Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Ways to Enjoy the New Year

Most of the people I know work very hard and can be very serious.  Work, work, work!  Actually, even though this society is replete with lawyer jokes, lawyers are some of the hardest working people I know. We don't take good enough care of ourselves, and then when we "retire" it may be too late.  Here is what I want to do in 2013 and what I would tell others who want suggestions for the upcoming year:

1.  Listen to music you love!  Music is transcending. I have a new pair of really good headphones.  Music can lift even my darkest (and they Can get really dark) moods.

2.  Do something anonymously for someone else.  It's uplifting, but only of you expect nothing in return. 

3.  Exercise - nothing feels better, especially when it is over.  My husband and I have been going to spinning classes for over 5 years.  That is one way to beat the blahs.  Hike in new places. Move!

4. Read!  Read articles, books, fiction and non-fiction.  Learn new things.  Explore. Read junk, if you must, but just take time to read.

5.  Indulge in massages, mani/pedis if you can afford it. If you can't, have a friend rub your neck.  Let your body feel good. 

6. Have sex. (Caveat, I am not promoting promiscuity, but sex is good for the soul.) - My husband will be happy to read this.  

7.  Sing. I am a terrible singer, but I love to sing and I  love to sing loud.  Now, you may need to find a private place like the shower if you have fuddy-duddies around you (like I do).

8.  Say please and thank you. Tip well.  Send thank you cards. 

9.  Live in the moment. Don't wallow in regret or worry about all the things that could go wrong.  Appreciate your time now!!  You may be dead tomorrow. 

10. Don't take anything personally.  It's not about you.  When someone says something "about you," it's really about them. Separate yourself from what others say. Learn from it, if you can, and let it go.  

I hope all of you have enriching and joy-filled years to come.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Being an Honorable Person - 6 Easy Rules Reposted

I am republishing this blog posting from September, 2009.  The entry gets a lot of hits, almost more than any other. I am proud of this and wanted to repost, since we are nigh upon a new year:

I am going to take a little departure from talking about cases.  I have and have had many courageous clients.  It's the nature of my business that someone who wants to bring a discrimination case must have a modicum of courage.  These are not the types of cases for the faint of heart.  Today, though, I have been thinking about honor.  It is the courageous, honorable clients whom are the ones I love.

What is it that makes a person honorable?  An honorable person is one who is deserving of respect.  And who deserves respect?  Most of us, including me, have acted in dishonorable ways.  Dishonorable acts include lying, cheating, stealing, betraying, manipulating.  It's easy to be negative.  What does it take to be a truly honorable person, worthy of the respect of others:

1.   Speaking the truth even when it is unpopular, while avoiding needless unkind words;
2.   Being loyal even when it is tempting to be disloyal;
3.   Having empathy, especially with one's opponents and people with whom one has little in common;
4.   Giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return except the joy of giving:
5.   Standing up for what one believes in even when it is unpopular to do so;
6.   Truly being able to forgive others for just about anything.

I know this is a simple list, but it seems fairly comprehensive to me.  When someone needlessly hurts someone else or strives for personal power or personal wealth above all else, it is always a reflection of some underlying conflict in that person.  Unfortunately, people who are hurt by others oftentimes go out and hurt even more people.  Angry people hurt others, while oftentimes not meaning to do so.

So, how does this relate to the practice of law?  The practice of law is a microcosm of the act of living.  We have developed a set of rules with which to operate so that we don't destroy each other.  Law is eminently logical and practical.  People aren't.  It is possible to fiercely promote what one believes in or to defend one's person and principles without annihilating the opponent.  The fiercest advocate can be the gentlest person.  It is not easy to be honorable, but honorable people do not expect perfection.  They are ready to forgive transgressions. Living honorably is the key to being peaceful and content. Not ironically, the best advocate is the one that acts with honor.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I am sure it's obvious, but we have to protect children. I really can't think of anything else. Parents want to protect children. We need to deal with mentally ill violent people in a better way. We need to take care of each other. I found out about what happened in Newtown, Connecticut as I was leaving the kindergarten class at which we volunteer. What happened to those sweet children in Newtown is almost too horrible to consider, but I can't seem to think of anything else about which to write.  Sweet, innocent children, just like  the ones we have all raised, are raising or hope to raise in the future.  We want our children to grow up to be beautiful, happy, caring adults. I am lucky enough to have seen my children grow to adulthood. The parents in Newtown are not.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wintertime Blues and What's Important

I hate this time of the year. People spend so much money on shit that is meaningless. I suspect this consumerism stems from northern-living Caucasians attempting to stave off depression from excessive darkness and cold weather.  We lose sight in what's important. 

What is really important?  I am sure it is many different things to many different people.  For most of my clients, being courageous and furthering justice is of utmost importance. For a tiny few of them, I suspect revenge and anger motivate them more.  For me, sifting through the legions of people harmed, whether or not illegally, by actions of their employers to find the clients who want to do the right thing for the right reasons becomes increasingly important. When I choose my clients too swiftly and my instincts are bad, it takes a toll on me and makes it harder to focus on what's important. There are people out there who, for whatever reasons which could include a devastatingly painful childhood, broken relationships or whatever, have chips on their shoulders. For those clients, nothing is ever enough. They can no longer trust and believe they are victims time and time again. While they may have understandable reasons for being difficult, I no longer have sympathy for them. They drain me.  I know I am over-simplifying this, but clients who see themselves as victims have no personal insight nor compassion for others.  I am tired of representing people who have holes inside which are impossible to fill.

My job can be wonderful and rewarding, and it can be draining and depressing.  I don't like prima donnas.  Perhaps I don't like the competition as I can be very prima donna-like myself.  This "holiday" season seems to emphasize the materialistic nature of the self-professed "victims" I try to avoid representing. 

So, to get me back on track, I want to re-emphasize what is important to me (not in order of importance), so as to get a bad taste out of my mouth:

1.  Laughter - my brother put a Jim Gaffigan special on yesterday and my sides hurt from laughing.  I love laughing. 

2.  Children - the time my husband and I spend helping at a kindergarten class each week is one of the highlights of my week.  Last night I went to a hockey game and the children danced throughout the game to the music. Children are spontaneous, fun-loving, innocent creatures just like I want to be.

3.  Dogs- we have two sweet, caring dogs with distinct personalities. Dogs are loyal and unconditionally loving. They love you no matter what. 

4.  Family - Loving, caring family.  Family is what is most important to me in life.

5.  Working - Working at a job that I love most of the time for people that I almost always care about and with people, my partners and staff alike, that I truly love.  I don't know I will have the pluck of Gerry Spence to try a case in federal court at the age of 83, but I think I might. Shoot, I have another 23 years to find out.  

During this holiday season, with the increasingly diminishing sunlight and the impending freeze of winter, I want to remember what's really important, and find more reasons to laugh. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gay Marriage - A Change Is A Comin'

Why do we want to dictate to others how to live their lives?  Fear? Yes. Insecurity? I bet. Wanting to be in charge?  Sure.  Probably fear of the unknown or fear of one's own sexual feelings contribute a lot to homophobia.

A few years ago, I represented a man, who was gay, in a car wreck. His sexual preference was irrelevant to the case. I produced my client for the deposition and the other lawyer started asking him if he had ever slept with a man. I was outraged. I yelled and screamed objections. I told my client not to answer.  And then I planned what I was going to say to the other lawyer after the deposition and once we were off the record. As soon as he was done, I blurted, "You are a despicable pig!"  He said, "Come on, Lynne, you would have done the same thing."  I would not have done that. My client was very happy I stood up for him. He was my cousin.

When I was growing up, being gay was not easy.  In high school kids made fun of anyone wearing pink and green together because those were "queer colors."  I laughed along with everyone else. Gays were a source of derision. I know so much more, and hopefully am more empathetic now, than then. I didn't think I knew any gays then. Ha!  How deluded I was.

We need to treat gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals with dignity and afford her equal protections under the law. They need the right to be free from employment discrimination, free to marry, free to live their lives the way they want.  At one time I feared this freedom would never be afforded the LGBT community. Our society moves faster and more justly than I  ever thought possible. And someday, probably sooner than we think, even in Missouri and Kansas, people will be allowed to follow their hearts.  I am hopeful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Justice is More of a Long Term Goal Thingee

Lately I have been wallowing in the misfortune of family of friends.  I feel that my friends' premature deaths are unfair and sad.  I have been dwelling on the serious illnesses of close friends and relatives, and it weights me down.  Yesterday, after going to a memorial service, I decided that I needed to see death, illness, bad judgments for what they are, human events on this sea called life.  Sometimes we reach shore safely, sometimes we do not.  There are the potential for pirates, sea monsters, fatal illness and mutiny along the way.  But, I hope, that no matter what my future may hold that the lessons I learn from my bumps and waves aid in my better understanding of life.

Although sometimes its hard, I am basically I am an optimist.  Not all of the people around me are, and I need to fight to not succumb to dark and paralyzing moods.  Gandhi said, "The arc of history is long, but bends toward justice."  I take that to mean that some people are going to get screwed, run over by trucks, killed by spouses, have premature illnesses, but we have to look at the whole of us as a collective when considering justice.  It is not about any one of us, justice, to prevail is about all of us.

In the past and now, there have been both individual injustices, such as poverty, lack of education, prejudice, and there have been humankind injustices, such as genocide, slavery, cruelty, tyranny. To consider society's improvement, we must look at the latter and not at the former.  We are all going to die.  Our friends and relatives are going to die.  Get over it. (I say, this because I am having such trouble myself in getting over it.)  Let's look at what has been happening in the "arc of history," even recent American History to really evaluate what goes on.

When this nation was formed, only white male property owners could vote, we enslaved Africans in the South, women could not vote (Africans were certainly not eligible to vote), many Americans hated Blacks, Jews, Irish, Italian, and we won't even talk about Gays.  A small group in this country had power and many of them intended to keep it. Children worked in sweat shops and both children and women were paid little at all.  If you were a rich Protestant White man you might do okay.  Most other groups were screwed.

Here are some major changes in America, some of the more recent ones that are the most encouraging::

1.  African-American slaves were freed by passage of the 13th Amendment in the 1860s.

2.  The bill of rights and the fourteen amendment banning discrimination were passed.

3.  African Americans were given the right to vote under the 15th Amendment in the 1870s.

4.  After a post Civil War setback, civil rights continued to be extended.  Women got the right to vote in the 1920s.

5.  Because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employment discrimination based on race and sex were prohibited.  Later, discrimination based on disability was prohibited.  Age discrimination and other discrimination followed suit.


7.  The racist talk of the 1950s and 1960s became taboo.



10. In some states, GAYS CAN MARRY.  (Within the next 20 years, all states will allow gay marriage and employment discrimination against gays will be illegal - I predict.)  WE ELIMINATED DON'TASK, DON'T TELL IN THE MILITARY.

11.  Women and minorities are beginning to obtain positions of real power in politics.  I am seeing more women trial lawyers than ever before.

We have come so far as a society.  When I was a kid, job ads in the newspaper were divided by gender.  Homosexuality was demonized.   In high school, students made fun of other students for wearing pink and green, the "queer colors."  

Overall, humans can be trusted to do the right thing.  Juries usually get it right, even on the trials where I lost. There are a few lapses, like the Nazis,and Stalin, and Rwanda, Kosovo, etc., but hopefully we can nip those in the bud.  People generally have a sense of right and justice.  Left to their own devices, they want to do the right thing.   We don't get it right all of the time, but we continue to learn and grow.

Looking at the big picture, I have hope and faith in the human race.  In the short run, we are not always so lucky.  I am heartened by the big picture, even though I know work on the big picture will be going on long after I leave this Earth.  Here's to the youth and our future!!!!

P.S.  (Just one little request - can we have a new rock and roll revolution?  Some of the modern music is getting old.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Death and Dying

Last year, I lost a couple of clients, a husband and wife.  They both died from cancer a year apart. They were young, 50ish, vital, extremely intelligent and kind and I became very close to them. They had two college age kids who are amazing. This year the kids are spending Thanksgiving in New Zealand without their parents.  their mother could cook feasts. I think about this family often and how much it meant to me to represent the father. I feel a hole inside me.  I cannot imagine how their children feel. Part of my pain is for these bright, shining kids with no parents. I know the family was loving and the parents did all they could, but I can't shake how the parents are gone.  I have the painting the college aged daughter made for me in my office.

This week, our neighbor died. He and his wife were the coolest neighbors. He played the banjo in a bluegrass band. They had block parties every year and the band played really sweet music. He had a beautiful garden. His wife is heart broken. 

A couple of weeks ago, a lawyer friend of mine, age 41, died in a fiery private plane crash. I know his charming wife who he met while she sold legal books at lawyer seminars. They have a 13 month old boy. My friend was the happiest, kindest man with an infectious laugh.  I feel pain in my gut when I think of his recent passing. 

The husband of one of my best friends is hospitalized in Oregon. He is very sick, having lost part of a lung because the doctors needed to cure his pneumonia so he could undergo a bone marrow transplant for his leukemia. In the mean time, the cancer recurred, so he is undergoing chemo and then will have the transplant. My friend, a lawyer, has had to leave her practice to take care of her husband, and herself.  She has progressive Parkinson's Disease.  I have promised to go visit her in the next couple of weeks. 

And, finally, there's my mom. She is recovering from quintuple coronary bypass surgery. When she feels well she drives and plays bridge and goes to rehab. In the hospital she got C Diff, a contagious bacterial infection that affects the colon. She takes medicine, certain antibiotics, but a few days after she stops, the C Diff returns, causing fever, chills and wreaking havoc on the digestive system. We have got to get this infection under control. We hope to get her into a gastroenterologist. I thought she was going to die in July. I want her to get well. 

I try to be an optimistic person, try to live in the moment, and realize that we all die, to no avail. I want to hold on to these good people. I am sad and scared. I know many people and their families are in much worse shape, but that is really little consolation.  I don't have a pithy or uplifting ending to essay. I guess sometimes I just have to accept being sad and scared and stop running from those feelings. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Disenfranchised Voters in Grandview

I had the privilege of being a poll challenger last Tuesday for the Presidential election  in Grandview. I experienced wonderful moments watching citizens proudly vote. I also watched heartbreaking disappointment when citizens of Jackson County were being disenfranchised by stupid rules.  

Overall, what an experience!  It was so invigorating to be present with masses of people who wanted to exercise their constitutional right to vote. I will always remember the woman, after completing her ballot, ecstatically shouting with raised arms, "I voted!" as she left the polling place. A woman with Down's Syndrome, accompanied by her parents, smiled broadly upon leaving the voting booth. It was energizing to see the voters empowered by their ability to cast their ballots. I was so impressed by the election poll workers, selected from both the Democrat and Republican parties working hard, by calling the election officials and verifying information to insure that everyone who could vote was able to vote. 

What was distressing, however, was how Missouri election laws confounded the election process.  As I learned on Tuesday, for purposes of elections, Kansas City and the rest of Jackson County have two separate election boards, as if they were in two separate counties, like St. Louis and St. Louis County.   Problem is its all one county.  Residents of Jackson County don't know that need to re-register if they move between Kansas City and other parts of Jackson County. The deadline for re-registration was October 10, 2012 and the election was November 6. If a voter moved within Kansas City or within Jackson County, they just change their addresses and vote. The problem is if they move from, say, Grandview to Kansas City, within the same county but between arbitrary boundaries created by the law, with no rhyme nor reason. 

I observed minorities being excluded from voting while stationed  in Grandview, the most racially diverse city in in Jackson City, outside of Kansas City proper. Grandview abuts Kansas City and, since the last presidential election in 2008, many minority voters had moved from one place to the next. Sometimes these moves were a few blocks apart, but to or from Kansas City.  The voters naturally assumed that since they had voted in 2008, and they still lived in the same general neighborhood, they still had a right to vote. If they left eastern Jackson County and moved to Kansas City before, October 10, they lost their right to vote, even though they did not even leave Jackson County.  And how does the election board discover this information?  It's when those voter identification cards are returned to sender, the Kansas City or Jackson County election board. When the cards come back, the voter is labeled inactive and has to explain and sign a form with the explanation. 

Many, many potential voters left angry and unsatisfied because even though they had registered to vote in Jackson County, that was not good enough because of the artificial division of the county into two arbitrary political entities. I observed that most of these disenfranchised voters were African American. They voted last time and no one told them that there were crazy rules they had to follow. At least one out of three voters in Grandview came up inactive. Some could still vote, after explanations of moving within eastern Jackson County or Kansas City, but many, many would-be voters were turned away. Voter turnout in Grandview was high, and a substantial number of American citizens were prevented from casting their votes. 

I suspect that no one will claim the two election boards in Jackson County were created intentionally to limit minority voting, but limiting minority voting is precisely the result.  I suspect not nearly as many Lees Summit or Blue Springs voters move to and from Kansas City compared to Grandview voters, neighbors of Kansas City immediately to the south.  Minorities are drawn to Grandview and it is those citizens most likely to be disenfranchised. 

The easiest solution is to consolidate the Kansas City and Jackson County  election boards. Second easiest, and most fair, is to let voters change their addresses anywhere within the state up to Election Day. They deserve to vote. I don't want to see the crestfallen faces of disenfranchised minorities ever again. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

PLEASE VOTE - And Vote No on Amendment 3

Haven't we all noticed the millions or billions of dollars being poured into the election campaigns?  Is it just coincidence  that, in the first real election since the United States Supreme Court  messed up in Citizens United, very wealthy financiers are trying to buy the election?  I think not.

I, for one, am appalled at the power these rich people are trying to wield over our democracy, at the expense of ordinary citizens.  Hopefully, soon, we citizens will vote to enact a new constitutional amendment declaring corporations are not people and paying money to attempt to buy politicians is not free speech.

In the meantime, those in Missouri, please vote no on Amendment 3 to stop billionaires and politicians from buying our Judiciary. Missouri has the best judicial selection procedure in the nation, in effect for more than 70 years and copied by more than 30 states.  Keep the Gold Standard "Missouri Plan" in place. VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT 3!!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Football Sucks

Players get permanent brain injuries; fans get drunk and violent; and, most importantly, I have to watch this stupid game played by an awful team instead of enjoying a hilarious situation comedy on television.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Life Is Short, So Don't Waste It On Stupid Stuff

How much time do we spend on petty thoughts and desires? I have wasted many hours worrying about stupid things.    This is the stupid stuff that I try to avoid worrying about.


1.  Anything outside of my control, including but not limited to;
  A.  Who will win the presidential election,
  B.  If others like me (okay, sometimes I still worry about this),  including if others like what I say, or if others like the way I look or how I dress,
  C.  If others think my daughter has too many tattoos.

2.  Anything that matters little in the course of life, for instance:
    A. Whether or not I drive an expensive car,
    B.  Whether or not I wear high heels,
    C.  If I let my hair go grey,
    D.   Belonging to country clubs,
    E.  Botox. 

3.  Gossip, about anything including about wealth, either mine or envying someone else's.  


1.  Caring about others,
2. Having love, of people, pets, etc. in your life,
3. Being persistent and focused in what you find important in life,
4.  Laughing, laughing, and laughing. 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Harassed! (How's that for a book title?)

Fifteen years ago I started writing a novel and, though I finished it, it went nowhere.  Recently, I pulled it out and read it after so many years. It is a timeless (unfortunately) story of sexual harassment. 

 Some of the premises are outdated, like going to a bank of pay phones, but the novel is not near as bad as I remembered.   I think it will take me about a year to edit and rewrite it.  I may put excerpts in the blog. It's fiction, but it is based on my experiences as a trial lawyer and in life.  I psyched. This may be fun. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What Would You Like To Be When You Grow Up?

What would I do be if I could do anything I want?   I want to do many, many things, including being a trial lawyer.  I guess I like adrenaline.

I wish I could be a:

1.  Blues guitarist - they are so cool.  

2.  Saxophone player - ditto on the cool. 

3.  Professional baseball shortstop - you run the team and make outs!

4.  Stand up comedian.   Cool. 

5.  Women's soccer star - ditto on the cool, again.

What would you like to be?

Monday, October 8, 2012


Necessary Qualities of Client and Lawyer in Civil Litigation


1.  Courage - going through a law suit s hard and stressful
2.  Be trusting and trustworthy
4.  It helps to be intelligent and ask questions
5.  Clear judgment and common sense
6.  A giving person who wants to help others 
7.  Relatable - that may be the lawyers job to bring out who you are
8.  Truly suffering from injustice 
9.  Good memory and good recod-keeping
10.  No gloating or taunting. 


1.  Courage - going through a law suit s hard and stressful
2.  Be trusting and trustworthy
4.  It helps to be intelligent and ask questions
5.  Clear judgment and common sense
6.  A giving person who wants to help others 
7.  Understand persuasion and how to tell a story 
10.  SELFLESSNESS - doing what is right for the CLIENT, not your ego
11.  Persistence and diligence, never give up. 
12.  Thinking fast - if plan A doesn't work, be prepared for Plan B
13.  Having the self-confidence to be civil and agreeable to everyone 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blessed Are The Misfits

I love misfits. Misfits are so much more interesting than people who fit in, the fit-inners.  Most people are fit-inners,and there is nothing wrong with that.  It's just that fit-inners are more boring than misfits.   In my opinion, all great people throughout history have been misfits.  Abraham Lincoln - tall, gangly, depressed misfit; Martin Luther King, Jr. - African-American outspoken, rebellious misfit; Mahatma Ghandi - little, diaper wearing, rebellious misfit.  Visionaries are misfits.  Most people are sociable, congenial rule-followers.  Most people are just fine people, just not as interesting as misfits.

My clients, by and large, are misfits.  I apologize to any clients or former clients who may be reading this.  You may not want to be considered a misfit.  But, I think you are and that is a great compliment in my book.  My clients are Whistleblowers, people fighting unlawful racial, sexual and age discrimination, and people who don't want to accept the status quo.  My clients have the courage to make waves.  Making waves in our society of conformity is difficult. It's hard to be unpopular.  

One of the reasons that women make 76% of what men make is because both women and men have bought into the status quo view that "women's work" is not as valuable as work traditionally performed by men.  People accept that a secretary should make less than a laborer.  Our firm, could not function without our secretaries.  They are vital to our practice. As a lawyer, I hear repeatedly that women are less likely to make partnership because they can't work 80 hours due to "family" demands. Hell, men should not be working 80 hours a week if they have families unless they want screwed up kids.  Our priorities are screwed up. 

But, I digress.   Perhaps what I am really saying is we need more women (and men) misfits.  We need people questioning our societal values.  We need more people willing to buck the system.  Misfits are not always happy people.   Perhaps unhappiness can be a good thing.  Unhappy people change the world.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Political Correctness

When I was growing up, it was a big deal for a woman to keep her "maiden name" after marriage. I changed my name from Jaben to Bratcher, mainly because it was really important to my husband.  I preferred Jaben, taken from the Polish Grzbznrsch or some thing like that, changed in the early 20th Century when many in my dad's family emigrated from Poland to escape pogroms.  My husband did not and it was not worth an argument to me.

I considered myself a "feminist" of the early 1970's, meaning I believed in equality for women. I did not burn any bras nor did I march in protest, I just wanted to excel in my profession and be treated with respect. My husband and I divided duties. While he always worked, as a lawyer, I usually earned more and definitely worked more hours. I took primary care of the kid's education, welfare, etc.  I loved being a mother.  My husband did more chores around the house. It worked for us.  I am a feminist.  During this time, though, "feminist" became a dirty word. Rush  Limbaugh called us "feminazis."  I always wondered what scared him about strong women. "Feminist" was considered ”politically correct" and people ridiculed the Term. In my book, feminist sure beat the derogatory words used against women, "bitch," "c--t," honey with a patronizing look, sweetly with the same look. 

 Women in the past did not have the same legal rights as men. Women could not vote until around 1922. Before that, women were considered "chattel" or property of their husband.  Women could be whipped by their husbands and upon marriage, the property of the woman's became the man's property.  The saying goes that when a man and woman married, they became one person and that person was the man.  

More outrageous conduct was committed against African-Americans and other non-Caucasians. Slavery, slave-like labor, ridicule, punishment, and disdain comprised the lives of non-Caucasians in America.  The reverse was not true against Caucasians. Caucasians, especially most Protestant Caucasians in this country had most of the power and were never oppressed nor enslaved.  Calling a white man "honky" lacks the same bite as calling an African- American the "n" word, or calling a Latino "wetback", or a Muslim "camel jockey."   

We must look to see which group has been oppressed before someone cries foul because of "political correctness."  We haven't all had the same power. Slurs effect the traditionally down-trodden much more than the powerful. 

Why can't we all just reverse roles, a psychodramatic device, to gain some empathy.  As the song goes, "Walk a mile in my shoes..."  The n word and sexual orientation slurs like "faggot" and "queer", have a greater impact than some white guy being called whitey.  African-Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians have endured centuries of insults, violence and even enslavement at the hands of those in power. All disrespect is not created equally. 

My mother's family had to wear Stars of David to segregate the Juden from the Gentiles in Nazi Germany. The emblem itself was not anathema to Jews, it was what it meant in society.  One who wore a Star of David, had his business, his property and ultimately his life taken from him because of what the star symbolized to the Nazis. Words are symbols. Words can maim and kill, or lead to mass killing.  

Political correctness is necessary as long as their remains prejudice and racism that divides people.  I certainly don't condone the reaction to the recent insulting Anti-Muslim film. However, if we all treated others and other religious beliefs with respect, because people deserve respect, think about how many innocent people, including the American Ambassador to Libya, would be alive today. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


have always admired clients who, when they first meet with me, talk about justice.  Usually, it goes something like this, "It's not just about the money.  I want to make sure they can't do this (sexually harass, racially harass, fire older workers or workers with disabilities, etc.) to someone else.  Most of the time, when a client says something like that to me, I believe that person and I feel good. 

As a young lawyer, many moons ago, I was cautioned by more experienced attorneys to never believe anyone who said he or she was more concerned about justice than money.  "It's always about money," they would tell me.  I agree and disagree about that.  Justice is oftentimes more important to my client's than money, but money is how one determines if there has been justice in our society. 

We sue large corporations for money.  Contrary to what the Supreme Court and Mitt Romney say, a corporation is not a person.  Corporations are set up by people to protect individuals from liability AND TO MAKE MONEY.  At a shareholders meeting, one would probably not hear,"Well, we lost our shirts, but at least we treated our customers and employees well."  The bottom line is money.  

Corporations are populated by people with real human emotions and real human prejudices.  It is the people in the corporations who sexually harass employees, not the corporations themselves.  The quandary has always been, how do you stop the human misbehavior when the corporations are not human.  Suing a company probably does not change a boss' racist attitudes against African Americans.  But, if the company has to pay a large sum of money and/or the bigot is fired, the payout sends a message to the humans in the company that racism will not be tolerated.  

Just like the song from Bye Bye Birdie, "Put on a Happy Face," if the humans in the company put on a non-bigoted face for fear of financial reversals in the company, or fear of reprimands or worse, sometimes the bigots may act less bigoted ad perhaps, eventually, feel less bigoted.  And if if the bigots remain bigoted, chances are the culture will change because it's no long in vogue to be biased and the children of the bigots will be less bigoted.  Society benefits.

In the time I have practiced law, I have seen improvements in work environments for women, especially in the sexual harassment area.  I like to think that lawyers like me and the brave clients we represent help to change the work environment for women.  Few secretaries are groped or chased around the desk in this day and age.  I am proud of my clients for that improvement in women's work lives.

Maybe in a car wreck case, unless it is a DUI, there is little reason for a client to get on his or her high horse.  Sometimes drivers are careless and make mistakes.  In discrimination cases, however, usually the discrimination is intentional and often come from a need to bully others because of fear and insecurity.  Discrimination lawsuits can make a real difference.  That is why they are satisfying and lawyers work in this area for decades with little burn out.  

Thank goodness for those brave souls who come in to our office because they want to make the workplace fair for minorities, the disabled and women and, to them, that is more important than money.  We need courageous people willing to fight to make things better for society.  thank goodness for clients who care about justice.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What Happened to Loyalty?

When you think of the word "loyalty," what comes to mind? I think of other concepts that I associate with loyalty: character, perseverance, commitment.  Loyalty is the bedrock of our nation's existence.  Our defense, prosperity and future depend on our commitment to our nation and to each other.  We depend on each, we must, to survive. Just as loyalty is essential for successful marriages, it is essential for prosperity in our country. 

I am belaboring the benefits of loyalty, because I fear the destruction of trust and loyalty undermines our society, particularly in our labor market.  In the past in this country, employees retired from companies after many years of mutually beneficial service, usually capped by lavish retirement parties and gifts.  Other countries, such as Japan, are still loyal to their workers.  These companies recognize their employees' contribution to the company's growth. A company does not succeed on the sweat of a CEO's brow alone. Yet, today in this country, managers and some politicians ignore the tremendous contribution of their workers and the decimation of morale and trust when loyal workers are fired en masse because of greed. Unfortunately, the victims of these mass cutbacks are older workers. 

A friend of mine who works at a very large bank summed it up for me. She doesn't expect a retirement party when she leaves. She doesn't even expect a severance package that older workers before her were forced to take. The bank has figured a way to slough off the older workers without severance additional pay.  They just remove the senior employees  by offering an unsuitable demotion. The choice is either humiliating termination or a humiliating demotion.  The employee is in a lose/lose situation.  What a nice and fair way to remove the most loyal contributors to the corporation's wealth?  After all, the Supreme Court and some politicians confuse the lifeless corporate structure for an actual person.  How screwed up are we? 

Unfortunately, many people let go from their jobs are the oldest workers among us.  In our culture, we do not venerate older people for their lifetimes of experiences and the lessons they have learned. Loyalty and wisdom are easily displaced by greed.   A man in his 60s has few options in a job search. He is considered washed up and tired, and our population is growing older and older. 

What happened to loyalty and decency?  Doesn't it make you want to fire a fat cat CEO with an inflated salary thousands of times higher than those of the common employees? Let's hope we don't become a society more focused on greed than on loyalty.  Corporations can be successful and loyal, e.g., Costco and Carmax.  What is the matter with some people?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Count Your Blessings

In today's economy, it's easy for people to sink into despair.  Throughout my life, there have been times when my psyche has been overtaken by waves of despair and melancholy.  I remember my grandmother down in the dumps, unable to go through her normal daily activities.  Many of my relatives, including me, have been on anti-depressants for long periods of time.  For me it's been twenty-one years.  Those little pills have made a big difference in my life, but I and others in my family still suffer from sometimes crippling anxiety.  One relative had repeated anxiety attacks, another is plagued by obsessive thoughts.  We have even had suicides in my extended family and I know of many others who were in so much pain or were so overwhelmed that life did not seem worth living.  

Most of my clients take medications for depression or anxiety.  Are we all just weak?  I think neither I nor most of my clients are weak, in fact I think most of my clients are incredibly strong.  But, life can be hard and sometimes seem unbearable.  Depression is oftentimes something which cannot be conquered through sheer force of will.  Sometimes we need some help.   

In the past few months, my mother almost died from coronary artery disease.  She is recovering. Four days before my mother got sick, I had a planned ACL reconstruction of my left knee.  When my mom called with chest pains, I had not even been cleared to drive, but drive I did - straight to the emergency room. 

This week, my husband and I had our hearts scanned for calcium deposits, and my husband's heart needs attention.  He is 60 and has worked out, running and exercising throughout his life.  He majored in physical fitness in college.  He has an appointment with a cardiologist this week.  We are worried.

Today, I happened upon a car wreck and as I whizzed past, I noticed I know and love the woman, a relative of mine,  who was in the wreck.  She was distraught and somewhat injured. I always dreaded the thought that the sirens I heard would be the wreck with a love one being hurt.  This time, the scenario I dreaded occurred, and it was awful.  

In life, there is so much that happens that is painful and scary.  A breadwinner loses his or her job in the recession, a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, a friend dies.   There is a lot in life about which to despair.  But everyone on this planet has much about which to rejoice.  Just in my family, my mother who was almost left by doctors to die, but instead had quintuple coronary bypass surgery and is recovering splendidly.  I was preparing myself for the worst, but I am thankful for the additional days, weeks, and, hopefully, years we have left together. My mother is sharp, smart and determined.  My relative in the wreck is going to be fine. My leg is healing well. 

A few years ago I was at a dinner with a large table of friends.  I was drinking wine and trying to talk, and I swallowed my piece of steak so that I could get back into the conversation.  But instead of talking, the steak lodged in my throat.  Without the quick thinking of a friend who knew the Heinlich maneuver, I might not be here.  It is freaky to realize that I owe my LIFE to my friend.  Not coincidentally, I am now a vegetarian.

My son was very large before he was born and in a posterior presentation.  I had great difficulty in giving birth to him.  My back labor hurt like hell.  At one point, the nurse gave me oxygen to breath during the delivery.  I tore the tube from my face.  In my pain I did not consider that the oxygen was not for me, but for my son.  Fortunately for him, he is smart and talented in spite of my actions.   Likewise, my daughter's throat was severely constricted by the umbilical during her delivery.  The doctor, alarmed,told me to push even if I did not feel like it.  During the seemingly slow motion of the delivery, I was sure I was not pushing hard enough and that the cord my body created to nourish my daughter would cause her brain damage.  She was born, and I worried. My worries were unnecessary. She is smart and feisty and talented.  

I think about my mother's first cousins who fled Nazi Germany as teenagers after the death camps killed their parents.  My mother and grandparents left a couple of weeks before the crackdown on Jews. We are all lucky to be alive.  

I know it's corny, but I still remember the lyrics sung by Doris Day, I think.  They go something like this, "When I feel lonely and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep.  You'll go to sleep counting your blessings."

We all are blessed, even if we are not religious.  It's all a matter of perspective.    Being rich, popular, or beautiful may seem important, but they really are not.  Having people who care for you and about whom you care, helping others, believing in yourself, these are the real blessing of life.  Remember - you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.