Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What's Wrong With America Today

The United States Constitution was written in 1789, with the Bill of Rights added in 1791. Our courts continually look at it's terms to interpret the framers' intent. Really?   Our courts look at this hundreds of years old document as if it were the Bible (which is fodder for another blog, but not one the subject today).  Were the framers endowed with omniscient powers, able to foresee the future?  Let's get real.

How were things different in 1791 as compared to today?  In 1791:

1.  SLAVERY WAS LEGAL AND HUMANS WERE PROPERTY (that's in all caps because I cannot over-emphasize what a different world it was in 1791).  The framers condoned slavery.  I know it was a different time, but we are revering these people and they said owning other human beings was not only okay, many said it was a necessary part of commerce and several owned humans themselves.

2.  WOMEN - Only white men with land could vote.  Women could not vote until 1920!!!!!!!

3.   TECHNOLOGY  - There have been great technological advances - in travel, communication, living.  We have planes, the Internet, electricity, indoor plumbing.  We no longer use leaches for medical care.  We have traveled to the moon.  We can kill millions of people at a time with our weapons, not just hundreds.

4.  CORPORATE BUY-OUT OF GOVERNMENT - Those "persons" with rights were living, breathing, eating white men.  Entities invented to escape individual liability, called corporations, were not "persons" given first amendment rights.  A real live person has a larynx and can speak.   He or she can write, either with a pen or computer. Thoughts come from a person's brain, an organ of the human body.  Corporations have no such biological makeup.  

What is the Constitution were written today, what would you like to see in it?  This is what I would like:

A.  EQUALITY  - All humans are entitled to the pursuit of life, liberty, and property.

B.  NO CITIZENS UNITED -  Only living breathing human beings have rights under the Constitution, not corporations, not robots nor cyborgs.   And rich people do not have more Constitutional rights than poor people. (No Citizens United - go Stephen Colbert!) 

C.  MORE EQUALITY -   Humans in the United States cannot be discriminated in employment, commerce, public accommodations, or WEALTH, based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, sexual preference, etc.

D.  EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT -  All United States citizens are entitled to a free education THROUGH COLLEGE OR TRADE SCHOOL so as to continually be employable and not outplaced by citizens with more technical or other education in other countries. We will continue to make sure our citizens are employed and employable so that they can support themselves and their families.  

E.  TAXES - Rich people and entities cannot be taxed on income at a lower rate than people who have to work for a living.  This means that wages and salaries are not taxed at a higher rate than investment income, dividends, or capital gains. People like Mitt Romney and Warren Buffett, multi-millionaires or billionaires, will not be taxed at a lower rate than nurses, and teachers, and mechanics.  

I am no economic scholar, but I don't think it takes one to explain the current state of this country's economic woes.  Rich people don't pay their fair share of taxes, especially since the Bush tax cuts and we have engaged in several wars costing taxpayers billions of dollars.  Corporations and the wealthy can spend unlimited amounts in getting candidates elected. These candidates become politicians who write our laws and control our lives.  Thus, they have lower tax rates than the common worker.  THIS MUST STOP.  

We are no longer fighting the British and supporting an agricultural system off the backs of human slaves.  A woman no longer loses her rights when she is married.    Hopefully, humanity has evolved.   Our country needs to reflect this enlightened progress and stop rewarding the American quasi-nobility, the rich. We don't need another violent revolution, someone just needs to slap some sense into these overly entitled rich people.  They are the ones truly receiving welfare and public assistance through the inequality in the tax laws.  The very rich are the real welfare cheats.  And don't get me started about the banking debacle.  Come on.  It's time for a change. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - a message to lawmakers and judges

We in Missouri are continually struggling with some Legislators who want to emasculate our state's discrimination laws. We need these laws and the ability to stop discrimination by going to Court. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why I Love Social Media and the Internet

There is hardly a person I can not find something about.  I don't hire private investigators, I have one who works for free.  His name is Google.  I find people through Facebook and My Space. And I am interested.  If I weren't a lawyer, I would still probably be looking people up on the Internet, because I am interested in who we are and how we are presented to the world.  We live in a much more connected world than the world of my youth.  When I was in college, a computer filled a building.  I bought my first personal computer in 1991, after 8 years as a lawyer.  When I was fresh out of law school, people used "word processors.". I didn't know how to turn one on.  Research was done in various libraries with books. We contacted others either by letter or phone.  In a prior law firm, there was a conflict about whether or not we needed the new-fangled "fax" machine since only dilatory lawyers failed to get their work done in time to use the mail.   How things have changed.  We have so much more access to everything and everyone.   When I represented a woman suing Mayor Funkhouser, I checked the Internet every morning.   Some days this was how I found out about new developments in the case, even though I was the plaintiff"s attorney.  I also discovered how anonymity emboldened those making vicious and vile comments.  Nasty racist and sexist comments appeared regularly, by people who falsely assumed they could forever remain nameless.  Of course, we could have tracked them down through there ip addresses, but those people were not worthy of the effort.  I received one anonymous hate letter by mail, and figured it must have been from a person who was essentially computer illiterate.  I resolved after that experience to never post anonymously anywhere ever.    With the Internet, anyone with a desire can have a voice.  We can learn a lot about others.  We had a sexual harassment case and my partner was going to take the deposition of the purported harasser.  She looked on the Internet, and there, on MySpace, was his page talking about how hot he thought he was to women.  How insecure is someone to have to post how desirable he or she is on the Internet?  Alternatively, there are people with whom I have been quite taken based on their social media postings.  I feel that I am honored to share a part of these people, especially the courageous ones who make themselves vulnerable and share their hopes, desires, sense of humor, and even progression of their labor pains. I hear others complain because people use social media for trivial information.  I love all of the information.  I feel honored that people make themselves vulnerable and let us know about their lives.  I know lawyers who tell their clients not to use social media.   I disagree.  We all need to exercise common sense, but isn't it wonderful that we get to learn about so many people and realize that we share hopes and dreams with those we hardly know.  I can't wait to see what technological advances are yet to come.  P.S.  Tony, I love your blog the most. You have the courage to be controversial, and funny. Don't we need controversial people in this conformist society? Yes!  Especially if they can laugh, not just at others, but also at themselves. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


This issue is near and dear to my heart, since I lack a penis - how to be a better trial lawyer without emulating other trial lawyers with different physical "characteristics." Now, it is undisputed that most trial lawyers are men. Men have historically been the fighters on our planet. Men can be strong,and fierce and brave, and so can women. People of different genders may just approach lawyering differently.  Man and women can learn from each other. 

I have been a woman all of my life and a female trial lawyer for the past 253+ years, trying over 7,000 jury trials (perhaps a slight exaggeration). Based on my many years as an estrogen-laden trial lawyer, these are some of the traits that make trial lawyers more effective:


Self-confidence  -  or the absence of self-consciousness.   This is probably the hardest attribute to achieve.  Lack of self-consciousness is a difficult skill to develop.  You must developing a very thick skin or believe in yourself that it doesn't matter if you are personally attacked.  It means realizing that those lawyers who attack you or your client are doing so from a position of weakness.  The absence of self-consciousness, or the lack of self-centered-ness, comes from believing in oneself.  Most people are born with some self-consciousness, some insecurity.  Selfish insecurity has no place in advocacy. Our job is to put our clients' interests ahead of our own.  I know of no way to eliminate insecurity without engaging in some form of self-exploration. We all have demons. We all have weaknesses. We need to be okay about who we are before we can put our clients first. Recognizing our own faults and foibles, and owning up to them, will set us free.  

To become self-confident, it is essential to be self-critical. This means a lawyer may need  to undergo counseling, psychodrama, or read self-help books or do whatever takes you out of your skin. Being a good trial lawyer is not about you or your ego.  Egos get in the way of effective advocacy.

To overcome fear, prepare. Be the most prepared lawyer in the courtroom. Care about what you are doing. Believe in your client and in your client's case. 


The ability to empathize with our clients and with everyone else in the courtroom is essential.  When it comes to others, we must understand and empathize. Compassion is essential.   We need to look at a trial as more than a battle.  We need to understand what are clients are going through.   We need to listen. Listening, true listening, is a selfless act. We need to care, about our clients and about justice. What we do must matter to us. 


This is where a little testosterone comes in handy. We can't stand by the wayside and hope things come out okay. We must jump into the fray, leap off that cliff.  After all, this is not about our egos. We are furthering justice. 


Persistence is the key. Need I say more. 


Some lawyers are big and commanding, some are small and soft. We need not change who we are, we need to embrace who we are. Many women have soft voices. Sometimes that softness comes from fear, but more often it is just a part of who we are.  Should we shout to be heard?  I think not. We must be true to ourselves. I would much rather see a woman lawyer with a portable microphone than hear a judge repeatedly criticize a woman for being soft-spoken. Revel in who you are. If you are sweet and soft-spoken in life; in trial, be sweet and soft-spoken. Be who you are.  Love who you are.  Care about yourself, your client and justice. Treat everyone, including yourself, with respect. Play to your strengths. 

6.  HAVE FUN.   

Love your clients, love yourself and follow your passion.  Relish in what you do. How many people are as lucky as you to be able to do what you love. 


Most trial ayers I know have overcome a great deal of adversity in life. Remember what that feels like.  Feel. We are humans with feelings. Care. 

This article did not turn out as I had envisioned. It's not so much about gender, but more about humanity. Being a trial lawyer can be a very honorable thing to do. Don't screw it up.  The judicial system is the bedrock of civilization. Don't forget the honor in this profession. And don't chase ambulances. It makes the rest of us look bad. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Resolving to Laugh

2011 was a serious year, at least for me. When I say it was a serious year, perhaps what I mean is I took it too seriously. I have serious cases, my friends and relatives had serious illnesses, the world had serious financial issues. In 2011, I took myself very seriously.

At the end of 2011, yesterday, I seriously wanted to punch some lawyers and their clients in the face, metaphorically speaking of course. I have clients with serious problems who want serious help from me. I have family members with serious issues and concerns and they deserve serious help from me. 2011 was a year of serious financial concerns to Americans in general and people close to me, specifically.

We have serious issues to address, poverty, hunger, injustice. And on the last issue, injustice, I fancy myself as a serious advocate of justice for my clients. And this last year, I have looked at all the issues in my life, and most of my relationships, whether professional or personal, in a very serious manner.

My mission this year, should I choose to accept it (yes, I just saw Mission Impossible again) is to laugh as much as possible. I understand the caveat, however, which is to endeavor not to laugh at inappropriate times.

I want to guffaw again. I love guffawing. I love making others laugh, too. Sure life and our work is very serious (unless you who are reading this is either a comedy writer or a speech writer for Newt Gingrinch or Donald Trump. In fact, how is someone named Newt Gingrich or Trump even taken seriously, but I digress.)

Laughter makes me human. Laughter allows me to enjoy life. Laughter makes this world bearable. I love to laugh and I laugh to love (how corny). I resolve in 2012, the year the Mayans predicted Armageddon, to laugh daily. There, I said it. That is my goal. We'll see how this works out. Ha!

And since we are talking about the future, I will leave you with this thought. I hope to die the way my joyous grandfather left his life. I want to die in my sleep, just like my grandfather did. I do not want to die yelling and screaming, like the passengers in his car.

With that, I wish you a joyous, happy, laughing new year!