Saturday, December 24, 2011

Is "Gender Equality" Really Possible in the World As We Know It?

Do American efforts to teach "gender equality" in third world countries make a difference?  The American government and American contractors are seeking gender equality experts to teach Afghanis how to treat their women. I have read tales of Afghani women imprisoned for adultery or fornication after being raped by an acquaintance.  

Recently a young woman jailed in Afghanistan was forced to agree to marry her rapist in order to gain her freedom from prison.  I watched a documentary on HBO entitled "Pink Saris" in which "untouchable" women were routinely beaten and raped by the in-laws with whom they were forced to live.  Recent reports in the United States indicate that one in four women in the United States are victims of sexual assault and this is hardly a third world country. 

I discovered years after the fact that a woman who is very close to me was raped by a former boyfriend. This woman, by all outside appearances is strong willed and appears able to fend for herself.  Yet, she was sexually assaulted and I never suspected at the time. By the time I found out, three or more years later, there was nothing I could do. Or was there?  Could I have prevented the assault?  I am haunted by these doubts. 

If I couldn't prevent a sexual assault of someone close to me in the United States, am I capable of making a difference in a culture where sexual assault is fairly accepted by those in charge?  Can anyone make a difference?  Maybe, over decades or centuries, sexual victimization will be rare. It's common now, and it pains me to realize this.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Favorite Quote of the Day

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
- Albert Einstein

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Let's Hear It for the Underdogs!

In America, we love underdogs.   Who is an underdog, you might ask.  We are all underdogs, that's why we love them.  This is a nation of underdogs, filled with  people expelled or mistreated by others, immigrants or badly treated native peoples.   We pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, we prevail against amazing odds, we fight.  That is why we love us, Americans.  Fighting as underdogs is what we do best. 

I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs play the Green Bay Packers.  My husband has been sure we were going to lose and lose badly.  We still might, the game is not over.   All predictions have been that the Chiefs will lose: a) the Packers are the defending Super Bowl champs; 2) the Chiefs have played HORRIBLY this season; 3) the Chiefs fired their coach last week after a particularly horrendously played Chiefs game; 4) the Chiefs don't have a starting quarterback; and, 5) Arrowhead stadium is packed with Packers fans.  The Chiefs are ahead now and they may ultimately lose, but this is a classic UNDERDOG game.  Ergo, the Chiefs will probably win. 

The Underdog Syndrome is a common phenomenon in American society. We love underdogs and want to be underdogs.  Let's talk about which groups in this country relish in their underdog status:

1) Tea Partiers, harkening back to the Revolutionary War days when American Patriots were outnumbered by the British loyalists;

2) Occupy Wall Street (and the Occupy movements in all major cities) - we are all part of the 99% of underdogs, except for that 1%, who largely want to be in the 99%, e.g. , Warren Buffett who wants to pay taxes like the underdogs but Congress won't let him. 

3) Any sports team whose owners pay less money and who aren't the New York Yankees.  Don't most of us want those Steinbrenners to get their comeuppance?

We relate to underdogs because most of us have had to work hard to get what we have.  We have no royalty in this country and we have little respect for those who are handed wealth or power with no work.  Why else is Warren Buffett giving most of his billions to charity, so as not to corrupt his kids.  Why do Americans love Harry Truman, Bill Clinton, and Barak Obama - three people who worked hard to achieve.  No inherited power or money for those Presidents.

We love Rocky, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, and Lance Armstrong the cancer survivor. When an underdog wins against great odds, we believe that he or she is our standard-bearer, and maybe, just maybe we can win against great odds, too.  When an underdog wins, we believe we can win, too.   We can beat Walmart in lawsuits, or the banking giants. Whistleblowers can prevail if they do the right thing and their cause is just. Powerful companies can be defeated when they hurt individuals.  Underdogs keep us believing that maybe there is some justice.  The big, mighty and powerful don't always win.  Underdogs keep us fighting.

I really don't care that much about football, but I am deeply involved in this game. It is important to me, right now, that the Chiefs win.  They may not win but, gosh I hope they do.  Go underdogs!  Go Chiefs!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Why Lawyers Should Hate Themselves

My last blog was why people hate lawyers.  I touched on a few reasons why lawyers are reviled.  Since then, I have thought about the many problems with lawyers and our legal system.  Unfortunately, the system needs fixing and lawyers need to take a good look at themselves. 

This is what I propose we need to examine -

1.  Lawyers in it for their ego (and let's be truthful, aren't all trial lawyers, myself included, guilty of an overactive ego).  In the lawyer's mind the case becomes about him or her and less about the client. Some ways you can tell when a lawyer thinks he or she is the bee's knees is when he lawyers reports things like, "in the deposition, I got him to admit...". Every good thing that happens becomes a reflection of the lawyers skill, not the righteousness of the case, the character of the witness, etc.   All trial lawyers do this, me included.

2.  Lawyers more intent on winning a "game" than furthering the case.  For instance, lawyers fighting about where to hold depositions, obstructive objections, nastiness in general. 

3.  Lawyers whose primary concern is lining his or her pocket book.  This goes for both sides.  For the defense attorney, many of whom have boldly told me it was too early to settle a case because they didn't have enough in fees, it is needlessly delaying case.  For the plaintiff's lawyer, it is thinking about the client as a commodity that should turn a profit rather than a human being needing justice.   From the plaintiffs' perspective, you can spot these lawyers when they refer to their case in figures (6 figure case, 7 figure case), etc.

4.  Lawyers so insecure that the only person they are interested in listening to is themselves.   Probably the most important trait for a lawyer is being a good listener, yet lawyers has a whole are the worst bunch of listeners on the face of the planet.  You have to forget about yourself to be a good listener.  The best lawyers are those secure enough to give up being the center of the stage to listen to their clients, the witnesses, and ultimately the jury.  

Lawyers would be well served to, in addition to the annual legal education requirements, take a course on empathy, listening, and humility.  Someone needs to shake us every once in awhile to keep us on track.  We are facilitators of the justice system.  The justice system is not about us.  In fact, a few of us may need more than just a gentle shake.  Perhaps a slap might make us pay attention.  But, that's a battery and would be illegal.   I fear that some of us won't get back on track.  I really, really would like to slap them. Oh, how I would like to slap them.  Yes!  ... Oh, were you saying something?  I wasn't listening.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why People Hate Lawyers

For those of us who have been on this earth for more than a few years, we are sure to be faced with hard decisions that change the directions of our lives. Few of us recognize the importance of these life-changing decisions at the time they arise. For instance, as lawyers, we are confronted with situations where we must choose which way we will function as lawyers.  Will we work for the people who pay us the most, regardless of the underlying principles?  Will we defend that tobacco company if it makes us rich in the process. Will we stomp on the rights of weak and helpless?  Will we sell out for the biggest bucks?  Can we rationalize our decisions?  How will our rationalizations impact on our character, or lack of character, as the case may be. 

I was recently in depositions with older, experienced lawyers, who probably at one time were idealistic young, compassionate people. They probably had great loves and cared deeply about social issues.  But something must have happened to them. Our client was grievously injured and the gaggle of lawyers assigned to represent the various parties seem prone to screaming, arguing and belittling us and our case. I wonder if they just force themselves to eradicate thoughts of our client, for how could anyone see this brave, hard-working, severely injured man and not feel empathy and admiration.  What happens to people when making money, buying that fancy car, insulting others to build ones ego becomes more important than human decency. 

I certainly am not a paragon of virtue. I used to work for the dark side myself, but after awhile, it should become hard. We should examine our motives. We should keep caring and compassion for our fellow humans.  It is sad when someone loses his or her humanness.  

No wonder people don't like lawyers. We like to use our voices just to hear their sound, we bully innocent, less powerful people and we put ourselves and our egos before justice and our clients. 

There are things more important than money, status, and the need to feel important.  Most lawyers started out wanting to do good and be fair.  What happens?  A thousand little decisions.  Go work for the firm that pays the most, make that argument that you don't believe, fudge on the facts so you have a better argument, and, most important of all, throw your compassion out the window.  It sure is tempting when the reward is money and social status.

There are lots of lawyers who hate practicing law and I suspect the main reason for that is because those lawyers do things of which they are not proud.  How sad to be at the end of one's career and still trying to bully witnesses and opposing counsel.  Bullying is certainly not restricted to middle school high jinx. 

Lawyers who hate what they do should leave the practice of law. I am tired of having to deal with them. Good riddance.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Creativity and Growth - My Lucky Turn with the Fabulous 3 Sisters

One of the things I love about being a trial lawyer is that I continue to learn and grow, both as a lawyer and as a person. Two years ago I made a fateful decision which was very hard, to quit being associated with the Trial Lawyers College and to take another leap of faith. I will be eternally indebted to TLC for all I learned, mainly about myself.  Gerry Spence always said we need to work on knowing ourselves to be able to be the best trial lawyer we can be, and he is so right. I spent 15 years at TLC, almost 14 of them on staff, the last couple of years as a liaison to the Board.  I am so indebted to John Nolte, Don Clarkson, Kathie Sinclair and Katlin Larimer for how they helped me be me.  There are so many people at TLC whom I care very much about.  However, in 2009, it was time for me to leave, just as how it had been time for me to leave my old firm in 1994 when I first came back from TLC. One thing about learning who you are is recognizing when it is time to make a change.  Listening to your gut, following your intuition, is one way of taking care of yourself.

After I left TLC, I felt a little isolated.  Not only had I burned bridges with TLC, but also with my fellow friends and ex-pats, who now call themselves the 3 Sisters.  Those three women had big ideas, starting their own trial lawyer training program, writing a book, continuing to grow.   When I was first asked to help with the 3 Sisters seminars, I said no.  I was conflicted. It took me awhile to know what I should do. 

The 3 Sisters, Joane, Fredi, and Mary had already started their seminars with Carl Bettinger and Charlie Abourezk.  A year went by and Joane approached me again. I missed the intellectual stimulation of the college and I missed my friends, so I somewhat reluctantly agreed.  I did not want to get back in a rat race of jetting to various locations to teach.  At first I was unsure of my commitment to 3 Sisters.  

I soon discovered the true creativity, intellect and caring of these friends - and I include Carl and Charlie in this. This collaboration has been exciting. It has opened me up to new ideas and experiences and is a blast!  I feel the excitement one feels when she gets IT, the big IT!!!!!  When I started at TLC, I had tried several cases, but I was still scared.  I am no longer scared. I love being in the courtroom talking to the good citizens of this state about my clients who I generally have grown to love. I know that when I am in the courtroom, advocating for justice for my clients,  that is where I should be. I am at peace with what I do, and my job is thrilling. 

The 3 Sisters is filed with brilliant, caring, creative people (I am not so conceited to include myself in that description). When we get together at one of the seminars, the creative ideas grow exponentially.  But for me, knowing I am where I need to be, in my life, in my profession and at 3 Sisters is  so gratifying. 

My last trial was in June. The case was settled after the first week. That case illustrated for me what it feels like to be in the zone - to love my client, to feel the justice of my client's position and to know I, along with my wonderful client, were up to the task. 

I am so blessed to work with Joane Garcia-Colson, Fredilyn Sison, Mary Peckham, Carl Bettinger and Charlie Abourezk. They are the best. I mean that in a colloquial way, but also in a very real way. THEY ARE THE BEST!!!  The most caring, creative, intelligent lawyers I know. I am blessed. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Money - A Complicated Concept

Money - what a complicated concept.  Money brings out the best and worst in us.  Money means many things to us.  Money is synonymous with freedom, security and power.  Just as with anything pleasurable, food, drugs, or sex, money can be overly desired and become addictive. 

I recently read that a survey was done of people with net worths of over$20,000,000.  They were asked if they either wanted to maintain their wealth or increase it.  80% of those in this wealthy category wanted to increase their wealth.  Not being in this category, I wonder when is enough enough?  

Let's look at recent news. We all are affected by the debacle on Wall Street. I recently watched the movie "Margin Call." the demise of the investment bankers, and our economy, was caused by greed, pure and simple.  What about the scandal at Penn State?  Why was an assistant coach allowed to sexually abuse young boys for years?  Who wanted to rock the boat and bring down a very financially successful football program?  The root of the cover up was greed, nothing less.  

So how does this relate to the legal system?  As civil plaintiffs' lawyers we seek money for our clients, and, truth be told, for ourselves.  When is enough enough?  I suppose it depends on perspective.  We all know plaintiffs' lawyers whom we think may be motivated by greed.  In my situation, I wonder if my indictment of these rich lawyers might be mixed with some jealousy.  However, the insurance industry and society is quick to point out the social ills allegedly caused by a greedy plaintiffs' bar. 

Let's examine some real life situations that insurance companies and businesses fail to mention.  There are products sold in this country by major retailers that are devastatingly dangerous to American citizens.  The consumer product safety commission is mired in bureaucracy.  Companies, when successfully sued, can file bogus bankruptcies under our system, even where they are not insolvent to avoid trial or paying judgments.  Individuals who own multiple million or billion dollar companies move to Hong Kong or other places to avoid service of process, dissolving their companies and reopening them under bogus names.  You may think that these situations cannot be happening in modern times in this country.  I have two current cases where this is happening now.   The bottom line for these owners of companies is to protect their enormous wealth at the expense of gravely injured or damaged victims.  And America's biggest corporations help these greedy people evade responsibility. 

 In the end, I believe that my clients will prevail.  I, and the other lawyers representing the injured, will continue to fight for our clients.  But the love of money, the root of all evil, is a formidable opponent.  With excess money, comes excess power.  It is hard to fight against the power of too much money, but not impossible.  

Excessive money is seductive and is likely to corrupt.  It is not the plaintiffs' lawyers who are  hurting others to maintain possession of billions.  Corporations are not people, no matter what the Supreme Curt may say, they can be the means by which greedy people circumvent decency to line the pockets of its greedy masters at the expense of the health and wealth of living, breathing humans.  It is that which we must combat.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let's Hear It For The Misfits, The Ones Ready To Buck The System

I grew up in the late '60's/early 70's and those years affected me enormously. When I was 15 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. At the time of the Kansas City rioting I had not yet understood the significance of his death. Within the next few years, though, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War protests shaped who i was to become.

When my son started junior high school, at the annual parent-teacher meeting, the principal talked about nothing except the stupid rules, girl's skirts were not to be more than 2 inches over their knees, no students in the hall between classes, etc. I leaned over to my 12 year old boy and whispered, "Don't be afraid to question authority." It may or may not have been a turning point in my son's life, but that moment was significant to me.

This week Steve Jobs, a man of my generation, two years younger than me, died. He exemplified what a brilliant misfit could be when we he questioned the status quo. That Buddhist vegetarian is beloved and mourned by all of America, perhaps the world, for his creativity and innovation. Steve Jobs pushed the envelope. He didn't waste time conforming to society's expectations, he changed the world.

This week i have also been thinking of one of my client's, a whistleblower. As a result of her refusing to delete the truth from a medical record, she, a single mother, was fired. My client could not come up with the rent after her termination and she and her kids are on public assistance searching for shelter. She's a fighter. I am humbled by her and others like her. I want to show her that what she did was right and I pray I can do so.

Today we are supposed to have protests in Kansas City. The protesters here have been swayed by those protests on Wall Street and other places in this country. Is this a real movement? I don't know, but there is momentum. I have seen how one voice can make a difference. We are in a time now when we need to hear the voices of those who challenge the status quo. Let's hear it for the misfits, for they have the courage to make a difference!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What makes a person a "good" client?

Lawyers, like other professionals, talk about "good clients.". Usually, the lawyer means a good client is someone who follows the lawyer's instructions. It's nice to be listened to and respected, but that is not  what makes a client "good." 

I have had so many "good clients" in the last 28 years.  My definition of what makes a client "good" is much more expansive. The good clients whom I have represented (which comprise the bulk of the clients I have represented) may be scared, inarticulate, with a mind of their own. They may not be perfect on the witness stand, they may have traits I have difficulty with, and, yes, at times they may disagree with me. Those characteristics don't negate a client's value. In fact, I represent Whistleblowers who, by nature, buck the status quo. I like that quality that makes some of my clients turn into rebels most of the time. 

Here are some of the qualities that I look for, and find, in prospective clients:

1. A desire for justice, not revenge. 

At times my clients are so angry that, at first, they want revenge. However, most of the time they can distinguish between justice and vengeance. Those seeking vengeance are rarely satisfied.  They must let go and seek justice. 

2.  The courage to go forward. 

I have represented so any courageous people and I am humbled by the association.

3.  Compassion for others, whether it be others whom they want to prevent from experiencing the pain, disrespect, and humiliation or family members they want to protect. 

4.  The insight into their strengths and weaknesses.  

No one respects someone who claims he or she is always right and will not admit to making mistakes or having faults. 

I have learned much from the wonderful people I have represented. Rarely do my clients ask me how much their case is worth. They care about the justice of the situation and making a difference. They hope when they get paid, that they have made a difference and that the money paid to them will prevent someone else from being hurt. 

It is not easy to be a whistleblower or to complain about unlawful discrimination. I am blessed because I gain so much from the brave souls who I represent. I realize that I have rarely thanked them for teaching me how to act with dignity through true adversity. 

To them, I say, "Thank you.  You're the best."     

Friday, September 23, 2011

In Memory of a Little Girl

My husband's 13 year old cousin died today. She had suffered from debilitating seizures for most of her life. Her grandmother posted the following on Facebook:

"Thank you everyone for your prayers, love and assistance. I pray that in Amanda's memory people (especially children) have awareness and compassion for people that are different. Teach your children to say hello to a child in a special needs class rather than make fun of them or ignore them. They are the most loving children in the world. They are special, but in the most delightful way. As soon as I know arrangements, I will post. We so appreciate your prayers and hearing from so many people (even those we don't know personally)."

My heart goes out to Amanda's family. I am at a loss for words....

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Crazy Civil Justice - Brave, Committed and Patient People Needed

Most of my clients are worried about going to trial, and with good reason. Being a party to litigation which culminates in trial is not pleasant for either side. It's easiest on the lawyers. Some lawyers think it is their duty to be mean and nasty and others, probably most, get a kick out of rattling the other side. Knowing what I know about how these things go, I would think long and hard before being a party to a lawsuit. I like to think I would sue, if there is a grave injustice, but I know the emotional perils of trial.

I try to tell new clients what to expect in litigation. I refuse to allow lawyers to treat my clients with disrespect in depositions. However, it's impossible to tell what can happen in a trial. The other side wants to portray my clients as a liar, a cheat, greedy, with low morals. It takes a lot of my energy to deal with this and I can imagine what it is like for my clients, who have little control once the trial starts.

My goal is to find the good things in my clients, their courage and kindness, and by the time of trial I really care about my clients the same way I care about my friends and family. My role is not just to be their advocate, but also to be their protector. I am very fortunate because most of my clients display the type of courage in the battle of litigation that I have only dreamt about. It takes quite a toll on me to protect my client and be ready to deal with the other side. But, at least I have some control over the situation. I plan the strategy, ask the questions and make the objections. My client has to sit at the counsel table, displayed before judge, jury and opposing counsel, without any control whatsoever. My clients can only talk while being questioned. They must relinquish control and trust me, even while knowing sometimes our cases don't work out.

I believe that most of my opposing attorneys are fine, upstanding people, but every once in awhile, oftentimes based on comments from the lawyers, the other side will not resolve the case until the lawyers has exacted his pound of flesh. Ironically, this phrase comes from Shylock in the Merchant of Venice, and Shylock does not portray the lawyer Shylock in a very favorable light. Insteadvof flesh, some lawyers want to make a certain amount of money off the case before they will discuss settlement. Their pound of flesh is the unnecessary pounding on my clients from which they bill their time. The more time, the more unnecessary work, the more money that lines their pockets.

I long for the days before my time when lawyers just went in and tried their cases. No whorish experts, no multiple day long depositions. The way we drag out the civil justice system today is unfair. As some Supreme Court Justice one said one day long ago, "Justice delayed is justice denied." Perhaps we need to examine why the justice process is taking so long and who reaps the benefit from this delay. Can't we do this better? I think there must be a way.

I wish I could tell my clients what will happen with their case, but all I can do is guess. I don't know the future. At some point, most, but not all cases settle. I tell my clients that sometimes I feel like my job is similar to being a professional gambler. That does not give the client much solace, since I am, I effect, gambling with both their and my money.

It takes a lot of resolve to be a client in litigation heading toward trial. I admire my clients. I admire that most of them want to make the workplace a fairer place. But, darn, this is not a path for the timid of heart nor for the half-hearted. Thank God for the courage of people to do the right thing. My clients restore my faith in humanity.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cannibalism And The Struggle Against Inhumanity

I have been reading "What It is Like To Go To War" by Karl Marlantes and am struck by how much in common we have with violent warriors. The book is not just about war, it's about humanity. Obviously, warriors kill and fight physical battles, which is foreign to most of society. But the emotions, regrets and knowledge Marlantes recites applies universally to humanity.

In the book Marlantes talks about a friend of his, who, during the end of his tour in Vietnam committed an actionable atrocity. The man beats a prisoner and hangs him upside down from a flagpole. This soldier is, in all other respects, a normal, decent human being. What could make an otherwise normal person torture another human being? Marlantes explains how this one man's actions, while horrible and reprehensible are also understandable. He does not excuse the conduct, but explains it.

I have often wondered about the atrocities perpetrated in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, Nazi Germany, and the like. Who were these perpetrators, and more importantly, what made them carry put these atrocities? Were those "monster" who killed, hacked and mutilated other human beings so different from you and me. I have read books on genocide in Africa, about the rise of the Nazis and I am convinced under the wrong circumstances, a "perfect storm" if you will, any of us could become murderers. we could all become part of marauding cannibals similar to those depicted in "The Road", Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel.

What intrigues me about Marlantes' book is his lifelong struggle to understand his own behavior in Vietnam and to learn from it. He proposes methods to prevent soldiers from reverting to inhumanity. At first blush, it is easy to rationalize that soldiers act bad because war makes them bad. And, that is partly true. However, we all have darker, baser sides against which we must guard ourselves. Genocide is extreme bullying. That sounds trite, but it is true. When human dehumanize others, when humans put others down to enhance their own esteem, when cruelty is rewarded by a group, we risk inhumanity.

One part of the book really intrigues me as a trial lawyer and that is the satisfaction that soldiers may, and oftentimes do, feel when killing the enemy. Marlantes describes it in ways that remind me of a winning home run, the deciding touchdown, and the win at trial. One year, my husband and i went to a University of Missouri football game against Nebraska and I sat by a little girl in a Nebraska cheerleading outfit. She was 4 or 5 years old and instead of thinking, oh, how cute, she became the epitome of the enemy. When my rational self returned, I was scared. How could I, a grandmotherly mother of two reflect such I'll feelings on a cute little girl? At that moment, she was not just a little girl, but the enemy.

At trial, I have wanted decimate my "enemy". It's a real high to battle in the courtroom and win. It's physiological. Every night while I am in trial, I have an adrenaline crash. I live
on adrenalin in the courtroom and oftentimes in depositions. I hate to admit it, but those
highs are some of the real draws to this job. It scares me sometimes. I can imagine that instead of being a 58 year old female trial lawyer, I am a 22 year old soldier and how feeling
that rush could lead to disaster.

In our family, my kids and I all have odd little phobias, things that scare us enough we will not go to movies or read books about them. To my daughter, it is vampires; to my son it is worms; and to me it is cannibals. I never understood why cannibals have scared me so much ever since I was a little girl watching cannibal movies. Today, I think I understand why I am so afraid of cannibals. In actual fact, it is not that I am afraid of being eaten by cannibals, but that I am afraid of becoming one.

What it takes

Friday, September 2, 2011


Writer's block!!!!! I have been thinking about war, aggression, the meaning of life and illness. Plus spontaneity and intuition. Nothing I can articulate yet. I am reading the new Karl Marlantes book, "What It Is Like to Go to War" about war and morality. Yikes. Hope to be writing again soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Othello and the Practice of Law

Our clients are brave souls. It takes courage to buck the system and sometimes it takes a long time for justice to prevail. In my office, we handle discrimination cases on a contingent fee basis. Our jobs are to zealously represent our clients, which we do. Sometimes we go forth with cases for years, appealing summary judgment decisions, going on to try jury trials, overcoming post-trial motions, only to continue to have to fight the unscrupulous employers who change their names and liquidate their assets in order to evade justice. Sometimes it takes us 6, 7 or more years to get our clients and us paid. Sometimes we lose, and even though we advance all expense, we recoup nothing. Few people in the private sector are willing to work for others and forgo payment for years. We do. That's part of our job. We care about our clients and we work hard fo them. We feel that our mission as lawyers is to eradicate discrimination, but, too, we must pay mortgages, send our children to college and buy groceries. That's why we get paid when the clients get paid.

It is extremely rare for a client to object to this arrangement. After all, the client has no financial obligation whatsoever until we settle or win. We believe in our cases and we gladly advance our money to pay for expenses. We fiercely fight for our clients. We love our clients and at willing to work sometimes for many years on a case with no payment. Rarely, almost never, do we have issues with clients regarding fees and expenses.

It is hurtful to work for a client for years, for no pay, earn a wonderful result from a jury, then have to deal with a dishonest employer trying to hide assets only to have a client listen to a friend or relative who convinces the client that our deal is unfair to thr client I call this the Othello effect. We are the Desdemonas working hard and believing in our Othello clients when, unbeknownst to us slips in a Iago, whispering in Othello's ear that we, Desdemona, are cheating on Othello. How hurtful and disheartening. Othello and Desdemona did
not fare well in Shakespeare's play. I guess Shakespare really was brilliant and we humans are still plagued by the same insecurities and paranoia as in ancient times. How sad.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Shark Week and the Tea Party

I, along, with millions of Americans, love shark week. The television screen fills with calming deep azure water, only to be shattered by the explosive violence of these terrific creatures. Those sleek, impervious monstrous devils fascinate me. The sharks, in their deep blue environs never stop, random victims in their path. Some fish and other aquatic creatures the sharks devour whole, while other victims can be dismembered. Teenage surfers are the humans who seem to fall victim to shark evisceration more than older less bold land mammals. I know people oftentimes call lawyers "sharks." Is that a badge of honor because we are fierce? Probably not, but sometimes I pretend that's what others mean when they can trial lawyers sharks. It's harder to rationalize the term "ambulance chaser," except, for me, my clients rarely have been in ambulances.

But this weekend Shark Week has a different meaning. My family has been glued to the television about the appalling debt ceiling "crisis" and the hostage taking of America. I don't even know the program I was watching, but the self-important, self-declared leader of the Tea Party in Tennesee was speaking. I immediately noticed how the guy looked like an Elvis impersonator, but obviously not during the years when Elvis looked like a non-drugged out bloated shadow of his former self. And he was the self-appointed guru or our economic policy. During his diatribe, what caught my ear was his disparaging of the alleged causes of our economic malaise. Was it entering two or three wars while lowering taxes? Was it the deregulation of the banking industry? No. Was it the greed of Big Oil? Of course not! It was that damned federal agency OSHA, attempting to insure that our workplaces were safe, or the disabled Americans who get protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act, or those lazy Americans who are out of work and have to subsist on unemployment. REALLY.

And they call lawyers sharks.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Don't Nazis Scare You?

Don't Nazis scare you? Shoot, they scare the bejesus out of me. Sure they scare me because the old German Nazisvscare me because ey killed my ancestors, not much before I was born. But the real reason Nazis scare me is because, if the situation was right, with the right scapegoat and the right leader to exploit the scapegoat, we could be the Nazis. Groups can become scary. I remember a comic strip, Pogo?, which declared "We hav found the enemy ad the enemy is us."

Remember the bullies in schoolv. If their target was not us, how many of us stood up against the bullies. I am sur some of you were bully-fighters, but most of us just wanted to stay under the radar and fit in. At least that's how it was for me. My Hebrew name was Bela and in Hebrew School some of th boys would call me "belly" because I was chubby. Who stood up for me? No one. Not even me. we all just wanted to fit in.

In the 1960s and 1970s we wanted to protest the war. Protest was in. In my circles, especially after the Nazis, civil rights was in. I am glad it was. But what if we lived in Nazi Germany, coming out of oppressive inflation and World War I humiliation, wouldn't we want to listen to someone awhi told us we were special? And if we were special, buy the country was screwed up, wouldn't it be nice to have a scapegoat, someone to blame and to hate? Like those money-lending Jews who kidnapped Gentile boys to get their blood to make matzos. Problems solved. Most Germans were part of the master race and th once who weren't caused all the problems and needed to be exterminated. This group mentality was fundamentally flawed and many died in the process, but this is an example of group dynamics at it's worst.

You may say, "Oh, that could never happen here in the good old U S of A.". But could it? I think it could and we need to be forever vigilant so that forces looking for scapegoats cannot spread hate. I believe, under the right circumstances anyone, including me, could have been a Nazi. Look how we talk about illegal immigrants in this country, or Muslims, or people who hav had abortions. Some of us get all self-righteous and say they don't deserve what we have. They are different. Amercians who have been here awhile (as little as one or two generations) are different, they are special. 24 hour news station preach hatred when there are slow news days. we are not special. we have responsibility to prevent the vilification of others.

WE NEED TO BE VIGILANT. GROUPS CONDUCT CAN BE DANGEROUS, JUST LOOK AT RWANDA. One group is not morally or religiously superior to another. We are all humans on this planet, all part of the grander universe. Stop this narcissistic bullshit. I don't want to have to find out if I will stand up to the bullies. I want everyone to put the bullies in their place. We are better than that. I hope.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Intuition - The Art of Letting Go

Intuition has got a bad name in our society. Intuition is thought to be a gut feeling some lucky people have. Intuition is a "6th sense," a gut feeling, some kind of supernatural sense. I don't think that is what intuition is about at all. We all have the ability to be intuitive, to make the right decision in a split-second. How many times have people instructed us on standardized multiple choice tests, to go with your first answer, trust your gut.

Intuition is logic which seemingly spontaneously enters your mind before you can analyze the situation. Intuition is pre-verbal, pre-cognitive logic. The brain is analyzing the facts, along with using your empathetic abilities and understanding non-verbal clues before you can clumsily attempt to dissect the situation verbally.

Look back at any of your knee jerk reactions, your three year old child has that look on his face like he wants to step off the curb, you grab him. You don't wait until he moves toward the street. You don't go through mental gyrations and evaluate the situation, first noticing
a movement of the child's leg, then notice the direction of his gaze, then say,"what are you thinking of doing, little Spike," before you decide to grab your child. You don't have time.
You had all the observations, but made your decision before actually mentally verbalizing the

If you had been distracted by a friend, or on the phone, you may have missed the clues to
prevent your child from stepping into oncoming traffic. Intuition requires complete
attention. If you are thinking, "I wonder if this outfit makes me look fat, oh, where should
we go for lunch, I am so mad at my husband because he left that mess," you may have missed the important clues. Mothers pay close attention to their children and pick up all of the signals. That's what "women's intuition is all about."

Any lawyers can use his or her intuition. But, to have intuition you must forgo other thought or emotions. You must be "in the moment" completely concentrating on what you are doing. If you are cross-examining someone with a checklist, reading your checklist and not listening to
the answers, your intuition will not emerge. If you ar more focused on sounding articulate and
lawyer-like, trying to impress the jurors, the judge and the girlfriend in the back of the
courtroom with your finesse and command of the English language, your ability to be intuitive
is annihilated.

To be intuitive, in life as in law, you must be in the moment. What does that mean? You must listen more than talk. You must understand the meaning of what you hear from the speakers
point of view. Your mind and gut must be free of barriers to react. You must pay complete
attention to what is going on and none to yourself or how you look or to what you are going to
say next. Intuitive requires letting yourself go.

While I certainly do not profess to be the be all and end all of intuitive lawyers, I want to give an example from one of my trials. I was cross-exmining the human resource executive about the way she conducted an investigation. She was defensive and obstinate in insisting her investigation was complete. Then, all of the sudden, she fought back tears. I was listening and watching. My next question was,"Would you have liked more help with human resources?". "Yes," she sighed. I asked how many people she had to help her and she replied three people
in human resources for 29 offices in 9 states. She looked relieved that I understood her
dilemma. She wasn't the bad guy, the company that really did not care as much about
preventing discrimination as it cared about profits was the bad guy.

In yoga, my yoga teacher says the hardest pose is the corpse pose, where your task is to let go, to meditate, to clear your mind. Cultivating your intuition is like savasana, you must
let go. It's hard for lawyers, and people, to let go and trust in what will happen. But, to
use your intuition, let go, you must.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What It Takes to Be a Plaintiff - Hot Coffee, Sluts, and Other Fallacies

Every time I pick a jury, I ask the same questions:

1. Are there two many lawsuits?
2. Are verdicts too high?
3. Do you believe that people should get money for emotional distress?
4. Do you believe juries should award punitive damages if warranted?

The insurance industry and corporate America has done an excellent job of disseminating the mistaken view that lazy, unethical people are running to the courts to cash in on big sums of money for very little effort. In almost every trial a person on the jury panel brings up the McDonald's coffee case as an example of juries gone wild. Te wildly help perception that America is filled with lawyers bringing frivolous cases is just plain false. I challenge everyone reading this blog to watch the HBO documentary movie, Hot Coffee, the Movie. I challenge those who thinks juries are running wild to do some research on what average verdicts are and what federal judges are doing to even moderate verdicts. Read about the people who go through years of ligitation, and even if they win, get nothing, because the company folds to avoid paying the judgement or declares bankruptcy even if it is solvent.

In cases I have handled, my clients have had to endure gross indignities merely to exercise their constitutional rights to redress and a jury trial. Here are some of the humiliating questions asked of my clients:

1. When did you first have sex?
2. Where did you first have sex?
3. Have you ever had sex in a movie theater?
4. Did you and your boyfriend who never worked for your employer videotape the two of you having sex? Is this that video?
5. Have you ever had sex with someone of the same gender? (That was in a car wreck case where a drunk driver hit my client and hurt his back.)
6. Were your children born out of wedlock?
7. Tell us about all of the times you have been married (in a slip and fall case with a broken ankle).
8. Wasn't the company just joking with you when the supervisor called you the "n" word?
9. Have you ever smoked marijuana (in a discrimination case).
10. You've had emotional problems before, haven't you, since your son has ADHD.
11. Have you ever had an extra-marital affair?
12. Wasn't it just a joke when nooses were hanged in the break room?

How many people have the drive and determination to go through the humiliation of ging forth with a lawsuit such as this? I represent those brave souls, but I doubt whether I have the courage to go through this degradation myself.

Most of my clients, when they come to see me, do not say , "How much money am I going to
get?". Most of my clients say,"I want to make sure this doesn't happen to someone else." I am proud to represent he pele I do. They are some of the real American heroes.

Monday, July 4, 2011

For the 4th, Celebrate the 7th (Amendment, that is)

I love the 4th of July. I love fireworks, summer and independence. Heck, I live in Independence. The only other worthy Missouri town, by name, is Liberty in Clay County. Of course, most people I know probably think I should be living in Cass County in the significantly named town of Peculiar.

But, I want to talk about what makes our country great, and to a great extent that is because of our Constitution. My family came here because of the first amendment, religious freedom, after being persecuted in Nazi Germany. We hear a lot about the first amendment, and of course, the second amendment makes a lot of news. Most of the Bill of Rights are extolled as virtuous Ten Commandments-like rules. But little attention is given to the seventh amendment.

The founding fathers stated the following in the Seventh Amendment: "In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. ”. That means, regular citizens are entitled to a jury or their peers in civil disputes. The purpose of the 7th was to make sure the government, namely the judges appointed by the sovereign, did not abuse it's power. The 7th is another check on the power of government, just as the three branches of government are.

Let's embrace the 7th for the 4th. Who knows how safe cars and prescription drugs would be without the 7th. Without the 7th, sexual harassment in the workplace might be commonplace, as it was in the 1960's, and we probably wouldn't have airbags in vehicles. We live in a time where the individual is important, almost as important in government as the almighty corporation. Maybe we are working towards a world where peoplevare afforded dignity, respect and safety. We wouldn't be here if large corporations had their way. Hurray for the Seventh Amendment, which allows us to even the playing field.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Living Now - Happy Father's Day

We don't know why is going to happen tomorrow. When I spend my time worrying, most of what I worry about does not come to pass. I spend more time in distress about things that never happen. The fear of adversity is worse than experiencing adversity. In fact, adversity gives one a chance to learn and grow. Worrying about adversity seldom has this benefit.

Live like every day is your last. Remember those you love and what they have meant to you. That is immortality.

Thank you, Dad. I miss you, Hyman Solomon Jaben. I miss you, too, step-dad, George Davis Wells. Happy Fathers Day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Courage of My Clients

I am sitting on my deck under an umbrella, smelling the trees, grass and flowers and feeling the breeze against my skin. I am tired, but it feels good sitting put here in the 75 degree weather with the sounds of my wind chimes and the breeze flowing through the leaves. The dogs are out here, too, running up and down the steps to the deck, running along the fence to claim their male dominance over the treed plot of land that is our backyard.

Today, I started re-reading the beginning of the novel I had begun before trial prep. Even though it has only been a couple of weeks, those weeks were so packed with my intense concentration and focus on the case, that the memory of the novel seems to have simply fallen out of my brain. I swear my mind has a finite ability to store data, and I keep overloading it's memory. If my brain were a computer, it would be an old model and I would need a new hard drive.

I keep thinking of my client and of how brave she is. When I meet my clients, they have been damaged and it is gratifying to see when their personhood can be restored. When most of my client embark on the path of fighting for their civil rights, I doubt that many really envision how intense the battle will become. Some are simply not up to the task, because the battle for dignity and respect can become vicious.

Money and power can offer great appeal to those who are willing to sell their souls and take
up the banner for the greedy and powerful. And it is against these bastions of power and greed that my clients are forced to battle. I am surprised each time the battle becomes so ugly and so inspired by the client who has the courage to do what is right. I am still disappointed when I see adversaries whom are basically good people but who are overwhelmed by
the material things that the powerful have to offer. There are many lawyers whom I respect who ultimately reject the lure of the powerful. I guess it is not up to me to judge, and I know I am being judgmental. I, too, have represented corporations and insurance companies that I do not now respect. And I represented them with absolutely no qualms. I am glad I have rejected that practice now, but I should not belittle those caught up in making a good life for their children and family.

It is hard, though, to see my decent and kind clients be unfairly attacked. Usually, in the end, justice prevails and my clients are made stronger through the adversity. I am made stronger by representing these noble people. Are the defense attorneys made stronger? Representing the greedy and powerful did not help me. I wonder if it helps others.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I have not posted on my blog nor checked the traffic in the past couple of weeks because I was getting ready for trial. I have been in trial for a week and am continuing into next week. I was shocked to see how my blog interest has increased in the past few weeks. If it is jurors, which I am sure it is not because they are following the court's order to refrain from Internet research, please follow the court's order. If it is opposing counsel or the opposing parties, I hope you have found what you were interested in finding. If it's just the general public, I hope you enjoy.

I will be back posting more regularly when this trial is finished. Tune (or log) in then.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Morass

What compels humans to harass and ridicule others? Are bullies made, or are they born? Why are people so angry?

When I started to write this piece, just a few days ago, I intended to write the answers to these questions. I planned on regaling tales of insecure bullies, beaten down men and women who foisted their aggression on unsuspecting sweet souls. I hoped to write stories of the triumph of courageous victims of unjust discrimination over their misguided oppressors. But sitting here now in Starbucks writing this while I wait for my daughter to finish her shift, I just don't feel it.

What makes people act mean? Why was Hitler so evil? What drove the Hutus to annihilate the Tutsis? What causes inhumanity, injustice, indecency? Why are humans so flawed?

I don't know and it seems like too much effort right now to think about.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What should I write?

I have considered various topics about which to write:

1. How human nature, bullying because of insecurity and self-loathing, create sexual harassment, racial harassment and other forms of civil rights claims.

2. How the legal profession, our legal system, and society would benefit from considering and practicing compassion.

3. What makes trial lawyers tick?

4. Examples of how litigants have helped encourage civil rights in society.

Got any other ideas? Let me know.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Do We Really Want to Privatize the Justice System?: Ethical and Constitutional Problems With Arbitration

In more and more cases I see employers requiring prospective employees to sign an agreement to arbitrate employment disputes, including discrimination cases. This is problematic on several fronts. There inherent conflict of interest issues for arbitrators, no matter how fair and just they may be.

Arbitrators are paid by one or both parties, unlike judges and juries who are paid by taxpayers. If AAA rules are followed, the arbitrator is mainly paid by an employer. And the money an arbitrator is paid is not insignificant. The arbitrator's pay is dependent on repeat business or word of mouth. Some law firms, usually representing large employers, use the same pool of arbitrators. Lawyers use who they know and trust as arbitrators and mediators. If the result of the arbitration is not to one lawyer's liking, he or she will not use the arbitrator again. I know of a partner in one large law firm who declared he would not use the arbitrator in the future in a case where our client was fired from a big employer and our client won the arbitration. That situation potentially cuts into the income of the arbitrator. And arbitrators can rarely keep both sides happy. Regardless of how ethical and moral a person is, it is hard to ignore that increased income comes from increased business, and that usually means repeat business. Large businesses and large firms are at an inherent
advantage in arbitration for that reason.

Plus, it seems that Courts increasingly ignore the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution which guarantees a jury trial to those in civil cases. The Seventh Amendment is ignored all of the time in federal court, in summary judgment decisions, in decisions on remittitur and in arbitration enforcement against people who usually don't even realize that they have entered into an arbitration agreement and the implications of that agreement. There is a reason the founding fathers believed so strongly in disputes being resolved by trial by a jury of ones peers. The Seventh Amendment is part of the Bill Of Rights, yet it is so frequently ignored or disregarded. We hear a lot of discussion about the Second Amendment's right to bear arms, yet no discussion regarding the fundamental American right tova jury trial in a civil case.

A poor African-American employee who has been harassed or fired because of his or her race may be at the mercy of a lawyer/arbitrator repeatedly hired by the company that fired him. That was not the intent of founding fathers who guaranteed those with civil claims the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers. I hope that the big business of arbitration is substituted by the Bill Of Rights during my career. This trend toward arbitration is frightening.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Proud to Be A Missourian: Gov. Nixon's Speech on SB 188

Today, Governor Nixon brought tears to my ideas, as he vetoed SB 188. Here is his speech:

April 29, 2011

Gov. Nixon vetoes Senate Bill 188

Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here at this historic old courthouse, at this historic moment for Missouri.

It’s good to look out and see an audience that reflects the true diversity of our state.

We stand on hallowed ground, in the footsteps of Dred Scott, whose unsuccessful pursuit of freedom began here in 1846. Eleven long years later, after many trips to the courthouse, the decision of the highest court in the land, denying him his freedom, became a clarion call to end slavery.

As history teaches us, the path of justice is a rough and winding road. Abolition. Emancipation. Reformation. All three took root and blossomed forth from the bitter soil of partisanship and prejudice.

Today, much progress has been made in courthouses across this land, in the pursuit of civil rights and justice for all people. But much remains to be done.

A broad coalition of people of good will and good faith has gathered here today as we continue on our journey.

You are the people who have marched, and sacrificed and stood up for the mistreated… the forgotten… the forsaken … and made progress.

You are the people who fought to throw open doorways and tear down barriers so that people with disabilities could live full and independent lives.

How I wish that Max Starkloff and Jim Tuscher, two giants in the fight for disability rights, were still with us. They accomplished so much in their lifetimes:

Access to sidewalks, buildings and public transportation;
Access to housing;
Access to education and communication.
We fight on today, so thousands more people with disabilities can take the “next big step” … into the workplace, where their skills and talents can shine.

You are the people who changed public opinion and private dreams, so that little girls could reach the same goals as little boys, and become surgeons and fighter pilots, supreme court judges and CEOs.

We fight on today, in the spirit of Sue Shear and Harriet Woods, to shatter glass ceilings.

You are the people who fought for equality in education, housing and hiring, inspired by champions of social justice like Minnie Liddell, Norman Seay and Frankie Freeman.

We fight on today for economic justice for all.

We stand together today, to defend the principles that will forever guide the conscience of our state and our nation: that all people have certain unalienable rights…and that all people are entitled to equal protection under the law.

These principles are at the core of the Missouri Human Rights Act, which has come under attack.

On paper, the Missouri Human Rights Act says that it is unlawful to discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, or disability.

But it is more than words on paper.

It is a living covenant … and a call to action.

It calls us to treat all people with dignity and respect.

It calls us to root out discrimination wherever it festers in our state.

It calls us to stand up and speak out, so that whenever the powerful victimize the powerless, justice will surely follow.

It calls us to defend those who have suffered the humiliation and reversals of discrimination, so that they might find redress in our courts of law.

We must answer the call.

That is why -- today -- I intend to veto Senate Bill 188.

Senate Bill 188 would undermine key provisions of the Missouri Human Rights Act, rolling back decades of progress in protecting civil rights.

The bill would make it harder to prove discrimination in the workplace, and would throw new hurdles in the path of those whose rights have been violated.

That is unacceptable.

It is not who we are.

And it stops here.

Missouri is a state that welcomes all people, and believes that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.

That means we have an obligation to put a stop to discrimination and dismantle barriers of prejudice wherever they exist -- in the workplace, in housing or in the public square.

It is no wonder, then, that this bill has drawn fire from this broad coalition of people here today, including:

the Anti-Defamation League;
the American Cancer Society;
the AARP;
the NAACP;
the AFL-CIO;
the League of Women Voters;
the legislative Black Caucus;
the Missouri Association for the Deaf;
the National Alliance on Mental Illness;
Missouri Centers for Independent Living;
Missouri NOW;
the Urban League;
Missouri Association for Social Welfare;
the Whole Person;
our communities of faith;
and many, many more.
Each of us may see the face of discrimination from a different vantage point. But its ugliness is unmistakable in any light…from any angle.

Making it easier to discriminate against people with disabilities or cancer, against women, older workers and minorities, against those of different faiths and ethnicities, will not help us create jobs or be more competitive in a global economy.

The stakes – and the opportunities - have never been greater.

Because we live in a world where the boundaries of time, distance and culture are collapsing at the touch of a finger. Technology allows us to bear witness to the triumphs and tragedies of the human condition - from tsunamis to revolutions - in real time.

We will create new opportunities, and solve mankind’s most pressing problems, as allies.

And true allies are those who can see beyond the surface of what makes people different, to reveal the substance of what makes people the same.

The more we learn to understand and respect one another, the more practiced we become at treating everyone with compassion and dignity, the better citizens of the world we will become.

To thrive in a global economy and uphold these values that we share, Missouri must be a state that continues to move forward – not backward - when it comes to civil rights and equal opportunity.

For decades, the Missouri Human Rights Act has proved its strength - as both sword and shield - protecting the rights of people like Natalie and Tim.

Natalie had worked for her employer for six years when she was told there was a cutback. Her job had been eliminated. She had been given good job evaluations, raises and bonuses. She was in her 50s, with a child still in college. Her employer told her it had nothing to do with her performance – just economics.

But shortly after letting her go, her employer replaced her with a 24-year-old worker with less experience and fewer qualifications. She sued her employer under the Missouri Human Rights Act, and the case was successfully resolved.

Tim is a man who is developmentally disabled. For nearly 18 years he held the same job: washing dishes at a hotel. Tim lived with his mom, a busy registered nurse. His earnings helped keep their household afloat, and paid for his medical care.

He was named employee of the month twice, got regular pay raises for good performance, and was never disciplined for poor work.

But that all changed when he got a new boss. The new boss started writing Tim up for things Tim didn’t understand… and couldn’t read. Eventually, Tim was fired.

So Tim and his mom, who now had to work two jobs, appealed to the court that Tim had been discriminated against because of his disability. The new boss tried to get the lawsuit dismissed. But under the Missouri Human Rights Act, Tim was protected from unfair treatment.

Protecting human rights is not a matter of politics.

It is a matter of principle.

That is why today I am vetoing Senate Bill 188.

With just ten days left in this legislative session, there are those who will be putting all their energy and effort into overturning my action.

We must lock arms and go forward from this place to block those efforts. This is the time to make your voices heard in the halls of the Capitol.

We must work together to impress upon all Missourians, the importance of protecting human rights and human dignity.

We will not cede one inch of ground it has taken decades to gain.

Because in that time, we have come to see that the civil rights of all, are inextricably bound to the rights of the few.

The path of justice is a rough and winding road.

Our journey is not over.

We will not turn back now.

We will not rest while racial slurs poison the workplace.

We will not rest while faith is the target of bigotry.

We will not rest while people with disabilities are exploited and excluded.

We will go forward – together - to accomplish the unfinished work of our state and our nation.

Related to this page
Press release: Gov. Nixon vetoes Senate Bill 188


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Faith, Flaws, and Gandhi

Easter is a very interesting holiday for me, a non-Christian. Easter is the most holy day in the Christian religion, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, probably the most noble human in history. My son calls Jesus the first hippy, for his teachings including his directive to "turn the other cheek." the religion of my youth called for "an eye for an eye." Jesus helped the poor and the forgotten. He was a peaceful rebel who gave his life for the greater good.

I much prefer the way Americans celebrate Easter over the Christmas is observed. For Easter, Christians traditionally go to church and honor Jesus. Christmas is much more commercial and has become a retail extravaganza where every American, whether Christian or not, is expected to "celebrate" by buying things. Everyone takes a holiday from work or school on Christmas, regardless of his or her beliefs. Easter is on Sunday, a traditional non-working day, and believers go to church.

I am Jewish by birth, and I believe that Jesus' teachings are profound. I do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah nor that we will ever have a real Messiah. Jesus is a hero to me. If we all adhered to his teachings, the world would be a much better place, where humans cared and took care of each other without judgment and without the motivation of greed or power.

But, the world is filled with the greedy and the power-hungry. We humans are profoundly flawed. Sometimes, I am profoundly disheartened by how flawed we all are and how hard it is for those without power to be treated fairly. And I think the root of my disillusion stems from my realization of how flawed I am, how, at times, I am motivated by greed, or power, or

Jesus appears to have been perfect, with no flaws. I don't know if he really was, but that's how the story goes. Who would not state that Jesus, as portrayed through history and the Bible, is not a hero to be admired and emulated. I admire other heroes, including Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and my grandmother. I know that humans are flawed, but I look to the traits I admire in these people and ignore the rest.

Today I researched Gandhi, probably the person whom I revere the most. I really have not read much about Gandhi, outside of his quotes that resonate with me. Gandhi's quote which most resonates with my law practice is "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." He was the pioneer of non-violent dissent, mobilizing a nation to wrest British control of India. I saw the two-part movie with Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. He fasted for causes, he said profound things, he was not afraid to die and he changed a nation.

So, today, for the first time, I decided to research Gandhi's life on the Internet. It was just a passing curiosity during an idle time today and I was not prepared for what I found. Gandhi, to my naive chagrin, was not the perfect soul I had imagined. When he was a young lawyer in South Africa fighting for the civil rights of his fellow Indian expatriates, he wrote extensively about the "inferiority" of the native Africans. I knew, from the movie, that Gandhi forsook sexual pleasures as a way to strengthen his moral strength. What I did not know was that Gandhi, apparently to cure his sexual cravings, slept naked with young girls. Ths discovery caused one of his stenographers to resign from Gandhi's service in disgust. Gandhi believed that Jews in Hitler's world should have non-violently rushed to the gas chambers and refused to leave Germany in protest to the Nazis. If my grandmother had donr that, I would not ever have existed. Gandhi was not perfect.

I know I am profoundly flawed, but I irrationally thought Gandhi was perfect. I have accepted that Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and my grandmother Oma were human. I accepted that Gerry Spence, whom I had admired for years, is flawed. I had not, however, ever even considered that Gandhi was less than perfect. In a way, Gandhi represented my Jesus.

I must resign myself to the knowledge that we are all flawed and I know my goal should be to accept people with all of their flaws. There is no daddy figure out there who can solve all of the world's problems.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Feel Like a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Thank You Tennessee Williams)

It is hard sometimes to have a job where you have little idea of what the future will hold. I don't know how my client's cases are going to turn out. My goal is to provide comfort and closure, hopefully with a sense of satisfaction and purpose. I want my clients to look back at their case and feel that going through the process was worthwhile. I hope they get justice.

When I started as a lawyer, I was idealistic and thought that most people get justice in the end. I am not so sure of at now. I hope that most people get justice, but I feel increasing pressure to fight injustice. Sometimes, when I hear about or encounter greed, bigotry or pride, it seems as though the battles become interminable and insurmountable. I fight, figuratively, all the time. I wonder if I am up to the task against lawyers and corporations with unlimited resources and I grow weary.

Plus, I usually cannot predict the outcome of a case. I do not know how a trial will pan out, under he best of circumstances. I take contingent fee cases, since my clients are not big corporations and cannot afford to pay hourly billing. In some ways, I am a professional gambler, providing little income assurance to my family and dependents.

Sometimes, I question why I have chosen such a hard job. But, deep down I know why. Our cases can, and oftentimes do, make a difference. At the very least, we may be able to bring back the happy smiles our clients freely gave before the mistreatment. We can bring back our client's faith in the justice system and restore their hopes. Sometimes we make an even greater difference, like helping to bring down an arrogant and ineffective mayor. Sometimes the job is glorious, with adrenalin highs and sound sleep. More often, I am fearful of what might happen if I miss some fact, misread some juror, or simply do not successfully related to my client and the jurors. And then there is e frustration of the length of fighting these fights, sometimes taking 7 to 10 years. Oftentimes, after these extended wars, the resolution is sweet, but not before some of our clients have been forced to file for bankruptcy.

Obviously, the outcome of cases is constantly changing, as is the rule of law. Being a trial lawyers burns out many a fine lawyer. The stress of fighting with unknown consequences, putting your client's well-being and your own livelihood on the line creates fear. For most lawyers, the risk-taking behavior necessary to be a trial lawyer takes too much of a toll on an advocate.

I went with the son to see the movie, "The Conspirator," about Mary Sarrat and her trial as a confederate conspirator for the plot to shoot Lincoln and the vice-president and secretary of state. The case was tried by a military tribunal to deprive those accused of the full spectrum of their rights under the law. I felt that old burn that comes when in a trial where I feel the judge's rulings are wrong or I cannot relate to the jury. Sometimes I tire so of the fight.

I am getting ready for trial now and frustrated on several other cases. I know I should just take one day at a time and be spontaneous. Just one time when my client, who is courageously depending on me asks what I think will happen, I wish I could tell him or her what to expect and just let it go. I can't because i don't know. This job is a weird way to spend my life. Sometimes, I feel like a cat on a hot tin roof, and when that happens the best thing to do is just breath.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Righteous Rebellion

After practicing law for 28 years, I am heartened that I hear many clients making the same statement, "I really want to prevent this (harassment, discrimination, retaliation) from happening to someone else." It is that shared resolve so common among my clients that humbles me and makes me proud to represent them. Sometimes, after hearing the rhetoric of the Tea Partiers, after seeing Big Business impose it's agenda of greed in state legislatures and in Congress, after fighting companies for years at a time to simply get justice for an injured client, I wonder if I am helping my clients make a difference.

Today, I read my Facebook page and saw a posting from Eric Vernon, a friend and fellow Kansas City lawyer. He posted an article from Yes Magazine, which I find to be profound. In this article, the author talks about people who courageously make a difference. Perhaps there is hope.

I am frustrated now because I have a client who is kind, caring and good, and gravely injured because of the carelessness of an international corporation which is under-insured, which may have procured the insurance through fraud, with principals who evade justice by liquidating companies and setting up others. This company is the epitome of greed. Each insurance company, defendant and defense attorney is evading responsibility for this wonderful man's grievous injuries. I still believe that most people are good and just and that justice will prevail, but it may be several years and I grow frustrated.

Then I hear and read about the shenanigans in Congress, where some members are hoping to
enrich the coffers of the wealthy on the backs of the poor. I grow frustrated with the
Missouri Legislature and the attempts to restrict human rights. I grow impatient and want a peaceful righteous rebellion to combat the greed inherent in many corporate cultures.

It is hard to be patient. I try to be empathetic and I fail. But, even with all of the evil in the world, in places like Darfur, Rwanda, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, I must believe in the fairness and goodness of people and I must be patient. Gandhi once said, "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." Thank goodness for courageous people such a my clients who fight the dirty drops in the ocean.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Through the Eyes of A Child

My husband and I both love children. Our two kids are grown, and we have no grandchildren, just grand-dogs. Don't get me wrong, I love those dogs. But, it is nice being around human kids, too, so we both volunteer at local schools. Mike helps out at the kindergarten class taught by our wonderful spinning teacher, Angela, when she is not spinning or leading yoga. I have a 6th grade Youth Friend, a girl with whom I have lunch around once a week.

My friend is great. She reminds me of what it is like to be a kid. She is energetic, honest, in your face, and fun. She struggles with math, has arguments with her friends, and is just a kid. I saw her this week. I bring my iPad, because she likes to play games on it. Sometimes she goes to music sites, and, like a responsible youth friend, I tell her no R rated lyrics. She looks sheepish, and clicks to the G rated songs.

This week I showed her that I had downloaded Angry Birds. We played that awhile and then she, and I, got bored. She looked at another app I had downloaded. It's just an app with pretty light shapes with colors. I have always liked pretty, shiny things, but I don't spend much time with the app. My friend got on it. She was entranced.

She directed me where to place my fingers so that we could see the lights twirl in swirling
motions. She showed me how if we tapped the screen, different brilliant colors erupted in
bursts of light. We placed our fingers in different places on the screen and watched how the colored streams of lights bounced off each other and were drawn to places as if they were magnetized. We had fun! More fun with lights and colors than I ever thought possible, and I have also thought lights and colors were fun. My friend taught me new ways to see and move the colors and create beautiful images.

I always fancied myself as a fan of sparkle and glitz, but never have I appreciated the colors and lights like I did on Wednesday. It was fun and we were in the moment. I learned a lot from my friend. She's cool.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What it Takes to Write a Blog

I have been thinking about what qualities it takes to publish a blog. Most people don't , not yet. Bloggers have certain traits, that I suspect bloggers share in common:

1. A love of writing;
2. A desire to have others notice what you read;
3. The belief that you have something important or entertaining to say; and
4. AN EGO.

I include myself in the last category, unfortunately. There is something cool about writing and knowing other people read what you write. I hope I have something of significance to say. I hope I honor my clients. I try to pretend that I don't have an ego, but I do.

What is ego? I don't mean in the Freud sense. I think that people, like me, who draw attention to thmselves do it for a variety of reasons, but high among those reasons is the hope for approval from others. A big ego is really just insecurity, a need to be heard, or read. That may be what propels others into politics. Maybe not. The American psyche is a difficult thing to understand and owning up to one's flaws is even harder. We are all flawed. I loved flawed people. Thank God I am really flawed. Long live flawed people - sometimes from them comes greatness. Unfortunately, that is not the case of me, the author of this blog. But, it is fun to write and have others read anyway.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Foray into Fiction - What do you think?

“The jury has reached a verdict.”   I look up at the courtroom deputy, a woman of about forty with coal-black,, obviously dyed hair. In her wrinkled yellow blouse, she walked to me and smirks. Maybe she isn’t really smirking at me.  I don’t know her, maybe she just looks that way at everyone. (Please, please, please, let this be my imagination!  Don’t be so paranoid.)  My chest tightens as I respond, “Okay.”  She turns around and rushes back through the courtroom door, her scuffed pumps clicking as I watch her retreat.  I arise to find my client, Mary, and notice that my hands quiver and my knees feel weak. I inhale deeply and walk down the hall where Mary sits with her mother.
“We need to get back to the courtroom.  They have a verdict.”  I try to walk at a steady pace toward the imposing courtroom doors.  I don’t want my client to see that I am nervous.  Bad form.  She and her mother walk behind me, Mary grabbing her mother’s arm, as I swing the heavy wooden door open and hold it for them.  People are gathering.  I open the gate to go to the counsel table, with Mary behind me.  Mary’s frumpy mother, Alice, dressed in polyester slacks and a blouse, lumbers over to the spectator pews.
The counsel table is fairly cleared, since I have a compulsion to neaten things up while waiting for a jury, not a normal inclination on my part.  The only time I can recall the need to straighten up is while waiting for a jury.  Weird.  I search under the table in a file box for a pad and pencil and find them neatly by the exhibits.  As I set the pad on the table,  I steady myself. I look at Mary and try to smile. Mary looks scared and right now I don’t want to comfort her.  That’s why I had her bring her mother.  I just want this moment to end.  I feel dread, and I can’t shake the feeling.
The judge, looking somewhat disheveled enters the courtroom through the door from his chambers, straightening his long, black robe.  “Let the jury in.”  The deputy moves to the door leading to the back hallway and slowly opens it.  The jurors are lined up behind the door, ready to be seated.  I look away.  I don’t want to see their faces. I don’t want to know if they are looking at me or my client.  Frankly, I wish I were unconscious, or anywhere but here.
Everyone seems to move in slow motion and my heart pounds.   The judge bellows, “Have you reached a verdict?”  A middle-aged man in a tie in the second row, holding papers, responds, “We have, Your Honor.”  The courtroom deputy moves toward the man, her arm outstretched. Everything is moving in slow motion.  It reminds me of when I was in a car wreck and saw the other car running the light and heading toward me and I could not move in time. I felt paralyzed.  Slow motion.  She takes the papers to the judge.
The judge examines each page.  It’s almost as if I can see his lips move.  Hurry up, dammit!  My heart cannot take this much stress.  I avoid turning to look at Mary.  I don’t want to be strong for her right now.  Just read the damn verdict!
“On the claim of Mary Gutierrez against Morris Trucking Company for sex discrimination, we the jurors find in favor of . . .” Here, the judge pauses.  I don’t know why they do that.  Too much television courtroom drama.   Read it, dammit.  The judge finally states, “Morris Trucking Company.”
The cannonball tears into my chest and I unsuccessfully try to steady myself.  Instead, I physically recoil.  I hope no one saw that.  I take a deep breath and turn to Mary, her eyes filled with tears.  “I am sorry,” I whisper, hoping my voice does not betray how devastated I feel.  What else is there to say?  Sorry, I fucked up that cross-examination, sorry you didn’t tell me of your affair with your co-worker, sorry I am just not a good enough lawyer.  Sorry.  I hate feeling sorry.  And angry.  Here comes the anger.  I hate feeling anger. Push that back down.
The defense counsel, all three of them, are high-fiving each other with the human resources director of their client.  I wonder who will be buying their drinks tonight.  God, I don’t want to shake their hands.  He’s coming over, shit!  Rage is building.  Stem it, now!
“You tried a good case,” the asshole four-eyed bald, ugly excuse for a human being says with his right arm extended.  “Congratulations,” weakly escapes my lips as I look at my shoes.  What a wimp I am.  Mary is right behind me.  He turns to Mary, “It was nice meeting you.  I am sorry about the circumstances.”  He extends his arm to her, she looks at it and turns away.   What do you expect, asshole.  You fire her ass because she complains about her boss grabbing her ass, and you fucking get away with it.  I make myself smile at him and turn away to talk to Mary.
“Mary, we can appeal.  We can talk about what we can do next.”
“I don’t want to think about that now.”  She starts to cry.  “Thank you for representing me.  You did a good job.”  No, I didn’t.  Don’t tell me that.  I sucked.  I failed you. “Thank you,” I respond.   I want to get out of here.  I need to leave.
I gather up the boxes and place them on the dolly.  Mary starts to help.  “That’s okay, I can get it.”  Her mother opens the gate to come and help.
A look of pain flashes across her face.  I feel horrible, now I’ve made her feel bad.  I need to get out of here.  “I’m leaving, Mary.  I will call you next week.” I give her one of those patting embraces, the kind of hug you give when you feel uncomfortable.  I can’t help it.  I need to get out of here.   As I exit the courthouse door, I feel as though I can finally breathe for the first time in a week.  I inhale deeply and leave.
It wasn’t always like this.  There was a time when I was enthusiastic, when I believed I could change the world.  I thought I could make a difference, at least I deluded myself into thinking I was making a difference.  I was a child of the Sixties, for crying out loud.  Civil rights mattered, protesting the Vietnam War mattered.  Nothing today seems to matter much.  I need a drink.
I drive back to the office.  Thankfully, everyone has gone for the day.  My desk is a mess, piled with unopened mail.  There are piles of papers and files all over the glass table.  It is overwhelming.  I roll the boxes into the office and leave them inside the door.  I turn out the lights and make my way over to the couch and collapse. Now I wish I could cry, just to get the emotional release, but no tears come.  No relief. I need to divert my thoughts.  I don’t want to obsess about the trial, nor about the unpaid bills. It’s too much.  I don’t want to call anyone or talk to anyone.  I don’t want to go home.  I want to not exist.  I lay here not knowing what to do.  The panic begins to seep into my brain and then quickly sweeps all over my prone body.  I bolt up. The panic will pass, I know it will pass.  Please, let it pass.  I don’t want to think about the rent, or the mortgage or the college bills.  Right now, I need to escape.  But, I don’t.  I drive home.
I push the button inside my car to open the garage door, knowing that Ava, my dog, my little dog pound mutt, will hear the door lifting.  Oh, to have the life of a dog, at least a modern day dog.  I would gladly be neutered or spayed in exchange for a carefree existence with free food and shelter and people who care about me, but expect very little from me.
I have always been the one to take care of others, ever since my parents’ divorce when I was twelve.  My brothers were younger and depended on me, and I didn’t let them down.  As long as they needed me, I felt loved and important.  Derek is now an architect in L.A., and I see him every year or so.  He never married and lives the good life, sports cars, international vacations, a beautiful house.  Not the same brother who, at age six, would grab my leg to prevent me from going out to play without him.  Back then, I was his world.  At least Eli lives closer.  He is just one year younger than me and lives in Omaha.  He and his wife Bev run a sporting goods store.  I don’t think Bev likes me much.  Bev, who openly declares she hates lawyers, always adding, “Except you, of course,” has not aged well.  She is down-right frumpy and nasty. I personally think their store would do better if Bev would get off her fat ass and exercise and lost some weight.  It’s poor marketing to have a sporting goods saleswoman looking like she spends half of her time in the kitchen or in front of a television. I think Eli gives in to her just to keep the peace.  I am afraid that Eli is not very happy.  Intellectually, I know that I am not responsible for his unhappiness, but I hesitate to admit I feel guilty about him, like if I had been a better sister/mother, he would be content.  I really miss him Eli, especially our long talks as teenagers and young adults.  Eli and I had all of the same teachers in school, I just had them first. We were both in the accelerated classes, but we were two very different students and even different children.  Eli was shy and quiet and excelled in Math and Science.  I was the loud-mouth poet.  When we were kids, I tried to protect Eli from bullies, but I guess I didn’t protect him from a bully wife.  I am afraid Eli chose Bev because she reminds him of me, and I really do not want to think about that.
I always do this, when I feel bad, I start to think about all of the bad things in my life.  Sometimes, I just work myself up into a panicky dither over as little a disappointment as a gain of two pounds.  Losing a trial warrants a much greater hysterical reaction than a mere weight gain.  If I’m not careful, I could end on the edge of a cliff tonight, if only in my imagination.
As I open the door from the garage to the kitchen, there is Ava, wagging her auburn tail and running in circles because she is so happy to see me.  I love Ava because she loves me unconditionally.  It wouldn’t matter if I was a bag lady, Ava would love me just the same.  I am glad that Hannah, my daughter, who is now 24 years old, begged me to adopt Ava eight years ago after Hannah volunteered at the animal shelter in her “I like animals better than people” period.  Although, Anna is living in her own apartment and in graduate school, faithful Ava remains.
“Hi, baby!”  I exclaim as Anna, wildly encircles me enraptured by my mere presence.  I rub my hands all over her fur, “Here’s Mommy’s baby!  Come here, baby!  Mommy needs a hug,” and I grab the 65 pound dog and encircle her in my arms as she licks me with her long wet tongue.  This feels good, although I know the feeling is fleeting.
“Joan, are you home?” my husband Steve calls out.  I grunt.  I know I should be nicer to him, but I am not in the mood to be “nice’ and here finally is a way for me to vent my frustration, although I don’t want to consider the long-term consequences of using Steve as a punching bag.
I walk into the kitchen, a large room that could be beautiful if I refinished the cabinets and replaced the cheap green flooring and out-dated counter tops.  The room needs a complete scrub, but I don’t want to think about that.
“How is the trial going?” Steve calls from the family room where a noisy basketball game is blaring from the television.  I hear the obnoxious “AAAAAAAH” sound the time clock makes and the cacophonous crowd cheering and my head begins to hurt.
“Can you please turn that crap down!  I can’t even think.”
“What happened with the trial?”
I look at Steve and say, “We lost.”
“You lost?”
“What?  Do you think I am lying?  I said we lost.”  Damn, I am such a bitch.  Just like Bev.  I walk to the bedroom, as Steve follows in his tee-shirt and jeans.  At least he has a shirt on today.  It drives our son Max crazy when Steve walks around the house shirtless, with the slightest beer belly coated in silver strands of hair hanging over his belt.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I really don’t want to talk about the trial right now.  I just need some time.”  I lay down on the bed which Steve had made that morning.  The room is blue because I was in my “blue” period twenty years ago when I decorated the bedroom.  I like sage green now, but don’t have the energy nor the means to redecorate.  Steve mumbles okay and walks out of the room as I slump on the bed.
Being alone was probably a bad idea.  Laying on this bed, unprotected by distractions, is dangerous.  My mind goes to the many improvements needed to the house.  I need a maid, too.  Well, we still have a healthy mortgage on the house because of all of the refinancing we have done to keep the firm afloat during the last 25 years.  There is little equity, if any, in this house.  That leads me to my real panic.  The firm is having such a horrible year, with this loss and others, and, for the first time in a long time, we’re behind in our bills.  I assumed the Gutierrez case would settle before trial, but I had not anticipated a stingy defendant and a stubborn client.  Now she has nothing. She is not the only one with nothing.  Forty percent of that settlement was supposed to be mine.  If I keep thinking about this, I am going to induce a panic attack.
The phone in the bedroom rings, and I freeze.  What if it’s another bill collector?  What do I tell them?  I am not going to answer.  Let the credit card companies sue me.  I imagine the embarrassment when my colleagues notice the lawsuits.  Well, it could be worse, I tell myself.  No one’s sick.  My heart begins to pound and I feel jumpy.  I grab the keys to my car and walk out of the bedroom.
Steve looks at me quizzically and says, “Where are YOU going?”
“I am tense and need to go out for awhile.  Maybe I will find a movie.”
“Do you want to talk?”
After thirty-three years of marriage, I can find nothing to say.  “No, I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”  I leave, drive around and come home and go to bed. Chapter 3
(Go through 1970s and 1960s)
I remember when I was thirteen years old and everyday the major television stations, then all we had was network tv, reported campus riots protesting Vietnam.  It was 1966 and I paid little attention to the news, especially since my mother had announced she was remarrying and I felt personal dread that seemed so much more important than what was going on in the world. It seemed logical to me that if these college kids did not agree with their college’s policies, they should just transfer. Life was pretty much black and white, good and evil.  There were cowboys (good) and Indians (bad).  John Wayne fought the bad guys in the movies, and he was one of us, one of the good guys,  I did not have moral dilemmas, I was a kid. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, I was fifteen and had little conception at that time of the man’s importance nor of the upheaval of traditional white middle class life in the Midwest.  On the day of Dr. King’s assassination, school was canceled and I hoped to be able to ride the bus downtown and go clothes shopping.  Little did I understand that there were race riots and it was not safe to ride the bus.  It was two years before it dawned on me that there were more important problems in the world than those of my family’s.
But when the realization came, it hit me hard.  As I got closer to college age myself, I began to identify with the protestors, both against the Vietnam War and against racial bigotry and discrimination.  I became aware of the world around me, even as my mother’s, and my, world at home was disintegrating.  As my mother survived the beatings by my gentile, redneck stepfather and finally succeeded in extricating us from her marriage, I began to recognize real injustice in the world, both at home and abroad.  I knew what it felt like not to fit in.  In fact, my mother and my grandmother fled Nazi Germany to escape religious persecution, which would have ultimately led to their demise had they not left.  My mother had not fit in in Germany, she did not fit in with the semi-affluent Jewish crowd in the Midwest of the United States, and she did not fit in the Bible Belt in Middle America.  I did not fit in either.  I was Jewish in a Christian land, my father gone, my mother being abused, and I was chubby, the kiss of death for society’s acceptance of an adolescent girl.  The late 1960s and early 1970s was a good time for misfits, me among them.
Being a misfit is what led me to this job, always fighting, always the misfit, always in turmoil.  No fat cat lawyer career for me, no sir.  Beating the establishment in a case almost made me feel accepted, sort of.  But living in a constant state of battle creates battle fatigue, even for those of us who have never handled a weapon more sophisticated than our tongues. Chapter 4
It’s been six months since I lost the Mary Gutierrez case.  She and I decided not to appeal, because we would probably lose.  At least that is what I told her.  We probably would lose, but that used to not stop me.  I had a really good record in the Court of Appeals until President Bush was elected and revamped our judicial system with his appointments.  It’s almost impossible for a plaintiff to win an appeal in federal court now.  I used to fight and win a lot more.  I was the warrior for those courageous souls who fought against the big corporations or the bullies in power. Now, I am so afraid myself.  I could have gone into a more lucrative area, but I have never been practical.
I am nervous about the appointment I have this afternoon.  I am much more likely to take on a tough case if I meet with the prospective client in person.  It is hard to reject someone with whom you have spent time.  I think I am depressed, and that realization depresses me.  It paralyzes me, really.  I am not functioning well, but I still have a lot of responsibilities.