse, I am sure not in small part because of her frequent visits these past two years to the emergency room. Or she may become a therapist using dogs and other pets for therapy. She loves her dogs. She has two degrees, one in political science and one in psychology, but ever since she was plagued by the constant debilitating migraine pain, her life has been on hold. When I was her age, I had completed my bachelor's degree, had been married four years, and was pregnant with our son. Her life is on hold, for now. I hope just for now. She has so many dreams and it hurts me to watch the pain stop her.

I know my daughter has headache pain almost constantly. I am amazed at how she has found the courage to move on, in the face of the pain. I can tell when she has a headache just by looking in her eyes. I no longer ask, though, because she doesn't want to talk about it, that just makes her think about it. She moves through the pain and plans for the future. In many ways, she is my hero. I have never told her this. Maybe I will tell her tonight.

Life is not always fair. I feel good being at this hospital because they have helped my daughter so much and a former client of mine, a truly wonderful woman, is the triage nurse here. Seeing this nurse calms me.

This hospital reminds me of another client. He is probably the bravest man I have ever met. He comes to this hospital for treatment. He has a terminal brain tumor. His equally brave
wife is also a patient of this hospital. Once the matter I represented her husband regarding was resolved and they planned to lead the best life possible, she was diagnosed with a rare and serious form of cancer. She has been treated here, but her treatment has not been so successful. The last time I saw the two of them, they were holding hands as they walked toward me. They have been blessed with a wonderful marriage and the kind of love about which movies are made. I pray that they have many years left together. I know they are making the best of what they have.

We are finally back in an examination room. I pray my daughter gets some relief. This was not the way my husband and I envisioned spending our 36th wedding anniversary. At least we are here together, with our daughter.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why I Left the Trial Lawyers' College

Why I Left TLC

   I envisioned starting this piece with a line from  Mark Antony's famous speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "I come to praise TLC, not to bury it."  In reality, Antony not only buried Brutus, but rallied the citizens to rebel against him.  My purpose is not to persuade, but just to explain why I left.   There probably are not that many people who know that I resigned from the Trial Lawyer College staff and fewer who know why I did so.

   Why am I writing this now?  I can think of two reasons.  The summer session of TLC just ended and I read about it on facebook. Quite frankly, I miss the beauty and inspiration of the ranch and I miss my friends.  The last few nights I have been having unpleasant dreams about my departure from TLC. I even dreamed that I was begging to return. That is something that in reality I have no desire to do.  However, my leaving TLC at times is very painful.

    I participated in TLC from the first class in 1994.  TLC blew me away.  Especially the psychodrama.  I came to the ranch in more pain than I could admit to myself. Through psychodrama, through the years, not only did I work through my pain, but I began to really understand who I am. The more I knew and loved myself, the better I knew and loved my clients. I became a better person and a better lawyer.  I credit John Nolte, one of the  psychodramatists at the ranch, for giving me the courage to explore me and who I was and how I got there.  Becoming a better lawyer was incidental to my personal growth. However, I grew as a lawyer exponentially through my struggles as a human.  I will be forever grateful to the Trial Lawyers College for starting me on this path.

   Through this self-realization and self-actualization, i increasingly found that my views on what was right for me and my clients differed sometimes from what I was teaching and witnessed being taught at TLC. Trial lawyers oftentimes have big egos.  Winning is important, but many times I wondered if we talked about winning for us as opposed to winning for our clients.  The more I grew, the more I knew that the true satisfaction in being a trial lawyer comes from serving our clients who desperately need our voices. Being a trial lawyer, for me, must be about my clients.  It feels hollow and empty to talk about win/loss records instead of how our clients are fulfilled or our quest to even the playing field.  I became clear about why I practice law and what I want to accomplish.  I trust myself in court. That does not mean I am invincible, just that I know who I am and what I want to accomplish. The most important evolution for me is not only understanding, I mean truly understanding my clients. I have come to love most of my clients.  Practicing law this way is not only effective, but also fulfilling.

  Now back to the Trial Lawyers College.  Through the years, as is common in institutions, discord and dissent start to erode the foundation on which the institute is built.  Obviously, TLC remains a very effective and innovative way to help trial lawyers and their clients. But, it appeared to me that the role of psychodrama was going to change.  When John Nolte was forced off the board and ultimately left TLC, that was probably the turning point for me.  When I heard that the concentration was going to be on what I thought looked like a "trick"- finding the "betrayal" in the story, I was dismayed. It sounded to me as much a device as first-person opening statements for every trial.  It began to sound phony.

   I won't lie and say that the decision to eliminate the board liaison was not a blow to me personally.  However, in the long run, that decision made sense. What did not make sense to me was excluding one of the most innovative teachers from staff, Fredilyn Sison, for reasons I don't understand. I just could not stomach such hurtful conduct to such a sweet, caring soul.

   Finally, I am going to verbalize one of the features of TLC that always bothered me.  It was not until Fredi's exclusion that I gathered the courage to leave. TLC is a very sexist place, or at least it was. I have high regard for Anne Valentine and Cyndy Short. I hope, with their oversight, women will fare better. I finally decided that at age 57, after 27 years as a lawyer, I did not have to smile and let the men take over. I have had my own firm for many years and i got tired of feeling like the testosterone was impenetrable.

    Don't get me wrong. TLC can be and often is a magical place.  I learned so much from my experiences there, and I love so many of the people still associated with TLC.  I would recommend TLC unhesitatingly to young lawyers.  But, I am proud of myself for recognizing when it was time for me to move on.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Three Keys To Being Happy

Here is what I think makes a happy person:

1.  Living in the moment.  This means not worrying about the past, not second-guessing decisions, not worrying if you can get that brief done or will get paid on that case, nor worrying about what illness or event will end your life.  Living in the moment means listening fully and completely to what others are saying.  Forgetting about yourself (more on that later).  Living in the moment means being aware of the beauty of your surroundings and melodies in your life.

2.  Forgetting about yourself.  The times I have been depressed, insecure or stressed, I become very self-involved. I am never happy when I am self-involved.  I am never happy when I am insecure. To forget about yourself, you must be able to love yourself and give yourself a break.  Every time you do something for someone else with no regard to receiving anything in return, you forget about your self.  Every time you ignore a nasty comment or dirty look, all the while knowing that it reflects on the person giving the look or making the comment and not on you, you can be happy.

3,  Listening to and understanding others from the other person's point of view.  Of course, to truly listen to others is to live in the moment and to forget about yourself.  When you listen to someone from his or her point of view, you gain a deeper understanding of that person and of the human condition. When you let yourself get into the hide of others, the world becomes a kinder, gentler place.  You become less judgmental and more forgiving and loving.

These are three principles that make a person happier, but these characteristics also make lawyers better lawyers, and humans more effective. I have to keep reminding myself of this, since it sure is easy for me to become insecure, self-centered and selfish.  But, for now, I will just enjoy the view from my window overlooking the Power and Light District and be thankful for this day.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Remembering Oma

 Yesterday, my husband and I drove to the gym to participate in cycle class, one of the things that has kept us partially sane during the past three years.  Mike parked the car and I got out and saw something that immediately sent me back to my youth. It was a bush, or rather a series of bushes, planted in the rows between the parking spots.  I don't know the names of these bushes, but I have enjoyed them many times before.  They are green and leafy, and this time of the year they sport the most delicate tiny pink blossoms, each blossom no more than a quarter of an inch in diameter.  These delicate blossoms are surrounded by little leaf-like sprouts that give the small blossoms a star-like quality.  I used to pick those blossoms in my grandmother, my Oma's, backyard.
   Oma, had a beautiful flower garden behind her small ranch-style home.  She did all of the planting and weeding herself.  She and my step-grandfather, who we called "Uncle Sam," built a concrete patio and surrounded it with a short brick wall. They placed pots of petunia on the wall.  But, the flowers that I loved were the lilies of the valley planted on the side of the house.  These flowers were so delicate.  They were simple, a stalk curved like a candy cane with random tiny white blossoms that looked like bells all up and down the stalk.  They were small, and unique, and perfect.
   Oma had not been born to be a gardener. At that time she was a seamstress, a member of the Ladies' Garment Workers Union.  She sewed sleeves onto coats.  That wasn't her first job in the United States.  When she first arrived with my six year old mother, my grandfather, and my great-grandmother in tow, she worked as a maid.  I remember her telling me about the first time she made gelatin and it was not hardening so she added cornstarch. By the time the gelatin had set, she could have fashioned that jell-o into bricks.
    It took me many years to realize that Oma was my real-life hero.  She forced her family to escape Nazi Germany at the end of 1938, right before Kristallnacht.  Many other relatives perished in concentration camps.
Oma learned English before she left to aid in our family's assimilation.  She, as many Germans are prone to do, worked hard. She worked very hard.  Oma sewed matching dresses for my sister and I.  She was always busy.
    Every summer, Oma and Uncle Sam took my sister, my brother and me to the Lake of the Ozarks.  I remembered how exquisitely excited I would get each and every time I first laid eyes on the water of the lake. We swam and fished and had a grand old time.  Those are the only out-of-town vacations we had when I was a child.  Uncle Sam took me fishing in Loose Park, the place which was ultimately the site of my wedding many years later.  There was a time that fishing was allowed in the urban park with the lake by Wornall, a pretty heavily traveled thoroughfare.  I (Uncle Sam, really) caught a catfish from the pond when I was seven.  We took it home to Oma' house and put it in a tub.  Of course it died, since the water was filled with chlorine, but we knew nothing about the chlorine hazard and watched the fish swim until its untimely demise.
     I learned a lot from Oma and Uncle Sam.  When Uncle Sam died from lung cancer (damn you cigarettes) Oma was devastated.  She loved that man more than she loved life itself.  She grieved, but she knew that her life must go on and what she made of the rest of it lay in her hands.  At age 63, my grandmother went back to school, to become an L.P.N.  Oma had secretly wanted to be a nurse her whole life.  She was the oldest student in the class, but I am sure no student studied harder than she.  She passed the classes and aced the test and was hired by a local hospital.  Oma was working on the floor of Research Hospital when Harry Truman was brought to that hospital to die.  Nursing was Oma's passion, but the hospital had a rule that nurses could not be over 70 years old.  At 70, Oma had to leave.  She worked at some part-time nursing jobs, but it wasn't the same for her as working in a hospital.  Within a few years, she died.
     I think of this amazing woman often.  She called me Lynnilla and used similar suffices for my siblings.  She was steady and safe and always there for us.  I remember the sun streaming into her living room through the picture window with the eastern exposure, making everything glow a hopeful yellow color.  When you saw that sunlight and were bathed in its warmth at Oma's house, the day was going to be okay.
     Oma was, and still is, my hero.  I hope everyone is fortunate enough to have a person in his or her life who inspires them to be their best.  Oma did that for me.
     Everytime I see one of those bushes with the exquisitely tiny pink flower/stars, or I find a delicate lily of the family, I think of my grandmother and home.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Real Reason Some People Are Upset And We Have The Tea Party

Not many people voluntarily relinquish power and control of a society. Here, in the United States! We are undergoing a shift in power. We have an African-American President. Soon Caucasians will be in the minority. Women are gaining political power. It is always disconcerting to those in power when that power is at risk.

This phenomenon has occurred many times in history. Gandhi said, "First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they fight you; then you win." We are at stage three, "then they fight you . . .". We will have a more just and equal society, it's just that not everyone is happy about that.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Future of Equality

 I am very optimistic about our country's future.  When I was a young girl, there were race riots in Kansas City after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed.  Those riots woke me up and began my focus on civil rights.  I don't remember when Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, but her act of courage has greatly affected me. There are still many problems to overcome to have true racial equality in this country, but things are getting better. Race discrimination is more covert.  I don't hear racial epithets in common parlance as I did in my youth.

I became a lawyer in 1983, and did a few civil rights cases.  Things dramatically changed in 1991 when Congress expanded Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Back then, I began handling the most horrendous sexual harassment cases.  Some employers were groping and fondling their subordinates in the workplace, co-workers in traditionally male jobs were sexually intimidating female co-workers, offers of promotions in exchange for sex occurred.  I tried my first sexual harassment case to a jury in 1994, where the manager had not only propositioned my client, but also grabbed between her legs.  Since then, I have tried many sexual harassment cases with the most vile and outrageous facts.  Juries responded to sexual harassment cases in a big way, and companies began to see the value in stopping sexual harassment cases in the workplace.  As my old boss used to say, people will do the right thing if you make them.  In the early 1990's, I predicted that sexual harassment cases would die out in ten years.  That didn't happen, but things are much better than they were twenty years ago.

Discrimination is far from a memory, though.  In our office, we are handling several race discrimination, national origin discrimination and sexual harassment cases.  We have a long way to go to achieve equality of opportunity for all races.  Age discrimination, in this economy, has exploded.  In fact, age discrimination is extremely rampant now.  In the last two jury trials our firm has had which were for age discrimination, I pointed out that it was acceptable in our last Presidential election to lambast McCain for his age.  It is not acceptable in this country to hurl epithets against any group except older people.  The jury responded.  The way we treat our elders is atrocious.

But, I am ever optimistic.  I see a new age, just around the corner, where it is unlawful to discriminate in employment based on sexual orientation.  Kansas City has such an ordinance, even though Missouri and the federal government do not.  Congress is killing that strange policy, "Don't ask, don't tell."  I predict we are close to legislation which has as its purpose to even the playing field regardless of sexual orientation.  I am optimistic because it was acceptable to ridicule gays and lesbians in my youth, while my children would be appalled at that behavior.

I am beginning to be optimistic in another area that I thought would never change - wage disparity.  Women earn between 76% to 80% of men.  Women are promoted less than men and traditionally female jobs are paid less than traditionally male jobs, regardless of skill level and complexity.  There is a pending class action case against Wal-Mart, with a potential class of 1.5 million people.  Maybe, just maybe, we will finally come to realize that paying women less than Caucasian men is not okay.  Women make up 52% of the population and almost half of the workforce.  This is major!  And, if women can eventually get equal pay treatment, then so can African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.  Perhaps, we are on the path to true equality in treatment of all our citizens.  Perhaps, when talking about a family in poverty, Americans will not just accept that household be a "single mom" as a valid explanation.  

One day, maybe sometime soon, maybe in my lifetime, people will be "judged by the content of their character, and not be the color of their skin" nor by the age of their body, nor their gender nor their sexual orientation.  This will only happen if there are enough brave souls out their willing to buck the system by using our legal system and suing discriminatory employers.  Our judicial system is working.  It's exciting to think what the future can bring.

Monday, May 31, 2010

What is Courage?

Today is Memorial Day which is the day legally set aside for people in this country to remember those who fought and died for this country.  What makes it important that we remember those who died before us, the noble, and sometimes the not so noble?  What makes someone a "hero?"  How does one live with courage so that he or she can be remembered as a noble "soldier?"

For me, what epitomizes courage is the protagonist in the classic "Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane.  It is a classic about the Civil War which covers only two days of the war.  On the first day, the protagonist in the book was scared and ran.  He acted like a normal scared person confronted by overwhelming personal danger.  But the book does not stop with day one.  On day two, he comes back, facing the danger from which he fled and he stands and fights.  When I read the book, way into my adulthood, I loved it.  That is real courage, fighting the natural urge for self-protection to do what one feels is right. No need for perfection.  We can redeem our souls.  I love redemption.

It is obvious courage to give up one's life for what one believes.  I wish I could understand why our nation keeps asking our young people to sacrifice their lives.  Many times, I would rather we kept our brave men and women at home and not ask for the ultimate sacrifice for what I suspect to be purely economic reasons such as protecting our dependence on foreign oil.  I think, as the ones who are not at risk of dying in these sometimes silly wars, we should not be asking our young ones, our sons and daughters, our youngsters, to die to keep us rich.  But our children and youths continue to make the ultimate sacrifice, usually with great honor and dignity.

I think for most of us, those too old or not confronted with the choice to go to battle, their can still be great courage.  It is the kind of courage we want from our leaders, yet see it all to rarely.  This kind of courage is not the kind of courage that makes for a typical politician.  This courage is the kind that few among us demonstrate.  It is the courage to do that which is unpopular, that which may open one to ridicule, or worse.  It takes courage to buck the masses, to risk everyday ridicule.  For a politician it takes courage to follow ones own convictions regardless of opinion polls.   For the everyday person, it takes courage to not join in and ridicule of the unpopular, to risk public ridicule, to risk loneliness.  That is the way that most of us can be courageous.

To act with courage is hard.  If it is easy to fight, it takes no courage to do so. Courage is when one fights for ideals when it is easier not to fight.   Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, all displayed real courage.  Everyday people display courage when they risk being shunned or ridiculed and stand up for what they believe.  To be courageous one has to first be able to stand up for oneself.  Just as someone who lacks self-love cannot love others, one who lacks the courage to protect oneself, cannot protect others.

I am proud to represent everyday people who show courage by bucking the system, by standing against injustice, even though it is hard and even though it is unpopular.  That is why I started this blog, to honor those everyday people who fight, in their own way, everyday for what is right.  That is uncommon courage.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

People Who Have the Courage to Buck the System

I feel honored to represent people who buck the system, whistleblowers, victims of illegal retaliation, etc.  It takes a lot of courage to buck the system.  We are social animals.  People act differently in groups than they act when alone.  We all want to fit in.  But, sometimes we can't, or decide that we won't.  Whistleblowers can appear to  be misfits, because it is hard for people who really want to fit in to buck the power, the social or employment situation in which he or she finds him or herself.

In my experience in representing the people who have the courage to buck the system, my clients have to endure more than rejection from their former group.  It seems that it is human nature to vilify the person who has the courage to differ.  My clients suffer from the humiliation of lies and rumors spread about them.  For instance, I have represented women in sexual harassment cases where the employer claims they engaged in sex at work, that they "asked for it," that they were the real harassers.  In my own life, I have been part of an organization where those in power wrongfully accused my friends of trying to wrest power and overtake the organization to justify their treatment of those who differed with the ones in power.  These situations were lies, but the people perpetrating the lies wanted them to be true, to justify their actions.  Lies get spread this way.

Group dynamics are illustrate strange phenomena in human behavior.  Being the descendant of Jewish German refugees from Nazi Germany, I have always been interested in group dynamics.  How can a leader, an employer, the cool kids in high school, get others to engage in behavior as a group that would appall them if they had rationally engaged in such  behavior individually?  We so want to belong, that humans are capable of doing horrible things if the group sanctions them.  That is what happened in Nazi Germany, in Rwanda, in the Spanish Inquisition.  I wonder what I would have done if I were in the majority in one of these situations.  I hope that I would have the courage to fight the status quo.  Most people do not.  If we had not had people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, where would we be as a society?

Here's to those who have the courage to do what is unpopular, to buck the leaders, to speak the truth.  We need people with such courage.  I am proud that I have the honor to represent some of the people who show this great courage.   I hope that, if tested, I could count myself as one among them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grace and Courage - Part I- 10 Special People

I have had a writers block these past few weeks, deciding who and what I would like to write about.  The purpose of my starting this blog was to recognize the courage and fortitude of my clients, both past and present.  I am reticent to name names, though, because of attorney-client privileges.  However, I want to honor some of the people who have influenced me by their acts of grace, courage and kindness, not just clients.  Some are just people whose paths have crossed mine in my life, others are clients.  I am just going to list ten of those people that come to my mind tonight.  This is not an all-encompassing list and I hope to have many more in the future.  Here is tonight's top 10,  in no particular order.

1.  Anni Halle - my grandmother who has been dead since 1985.  She had the fortitude to mobilize her family, my mother, grandfather and great-grandmother to flee Nazi Germany in 1938, days before Cristallnacht.  If it weren't for her courage, I would never have existed.  And, after she worked as a maid and then in a factory for most of her life, she went to school at the age of 63 to become a nurse.  I wish I had told her that she was my hero before she died.  I hope she knew.

2.  Judge Frances Tydinngco-Gatewood - the presiding federal judge on the territory of Guam and my law school classmate and moot court partner, and friend.  Frances is one of the kindest, most caring, most loving people I have ever met.  I may not see her for 20 years, but when I see her again, her warmth and kindness still washes over me.  I see photos of her and can't help but smile.  Elevation to the federal bench has not changed her one whit.  She is kind, caring and wonderful Frances.

3.  My clients dealing with brain and uterine cancer.  A tough pill for a devoted and loving married couple.  I watch their love and devotion for each other and know that even with their dreadful diseases they are truly blessed by having each other.  It has been such an honor representing them.

4.  My brother - Bob Jaben.  He is filled with good humor, and brotherly devilishness to his older sister.  No matter what issue may arise, he is steady and strong.

5.  My wonderful client whose sexual harassment case I tried years ago.  She was abused and harassed by co-workers, and fought a very powerful union.  The jury gave her $650,000, which the court of appeals took away.  Through this experience, she and her husband have established a church and they are pastors.  She is kind, gentle, and good-humored.  She brings out the best in people.

6.  Commissioner Molly Merrigan - I really don't know Commissioner Merrigan well.  I was appointed to a very difficult juvenile case with heart-wrenching issues.  The case caused me several sleepless nights.  I don't feel comfortable talking about the specifics of the case.  However, in a case that I thought could ruin many people's lives, Commissioner Merrigan in her kind, soft-spoken way came up with a creative solution that will probably save those kids.

7.  My client involved in a horrendous accident resulting in catastrophic injuries.  He was very young.  He shows me how to live as normal of a life as possible with dignity.  He is a kind and loving man, who can still live his life without anger and bitterness.

8.  Barack Obama - I just think he is really, really cool. Enough said.

9.  My client who is a nurse.  As a result of the events of her case, the life she knew was destroyed, both personally and professionally.  She is a leader and believes in principles.  She is one of the most honorable people I have ever met.  Even with all of the hardships, she bounces back and takes care of others, as good nurses do.

10.  My husband.  He is kind and loving. He acts with dignity during difficult times.  He treats most everyone with respect. He is a good man.

That felt good.  There are many, many more people whom I respect.  I hope to write more articles about those people who have positively impacted me.  Watch for them in the future.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How To Fix the Kansas City Royals - and its application to employment issues

For many years now, the Kansas City Royals have been terrible.  My husband is a loyal fan of the Royals, and so I am drawn in to this annual drama.  This year, after reading, "The Power of Nice" and "How to Win Friends and Influence People," I believe I have the solution for making the Royals a great team again - fire the owner.

The Royals are owned by David Glass, the former CEO of Wal-Mart.  And, quite frankly, Glass runs this operation as if it were Wal-Mart, where employees are sometimes considered commodities, acquired at "Roll-Back" prices.  Baseball teams need to be run as if they were small, family-owned businesses with owners who care about employees and customers alike.

The Royals were great when Ewing Kauffman was alive and owned them.  Kauffman loved his baseball team and it showed.  Would he have ever traded George Brett, even if it were financially advantageous?  Of course not.  Ewing Kauffman treated the Royals and Kansas City as if we were all part of his family.  No Wal-Mart mentality there.

So, once we fire David Glass, who should we hire as owner?  Why Warren Buffett, of course.  Warren Buffett does not believe in firing employees, according to the author of "The Power of Nice."  He knows how to treat people.  He must be kind, since he donated at least a billion dollars to the Gates Foundation.  He lives in Omaha, where the Royals have a farm team.  He's rich enough, and I think we Kansas Citians could love him as a father as we did Ewing Kauffman.

So, if there is anyone reading this blog who knows Warren Buffett, please ask him to make an offer to David Glass which Glass could not refuse.  Oh, and make sure Mr. Buffett agrees to keep the Royals in Kansas City.

Thank you very much.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movin' On Up, to the First Chair - The Fate of Women Trial Lawyers

There are many fine trial lawyers who are women.  More women are trial lawyers. Many more than when I started in practice.  But, we need more women willing to go to trial.  This blog is for those who have not made it to the first chair, perhaps not even to the second chair.  This is for the woman who is afraid, like the rest of us, and who wonders if there is something wrong, if she is just too scared.  This blog is for the "everywoman" lawyer who wants the best for her client but fears she is not good enough, not strong enough, not tough enough.

I never thought I would quote Franklin Roosevelt, but his statement, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" is apt, not only in life, but especially in trial.  We usually imagine things much worse than what really happens in everyday life. Fear of failure is much worse than failure.  Fear of anything is worse than just about anything you can be afraid of.  We are all afraid at times.  Even the biggest, strongest, toughest male lawyer gets scared in trial.  We need to just do, even if we are afraid.

 In my opinion, a trial lawyer needs to be able to do the following;

1.  Listen.  Listen wholeheartedly and completely without thinking or experiencing anything else.  Listen and be present.

2.  Care.  Care for your client.  Figure out what you love about your client.  Figure out what irks you about your client and what that trait reminds you of in you and why it irks you so.

3.  Understand.  Understand your opponents, both parties and lawyers, and why they are doing what they are doing.  Understand your client.  Understand the jury.

Most lawyers, most people, can listen, care and understand.  Most people could try a case  We, as lawyers, complicate things and forget our real purpose. We make it seem too hard, too complicated, too fraught with traps.  Lawyers complicate simple things.  We need to simplify.  Life is more simple than we make it.

We make going to trial seem complicated because it is so frightening.  Women trial lawyers are oftentimes perfectionists.  It is frightening to not appear perfect, to appear to be fallible.  We didn't get to this place by appearing weak and for me, appearing weak is my greatest fear,  Embrace your fear.

In a previous post, I claimed that women are better trial lawyers than men.  That was a joke.  It's not true.  The truth is that being an effective trial lawyer has nothing to do with gender.  In the past, women have been too willing to take a subservient role, though.  Why is that?  It is easier to appear to be perfect if we don't risk the perception of imperfection.  Going to trial invites the risk of the perception of imperfection.

This is a plea to women who care, who feel strongly, who have a sense of justice. Go to trial, champion your client's cause. Risk failure, risk rejection.  It is scary, it is hard.  However, you don't need to be the most articulate, beautiful or intelligent person in the room.  But, you do have to be sincere, care, and be spontaneous.  Whom of you cannot do that?  I suspect there is not a one.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Age Discrimination in A Youth-Oriented Society

 I just finished trying an age discrimination case with my law partner, Kristi.  I notice that as I age, I have a greater fondness  for age discrimination cases.  Hmmmm.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Of all the protected categories in discrimination law, age is the one that will affect the largest number of us through the mere passage of time.  Age discrimination is different than other forms of insidious discrimination.  It creeps up on a person.  Racial and sexual harassment act as cannonballs thrust into the victim's gut.  Those forms of discrimination are rarely subtle.  Our society teaches us to repel and oppose unwanted sexual acts and to condemn racial epithets.  Not so with ageist actions and comments.  I think many in our society accepts and condone age discrimination.  Look at the recent Presidential election.  This past election, as with all Presidential elections, was fodder for late night talk show hosts.  Both Obama and McCain were the subject of jokes.  What struck me, however, was that even though both candidates were in "protected categories" under discrimination laws, Obama as an African-American and McCain as an older person, only McCain was the butt of discriminatory jokes.  I am glad that it is not socially or politically acceptable to ridicule President Obama based on his race.  That probably would not have been the case 50 years ago.  Our society has made some progress in the area of race discrimination, thankfully. But, why is acceptable to characterize McCain as old and decrepid?  Doesn't this just perpetuate the stereotype that older people are not as effective as younger people?
In our recent trial, our client, Kathy, our client, was 53 years old when she was fired.  She worked for a company that owned assisted living facilities and she was the executive director of one.  The employer had a young CEO, age 30, who professed that this company was a "young company" and they needed young and energetic employees.  It is ironic that this business prospers from the payments from older people.  The regional administrator took the CEO's comments literally when she fired Kathy.  Kathy, who was so dedicated to the residents in her facility that she and her husband spent Christmas and Thanksgiving with them, was merely tossed aside. When this happens to most folks, they just take it.  Most folks don't have the gumption to fight back.  Filing a lawsuit is hard work and requires someone with the fortitude and determination to withstand hurtful and vicious attacks on their character.  Being a plaintiff in a discrimination case is not for the weak of heart.  It was hard on Kathy, but she is strong. She withstood the trial, received a nice verdict, and is hunkering down for the inevitable appeal.
Why is it socially acceptable to ridicule older people? We are long past the day when someone could excuse racist comments by claiming, "It was just a joke."  Yet, go to buy a birthday card and a significant array of cards with age jokes fill the display.  What is the stereotype of old people - that they are slow, forgetful, set in their ways, obstinate.  Are these characteristics of older people?  Sometimes.  Just as women are sometimes more emotional than men and African-Americans are sometimes better athletes than Caucasians.  The problem is that when we use a broad brush to stereotype a group, individual qualities and strengths are ignored.
Kathy, our client, was one of the most compassionate, nurturing, and caring people I have ever met.  She was a responsible and committed employee.  Not only did she take care of all of her residents, but many of her family members rely on her.  She is the go-to person.  Kathy was terminated from the "young company" that wanted young and energetic workers.  If she hadn't been fired, she would be working there to this day, giving the job her all as she always had.  The "young and energetic" CEO is long since gone from the company, as is every other decision-maker concerning Kathy's termination.  That's the irony of the situation.
Perhaps we need to rethink what is important in America in this day and age of mass lay-offs and treating employees as commodities.  If we value honor, loyalty and respect, perhaps we should recognize that the way corporate America treats our citizens is appalling.  We need to stop this nonsense.   Someday, most of us will be old.  We have the power.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Plea to Missouri Legislators - Don't Backtrack on Civil Rights

  I was a child of the late sixties and early seventies and that era shaped who I am today.  My family fled Nazi Germany, but not all of my German and Polish-Jewish relatives got out in time.  Many perished in concentration camps.  During my high school and college years, the American Civil Rights Movement began.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed when I was 11 and even then, I was proud.

Growing up in Missouri, I knew we had a checkered past in civil rights. Plessy v. Ferguson, started as a case about Missouri.  The University of Missouri law school did not admit African-Americans.  When I was young, I heard lots of people use the "N" word.  My mother remembers separate drinking fountains.  I remember job listings in newspapers under the headings "Male" and "Female."

Missouri, since its early missteps, has been on the forefront of civil rights, passing civil rights laws even before the federal government had.  I have always been proud of my state.  But now the rights of individuals are being threatened.  Some Missouri legislators are trying to roll back the clock to a time when minorities, the disabled and women were second class citizens.  They are trying to amend Missouri employment laws to make it virtually impossible for a person who has suffered discrimination or retaliation to stand up against corporations.

We have come a long way from the early days when discrimination was officially condoned and sanctioned, but there is still much work to be done.  Sexual harassment is not nearly as common as it was when I started practicing law.   But, I still have cases where women were groped and fondled in the workplace.  I still have cases where employees were called the "N" word.  I still have many cases where employees were terminated for complaining about discrimination or about a company violating safety laws.

My clients are not litigious, not in light of what they go through to protect themselves and others.  My clients are heroic.  I suspect for everyone one client with the fortitude to come forth, there are multitudes too timid and scared to rock the boat.  Without the courage of these brave souls who stand up in the face of injustice where might America be?  And we still have a long way to go.  Women are paid 76cents for every $1.00 a man makes.  Minorities are not promoted in some companies, people are harassed because of their sex or their race.  When I go to trial and my client prevails, we feel good not just because we have won the case, but because my client knows he or she has made a difference.  Because of people such as my clients, this country, this state is a better, fairer place.  A child can now dream of becoming president, no matter what race or gender he or she is.

Some Missouri legislators want to roll back the clock and take away our citizens' civil rights.  They want to require claimants to have to prove a heightened burden of proof, higher than in any other type of case, that discrimination or retaliation has occurred, given license to employers to make up bogus reasons and get by with it.  Some Missouri legislators want to protect the sexual harassers and individuals engaged in the harassing behavior.  Some Missouri legislators want to deter whistle-blowers from coming forward by requiring them to, in essence, become a lawyer to determine the legal ramifications of what they complain about before they come forward to report fraud, malfeasance or worse. These are scare tactics to deprive Missouri citizens of their civil rights and to punish them for rocking the boat when the boat desperately needs to be rocked.

If you are reading this, please contact your state representative and senator to vote against this legislation.  The Senate bill is bill 852.  Passage of this bill threatens the very nature of our democratic process and the civil rights our country so treasures.  Please, take a stand.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Coming Soon

I have things I would like to write about on my blog, but currently lack the time to write.  I am getting ready for trial.  Look for future blogs on the problem with Mo Senate Bill 852 attempting to overhaul Missouri employment law.  Also look for a blog on empathy, and its importance for trial lawyers and for people in general.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Irresponsibility of Firing Employees

  When I was a little girl, adults got jobs and stayed with companies until they retired.  I sound like an old curmudgeon, but, back then, people had loyalty.  Employers were loyal to their employees and employees were loyal to employers.  Of course, back then, women had to choose jobs from the "Female" listings in the newspaper want ads and forget anyone of color getting any job of responsibility.  I guess my rose-colored glasses are turning a little brown.  However, back then there was not a culture that employees were commodities and the victims of lay-offs were collateral damage.

 What is wrong with a system that allows employers to eviscerate its workforce not because the employer is on the brink of bankruptcy, but because the management of the employer sees a way to make even more profit.  The toll on those souls whose livelihood has been ripped from their grasp, whose dreams have been decimated and whose dignity has been cast asunder is monumental.  However, there are ripple effects which the management of employers fail to consider.  One of my relatives is working at a company undergoing a wave of "lay-offs."  So far this relative is safe, but she does not feel safe.  The next round of lay-offs is around the corner.  Thus far, the company has targeted its older, "mid-management" workforce.  Who knows if this is a ploy to thin the ranks of the older, perhaps slower, most loyal employees.  The employer does not consider the emotional impact of those left behind, the disillusion, fear and anger.  Morale is at an all time low at this company.  The company's profits went down a little, but it certainly is not on the verge of collapse.

I recently read an article in Newsweek talking about how mass lay-offs hurt businesses. After 9/11, all airlines except Southwest laid off employees.  Southwest has grown by leaps and bounds and is now the biggest airline in the country. Perhaps, just perhaps, when an employer acts in a compassionate manner, cares about loyalty, cares about its employees, there is a positive business effect.

Corporations have a personality, just as countries, states and cities do.  A group of people take on personality-like characteristics.  With people, those who do for others, care for others without worrying about what is in it for them, are the happiest.  Perhaps that is true for corporations, who are rewarded not in terms of happiness, but in serving civilization and thereby thriving.  I try not to deal with businesses which treat their employees badly.  Doing the right thing, treating employees with dignity and respect, has its own reward.

Perhaps this topic is on my mind because I am representing a client who was fired after being diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer.  The employer knew of the cancer and knew my client was undergoing chemotherapy.  My client was the sole support for the client's family.  What this employer did makes me sick and I am angry.  

Let's all reward those companies, by doing business with them, based on how they treat their employees, their customers and on how they act as citizens of the world.  We know the Supreme Court now says that corporations are people under the law and have first amendment rights.  Let's make them act responsibly, and if they don't, hit them where it hurts, in the pocket book.  Just as how we don't befriend nasty people, lets not do business with nasty companies.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

When I Grow Up I Want to Be Rachel Maddow

I love Rachel Maddow.  She is opinionated, yet respectful.  She is an advocate without emasculaing (or efeminating - I just made up that word.)  She is my hero.  I wish all lawyers could be like Rachel Maddow.  She is an individual, unintimidated, uncompromising, yet she treats others with respect.  Plus, her hairstyle is very cute.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Being a Lawyer - It's Not About Me

  When I was a young lawyer, I was thrust into the battles of trial preparation - depositions - with little training.  I was young then and it seemed like I was "fresh meat"for the old lions of the trial bar.  I was not into being devoured, so I developed a strategy for my self-preservation.  I concentrated on the way I walked and sat.  I made chit-chat with the opposing counsel, smiled a lot, sat in a comfortable, nonchalant pose and acted like I was unafraid.  A weird thing happened, when I acted unafraid, I started to feel unafraid.  Just like the song says, "Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect.  And whistle a happy tune, and no one can suspect, I'm afraid."  It worked.  I started feeling the same way my body language reflected.
    I no longer need to play-act, but through the years, as a trial lawyer, there is one principle that has served me well. Whatever the other side pulls, it is not a reflection on me, but on them.  What I mean is that I strive to take NOTHING personally.  It's not about me.   If the other lawyer is nasty to me, he or she must be insecure or have some issue.  If the other lawyer yells, that means I am winning.  I don't yell,  that's a sign of weakness, that I have lost my cool and allowed something get to me personally.  I represent a person and need to protect that person.  I can handle myself and need no protection.
     This past week I was in depositions with an attorney whom plaintiffs' lawyers in this area disdain.  He is rude, cold and uncaring.  He was that way with the two witnesses whose depositions he took this week.  This lawyer proudly exclaimed that he only defended cases with catastrophic injuries or deaths.   What a sad way to make a living.  He was nasty in the depositions, and I objected when he tried to trick or cajole the witness.
      Man, did the lawyer get ticked.  So what.  It was not about me.  I protected my witness, through legal objections, but really just to made sure there was a level playing field so that this lawyer could not intimidate the witness to get favorable testimony by twisting words.  I didn't take his harangues personally, because it was not about me.  Sure, he wants to get an advantage in the case, and I prevented that.  But, what makes this guy tick is beyond me.  Maybe his father was mean to him, maybe he was rejected as a child, maybe his mother favored one of his siblings, I don't know.  But, knowing his attacks weren't about me helped.  And even if he hates me, even if I remind him of an ex-wife or mean teacher, that does not matter.  I don't care and that is so freeing.  I am free to represent my client.
      One of the many things Gerry Spence says that I wholeheartedly agree with is that we must know who we are to be good trial lawyers.  I have spent years trying to understand me.  What a liberating experience this is as a lawyer and as a person.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you let them."  I believe that.
       In my experience, to be a good and effective lawyer, one must not let his or her ego get in the way.  It is not about us.  That is probably the lesson that has taken me the longest to learn.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Whistle-blowing - To Thine Own Self Be True

  For most of us, what we do for a living affects so much of how we feel about life. If you sell out at work, do things to get ahead and betray co-workers, it takes its toll on your soul. I don't know any CEO's of gigantic corporations, but my prejudiced view is that many of those on top did things to others to climb the ladder that changed who they were.  I believe it's human nature to rationalize what we do so that we do not own up to the consequences of our actions.
   People compromising values happens not only in the workplace, but in all types of social settings.  We are social beings and how we interact with each other can present challenges. People act differently in groups than individually.  Would there have been the slaughter in Rwanda if it were not for mass hysteria? I am constantly reminded of how important it is for me to  have the support of other human beings.  I have done things in my life of which I am not proud to "get along" or to advance myself in a group.  Life is like high school for many of us, who want to be part of the cool kids or be in the popular group.  My mother, who is approaching 80 years old, and I talk about how evenly elderly woman can be "mean girls."  That is why it is so refreshing when a true rebel, a true whistleblower, comes along.
   It is really hard to stand up to authority and speak out.  Whistleblowers oftentimes risk everything, not just their jobs, but also their friends, and sometimes their families.  It takes a lot of courage to speak up.  As I write this, I think of one of my clients, a woman who is dear to me because she risked and lost so much.   This woman was a leader, and she sacrificed so much.  I am not going to mention her name, or even give her a pseudonym, because to do so seems like it would trivialize or cheapen what she did.
   My client is a nurse.  She, like all of the nurses I know, went into nursing because she wanted to tend to and care for others.  A good nurse is not only smart, caring and efficient, but a good nurse is also a stickler for details.   My client was a very good nurse.  My client really cared about her patients.  My client cared about her friends.  Her friends were nurses, too.  The friends really cared about their patients, too.  Unfortunately, the hospital where they all worked did not care so much about their patients.
    After very contentious litigation, tens of depositions, scores of sleepless nights, the case was resolved.  However, the story did not end there for my client.  Her husband worked for the same company that she did.   Her marriage of over twenty years deteriorated and failed, leading to a divorce even more contentious than the lawsuit. She vacated her lovely home and left it to her husband.  In just over two years, my client lost the job she loved, the home she loved and the marriage she thought was secure.  Did she help her co-workers and the patients of the hospital?  Undoubtedly.  But at what personal cost?  
  I hope the story does not end here.  I hope that my client gets some real justice for her.  She has the love of her children and her former co-workers, but I hope it does not stop there.  One of my other clients is working at another area hospital where I visited with my daughter who suffers from debilitating headaches.  My client was my daughter's nurse and she was wonderful.  My daughter's care was superb and our nurse, my former client, told her co-workers that we were like family to her. I felt very good about that.
   Next year, at the annual celebration concerning the case, I hope to see my first client flourishing.  This year it was hard because I did not know how badly the divorce and ensuing litigation had been.  This woman is a hero.  I hope next year she can know that.  It is not easy to be the one to stand up and say, "No more."  I hope my client realizes the good she has done and can someday look back on this episode of her life without the pain in her heart.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Not All Toymakers Are Willy Wonka

I am working on a products liability case against a Chinese manufacturer.  Since the case is pending, I will not go into too much detail.  However, this mega-toy manufacturer, with its American cohort, manufactured a product and totally ignored American safety laws.  Our client was gravely injured.  It's the kind of case that haunts a parent's dreams.  Yet, when the American wing of this mega-bucks Chinese company was successfully sued for trademark infringement, the American company up and liquidated the company and transferred all assets to some other phony, baloney shell company, all the while protecting the fat-cat American who is profiting from being the front for this unscrupulous mega-rich foreign company.

Many years ago, there was a Saturday Night Live skit where Dan Aykroyd played an unscrupulous toy manufacturer.  He was interviewed by Candace Bergen, promoting his company's new toy, "Bag of Glass," a bag full of broken glass.  At least potential buyers could see the product for what it was, dangerous.  Our client was unsuspecting and not so fortunate.

How can we make this foreign company stop hurting people?  I don't know and I am frustrated.