Wednesday, February 27, 2013


It seems to me that in a society there are three typical prototypes:
1.  The Leaders;
2.  The rebels; and,
3.  The apathetic rest of society. 

Most people don't care about power or politics, or believe they have no power to change things.  They get by and concentrate on their own lives. This is probably what Nixon was referring to as the "silent majority."

Then, there are the over-achieving movers and shakers who have political or business ambitions and want to get to the top. Some may be very ethical, but some are not.  They love leading and most love power. In business, they are the Jack Welches and the Jamie Dimons.  In politics they are the Mitt Romneys and the Bill Clintonses.  They work within the rules to climb the ladder.  Sometimes they do a wonderful job, sometimes they suck.  Power can be addictive and a few over-achievers cannot resist the temptations of corruption. Unfortunately, corruption still flourishes. Too temper the corrupt over-achievers, we need the third group - the rebels. 

Rebels are great, they keep the overachievers in check. Great rebels throughout American history include Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, John Brown, Malcolm X, Henry David Thoreau. Mohandas Gandhi was a rebel in India, as was Lech Walesa in Poland. I represent people who are rebels, and I like them. They rock the boat, as Whistleblowers, and as employees crying out against discrimination.  

The problem I see is that the rebels often do not fare well when put in a position of power.  Lech Walesa was a great rebel leader, but a mediocre leader of a country. Real rebels seek out injustice and fight against it and that's what they should do.  They are not men and women of compromise as are the political and corporate leaders.  The rebels keep the leader in check, like the balance between the three branches of government. Rebels can become corrupt leaders, like Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Rebels should fight wrong. They don't know what to do with real political or business power. We need the real leaders and we need the rebels to challenge them. What we don't need is the apathetic masses. 

I represent rebels. I like to think I have some rebel qualities in me.  Let the others be the leaders.  Nothing good happens without the rebels challenging, continuously challenging, the status quo.  

Monday, February 25, 2013


I need your jokes!  Apparently, according to a Facebook post, 15 minutes of laughing is as energizing as two hours of sleep, if you believe Facebook.

I love jokes!   I love puns!  The shorter jokes the better.  I can't remember long jokes.  Help make your fellow humans, or at least me, your fellow human, laugh. I want to laugh a lot.  Give me your funniest puns, knock-knock jokes, snarky jokes, ironic jokes, jokes, jokes, jokes.

I want an arsenal of jokes. Please help make a 60 year old woman happy.  Send me your jokes!

Thank you.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Prejudice Against Older Workers

In years past, workers retired at 65, with a big party, bestowed a golden watch, and went throughout the rest of their life receiving their gracious pensions.  Many retirees lived happily their remaining days, sometimes as few as a fews weeks to a couple of years. 

A lot as happened since Social Security was passed around the 1940s.  People live longer, healthier lives.  American's life expectancy increased from the early 70s to the mid-80s, and with the rapid advances in medicine, life expectancies may be in the 100s in the near future.  At the same time, there are fewer union members and fewer workers are entitled to pensions outside Social Security.   So, there will be older people who will live longer with less ability to retire.  

Instead of valuing the older, experienced workers with proven track records of hard, valuable work, we are in the habit of letting these workers go.  The ones who still want to work probably won't be dying in a year or two, like in olden times.   They may have 10 to 20 good years left.  Just look at what the Kansas City Chiefs did with their older department heads- they fired them all.  Loyalty is a one way street for these companies.  People are commodities. Look at the famous CEOS like Jack Welsh at GE, constantly firing the bottom 10%, regardless of whether the whole company was performing. Jack Welch, I suspect, is a very sad and mean man. He fires his wives like he fires his employees. 

We are ignoring the contributions in the workplace and in society of people over 50. Only in government, where CEOs don't make the decisions, can older workers prevail.  The average age of U.S. Senators is over 60.  In the U.S. Supreme Court, it is probably over 70. 

Why do we treat older Americans with such disrespect?  Do we assume they have dementia? Do we blame them for moving slower?  Do we think they are resistant to change?

Older workers suffer discrimination as much or more than any other protected group.  There is something wrong with this.  It stinks. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Power Corrupts

We are fortunate in this country that Silvio Berlusconi isn't an American. For years Italians have had a mega-wealthy leader who thought he could get away with anything.  He was in trial for months or years for fraud and his love of to partying with underage girls and prostitutes.  I guess he figures that since he is one of the most powerful and wealthy men in the world, he is not accountable to mortal laws. He is running for prime minster of Italy, and he may win, again.  Power can corrupt.  Throughout history, we are rife with megalomaniacs exploiting the masses - Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin.  

Here, we have more checks and balances on our leaders.  But, being elected to an office can still be a heady experience, with more temptations than some can withstand. Through the years, I have been fortunate enough to represent clients who have the courage to stop discrimination by elected officials.  Years ago, I represented someone against a county auditor. The auditor acted as if she had no rules she needed  follow.  She had been re-elected over and over.  No one, except the voters, could fire her.  She was never made accountable for the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars she cost the citizens of her county by repeatedly violating discrimination laws and retaliating against the employees who reported sexual harassment by one of her buddies.  
She probably is in office as I write this.  

One of my clients sued a small town because of sexual harassment by an elected police chief.  Again, he cost the taxpayers money.  I doubt the electorate ever held him accountable.  They were two busy farming to pay their mortgages. 

One of my clients had the fortitude to sue Mayor Funkhouser, who allowed his wife,  the self-appointed "first lady" to be unaccountable to citizens for racially discriminatory actions.  I like to think that my client was partially responsible for the mayor's defeat after his first term.  The electorate took care of that problem, probably because of all the media attention the mayor and his wife generated.

Suing an elected official is hard.  Reporters call. Sometimes lawyers make unethical statements to the press. Sometimes there are media feeding frenzies.  It takes someone special to go up against power.  And, if my clients win, there is no one to discipline the wrongdoer, since his or her boss is comprised of the electorate and most voters have a lot on their plates.  There are no performance improvement plans for elected officials, no suspensions, no form of discipline short of the ballot box.  Here's to those with the courage to fight the status quo!  It's a tough row to hoe. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Crank Call

NPR is having a 3 minute writing contest. In less than 600 words, you are supposed to write a story in as a message on an answering machine. Here is my entry:

“Please leave your name and number after the beep.”

“Umm, Lynne.  I feel a little uncomfortable leaving a message.  I don’t usually use the phone at all.  I just called to tell you that everything is going to be okay.  Relax.  Drink a martini.  Go outside and enjoy the flowers, the sky, the grass.  
“I guess I need to be a little more specific.  You won’t know my voice and you can’t call me back.  The caller id says “unknown” because most people don’t know me.  In fact, you think I am fictional, made up as a result of the ’opium of the masses.’  I don’t usually call.  People who say I do are really pretty disturbed.  
“I know you’re tired.  I know you’re weary.  I know your plans don’t include me.  Ha!  Who do think inspired Bob Seger to write those words?  Sometimes I crack myself up.  
“I’m not sure why I called.  I am not looking for new followers or believers.  I just know you are tired and weary and I wanted you to know that things will be okay.  You have worked hard.  You built a life for you and your family.  You should be proud of your practice, your family!  I can’t believe I just said that!  Don’t wise “people” say “pride goeth before a fall?”  Who says “goeth” anyway?  I have never talked like that.  Actually, I don’t usually talk at all. I know you are going to think this is a crank call.  Crank.  I love that word.  I love lots of your words.  Onomatopoeia.  That’s a really cool word.  But, to tell you the truth, I like French better than English.  But, I digress.
“I just called to say hey.  Now take it easy.  Appreciate what you’ve got.  Don’t take things so seriously.  ‘Life is a cabaret, old chum.’  I just can’t get these songs out of my head.
“Well I probably should go now.  I want you to know that I realize you have good intentions.  And hell is NOT paved with good intentions.  In fact, don’t tell anyone I told you this, but there is no physical place called “hell” at all.  Hell is a state of mind, not a place.  Love is a state of mind, also.  Choose love and all things will be okay. 
"Oh, and thanks for not eating mammals.  That was a mistake, having animals eating animals.  I’m not perfect.  If I had things to do over again, I would change that.  Also, I had no idea hormones would be so powerful.  Maybe all of this testosterone was a bad idea, too.  Oh well, hopefully we all learn from our mistakes.
"Lynne, I just called to say I love you.  Shit, another song lyric.   Well, you get the point. Take care and stop worrying.  Bye. "

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Tribute to Kansas City's Women Trial Lawyers

When I got out of law school,almost thirty years ago, there were few female role models that I admired.  I wanted to be a trial lawyer, and there were few women trial lawyers, especially women lawyers, in Kansas City.  Most female lawyers back then, and for years after, female lawyers tended to safer routes, with guaranteed salaries and little trial forays. The women who tried cases were oftentimes government employees, prosecutors and public defenders, who got paid regardless of the outcome of a trial. However, I was lucky.  Martha Hickman, a maverick, took me under her wing, and let me try my first jury trial. Of Mentors, Mavens and Mavericks.  That was 1984. There were few women plaintiffs' lawyers who first-chaired trials at that time.  

Happily, in recent years, more and more women have braved the travails of a true trial practice.  I am honored to be in their presence. We, in law, as in other professions, have self-congratulatory awards engineered by marketers to "honor" those in our profession. We have "Super Lawyers" and Best of the Bar," which remind me of popularity contests, sometimes with little regard for true grit. 

I decided, in this blog entry, to honor those women in our profession who I have personally seen demonstrate true courage and refusal to defer to traditional firms and authority figure.  Here is my list:

1.   Martha Sperry Hickman - the only true female role model I had in 1983.  A daughter of a judge who did not cow to the norms of the 20th Century and who is still in practice, on her own after 50 years. 

2.  Marie Gockel, my sister in the practice of law, both in law school and in practice.  She has been my law partner since 1995, since the formation of our firm. She is the bulldog of our practice.  When she gets a hold of a case, she does not let go. 

3.  Kristi Kingston, my other law partner who has been with our firm since 1996, with debate and trial advocacy accolades pre-dating her work for us. She has courageously tried cases, both good and bad, with remarkable results. 

4.  Denise Henning - Denise, of the Henning Law Firm, has been both courageous in the courtroom and in all aspects of her life. She is truly a role model and an amazing person. She is amazing. 

5.  Nancy Kenner - who left the comfort of a big firm to make a difference on her own terms. She is a leader. 

6.  Amy Coopman - not afraid to throw herself fully into controversial cases and gives her heart and soul to her clients. 

7.  Amy Maloney - who is in trial as I write this. She works hard and goes where the. More timid among us are afraid to tread. I admire her willingness to fight, regardless of whether she ruffles good ole boy feathers. 

8.  Anne Schiavonne - who left the security of a big firm to co-found one of the most successful plaintiffs' firms in Kansas City.  She is a powerhouse. 

9.  Phyllis Norman Komoroski - a powerful young lawyer who is just fearless.  She makes me laugh. 

10.  Karen Howard - She is a pit bull, thorough, tough and courageous. She doesn't get enough credit.  

It is so good to see these powerful women who are also powerful trial lawyers. What great role models!