Monday, July 29, 2013

Mimi - The Rescue

Mimi - The Rescue

It is hard to fathom how much joy this little dog brings me. She is petite, feisty, and athletic. She bounds when she runs, faster and more gracefully than her tiny legs seem capable of running, a gazelle-like bounce in a very un-gazelle-like frame. She knows few strangers and no enemies.  Her world is play and sleep, and play again. She would rather sleep on someone's lap than do anything else but fling her fleece bone in the air, jump and catch it. She believes she is an equal match for pit bull "brother" and challenges him to play, which challenge he handles with grace, restraint and a touch of fervor.  She weighs 15 pounds, has a black, brindle and white tuxedo coat, as do her kin, the other mongrel somewhat Boston Terriers.  Her coat is shiny, and her muscles small and taut. 

You would hardly know that this little bundle of joy and energy is afflicted with epilepsy, where her body contorts and spasms in ways new and frightening to me. After the cluster seizures, she knew not who she wais or where she was and she is blind for awhile.  After that terrifying day of seizures, her medicine was increased and she was herself again, but the seizures may come back at any time.  We rescued her, after at least two families gave her up, presumably traumatized by her trauma-inducing seizures. My daughter believes in rescuing animals. My daughter wants to dedicate her life to animal rescue. 

My family was so distraught when our beloved Irish Setter mix Rowdy, who we had rescued from the gas chamber at the kill shelter mere hours before his scheduled demise, died. Rowdy died suddenly at age ten, presumably from a tumor. His loss was severe and he was grieved by us all.  The others thought it was too soon to adopt this little bundle, but my daughter and I persisted. Mimi sleeps under our covers at the foot if the bed. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I am awakened by a little tongue licking my toes.  She is so full of life, yet so vulnerable. What a wonderful little girl. It is hard to fathom how much joy this little dog brings me. 

Thanks to a Courageous Woman

I am amazed by the courage that Sharon Snyder, a former court employee, showed by giving a form for a successful request for a DNA analysis to a man, who tests finally determined, was wrongfully convicted of rape.  Although she was fired for what she did, she put justice ahead of her own personal interest.  How refreshing!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lawyers - Avoid Drafting Written Discovery That Birds Should Pee and Poop On

To the lawyers reading this blog- A practical approach to written discovery

The way we are drafting interrogatories is stupid. I am not sure how this discovery tool has devolved into a piece of junk.


There is a way to draft interrogatories so that you find out information and there is a way to get worthless information in a format that deserves to be torn into pieces and used for lining a birdcage. 


These are interrogatories which all lawyers handling litigation and many of us have drafted. They are open-ended, long, and impossible to answer. 

Here is an example of a bird cage interrogatory -

"State all reasons you believe you were sexually harassed, the name of all employees who witnessed all form of harassment and everyone who has knowledge of the harassment, what they will testify about the harassment and what they will say about how the harassment affected the Plaintiff."  

I look at the questions and sigh. I don't know what everyone knows. Sometimes in trial, they speak their own mind and I don't know what they will say.  This unwieldy question would be hard to use to impeach a witness.  "You said in your interrogatories that A, B, & C would say E, F, & G.  Actually witness B said X."  Really?

B.  Worthwhile interrogatories -  in asking worthwhile interrogatories, you ask short, direct questions that can be answered by simple answers or yes or no.  "Was the color of the traffic signal when you went through the intersection red, green or amber."   You may be able to use this in trial.


This is where the crux of written interrogatories should be focused. In requests for production, you ask for specific documents, which by and large you need. 

Everything else comes from depositions, interviews and educated, rational conjecture. I will talk about rational conjecture in a later post. 

I fear lawyers want to stump opponents or trick them, but their premise is faulty.  All questions should have a solid purpose and tricking the other side into having to answer a long, and obfuscating inquiry.  Jurors don't like tricky lawyers. 

We make things more complicated than they need to be.  I am happy I don't get paid by the word, but I wonder if some other lawyers are. Lets cut out the crap and stop playing games. Cases work better that way.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Clients - The Good, the Occasionally Bad, and the Beautiful

I have learned so much from my clients.  I suspect all lawyers have. Most of the lessons, but not all, have been positive. Here are some of the lessons I have learned, good and bad, from my clients:

:-)1.  COURAGE - Many of my clients, especially the ones who go to trial, have a great deal of courage. They turn over their reputations and emotional well-being to lawyers who want to devastate them, jurors who don't know them, and their own lawyers who try their best, which may not be good enough. 

:-( 2.  GREED - I have had clients in the past, hopefully way in the past, who have no ability to see things reasonably. There was a man slightly injured years ago in a car wreck, who insisted he get enough money to buy a new house.  We tried the case.  He did not get the house. 

:-)3.  SELF-SACRIFICE - I have had clients who truly want to make the workplace safer for others, or want to help their loved ones, or who fight for principles. They want their children to be free of the harassment and discrimination that so dogged their own lives.

:-( 4.  DISHONESTY - I had a client many, many years ago who I believed until her deposition. When she lied in her testimony, I confronted her and she said she would pretend that she had forgotten. I had to withdraw from the case. That was an important lesson in assessing veracity in clients. 

:-) 5.  PERSEVERANCE - Perhaps this is one of the most important lessons. I have had clients who persevere through thick and thin to make things right. They don't give up through trials, appeals and deadbeat defendants. They help me to keep going.  I am thinking of one client who weathered the judge throwing out her case, appealing that decision and winning, beginning the trial resulting in a mistrial, finally trying the case to a good verdict, and going back up on appeal with the court taking away part of the verdict. My client went through seven awful years.  I think she is doing well now. Seven years. 

Lately, I have been thinking about my clients who have passed away. Some of them still haunt me. There was the client who died after the mistrial and before the retrial of her case about a fall down some stairs. There was the client who died in a single car collision in the car she bought from the proceeds of the sexual harassment settlement, a single mom leaving two little boys. And there were the children of the father the police officer shot and killed, who are now grown with happy families of their own. And the one that haunts me most, the wonderful, loving couple who both died from cancer within a year, leaving the settlement proceeds to their teenage kids. I think about them almost everyday. They were amazing people with incredible kids they did not get to finish raising. I see how the kids are doing now, and they are doing amazing things. I still miss their parents, though.

I guess I am lucky. I am a plaintiffs' lawyer and I am invited into my clients' lives. I grow to love many of my clients, living somewhat vicariously through them. When I started as a lawyer, I just wanted to go to trial. My ambitions involved self-aggrandizement.  I didn't think about how my clients would enrich and change me.  I sought the thrill of victory, massaging my own ego. In retrospect, after practicing 30 years, it's really the people, my clients, who have made the most difference in me. It took me awhile to realize that these cases are not about me and how glib I can be. Every great experience I have had as a lawyer were because of my clients. I am so grateful and honored to have been a part of their lives. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

*Corny Alert*. You might be a newborn British prince if . . .

You might be a newborn British prince if  . . .

1.  You think it's normal to have hundreds of thousands of people around you and  you really haven't done anything yet - I mean nothing, Bupkus, you can't even sit  up;

2.  Your mother is really beautiful and well-dressed, but your dad is balding and partial to red jackets with medals that no one understands;

3.  Everyone around you speaks in such a hoytie toytie way - your majesty this, your majesty that;

4.   You think McDonald's is a place where an old man had a farm;

5.  Everyone you see has cameras with enormous lenses and they keep calling to you;

6.  When these people call to you, they don't call you by name because, for crying out loud, no one has given you a name;

7.  They tell you to call your great granny, "Your majesty, queen of the British Empire, blah, blah, blah."

8.  You have no idea how the people in your family earn a living;

9.  Your cousins conspire to poison your formula because they want something called the throne; and,

10.  You feel queasy and uneasy when you look at this building everyone calls the Tower of London,

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Is Our Society, Including Our Justice System, Flawed?

That's an easy question. Is society and the justice system flawed?  Of course it is!  Our justice system relies on human judges, human litigants, and human jurors.  All humans are flawed, so, necessarily our justice system, conceived by humans, to enforce laws authored and voted upon by humans, and administered by humans. It is necessarily flawed. This world  is not black and white, but is the full spectrum of shades of gray. 

As self-righteous as some of us are, there is always a different point of view. We are all, or almost all, - sorry sociopaths - a blend of good and evil. Most of us want to be  more good than evil, but we all look at the world through different experiences, values, goals, loves and hatreds. It's a miracle that we can relate to the numerous people we do relate to. It's hard to get all people on anyone side. 

By way of example, and you'll need to bear with me, the dichotomy of flaws crashed through my front door this week.  Our beloved dog, Rowdy, a beautiful, sleek and skiddish Irish setter died mysteriously at age ten. Everyone was affected, but in different ways. We all grieved separately, me the loudest, with my son devastated silently. We had literally saved Rowdy from execution by lethal gas the day we rescued him. We believe in adopting rescue dogs.

I wanted a new dog, and soon.  Not all of us agreed.  I wanted a dog to fill my void. We found Mimi, a precocious 3 year old Boston Terrier with a seizure disorder.  She is so adorable, smart, playful and affectionate.  If she's not throwing her squish toys in the air, while goading the pit bull into playful duels, she was on my lap cuddling and licking my face. Until Saturday night.  After we had turned in, Mimi had a cluster of four horrible grand mal seizures which were ghastly. After each seizure, Mimi knew not where she was and appeared to have been blinded.  We scooped Mimi up and drove to the local Vet ER hospital where they checked her out. Tomorrow we go to her regular vet and are prepared to get more medication, and I will be journaling every detail of her seizures, while attempting to digitally record what happens. 

On Saturday I went from the mountaintop of joy with this dog to the depths of Death Valley with her prognosis. We just adopted.a flawed dog who has brought me so much joy and we saved her from living, or dying in an animal shelter.  The vet treatment is not cheap. So we had competing interests and we had to decide what was most important to us.  Mimi handily won, but she had lost the very same battle when the the family before us grappled with the same issues. Their student loans, car payments, and young children, all caused them to believe their finances and time were insufficient to properly care for this dog.  You can't blame them.  We all have different circumstances and different points of view. 

Thus it is with the justice system, along with most all other systems which keep society rolling. This includes politics, school systems, the Supreme Court, and everything else.  Before we can agree on anything, truly agree and not just begrudgingly concede, we must understand the other's point of view.  Understanding another's point of view is EMPATHY.  EMPATHY is the key to civilization. Most, if not all, people have the capacity to be empathetic.  

Whether you are going to trial, running for election, or planning a party for your child's kindergarten class, these tasks are always smoother when you look at the other people's point of view. Empathy is a must for parenting and marriage. Before your next conversation, why don't you imagine yourself as the other person. Become him or her. What does that person want and how does he or she feel. The systems, all of them, really work better when you try a little empathy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The (My) 8 Reasons to Write A Blog

I thought I would explore why people write blogs.  Wouldn't it be cool if everyone was forthcoming and prefaced their remarks with an explanation.  For instance, before one comment the commenter might state, "I'm lonely and want people to pay attention to me."  Wouldn't that be refreshing?   Or another poster could write, "I am really proud of my photos and I want to share them."  A third might write, "People suck.  I want to ridicule and embarrass because it makes me feel like a superior person."

Of course, there are those creative bloggers, who want to perfect a new art form, or impart news, information and opinions.  While other bloggers want to share recipes, hobbies and other talents.

So, why do I write this blog?  I am going to try to be as completely candid as my ego will allow.  Here are my reasons:

1.  To focus on the courageous clients I meet everyday. Hence the name of the blog, Uncommon Courage. I mean my clients' courage, but sometimes I wonder if readers think I must be incredibly egotistical.

2.  To utilize an outlet for my egotism (at least I don't think I am INCREDIBLY EGOTISTICAL, just somewhat egotistical).  I think most bloggers are. Otherwise, write a private journal. 

3.  I enjoy writing about civil rights, employment discrimination and law.  I really like my job and writing about it is cathartic. I, in fact, enjoy writing regardless of the topic.

4.  The blog looks so official with the Google template.  It makes me think my writing has more importance than it may really have.

5.  This one hurts, but I will be honest anyway.  I want readers and potential clients to learn about me.  I want lots of hits and people to think of our firm and if we can help. (I have always looked down my nose on lawyers who advertise, but I have to admit this serves a similar purpose. ) After all, I do have a mortgage to pay like most Americans.

6.   I am too busy (lazy) to write a non-fiction book about discrimination. That requires a lot of discipline and I do have a day job. 

7.  I, along with all idealistic or realistic dreamers hope that during my lifetime, I will do more good than bad. Like many lawyers, I would like to make a difference. 

8.  Did I mention I have some issues with being egotistical?

So, to summarize, I write this blog to fulfill my irrational quest for fame and fortune.   Oh, and it feels really good to help people get through crises caused by the unlawful discrimination of powerful people.  We really do want to even the playing field. Maybe I won't be Rosa Parks, Golda Meir, or Angelina Jolie (although I am mistaken for Ms. Jolie all the time.). But it is exciting to see the speed at which we can discover what's going on in the world and make our opinions known. The world of communication is changing, and it is pretty exciting.

I wonder what technology will bring in the future and I regret I will die and miss out on new innovation. At least, my demise should precede the inevitable Robot Wars and subsequent apocalyptic nuclear wars that we see previewed each week in Hollywood.  I would try to avoid the inevitable apocalypse if I were you.  Enough said.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

You Might Be A Racist If . . .

Before I embark into the tongue-in-cheek parody of Jeff Foxworthy, I want to discuss the issue of prejudice, which is not a particularly funny subject.  Many of us claim a desire to eradicate prejudice in this country. That is an impossible goal. Our nature, as humans, is to form prejudices.  Some prejudices can save our lives.  If we see a grizzly bear in the wild, our prejudice tells us the bear may be violent and hurt us.  We avoid grizzly bears in the wild, regardless of any prior contact with this grizzly bear or any grizzly bear. One definition of prejudice by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, "[A] preconceived judgment or opinion. . ." Many, if not most opinions are preconceived.

When I see a motorist driving slowly on a highway, I pass and look to see if the driver is elderly. I do this because of prejudice, even though I myself am not a spring chicken. Ironically, once I had a young white male driver swerve around me and flip me the bird.  I suppose I either drove too slowly or swerved or did something to evoke this anger. I don't know what I did to this day. However, I am also prejudiced against young white male drivers, because I assume most erratic vehicles are driven by them.  I also must admit that I assume most Bible thumpers are Caucasian, most gang members are African-American or Latino, men, women are afraid to take risks, and most whiners are women.  I am not proud of my prejudices, but I admit I have them. The only way I know how to deal with my prejudiced is to admit I have them and endeavor to give each individual I meet personally the benefit of the doubt and assume the best. 

I learned this lesson through my work as a trial lawyer.  When a jury panel walked into the courtroom, I assumed the members of the panel would reject me, so I rejected them first. Look at Juror Number 3, with the phony toupee, Number 5 who seems like a mousy housewife, Number 24 who is a bigot, etc.  My clients did not fare as well when I prejudged the jurors out of fear of rejection. Now, when a venire panel arrives in the courtroom, I consciously force myself to think, "This group looks like a decent cross-section of upstanding people. I bet if I met them personally, I would really like each and every one of them.  I find, if you assume the best from people, the best is more likely to be what you get. 

So on to the subject of racism. There are many forms of racism - White vs. Black,Black vs. White, White v. Brown, Red, Olive, Asian, etc. and on and on. 

So, you might be a racist if:

1.  You grew up and live primarily around people who are the same race as you;

2.  You have ever stated these words, "I am not a racist, but ..."

3.  You have ever stated these words, "I am not a racist!" ("Methinks she doth protest too much");

4.  You doubt that the Holocaust ever happened;

5.  You wish the Confederacy had won the Civil War;

6.   You fear  that your child will date a member of another race because interracial couples are "stigmatized";

7.  You believe discrimination laws are too"politically correct";

8.  You can't understand why it's wrong for you to use the "n" word since African-Americans use the word to each other and in rap music;

9.  You believe hip hop is not a legitimate type of music;

10.  You think it's really white people, particularly white men, who are the real victims of discrimination in this country in this day and age. 

So, in the aftermath of the Zimmerman acquittal, I caution everyone to recognize her or his prejudices.  All we really know is that a Black kid is dead and the man who killed him was acquitted. Any conclusions we reach are probablycolored by our preconceived notions based on past experiences.  Sometimes the justice system works, sometimes it doesn't. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Today I did some research into my family history. I know quite a bit about my maternal grandfather's family and how many of my relatives perished in Auschwitz.  I know less about my father's family in Poland, but I know some. My mother's parents and she got out of Nazi Germany in October 1938, weeks before Kristallnacht.  My father's family left Poland earlier, but not all of my paternal grandmother's siblings got out. We assume they were killed in the Warsaw ghetto.  Tonight I did some research and discovered there was one Grzebieniarz, my grandfather's pre-Anglicized name and two Wallers, my grandmothers maiden name documented as residents of Warsaw in the ghetto in 1942.  It appears they perished in 1942 in the ghetto. I am profoundly sad to have uncovered these relatives, but also incredibly grateful that my parents survived and my siblings and I were fortunate enough to have come into this world.  

I have wondered why, as a lawyer, I have always been drawn to discrimination and civil rights law. I am convinced that the death and discrimination against my forebears simply because of their religion at birth propelled me to fight discrimination. I am not an alarmist, but the Holocaust can happen again, anywhere, if the conditions are right.  In fact, it has happened again, in Rwanda, in Russia, in Somalia, in Serbia, in Burma, in Cambodia. We humans are violent and when we de-humanize others, when the crowds take over and we have insecure, hateful, malevolent leaders, it can happen. We must be vigilant. George Washingtons and Nelson Mandelas, those people strong enough to relinquish power for the greater good, are not born very often. And we all have prejudices, and we all have insecurities, and we all get angry and want someone to blame. 

We need leaders who are vigilant in protecting minorities and those not in power. We need to guard against sinking to the lowest common denominator.  This leads me to the title of this blog. I'm talking about the lowest common denominator. I don't have lots of comments on this blog, and the ones I do have can be against what I write but are fairly respectful. My friend Tony Botello is kind enough to have a link to his blog  on TKC, and he often posts on TKC when I write a new missive. I admire Tony's dedication to free speech and the first amendment. Most people commenting on my blog do it on TKC. I told Tony from the start, that I have thick skin, which I do.  However, sometimes I am dumbfounded by the disgusting comments that appear.  I think about what type of person who would anonymously write these most racist and disgusting responses. What's wrong with this person or these people?  How much do these people really hate themselves and how cowardly are they to publish these nauseating comments with no accountability?  What would this world be like if nasty, self-loathing misfits like these had some real power?  I wonder what the killers of old, the Nazis, the ethnic cleansers, etc., would post if they lived today and were shielded by anonymity. Oh wait, I think I know. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You Might Be A Sexual Harasser If . . .

People think there is a fine line between sexual harassment and flirtation, but there's not. Flirtation involves attraction , interest and sometimes a relationship. Sexual harassment involves power, humiliation and degradation.  Here are some examples of people who are sexual harassers:

1.  If you feel hostile to women working in a "man"s field, like fork lift driver, engineer, coal miner, soldier, you may be on the path to being a sexual harasser.

2.  If you ask a co-worker if she wants to sit on your face, you are a sexual harasser.  Women are generally not turned on by co-worker statements like that.

3.  If you try to fondle a co-worker's boobs, or otherwise fondle her private parts at work, and you are not her boyfriend, you are a sexual harasser.

4.  If you spread rumors about a co-worker that she is a slut, loose or has oral sex at work, you are a sexual harasser.

5.  If you show a co-worker pornography at work, and she doesn't want to see it, you are a sexual harasser.

6.  If you talk to the co-worker and/or other employees about the co-workers private sexual parts, you are a sexual harasser.

7.  If you send or show your co-worker photos of your penis, or you pull out your penis at work, you are a sexual harasser.

8.  If you tell your co-worker crude and disgusting sexual jokes at work, especially targeting her in front of others (to embarrass her), you are a sexual harasser.

9.  If you ask your co-worker about her sex life to embarrass her, or tell her about yours, at work, you are a sexual harasser.

10.  If you tell a co-worker that she will be fired, or miss out on raises, or given bad assignments unless she performs sexual acts on you, YOU ARE A SEXUAL HARASSER.

Don't be so insecure that you put women down who threaten you. You can do it!  Don't be a sexual harasser. If you are a sexual harasser, you will get it in the end.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

10 Rules For Being A Happy Lawyer (and a happy person, too.)

There are a lot of unhappy lawyers.  Some people should not be lawyers, just as not everyone should be a politician, a nurse, or an accountant.  These are what I think, after 30 years as a trial lawyer,  it takes to be a happy person who is a lawyer.

1.  Don't practice law unless it is something for which you have passion. It's too much work for someone better suited for something else. Follw your bliss.  This is true for everyone, not just lawyers.  Find what you love to do, and figure out a way to do it.  If practicing law isn't doing it for you, leave and find your passion.

2.  Don't hold grudges. This is also true for all people, including non-lawyers.  Grudges hurt the person with the grudge. Be kind yo yourself by forgiving others.

3.  Take responsibility and own up to your mistakes. If you blow your cool at another lawyer, miss a statute of limitations (yikes!), or yell at your staff - own up to it and apologize. Do what you can to make the situation right.  Again, this is not just applicable to lawyers.

4.  Tell the truth. Your word should be your bond.  You feel good when you live up to a code that makes you proud. Again, true for everyone.

5.  Treat yourself, and others, with respect, always!  If you slip, and are disrespectful, apologize. Again, true for everyone.

6.  Make time for family and fun. Decide what is really important to you and do it.  A "balanced" life is merely setting priorities. Respect what's important.  -  again, true for everyone.

7.  Don't take anything personally (I know I may have ripped this off from The Four Agreements).   What people do and say reflects who they are, not who you are.  When you have clients, they come first.  If you take something personally, figure out why you felt insecure and deal with it. Our job, in law, as in life, is not to try to get everyone to like you.  That's kind of woosy, and not effective advocacy (Caveat - may not apply to jury selection).  Again, this applies to everyone.

8.  Be who you are.  If you are fake, it shows.  Again, this applies to everyone.

9.  Take risks and be vulnerable.  Try things that scare you.  This is how you grow as a lawyer, and as a person.

10.  Give freely of yourself, without expecting a pay back.  This is so true in life, and, even for lawyers.

Granted, it's hard to be perfect.  You may slip and violate a rule.  Then go to rules 3 and 5.   You deserve to be happy, even if you are a lawyer.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Plaintiffs' Lawyer's Dilemma - Am I An Ambulance Chaser?

The Plaintiffs' Lawyer's Dilemma - Am I An Ambulance Chaser?

Most of the Plaintiffs' lawyers I know believe in their clients' cases, care about their clients, and want to help the clients. Plaintiffs' lawyers have varied practices: personal injury, products liability, professional negligence, various types of class actions, and, what I do, civil rights and employment discrimination. However, for those of us representing plaintiffs in lawsuits - we are only paid if the client settles by receiving money or gets a money judgment. Normally, we get a percentage of the settlement or judgment.  I guess sports and talent agents may have something similar, a cut of the pie. But sports figures and actors split a happy pie, a new contract for a movie, or a position on a team. We lawyers profit from our clients' suffering. The more injured they are, the more they get paid. The more they get paid, the more we get paid. 

That is not to say we don't work for our money. If we represent a client and try our client's case, our firm has hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in time and money. If our client loses, we lawyers are not paid and are out of a great deal of money. Plaintiffs' lawyers are not like doctors who are paid a generous sum by insurance companies regardless of the outcome. Can you imagine a cancer surgeon's meeting with the family and explaining she or he could not remove all of the cancer, so the doctor will not be charging any medical bills?  A lot of risky surgeries simply would not occur. 

So, what do we do as a society?  Lawyers expect to be paid, but most people cannot afford us without a contingent fee agreement. How should lawyers feel about this?

I am conflicted. Sure, I want to get a jury angry at the racist employer. I want punitive damages to be awarded.  I believe in my cases.  But, on the flip side, I also know that the more a company or jury gives my client, the more money I get. I get a bonus for clients who are hurt the most, whether the damage be financial or moral.  This concept is distressing, yet i must admit that I have suffered no distress when getting paid in a case.  If it is early on, we oftentimes reduce our fees.  But is this the best
we can do?

How do we balance a lawyers desire and duty to work for the clients' best interest, with the lawyers' desire to get paid a generous sum for his or her work?  This essentially is the battle between social conscience and greed.  And there sure is a perception in the public, sometimes deserved (heck, maybe most times deserved) that lawyers are greedy.  This is a moral and ethical dilemma.  What some don't understand is that lawyers, too, like everyone else, deserve to be compensated for their work.  But, when the money is more important than the cause, it sometimes causes me to pause.  It's hard not to get excited about money, especially when the rent is due, taxes are due, and your spouse wants to pay the mortgage.

There are lawyers today who go to sickbeds to recruit clients, and it hurts the legal profession. I have even had discrimination clients who had other lawyers try to recruit them by calling them at home after a news story. While our firm does not solicit, I worry that I lose perspective and will focus more on greed than justice.  I hope that writing these words will help keep me vigilant and never forget why I wanted to be a lawyer - to make a difference in society one case at a time; and to even the playing field so big companies cannot railroad less powerful individuals. I care about my clients and they deserve a lawyer who honors her oath to put the clients first. There is no lawsuit insurance for plaintiffs so that all lawyers are paid a fair fee.  We plaintiffs' lawyers are, in essence, professional gamblers with both the fate of our clients and our own income at stake. Being a plaintiffs' lawyer is risky business. I hope we see the dilemma, and act in accordance with the oath we all had to take.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Let's Celebrate the Seventh Amendment for the Fourth of July

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 this nation's greatness is because of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 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 amendments in 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 us, this Independence Day embrace the 7th Amendment for the 4th of July. Who knows how safe cars and prescription drugs would be without the 7th. Without the 7th, sexual and racial 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. Hopefully, we are working towards a world where people are 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.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Our world is changing rapidly. Society, as a whole, no longer tolerates bullies attacking members of the LGBT community.   Gays and lesbians can finally be open about who they love. It's just a matter of time that same sex marriage will be recognized in all 50 states.  The next major Civil Rights initiative will be protection from LGBT discrimination and harassment in jobs. I have been eagerly awaiting these changes   I and my law partners Marie and Kristi are eager to fight for equality for all oppressed groups.  The LGBT community is oftentimes subjected to this bullying, discrimination and harassment. Equality has been a long time coming.

Yet there are still those homophobes out their.  My mother relates that her friends struggle more with the issue.  I thought I would put together some indicators of homophobes so that you could determine if you are in that group and get help. We don't need more homophobes.


1.    When you and your wife had a child, you prayed that he or she would be straight;

2.   You let your girls play with trucks, but there was no way your son was getting that Barbie doll he wanted;

3.   You worried when your son did not like sports;

4.   As a child, or even much later, you used the term "fag" but not as a substitute for cigarette;

5.  You've called people fag and worse to his or her face, and laughed about it;

6.  You may have found it "funny" when you heard of people going to Liberty Memorial and "rolling fags."

7.  As a child, you didn't wear pink and green on Thursdays because those are "fag" colors;

8.  As a parent, you irrationally worry that homosexuals will be bent on turning your child gay;

9.  Perhaps you have some warm and scary feelings towards people of the same gender, and you don't want to deal with it because if you are gay, you think you must be bad;

10.  You need other people to demonize to elevate your miserably low and shaky self-esteem.

If you're a homophobe, you may never change. But you have a much greater chance of change than a gay person. That's because homophobes often lack empathy, and empathy can sometimes be learned.

If you are gay, there is a much greater chance that you already have empathy and it won't help you change. Also there's less of a chance for a gay person to turn straight, because, frankly, why would anyone want to do that. We are who we are.  It is finally dawning on society that there is nothing wrong with being gay and people need to butt out on issues that do not affect them , especially since love brings so much happiness to the world.