Saturday, December 31, 2016

Being an Honorable Person - 6 East Rules (Reprint from October 27, 2009)

Being an Honorable Person - 6 Easy Rules

I wrote this post back in 2009.  We are on the last day of 2016, and I hope I can live by these guidelines in the coming 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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

We Need More Women Lawyers Trying Civil Cases

Carrie Fisher, who famously portrayed Princess Leia, once said, "You are only as sick as your secrets."  A psychodramatist I know put it this way, "If you can't talk about it, "it" is out of control."
One of the reasons that lawyers fear going to trial is that once you stand up to talk to that jury about your client, you must also inform the client about who you are.  A good actor doesn't just pretend that he or she is the character he or she portrays.  Rather, a good actor becomes that character.  And in so doing, lays bare his or her soul.  The actor opens himself up, is vulnerable, and must trust the audience.  The same is true of the trial lawyer.  A trial lawyer, at least a real one, must believe in the case with all of her heart, must become vulnerable in releasing her love for her client or for her client's cause, must speak from not only the head, but also from the heart.  And the greatest risk of all to the client and to the lawyer is rejection from the twelve people seated in that juror box.  The jurors examine the lawyers, the clients, the witnesses.  Those of you who have been on juries know that talk about the personalities and presentation, and even looks, of the lawyers is common.  The client is an amateur and jurors know that the client does not make his living by appearing in court.  The client deserves sympathy, even empathy, but not so for the lawyer.  People say public speaking is the number one stress producer for most people, yet trial lawyers must face this fear and rise above it in service to their clients.

A trial is a zero sum game.  There is a winner and a loser.  Trials may be about jurors compromising, but the parties compromise not, or they would not be at the courthouse.  The acts of public speaking, having a client's case and maybe even his life in one's hand, competing in a public battle, and the risk of being vulnerable and rejected account for why so few lawyers actually try cases.  Trial lawyers are oftentimes egomaniacs, narcissistic and insecure. We are also oftentimes caring, magnanimous and generous.  But one thing is clear, trial lawyers are risk-takers. They are willing to suffer the valleys to experience the mountain peaks.

Women make very competent lawyers.  They work hard, sometimes harder than the men, but are often relegated to an "assisting" role in trial.  There are so many more female trail lawyers than there were over 30 years ago when I started practicing law.  But, I do not think women lawyers will will have real parity with men until they no longer assist, but command in their fields.  This is no more true than in trial.  I worry about implicit bias against women, that people, even women lawyers, but certainly the juries, implicitly believe that men are more competent than women. Yet, unless women are willing to take the risks of actually going to trial, we cannot combat implicit bias.  Social norms are created by what normally happens in society.  Whether or not a woman is the major child-rearer in her family is not as important as whether she is willing to take risks that male lawyers, with their egos and braggadocio, are willing to take. When people take risks they are open to more healthy risks.

People often quote the maxim that on our deathbeds few people bemuse that they wish they had spent more time at work.  That is probably true.  But, I believe there is a different regret that lawyers can have, when they look back on their careers, that they were too afraid to take risks that could not only benefit their clients, but could also make life exciting and satisfying.  Maybe someday women will earn as much as men, will be represented in government and politics as much as men, and will head major businesses as much as men.  Women, us, just need to dream and have the courage to follow those dreams.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Older or Younger - Who Is better?

In Missouri, state court judges are required to retire at age 70. Yet, our new President-elect will be beginning his term at the age of 70. Bernie Sanders is 74, the age at which most people have long-since retired. Employers oftentimes force older workers out or refuse to hire people in their 50s. So what is going on?  People do live longer. In Missouri and federal court, workers protected against age discrimination can be as young as 40. In Missouri, though, once the older worker turns 70, he or she is no longer protected. Do what you want with a 70 year old, as long as he is not president.

There are pluses and minuses of both older and younger workers. Here is what I see as the benefits of workers 50 and over. Of course, these are gross generalizations.

Older workers are:

1.  More loyal;
2.  More confident;
3: More experienced at problem solving;
4.  Wiser;
5.  Less distracted.

Younger workers are:

1.  More confident with technology;
2.  More flexible about changes in environment, jobs, assignments;
3.  Learn fast;
4.  Have more energy.

Generally, and I am really generalizing here, young and older workers have a lot to give employers. Obviously, many people retire later and later and bring a wealth of historic knowledge to the workplace. Donal Trump - 70, his Cabinet's average age in the late 60's, Supreme Court justices in their 80's. The cap on age discrimination cases at the age of 70 is antiquated.  We need workers of all ages, not just young ,"energetic" ones. ("Energetic" is a code word for "young.").

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Don't You Feel Tired of Worrying All the Time?

Here we are on the cusp of the Winter Solstice, coming off negative degree temperatures, looking past the holidays to the gloomiest time of the year. In my family, people have been wracked with serious illnesses. Donald Trump was elected president. Missouri has a Republican governor, with a Republican legislature.  Dark days are possibly ahead for victims of discrimination, if civil rights statutes are changed to protect the harassers.  Dark days.

But, after the solstice passes, the days slowly become lighter. Trump is not even president and we do have three branches of government with checks and balances. Who know what is going to happen.

I am tired of expecting Armageddon. I am going in with a not open, not closed mind. I stopped listening to political podcasts and cable news. I try not to read Trump's tweets. My current clients are safe and if the unthinkable happens, and the legislature throws civil rights out the chamber's window, it would be August 2017 before anything bad can happen. Plus, there will be legal challenges. There is a Constitution which has an equal protection clause and there are federal statutes that will not be repealed.

So, while still representing my clients who are still victims of radish, sexism and ageism more than 50 years since civil rights laws were passed, I am going to relax. My clients are brave.  And I am tired of worrying. Maybe Donal Trump and Eric Greitens will be the best president and governor, respectively, in the world. We'll see. I won't look away, but it's hard to survive in constant fear and worry.

I hope they work out great and leave me and my clients alone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Blocking The Right to Vote

I have been a poll watcher three times, in 2008, 2012, and 2016. These comments are based on my personal observations. Voting is a right of all citizens, but sometimes we provide roadblocks to voting. The first two times I was a poll-watcher were in Eastern Jackson County, Missouri, the last in Indian River County, Florida.

In 2008, I was a poll watcher in Blue Springs, MO in Eastern Jackson County. Blue Springs is not adjacent to Kansas City, so I do not recall issues of Kansas City voters moving to Blue Springs, or vice versa, so there was not confusion between the Easter Jackson County and Kansas election boards. A voter can move within Kansas City (Jackson County) and change addresses on voting day and still vote. Likewise when voters move from one eastern Jackson County location to another. The problem arises when a voter in Jackson County moves to or from Kansas City to or from Eastern Jackson County. Even though the move is within the same County, if the voter does not report the address change in advance (I think 10 days) he or she is disenfranchised.

The scenario above, moving to or from Kansas City to or from Eastern Jackson County became a real problem during my second assignment in 2012 in Grandview, MO.  Kansas City and Grandview are adjacent cities, and voters regularly moved between the two. If a Grandview voter moves to Lees Summit without changing his or her address, the voter is okay, since both cities are in Eastern Jack. But, if that voter moves to Grandview from Kansas City, without changing addresses formally, even if the move is a couple days before the election, the voter cannot vote, even though the voter is still within Jackson County. The voters I saw who were turned away from the polls were primarily African-American. I think the 10 day rule for changes of addresses with the same County, between Kansas City and Easter Jack, is probably unconstitutional. It deprives citizens from the right to vote.

What I witnessed in Florida was much worse. In Florida, if a voter has not voted in the last two elections, he or she is removed from the polls. The voters have registered, have not moved, but just decided they did not want to vote, and bam, they can not vote in the subsequent election. I suspect this rule in Florida affected Trump voters more than Clinton voters, because, presumably those who had not voted in the two previous elections chose not to vote for Obama.

In Florida, there is a voter i.d. law similar to the one just passed by the Missouri electorate. Voters must have an official photo, drivers license, passport, etc. to vote. This caused much frustration. Many elderly voters had no official identification. The other voters with no were overwhelmingly African-American. Voting is not dependent on us having a level of sophistication whereby we each must have a car or hope to travel internationally, and the ability to obtain state identification for poor people without restriction is limited. None other the turned away voters seemed like their intention was to commit voter fraud, since voter fraud is a rare thing. Many of those turned away from the polls will probably never vote. Being turned away from voting, exercising a citizens' right, can be humiliating. I suspect that was the first and last attempt to vote for many U.S. citizens.

Some states allow voter registration up to election day, early voting, and even voting by mail. Some states encourage their citizens to vote. It's sad that even the ability to vote has become partisan.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

How to Fund Social Security Without Cutting Benefits - Close the Loophole

It pains me, as a 64 year old fully working American not on Social Security to see that Republicans want to cut Social Security benefits. People like me have been paying Social Security taxes for 50 years or more.

What these politicians don't tell Americans is that people with higher incomes pay proportionally less tax than lower income Americans. Americans earning more than $118,500 in 2016 stop paying Social Security taxes on income over that amount. Plenty of Americans earn more than $118,500, some as much as millions of dollars. We could use those additional tax dollars, without increasing maximum benefits.

I do not understand why taxing Americans on all of their earned income never comes up. Oh right, I forgot, we can't tax the rich because ... why?  The thought of millions of Americans dependent on Social Security getting screwed is distressing. I guess these particular Republican Congressmen, with their government pensions and salaries and health care, funded by taxpayers, really don't care about the rest of us.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Alex Smith and Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill once said, "Never give up."  I guess he didn't, and the Allies won World War II. It's harder for me to understand abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a freed slave, who spent his life fighting slavery. Slavery in this country outlived Douglass by many years. Susan B. Anthony fought for female suffrage, at least for white woman, throughout her life. She had long since expired before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1920 allowing women the right to vote. Some people just keep on fighting. They don't quit, even if they die before their goals are achieved.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said something to the effect, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."  Of course, he was assassinated before racial equality was achieved, since it really has never been achieved. Mahatma Ghandi and Itzhaak Rabin were both assassinated by members of their own religions while they sought equality.

I am sure if you are still reading this, you may be thinking that my thoughts are depressing. We are on the threshold of a new era, at least a new presidency and, in Missouri, a new Governor. What will the future hold? Are we going to regress or progress or stand still? I fear regression. Maybe the arc of history will bend toward justice. I hope do. We are but inconsequential participants in the arc of history.

Yet, I, along with most Kansas Citians, are watching the Chiefs/Colts game. After all, who expected the Chiefs to just tie up the game against the Patriots with one second left?  Is there hope?  At least for the Chiefs, we may know within 15 minutes. SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME. Winston Churchill never faced that.

P.S.  HOLY SMOKES!  We won!  Is my faith in humanity renewed?  We'll see.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bigotry And Poppycock

This "Alt-Right" revival, or as it more accurately should be called "neo-Nazi" revival, seems to be in full swing. The meeting in D.C. with this guy named Richard Spencer exemplifies the worst in America. After his Anti-Semitic rant, he quoted Nazi propaganda in its original German and then he gets a front page story, complete with a photo shoot in the LA Times. I am sure Steve Bannon is proud big left unchecked, racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism and their advocacy as set to run amok in America. I guess 8 years of a Black president was too much for a bunch of scared, insecure racists and they want to fight back.

It was a blow to me and I am sure to other women that a highly qualified woman was defeated by a temperamentally unsound man. I thought it was finally time where little girls could understand that their possibilities were limitless.  Not so, America. And now we experience a resurgence of hate.

According to people like Richard Spencer, I am not white because I am a Jew. I am an older female Jew who represents African-Americans, Asians, women and gays in discrimination cases. I know to the misguided White-Privilege deniers, the group suffering the most discrimination in this country are white men. Poppycock. These men do mot see that white men control the world. Depriving people of privilege is different than active discrimination.  The Alt-Right Nazi groups have no use for women like me.  They are too afraid and insecure to respect others. They are motivated by fear and hatred.

White people have privilege in this country. Men have privilege in this country. Is equality even a possibility? I am sure that I will receive troll responses stating about the sorry state of white men in this country. Half of my family is comprised of white men. My husband and son are white men. Yet the men in my family acknowledge that they are not being oppressed because of their whiteness or because of their maleness. They know they have privileges in society that they do not really deserve.

What will it take for there to be a woman in the White House?  Can we eliminate racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia?  I don't know. People do not willingly give up privilege and power.  As Dr King stated, "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Glass Ceiling

Last night, I watched SNL. Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle made a crack about how Obama was a charismatic 40 year old man, while Hillary was just a 70 year old woman.  While I am a big fan of Obama, I don't think he is a good President because he is young, cool and hip. I guess women have an expiration date which makes them lose their freshness years before a man goes rancid. I am sick of this. Donald Trump is a 70 year old  braggart of avman who admitted to sexual assault, denigrated Mexicans, and bullied other candidates. Most lawmakers are old white men with little charisma. Donald Trump made a crack about Hillary's looks, apparently thinking that he is God's gift to women.  Hillary made some bad decisions, such as the email server.  But Donald Trump's life is filled with horrible decisions.  If Hillary had five children by three different men, you can be sure that she would never have been a serious candidate.

I am sick of the double standard. Women are judged by their looks and their youth, while male politicians can be downright disgusting, old and nasty and get away with it. I think Bernie Sanders is great. However, if he was a woman, do you think he would have come under more scrutiny?  Would Donald Trump have commented on his view of Sanders from the rear?  What if a woman had denied fondling young men by saying they were not good looking enough to be fondled?

When I was a young lawyer, I was told that I had to make sure I did not appear too aggressive or too passive, because women have to watch how they are perceived. I was instructed by a federal judge not to cry in court, although the male lawyers received no such warning. I was schooled in what type of jewelry, shoes, clothes, to wear. And above all else, I was not to get "emotional."  I don't dye my hair anymore and it's gray. I realize that if I worked in big business, I, like Hillary, would be required to dye my hair in order to look younger. When I was a young lawyer, certain older male lawyers called me sweetie and dear. I could go on and on.

I am just sick of the freaking double standard. This isn't about Hillary Clinton losing as much as it is about generations of women suffering concussion after concussion while slamming their skulls against that freaking glass ceiling.  Apparently that glass is bullet-proof.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump Backlash? Share Your Stories: stophatred16@gmail.com

Just since the election, I have heard terrifying stories of purported Trump supporters threatening people of color, women and Muslims. We cannot waste years of progress against sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, etc.  Obviously, many if not most, Trump supporters are not bigots, but, we know some are. For crying out loud, the KKK formally endorsed Donald Trump. If you or someone you know is attacked physically or verbally or threatened because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc., please speak out.

If a crime is committed against you or you are in fear, contact the police. Also, please email me your story at:

STOPHATRED16@GMAIL.COM

I WILL NOT PUBLISH YOUR STORY OR TAKE ANY ACTION WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION. BUT, WE CANNOT REMAIN SILENT. WE MUST MOVE FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lucky To Work With Caring People at Bratcher Gockel Law

I have met and served some amazing people in the thirty-three years in which I have practiced law. My job representing civil rights clients brings me immense joy, not in small part because of the kind, talented, intelligent people with whom I am blessed to work.

1.  My law partner Marie Gockel - I am fortunate that among the first people I called when I decided to start my firm was my law school chum Marie.  I remember her exact words, "Can I come, too."  And, a law firm was born. Marie is the hardest working, most tenacious, most intelligent lawyer I know. She never gives up. I kid her that she is the bull dog of the law profession. Perseverance is one of the most important traits of a lawyer. Plus, she and I work well together, brain-storming, with our strengths complimenting each other. For 22 years she has been great. And Marie is a great friend.

2.  Our amazing staff -  Ann Gloor leads our amazing staff. I have worked with her for 30 years, since both of our eldest girls were infants. She is wicked smart, hard working and kind, plus she reads my mind. Nancy Breuning has been with us for 15 years. She is diligent, a perfectionist when need be, and amazingly smart. Both Ann and Nancy are two of the kindest people I know. Within the last 5 years we hired paralegal Mike Bell.  Mike has worked many years as a paralegal and is not afraid to dig into files to assess what went wrong. He, too, is extremely intelligent and hard-working. All three of the staff have been recently been blessed with grandchildren and we see videos of first steps, first words, and wide toothless smiles. What a joy.

People in our office either bring their lunches or go downstairs to the food court to buy food and bring it up. We typically sit around our old conference table, often for a little more than the "allotted" hour, looking out over the Power & Light  district while chattering on about grandbabies, movies, books, our lives, or my stupid jokes to which they graciously smile. We talk about cases and what we need to do, but most of the time we just shoot the bull. We have a great team. We never give performance evaluations, because oftentimes employers feel they need to mark employees down and criticize. Our employees are so great, performance evaluations seem counter-productive. I hope everyone realize how much I  appreciate tand care about them. I know I am prejudiced, but I think our law office is a wonderful place to work.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tell Trump - We Are Better Than This

I voted already. I am going to be a poll observer in Florida, so I voted here. But, I cannot tear myself away from the horrible Trump train wreck. I just hope that through his horrible conduct, this scorched earth tactics, and his total lack of respect for large segments of the population, if not all of humanity, we learn a lesson.  I hope we are horrified by this wretch of a human being and we realize that he is not who we are.

Women should not be judged by how large their breast are. Grabbing a woman's crotch without her consent is a crime. We are more than the sum of our parts, literally. African-Americans are not thugs condemned to live in "inner cities" where they constantly must dodge their own bullets. Latinos and Latinas are hard-working, decent, and kind human beings by nature, just as are the majority of the rest of usl

Most people are good and kind and deserve our trust and respect. Most others are honorable unless they prove otherwise. We must see the best in others, not the worst. We must teach our children to help others, not to bully them. We have our differences, and our differences are what teaches us to grow and accept others.

We must fight bigotry, whether that fight amounts to going to the polls, or legally fighting against the racial and sexual bullying. We must set examples of tolerance, humility, and charity. I believe Americans are essentially kind, caring and have moral values. We are strong and self-assured and need not denigrate others to nurse our egos.  That is characteristic of Trump and his ilk, not us.

Trump is a test of our character and our resolve and we will pass this test. We are better than the horrible America he sees. We will survive this election and grow and learn from this. We are better than this. Trump is a cult-like leader who will lose. I know Americans are decent, compassionate and generous.  I know that the kind, decent, caring people of this country will continue. We are a country of immigrants. We take in, "your tired, your poor, your yearning to be free."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Donald Trump - The Most Dangerous Man Alive

I usually hate when people are unfairly compared to Adolph Hitler. I attempt to refrain from Hitler comparisons, because Hitler was an unimaginable monster-Svengali, bringing out the worst possible nature of millions of people. Hitler was filled with hatred. Hitler convinced millions of normal people to join his hatred and commit genocide. Hitler was the devil if there ever was a Satan in human form.

Hitler's reign of terror began with xenophobia and antisemitism and ended with horrors indescribable. Hitler started by preying on Germans' fear and anger. Within months of his election, he abolished civilized protections, ostracized Jews, gays, gypsies and others, and ended up annihilating millions.

Trump may not be a Hitler, at least I pray he is not. But like Hitler, he preys on an angry people's xenophobia and racism. Trump cares only about Trump. He has no empathy, no compassion. His rhetoric ignores Constitutional protections. He promises to engage in acts which the founding fathers wisely placed outside of a president's power.

I first voted for a presidential candidate in 1972. Retrospectively, I realize my first vote was not my wisest. I was a starry-eyed Idealist at age 19. I, at 63, am much more of a realist.  Three great-uncles, three great-aunts and a cousin all perished in Auschwitz. These were my grandparents' sisters and brothers.  My mother's family was lucky to escape three weeks before Kristallnacht.

This is the first time that a presidential candidate has really terrified me. He personifies hatred.  History can repeat itself. We must be vigilant. No one expected a paper hanger from Austria to murder millions. This election feels like the most important election of my life.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What Terrifies Me About Donald Trump!!!!!!!!

This blog is dedicated to courageous plaintiffs, but I notice I spend much of my time worrying about Donald Trump.  I decided to write down all of the things about a potential Trump presidency that scare the shit out of me:

1.  I am concerned about his personality, his lack of introspection, depth, and critical thinking.

2.  Would he use atomic bombs?  Maybe. He doesn't rule it out.

3.  Would he use executive orders to violate the Constitution?
       A.  Change "libel" laws - violating the First Amendment.
       B.  Refuse to allow attorneys to U.S. Citizens charged with crimes.  In violation of 6th Amendment.
       C.  Refuse citizens charged with crimes to be afforded jury trial - violation of 6th Amendment.
       D. Profile and frisk "suspicious" people - violation of 14th Amendment.
       E.  Torture - violation of 8th and 4th, 5th Amendments.

4.  He doesn't realize that there are three branches of government and he can't make and enforce laws.

5.  He brings out the worst in people -   Racism, sexism, xenophobia, hatred, violence.

6.   He is narcissistic and self-involved.

7.  He is inherently dishonest and opportunistic. I WANT TO SEE THOSE TAX RETURNS.  He swindles people and takes advantage of those he can.

8.  He is extremely insecure. I do not want my president to literally get into dick measuring contests. He is easily offended. A President must have thick skin and think of the country's before his.  He is vindictive.

9.   He is greedy  and ungenerous.

10.  He lacks diplomacy, intellectual curiosity and intelligence - NARCISSISM is his most obvious personality trait.

I am scared of him.  I have never felt this way before in the past ten elections in which I was able to and did vote. This election is important.  YIKES!!!!!!!!!!!!  This is serious. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

My Friends Are My Friends - So Leave Me Alone

Lately, I have been criticized in the Comments section on my blog because I have a good relationship  with Tony Botello. Several people indicate I shouldn't like because he is a sexist, or racist, or mean - blah, blah, blah. In fact, I got a couple of comments about Mr. Botello on a tribute I wrote about an amazing, courageous woman who just passed away. I considered deleting the comments, since they had nothing to do with the legacy of this amazing woman, but I did not. I only delete troll comments, and these comments were fair comments, but inserted in a place which I thought was inappropriate.

Apparently, as a feminist, I am supposed to have only friends or people with whom share my every view and share all of the views of all of the people who generally agree with me. I believe we are multi-faceted beings and I find it offensive that my choice of friends is subject to comment.

I am sure many people disagree with many of my beliefs or actions. So be it.  That does not mean I hate people with whom I disagree. I admire that Tony believes in the First Amendment and chooses not to delete troll comments, no matter how disgusting, racist, sexist or just pathetic the commenters may be. I disagree with Tony on the comment issue. I delete troll comments. I don't post photos of women in bikinis either, nor do I intend to do so. Tony may write things you find to be offensive. Some things I find to be offensive. However, he has done some amazing work exposing malfeasance and corruption. And sometimes he makes me laugh.

I saw Louis CK and he was hilarious, and said many, many offensive things. But, he was very funny. Actually, I will forgive a lot if someone makes me laugh. Laughter is one of my most favorite things in this world. I laugh at sick things at times.  Mt favorite joke is, "I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather.  I don't want to die screaming and afraid like his passengers."   Perhaps I am shallow or hypocritical that way, but get over it. We are all multi-faceted and hopefully we are complex human beings. Life is not black and white. I appreciate shades of grey.

Now, Tony, I will not be voting for you for president, or governor, or even mayor. You may say things with which I do not agree, but, I am not going to tell you to do or be anything but who you are. So, you commenters, or Facebook peeps who are upset with my friend choice,  get over it.


Monday, September 12, 2016

The Brief, Brave Life of Denise Henning

Denise Henning died yesterday.  I don't know if it is appropriate for me to write this blog about her, but I feel compelled to do so. I cannot stop thinking about who she was and the life she lived. I feel like everyone should know her name, she was such an amazing person.  I knew Denise for more than twenty years.  I always liked her, always admired her, but we were not really girlfriends,

Denise was a trial lawyer.  She had guts.  She went to trial when others were too afraid.  And, she won. I remember when she started her own firm across the street from ours.  Unlike me, Denise was not satisfied just practicing law.  She was truly a role model.  She was a leader.  She volunteered her time doing charitable things.  She had celebrations for women who achieved recognition in the field of law.  Denise excelled, and she gave back.

Denise founded a charitable branch of the Association of Women Lawyers.  She started a mentoring group for young women lawyers.  Her energy seemed inexhaustible.  I remember her pregnancies, giving birth to two healthy boys a dozen or more years ago.  I remember meeting her husband, Denise's high school sweetheart.

I remember years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her announcement that she had it beat.  She deservedly received award after award.  When she was on the cover of Kansas City Magazine as a Super Lawyer, I read with interest about her life.  The article is attached.  Denise Henning.  That was in 2011.

Then, in 2012, when her boys were playing baseball, Tim, Denise's husband, had a major heart attack and died.  He was only 47 years old.  I felt so bad for Denise.  I think, I hope, I let her know.

What I did not know then, but came soon to find out, was that just a few months before Tim's death, Denise discovered that her cancer had returned.  Her boys were young.  Denise called and asked if I knew who could hire her secretary, because she didn't want to leave her employee out in the cold while she ended her practice to tend to her boys and to her health.

Then, Denise started a foundation in memory of her husband, The Henning Family Foundation. She held golf tournaments to purchase AED devices so that if someone had a heart attack in a public, perhaps, unlike her husband, their lives could be saved. Every year we contributed to the foundation so another AED could be purchased.  In 2015, with an AED in her car, Denise saved a man's life whose heart had stopped.  Henning News Article She received an another award, this time from the Red Cross.

This past May I did not hear from Denise.  May is when she held the Tim Henning golf tournaments. I feared her health was deteriorating further.  In June, I learned that the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys was honoring Denise with its highest award, the Tom Strong award.  I made sure that I attended the banquet.  There is no one I know who was and is more deserving of that award.  I sent Denise a long email telling her how much I admired her.  Denise accepted the award at the annual banquet.  She needed help getting onto the stage.  Her boys were with her.  She did not look well.  I made my way to her and hugged her and told her again how deserving she was.

That was is the last time I ever talked to Denise.  I noticed that within the past few weeks, her friends on Facebook had been posting photos of Denise.  Denise's oldest son, a teenager, posted a loving tribute to his mother.  He wrote of how much his mother had sacrificed for he and his brother in the wake of their father's death.

On Sunday evening, September 11, 2016, Denise died.  I cannot stop thinking about her.  I cannot stop worrying about her sons.  I cannot stop mourning the loss of this wonderful women.  I can just imagine how hard Denise's passing is for her loved ones.  Denise Henning is irreplaceable.  The world is a better place for her having lived among us for oh too short a time. What an amazing person she was.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

MORAL AMBIGUITY AND LAWYERING

I watched 60 Minutes tonight. They broadcast an expose of Manhattan lawyers asked to launder money for a fictional African politician, who was seeking to buy a building, a jet, and a yacht, without divulging the true ownership. Out of the 16 lawyers unknowingly being videotaped, only one flatly refused. The president of the American Bar Association was interviewed. In the videotape, he expressed some reservations and stated that if the funds were gained illegally, he would report the crime. Apparently, the other lawyers expressed no reservations.  What was most troubling to me was one lawyer declaring that lawyers would not get in trouble, because lawyers run this country. All of a sudden, I wondered if I was an accomplice in this sleazy behavior.

Lawyers do seem to run this country. President Obama is a lawyer and so is Governor Jay Nixon. Senator Claire MCaskill is also a member of the bar. Jason Kander, my choice for Senator is, guess what, a lawyer. Lawyers have a lot of power in our government. And what about the lobbyists. Lawyers are in the money and power making business, for sure.

Are lawyers up to the task of running this country? I have my doubts whether any profession measures up. I do not know what profession is immune from greed and deceit. Money complicates everything, as does power and sex. I am not here to talk about the corrupting power of sex, but I have wondered if society would be different if humans were devoid of testosterone and estrogen. But, I digress.

I earn my living by accepting contingent fees. That means I am not paid on a regular basis. I am paid when my clients recover. My clients, by and large, cannot afford to pay the hourly fees I could bill in working on a case. In employment discrimination cases, fees through trial usually amount to six figure amounts. It's possible that when a case settles, my client is handsomely compensated, and so am I. I try my darnedest to separate my client's interests from mine. My duty as a lawyer is to my client, not to me, nor my family, nor to the bank holding my mortgage. In theory, I heartily believe in the ethical code and I abhor a lawyer who puts his or her interests ahead of the client's. However, when the bills are due, or my dog is sick, or when my kids need money, or when I want to go on vacation, it is a greater challenge to only consider my client's best interest. I have successfully rationalized my dilemma and have convinced myself that my ethics are intact. But, in reality, what other occupation requires someone to work for hundreds of hours with no immediate pay, and with the real possibility of not getting paid at all. Workers in America expect compensation for their work. I feel that I, in reality, am merely a professional gambler, which doesn't really comport with my perception of what a lawyer should be.

Those lawyers on 60 Minutes are undoubtedly not paid by contingent fee, but to recover their $1,000 an hour hourly fees, they have to get the business. Lawyers are held to high ethical standards, as we should be. But, lawyers, as humans, can be blinded by greed. While I was embarrassed by the 60 Minutes expose, I also understand the dilemma those lawyers who were  surreptitiously recorded faced. Fortunately, I can't fathom being asked to launder money, since I have no expertise whatsoever in setting up shell companies or hiding assets.  So, my immediate dilemma is avoided. If I had such "expertise," I hope I would act as the lawyer who threw the bums out of his office. I have to believe that I would. I really hope I would. Theoretical moral dilemmas are easier to solve than real ones.

We lawyers rationalize that people hate us because we are misunderstood. We rationalize that people hate us because of the tacky lawyers ads that are beneath those of us who do not buy television time.
We lawyers rationalize that people hate us because of the few bad apples like Saul of "Better Call Saul."  Those reasons may partially explain the lawyer hatred dating back to Shakespeare's time. I wonder if other lawyers worry, as I do, that lawyers are really, deep down, hated because sometimes we just act despicably.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

In Praise of Political Correctness

These days "Political Correctness" receives a lot of flack. Clint Eastwood, a wealthy, famous, old white man decries our pursuit of political correctness. He pines for the America of his youth. Of course, the America of his youth included state sponsored racial segregation, married women who could not get credit cards in their own names, and the criminalization of inter-racial marriage. But, at that time, there was a certain group, of which Clint Eastwood is a member, in charge. No African-American or female would dare seek the Presidency. 

Why do people hate political correctness anyway?  Freedom forum politcal correctness is freedom to bully others without recourse. Refraining from using the "n" word is politically correct. What's not politically correct?  Racial slurs, sexual harassment, jokes about Hipanics, people with disabilities, women. 

For some people, it makes them feel better about themselves if they can insult and denigrate others. Bullies have thin skin, are insecure and have low self-esteem. Perhaps they were bullied, or were abused, maybe verbally, physically and/or sexually. Sometimes, the oppressed becomes the oppressor. We do not really explore what oftentimes makes bullies - generations of abuse. Bullies create other bullies.

Political correctness is synonymous with treating others with respect. Treating people with respect is contagious. Compassion brings out the best in others. Bullying brings out the worst. I like political correctness. It shows we as humans are improving as a species. Treating others with respect is the best way to live. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Why We Need A Woman President

I know that many people, including women, do not see the need for a female president. They think that women are capable, women head other countries, and a woman will eventually be president anyway. Many of these women are young and have experienced no sexism in their lifetimes. Perhaps, for them, once they bear children, society will treat them as well as men and there will be no pay differential. Perhaps, my representation of women in employment discrimination and sexual harassment cases will dry up, because sex discrimination will be obliterated in this new, open-minded society. However, we are not there yet.

I know things are better than when I was a girl. We no longer have want ads that separate "men's" and "women's" jobs in the newspaper, like we did when I was young. Women can no longer evade jury duty simply because of their gender. Perhaps the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the Vatican won't prohibit women with sleeveless blouses and shorter skirts, like I was banned in 1973 when my grandmother took our family to Israel and Rome. And, at least in the Kansas City area, judges can no longer ban women in slacks from their courtrooms, as one judge did early in my career. Perhaps bosses no longer will try to order their employees back to work 6 weeks after giving birth, as my boss did. I refused and stayed off for 3 months, but I caught hell for it.

Perhaps judges no longer will chat only with male lawyers about hunting and fishing during a trial while ignoring rye female lawyer, as happened to me even though the male lawyers were incompetent and unable to ask appropriate questions and make an appropriate opening statement, as happened to me early in my career. Perhaps judges will no longer order me and my female clients to refrain from "crying" during trial, while requiring no such behavior from male lawyers or witnesses.  Perhaps rural male judges will not tend to believe male trial lawyers in contested trials over female lawyers, ruling in favor of the males most of the time as happened to me just a few years ago.

Perhaps girls will automatically be paid as much as boys, unlike the young pizza restaurant employees in KCK, who spoke at the Democratic convention.  Perhaps people will recognize the substantial women breadwinners instead of statements made by Donald Trump's campaign director, claiming women will vote in the interest of their husbands/breadwinners.  Perhaps sexual harassment will just stop suddenly.

Women have had the right to vote in this country only since 1920, when my grandmother was 15. While three women are on the Supreme Court, I don't think it is a coincidence that only one of them is a mother. It is much easier for male lawyers to be parents than female lawyers.

Whether you see it or not, we need a female president. It will make a difference In the lives of millions of girls.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Russia

Why so many hits from Russia on this blog?  Did Donald Trump send you?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Inclusion - No Donald Trump Baloney Today

Mark Twain famously declared, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our  people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."  

WHEN YOU TAKE THE TIME TO GET TO KNOW PEOPLE WHO APPEAR TO BE DIFFERENT TO YOU, WITH A GENUINELY OPEN MIND, YOU WILL PROBABLY DEVELOP COMPASSION AND EMPATHY, THE OPPOSITE OF HATRED AND FEAR.  

Consider the Hispanic boy in kindergarten who is in your son's class, or the African-American employee you know. Engage those people. Listen to their stories. Find about their families   People in different cultures oftentimes have similar values. 

In 2007 my husband and I were in France and we need a cab driver around 4:00 a.m.  The driver obviously wanted to get home and was somewhat cranky. I asked him where he was from. He warned slightly and said he came from a mountainous region between Spain an France. I asked him if he was a Basque, people living in that region who want independence. We then discussed the geo-political events, and totally bonded. By the end of the ride we had a wonderful conversation, which I remember to this day. 

IT'S TIME TO WORK TO ELIMINATE INHERENT BIASES IN SCHOOLS, BUSINESSES, AND SOCIETY AT LARGE. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT RACISM, SEXISM, LGBT DISCRIMINATION AGEISM, AND DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION IN OUR SCHOOLS, IN OUR HOMES AND OUR WORKPLACES. IF WE ARE GOING TO ERADICATE UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION, WE MUST TALK ABOUT IT. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Always Look At The Bright Side of Life..."

I love Monty Python's "Life of Brian". Before South Park, before Louis CK, before Borat, there was Monty Python, lovely, dark and sacreligious.

Times are dark now. It's almost like the 60s when the Temptations sang "Ball of Confusion,"

"People moving out, people moving in
Why, because of the color of their skin
Run, run, run but you sure can't hide
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
Vote for me and I'll set you free
Rap on, brother, rap on
Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody's interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation
Ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that's what the world is today . . ."

So, I am taking a break from Email-gate, Trump-land, police-killing, Black men killing, and media-fest sensationalism. I am going to follow the first Kansas City Royal since George Brett in 1981 to get the most MLB All-Star Votes -  Profesor Salvador Perez to San Diego. Mr. Royal Perez, the nicest man in baseball, brings joy and caring wherever he goes. I am sure he makes his mother proud. He makes me proud. And, I get to follow this gentle, kind and funny man to San Diego to watch him play for the American League. I hope to have nothing but fun and relaxation before the disaster of the Republican Convention starts next week in Cleveland.  And then, I am going to watch the Royals, with Salvy's help, beat the unfortunate Cleveland Indians while they flee to KC to escape the crazy convention in their town. 
GO, SALVY, GO!!!




Saturday, July 2, 2016

Monsters

Over forty people killed in Turkey. Twenty people killed in Bangladesh. That's just in the last few days. What is wrong with these people?  How do we stop them?  These killings are senseless. How do you reason with people who are willing to strap bombs on their compatriots to kill innocent civilians.

What causes radicalization?  These killers are radicalized Muslims.  Are they insane?  Most Muslims are decent human beings. How do people end up becoming monsters?

They weren't born wanting to commit mass murder. What makes them behave this way?

I could research the process of radicalization, but right now, I don't want to. I don't really want to empathize; I don't want to understand them. There's really no excuse. How awful. How evil. Most people are good. Not these folks. Evil.






Sunday, June 12, 2016

Enough!

What is the matter with us?  Why do we sell AR15's?  Why do we sell ammunition for assault rifles? The Second Amendment does not say that Americans have the right to keep assault weapons. This is crazy. One man took out 50 people and injured another 53. Should we just ban white males?  That makes as much sense as banning Muslims. All mass murderers are white males. Perhaps what we really should ban are assault weapons. Enough! 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

I Want To Be A Juror

Tomorrow I am reporting for jury duty, and I'm excited. I have never been on a jury. I believe in the jury system whole-heartedly. The jury system is illustrates what is right with this country. We are the only nation in the world that employs juries in both criminal and civil cases. Trial by jury is constitutionally protected for both criminal and civil cases in our nation. That's one of the reasons that this country is great.

I have picked a lot if juries and I believe that juries, by and large, do the right thing. Studies show that with small group decisions, like juries, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. When jurors work together, which they usually do, justice is the beneficiary. While, I certainly have not won every jury trial, I still fervently believe in juries. People on juries represent who we are as a nation and what values we cherish.  

Most jurors take their jobs very seriously. Twelve jurors are more likely than a sole decision-maker to root out the truth. Jurors can be, and usually are, brave, when courage is necessary. Jurors are the conscience of our community. Most people are good and want to be fair. A jury of twelve is more intelligent than one person.  I believe in the decency and fairness of Americans.

I will do my best to be open-minded, open-hearted, and I pledge to listen and think. I want to be part of what makes our judicial system great. I want to do my part. I am looking forward to reporting for jury duty, whether I am plucked for service or not. I am filled with pride that I am an American and I finally get to serve. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Speaking Truth To Power

It's hard to buck the status quo. The Constitutional declaration that, "All men are created equal," does not really state what many leaders believe. How many brave revolutionaries have been imprisoned or killed because of their beliefs? Martin Luther King, who professed non-violence, was jailed numerous times. Gandhi and King were both assassinated. Abraham Lincoln, the president, was assassinated for freeing slaves. Our nation incarcerates more people than any other.

We have an aristocracy in this country. Politics creates aristocracy. Fame and fortune create aristocracy. Woody Allen, Bill Cosby are forgiven for violent crimes while minor transgressions by members of the masses are punished harshly. Studies show that people born into poverty will likely live impoverished themselves. We may be electing a megalomaniac for president. Popular sports figures get passes unless caught assaulting people on camera or caught murdering others execution-style.

We are not equal under the law. Just as George Orwell said in Animal House,  "All people are created equal, but some people are more equal to others."  Kansas public schools may be shut down. Is education only for the rich?  Why are student loans not discharge able in bankruptcy while Donald Trump is a serially bankrupt person?  Corporations are people. Really?

I know I sound rambling. The truth is I did something today challenging authorities And, I am nervous. Powerful people generally do not hanker to those challenging them. Being polite and deferential in our society is perceived as superior to bucking the system. Today, I tried to buck the system. I wasn't polite and I wasn't deferential and I am nervous.

Sometimes you need to just go down swinging.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Post-Nazi Sexism

Last year I went to Berlin for the first time. I expected to hate Germany, since my mother, grandmother, grandfather, and great-grandmother fled the Nazis in October 1938, just days before Kristallnacht. Many of our relatives were not as fortunate, eventually perishing at Auschwitz. Deciding to go to Germany was tough, but my feelings changed once I arrived. Germany was amazing. The people I met, mostly lawyers, talked openly about the dark days of Nazism with shame and regret. I was there to participate in an American trial demonstration for the German-American Lawyers Association, since the German civil legal system works markedly different than our American system. I so enjoyed getting to know our German counterparts. One of the American lawyers on the trip was a judge from Texas. He, too, had Jewish parents who had escaped the Nazis in Germany. He had been back to Germany many times, eventually obtaining dual citizenship in America and Germany. It seems that descendants of Jews who lost their German citizenship from 1933-1945 because they were Jewish are entitled to become German citizens.

German citizens can travel unrestricted throughout the European Union. The Germany of today is a progressive state. Germans still work hard, just as I remember my grandmother and great-grandmother filling their "free" time cooking, cleaning and baking. I loved my grandparents and loved the qualities they gained from their German heritage before Germany went crazy. Although I never learned to speak German, since anything German was discouraged as I grew up, I heard plenty of German around my grandparents' house.

Reconnecting with my German roots sounded interesting. I am an American first and foremost, but getting the benefits of German co-citizenship was inviting. Plus, the thought of having options if we elect a President Trump seemed reassuring. So, I got online and found the law allowing people like me some justice - regaining German citizenship in the family. I began gathering the necessary documents, my mother's birth certificate, American citizenship papers, my birth certificate, etc.  Dual citizenship, here I come, or so I thought.

I discovered a glitch in German law that foils my quest to be semi-German. That glitch is my non-bastardhood. My father's family came to America by way of Palestine from Poland just one year before he was born in 1929. Even though my parents divorced when I was little and I was raised by my mother and grandmother, my mother was married to my father when I was born. And, it seems, that I cannot become a German citizen unless my father was a Jewish German refugee instead of a first generation American-almost Polish refugee. The only way I can become a German citizen because of Hitler's genocidal focus on my family is if my mother was my father, or if my mother was an unwed mother.

How ironic. The law to partially remedy Hitler's anti-Semitic genocide to restore citizenship is cancelled out by European society's longstanding sexism. I could complain to the German government, but since I know their civil justice system, with lack of jury trials, sucks, I don't think I will get anywhere. I suppose if Trump wins, I will have to flee to Nova Scotia with the rest of the Americans, which totally ironic, since Germany's Chancellor is Angela Merkel. Perhaps the screwed up German laws of citizenship explain why Merkel, obviously a woman, chose not to have children.
Perhaps she feared her descendants could someday lose German citizenship, after she worked so hard to help the European Union. This sucks. MLK said, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."  Well, the history arc sometimes does not bend quickly enough.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Arc of History Is Bending Toward Justice

Fifty years ago, in 1966, I was 13 years old. Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive. The Civil Rights Movement was fully on, but mostly ignored by my 13 year old self.  My family had escaped Nazis 28 years before, but even that meant little to me.  We, my brother and sister and I, lived with my mother.  My mother met a man that year with seven kids and, after four weeks, they decided to marry. I learned a lot in the next four years, before they thankfully divorced. While I had heard the 'n' word, I heard it spoken in our household by this man as never before. He drank a lot of beer, cursed a lot of words, and landed a lot of punches on my mother's body. It was quite a learning experience for a young adolescent girl. I did not know the meaning of the word "whore" until I heard it vomited from this man's mouth. He was vile, vulgar and violent. Outside of the obvious negative impact on the four of us, I had never known a more racist, sexist or hateful human being. He has long since passed. Drinking, smoking and raging does not promote longevity. Back then, I knew no one who admitted to being gay, or "queer" as it was called then. Any gay person with any sense stayed in the closet so as not to be "rolled" or beaten by a group of teenagers. Life was considerably different in 1966 than it is today.

I became a lawyer in 1983.  In 1991, Congress amended the Civil Rights Act, first passed in 1964, to include damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, and jury trials. I was immediately drawn to Civil Rights cases, not really understanding why. Back then, women came to me with stories of their bosses fondling them, demanding sex, and firing the women when the boss' sexual needs were unmet. I figured I had about ten years handling sexual harassment cases, and by then after the years of jury verdicts decrying sexual harassment, I would have to go back to handling personal injury cases because sexual harassment would be eliminated. It's been 25 years, and, unfortunately, I still have plenty of discrimination cases. Yet, my prediction was partly true. Employers recognized the economic toll on their businesses when hound dog bosses were allowed to prey on young female employees. Sexual harassment has not been completely eradicated, but it is surely diminished.

 My old partner used to say, "People do the right thing if you make them."  A financial incentive worked to curtail sexual harassment, the economic incentive to eradicate a company's harassment was compelling to businesses. Racial harassment has become unpopular, although racial bias still exists, but in much more subtle forms. Age discrimination is still rampant, but may be on the decline, at least overtly.

LGBT discrimination, however, is still legal in Missouri and Kansas.  I had a cousin who I represented in a car accident case in the 1980's.  He was hit by a drunk driver. I produced my cousin for a deposition.  My cousin admitted to me something he could never tell his parents, that he was gay. In the deposition, the opposing counsel questioned him if my cousin had ever had sex with men, something totally irrelevant to his case. I went ballistic, called the lawyer out as despicable. After the deposition, my cousin thanked me profusely. In retrospect, I realize that he was thanking me for protecting him and merely treating him as a human being. My poor cousin settled his case, but never officially came out. He died a very sad man.

While in 2016, we still are not at a point where the law protects the LGBT community from employment and housing discrimination, but I see it coming. I see it coming soon. My cousin will not be around to see it. But people coming after him will.  I see it in the attitudes of young people, in the way gays and Blacks and women are regarded by my children and those even younger. People do the right thing if you make them. And their children are more likely to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing.

I see a different world fifty years hence.  Martin Luther King was right. "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."  While each person cannot expect justice, justice is coming. It's too bad I will not be alive in 50 years to see it. But, knowing it's coming is at least somewhat satisfying.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

We Need A Diverse Judiciary

People are attracted to others with whom they can relate. That is a fact of nature. Yet, most members of the judiciary are still white men. White men comprise an increasingly smaller percentage of the populace, but a large percentage of lawyers and judges. Some of these lawyers, especially in more country settings, are descended from long lines of country club lawyers, who golf, drink martinis, and vote together.  They are less likely to have been exposed to other lawyers with different backgrounds.

I'll tell you why I bring this up now, after practicing more than 30 years. I mainly practice in Kansas City, with its diverse and open-minded judiciary. I've gotten spoiled. While I don't always agree with local judges, I cannot remember a time where I thought a Jackson County judge treated me or my client differently based on race or sex. I guess, as an old woman, I have age on my side, since I have a lot years in this job. When I was s young woman lawyer, older male lawyers would test me, which I attributed to either my age or my youth. My reaction was less than ideal. When crossed, I yelled and screamed back. I scare myself when I think how aggressive I was. But, I received a grudging "respect" from opposing counsel who tried to intimidate me.  As I got older, I got friendlier. I found less need to "prove" myself, or perhaps I was just more confident, with less need to lash out. Occasionally, I felt older judges took me less seriously at times, so I worked harder. Through the years, with my increased experience through many, many, many years and the concomitant increased numbers of women and minorities, I did not even think about me or my clients being slighted by a judge. The judges around here work hard, strive to be impartial, understand diversity and by-and-large treat people fairly in their courtrooms in civil cases. I have no experience with criminal cases, so I cannot comment on that. 

Now, to finally get to my point. The very rare couple of times I have felt that I was treated with less respect than the white male opposing counsel, were instances with white male judges from rural areas.   I don't jump to conclusions that a judge is sexist. In those two occasions where I suspect my gender made a difference, it didn't dawn on me until later. In one instance, I tried a jury trial in front of an older white male judge from the country, where, as the days in trial rolled by, I realized that my objections were being overruled, while my defense counterpart's objections were sustained. The evidence I needed in the trial was excluded by the court, while the defense attorney got all his evidence admitted without problems. I may be wrong and the judge may not have been biased. He never mase a derogatory comment to me. I did not raise sex as issue. I'm too macho to play the gender card, but I can't help but wonder. 

That trial was a few years ago. I revisit the trial the issue because of something more recent. I traveled to a more rural country many miles from Jackson County regarding a motion I filed in a sex discrimination case. Judges in rural counties run in partisan elections for judgeships, unlike Jackson County, where judges are appointed by the Governor after the applicants are winnowed down by a committee of lawyers and laypeople. I had never met this white male judge before. I am at least 15 years older than the white male opposing counsel. It was my motion, meaning it was incumbent on me to explain it. Yet, invariably, when the judge spoke, he looked at and addressed the opposing counsel, who was also not local.  The difference between him and me was our respective genders. I felt like I needed to interrupt to get the judge's attention.  When questions were asked of opposing counsel that should have been asked of me, I had to pipe up and answer. I felt frustrated.

After all these years, it's tiresome for me to address what appears to be a sexist judge. I suspect most lawyers he knows in his counties are men. I suppose he has no clue that he treats women lawyers differently than men. I can take care of myself, though.  Remember, I'm macho. But what happens to any hapless African-American, Latino, foreign-born, woman, or poorly educated litigant who appears before judges like him?  Can they get justice in this "good ol' boy club" in the country?  

How can we fix this?  Well, one thing we don't need are elected judges. We need judicial diversity. We don't need patrician lawyers descended from long lines of patrician lawyers becoming patrician judges. I do not mean to say all white male judges are discriminatory. Jackson county's example proves quite the contrary. But, sometimes in Missouri, the further you travel from an urban area the closer you are to time-traveling to the 1950's. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Clients - Your Lawyer Is Not Supposed To Have Sex With You

People going through divorces or child custody battles are vulnerable. This is not a professional opinion, since I do not handle family law cases. This is common sense. It is also common sense that your lawyer, often times happening in family law litigation, should not make sexual overtures to you. It wasn't until 2007 that Missouri finally adopted an ethical rule making it an ethical violation for a lawyer to have sex with his or her client. It took that long to codify what is common sense.

Lawyers and clients are not in an even playing field when clients are dependent on their lawyers for outcomes in their cases. This is true in family law settings. A client needs to trust his or her lawyer and a lawyer needs to be trustworthy and not motivated by emotion, lust or crushes. Unfortunately, sometimes lawyers violate the client's trust and engage in sexual relationships with clients. That is never okay. I have represented clients on several occasions where lustful lawyers place their "needs" above those of their clients. One such lawyer was elevate to a judgeship before he was dethroned, disbarred and criminally prosecuted. He was also a leader in his church. He was a fraud.

Some lawyers are not strangers to egotism, narcissism, sociopathy.  Others may be unhappy, confused and insecure. There are professional services available to disturbed lawyers. Lawyers taking advantage of their clients sexually is never acceptable. There never is an excuse for a lawyer to have a sexual relationship with a client. Never. If your lawyer comes on to you, you need to report him or her to the state bar. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Trial Bloodlust

I have never been to war. I have never been threatened physically in a courtroom. Yet, I imagine going to trial is the closest non-physical contest to war. I say non-physical, not non-violent. I believe that some lawyers can do violence to the opposite party of not checked, provoking anxiety, shame or PTSD. I understand why most lawyers choose not to battle in the courtroom, especially in front of a jury. A good trial lawyer risks becoming virtually naked, raw and vulnerable, like BeyoncĂ© in Lemonade. The jury gets to see the lawyer at his or her most vulnerable. We try to protect our clients and take the brunt of the hits. We try to demolish our opponents,  polite as necessary to avoid the turning the tied of jury regard.

By the time most lawyers get to trial, they must rely on their former good judgment in times of cooler heads. By trial time, all, or most, objectivity is gone. We are raving maniacs trying to hide our madness. The modern jury trial system was developed to curtail trial by battle. No more limbs or heads or genitalia to be hacked off the defeated warrior. But, trial by jury can feel like death by guillotine.

We lawyers like to act civilized and pretend our battles involve simply skirmishes of logic and reasoning. But, trials are a engines of raw emotions, ego and insecurity. We all claim we  battle merely for justice. But truth and right are often in the eyes of the beholder. Truth be told, we thrive on battle. We fight. We fight for our clients. We fight for justice. We fight for our ego. And above all, we just fight.

I am a 63 year old woman, scarred and disfigured by more than 39 years in the trenches,  having withstood hundreds of battles. Sometimes, I tire and convince myself my battle-list is dissipated.  I stop fighting for awhile. The more time elapses from my last battle I travel from my last battle, the more I long to battle again. This legal bloodlust comes from someplace deep within. I am bored on the sidelines. I must find a client for whom I can crusade. The scars begin to heal and I re-enter the ring to re-tear my flesh open. By the time I die, I will be nothing but scar tissue, gristle and arthritic bone.  What a strange profession and what odd creatures  are wewho are drawn to it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

To Those Lost Friends And Foes Of Cases Past

I have practiced law for many years. In that time, I have kept in touch with some former clients,and lost track of others. I have lost track of most opposing parties and witnesses. However, many of the people I meet stay with me.  This past week, I found out one of my past clients died. I miss him already. This man was a kind and gentle soul. He was a nurse and he cared about others. He fought for the rights of himself and others. He made a good life for himself and traveled with his spouse up until the end. I looked through the wonderful photos of his life, his garden with his flowers, his basketball games and his trips to Hawaii, and I can't believe he is gone. I miss the thought of his joy.

The first client I remembering dying was a vital, sweet mother of two.  She had been sexually harassed and she found the courage to fight, and she found she won the fight. My dear client was ecstatic. She had money to raise her two young boys. One of her first purchases with her newly acquired cash was a brand new car. She felt she had a fresh start and the world was a different place. One day, before work, she went to visit her mother. On the way to work, after the visit, her car careened off the road and she died. Those little boys were motherless. Since they had different fathers, the two boys never lived as brothers again. I expect, The boys would be grown by now.

Another client, a dear older man, died last year. He died of old age. We represented him when he stepped into a hidden hole and broke his ankle, ending the couples' dancing classes and recitals. They were married many years and loved to play penny slots at the casinos, grow their own vegetables, and play with their grandchildren. While I was saddened by his death, I know he lived a good life and brought joy to many others.

There is one more man I remember. He died by his own hand a decade or more ago. He had a wife and children, too. This man was not my client, but the manager of a restaurant I had sued for sexual harassment. This man did not engage in the sexual assaults. In fact, he was unaware of the assaults until after they occurred. I took this man's deposition. I do not recall treating him unkindly. I do not recall that he appeared to be disturbed, angry or mentally ill. Just a few weeks after I took his deposition, this man ended his life. I am sure he must have been troubled. I believe that I did not cause his death. However, the opposing counsel told me this man was upset because of the litigation. I suppose I have a little fear that something I said might have contributed to his unwise decision to die.

I remember all four of these people, but in different ways. I mourn my most recent client. It pains me to think that he is gone. We all end, but I want my memories of him to remain. All four of these deaths have profoundly affected me. I do not want to forget any of them. Dead people live, in a way, if they are remembered. I have no way to tie what I write here into a neat bow. They all lived, and
died, in different ways. We will all live and die. We want our lives, before the end, to have meaning. I want my life to be meaningful before I go.  I suppose all of us do.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Making the Most of What Comes Next

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about dying.  I am not dying, to my knowledge, any more than the rest of us, who will all end our existence on this earth with death.  At the age of 63, I have been thinking about what makes us happy until we meet the end of our days.  How do we accept that all of our lives are going to end.

I read "Being Mortal" by Arul Gawande and I recommend that book to everyone.  He talks about the reality of dying and what is important.  He asks his patients who are mortally ill a few questions. What is your understanding of what is happening to you?  What are the goals for the rest of your life? What trade-offs are you willing to make to accomplish your goals.  Not to sound too trite, those questions can also be asked of plaintiffs in discrimination cases.  What is your understanding of what has happened to you at work?  What is you goal in your lawsuit - getting as much money as you can, justice for you, justice for others, going to trial, or not going to trial?  What are you willing to do to accomplish those goals?  Trial exacts a tremendous cost to those willing to go through trial, which can be equated to a sort of death, an actual judgment day.

However, I digress.  When I started pondering death, to be fair and truthful, it was not in the context of litigation.  It was in the context of what makes one's life worth living.  Gawande writes that people are most satisfied with their lives when they feel they have accomplished something for the greater good.  I think greater good is relative.  If one has made another person happy, a father, son, daughter, spouse, lover, then I think there is a fair argument that their life is a success.  Making another person happy is working to a greater good.  Working for goals one believes in is working for a greater good. Helping a child, an elderly person, a student, just helping someone else, is working toward the greater good.

Gawande spends a lot of time talking about listening to others to determine how they want to live out their life.  His principles are applicable to living life in general, but he particularly writes about helping someone to live the life he or she wants in their final days.  I realized reading the book that my father was able to do just that before he died.  My father died too young.  He was just 59 years old when he died from complications of a pulmonary embolism caused due to his poor health from diabetes and congestive heart failure in 1989.  My dad was informed that the surgeons were not going to take his damaged leg as had been planned, and that he only had a few days to live.

All four of my dad's children, including me, traveled to my father's hospital bed in Rochester, New York.  He lived another 10 days and he made the most of his time.  He was lucid and understood his fate.  During those final days, he apologized for any perceived faux pas of his past, whether real or imagined.  He told me that the divorce from my mother was all his fault, even though I know divorce is never caused by just one person in a marriage.  He told me how much he loved me and he told me he was proud of me.  He had encouraged me to go to law school when I expressed frustration with my civil service job when I was 25 years old.  After my first jury trial, a slip and fall case, where the jury gave my client everything I asked for (a result that was quite rare for me in later years) he burst with pride.  My dad was gentle, kind, caring and realistic about his plight.  He wanted to tell each of his children what we had meant to him.  He wondered if there was something after death, even though he was a self-professed atheist.  In my mind, my dad was too young to go, but he had always said that he would prefer leaving 5 years too soon rather than 5 years too late. He implored us to take care of his mother, whom we all knew was quite a handful.  He would no longer be able to make the five minute calls to check on her every Sunday.

After ten days, my dad finally became disoriented.  On Friday of that week, Dad's final day, he told me that in the night before, the nurses had tied his hands down so that he could not continue to pull the tubes out of his orifices. He proudly declared, that he wrested himself from the restraints, pulled off his hospital gown and sat naked in the room chair before anyone noticed his freedom.  Within a few hours, he took his last breath, with three of his children and his wife standing over his deathbed.

My dad died well.  My dad died with great dignity.  I, too, want to die with dignity.  One of the things that scares me is that what I have worked for in this lifetime will be forgotten, that my life will be devoid of meaning in the end.  Then I remember my dad, as I have many times through these last 26 years.  I remember my great grandmother, such a kind and gentle woman who died right after my eleventh birthday in 1963.  I remember my maternal grandmother, who saved the family by orchestrating the exodus from Germany in 1938.  She died on my husband's birthday the year of my daughter's birth, 1985.   Then I realized, as long as we are remembered by loved ones, the ones whom cared for us and whom we cared about, our lives are not in vain.  My father is alive in my heart, as are my grandmother and even my great grandmother.  These people helped to shape who I have become and I have helped to shape my children, my husband and my loved ones.

Life is beautiful, but it must end.  Living life on one's own terms and recognizing what matters is what I wish for everyone.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What Do You Want - Justice or Simply to Win?

I watched the HBO movie about Anita Hill. I always thought she was telling the truth. Perhaps because of Ms Hill, Congress passed the amendments to the Civil Rights Act which provided for jury trials in discrimination cases. Perhaps, as a result of Senator Jack Danforth's nimonation of Clarence Thomas, and perhaps because of some guilt Danforth felt over the way he treated Ms Hill, Senator Danforth agreed to sponsor the Americans with Disabilities Act. I don't know. I have always respected Senator Danforth, but I don't respect the way he treated Anita Hill. I watched the hearings and I think HBO gave Biden more credit for being decent than he was do. Danforth wanted to win. So, the Senators smeared Anita Hill's reputation.  It wasn't fair. It wasn't just. But they won. Clarence Thomas has been on the Supreme Court for 25 years.

Anita Hill's abuse was no different than a candidate on the wrong side of a politician's campaign. They all want to win. They are taken by the desire. Winning becomes more important than justice, or dignity or fairness. I don't mean to sound holier than thou. Trial lawyers, including me, get taken by the desire to win a trial.  Cross-examination is often similar to a bully beating up a younger kid. Lawyers hone their cross-examination skills for years, pouncing on an unsuspecting lay witness. Usually, it's not a fair fight. I know.  I can cross-examine a witness and wound them to the core, even when it's unwarranted.  When I go to trial, I lose objectivity. I want to win.

I suppose it's my job to win. It's not my job to be just. Justice is the responsibility of a judge and jury. But, when I allow myself to be honest with myself, I am not proud of seeking victory over seeking justice. Trial lawyers, including me, have big egos. I used to tell myself that the big egos only belonged to the other guys, not me. And when I rationalized egotists were "guys," I meant they were men. But, I realize, I merely was rationalizing to convince myself that I have little ego. I admit it now, I have a big ego. Yet, in representing my clients, I am supposed to want to win, for them. I do want to win, for them, and also for me. I don't know how to do this job any differently. Sometimes, when I allow myself to strip the facade, I feel somewhat hypocritical. I don't know how to fix this dilemma. Maybe I can't.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Life of a Trial Lawyer

My Mississippi friend Vicki Robinson Slater, wrote;

"Do you know what a trial lawyer is?  Unlike doctors or other lawyers, they don't demand cash on the barrel head for services.  Because even middle class Americans can't really afford a lawyer.  So they fight for their clients and work many 60, 70 and 80 hour weeks with no pay unless they win the case.  They have been vilified, laughed at, warred on and joked about.  They watch every piece of legislation in the State capitols and in DC and warn people when their rights are being diminished.  Like most prophets, their warnings are rarely heeded and the people scoff in disbelief.  Their numbers are diminishing - they are growing old and dying off - and when they are gone then there will be no rights left.  The people have been convinced by Karl Rove and corporate America ALEC and the Koch Bros. to fight against their own warriors, the only lawyers who will stand with them and once the people help defeat their own warriors - they will be unmoored not only from the most basic of human rights, but also from their dignity."

I sometimes say that being a plaintiffs' trial lawyer is like being a professional gambler. We never KNOW what the outcome of a case will be. We represent people on contingent fees and sometimes things go wrong and our clients lose. Even though I have other cases, it is hard for me to emotionally recover forum a loss. Obviously, I know it can be devastating for my clients and I do not want to underplay their sense of loss. But, for me, it is also devastating. I feel that I have not only disappointed my client, but also I must myself and others in similar circumstances to my client.  I delve deep trying to understand what I did wrong, what I misunderstood, and in what actions I failed. It takes months for me to recover from a trial loss. In the last two years, I have three trial wins and three trial losses. I focus on the losses.  It's not just because I don't get paid if I lose. Practicing law is not a mere hobby, it is my livelihood. By the time I go to trial, I am convinced my case is just. So, I must deconstruct the case and determine what went wrong. I want to learn from my losses, but it is painful to relive them.

I believe in civil rights and I believe we are on the cusp of gender equality in wages and LGBTQ equality. Yet, we haven't achieved racial equality or anything close to it even though we have been working on those issues for over 150 years. Prejudices run deep.

I have been fighting this fight, and getting paid only when we settle a case or win it outright, for 33 years. Fighting for 33 years, more than half of my lifetime, takes a toll. I am not as idealistic as I was. I am much more cynical. And sometimes I tire of the fight. But after this length of time, I am little suited for any other job and I believe being a trial lawyer is now inextricably a part of me.

I am going to the KC Royals opening game tonight. I love watching those young guys fight!  Would professional athletes keep playing professionally if they were only paid when they win?  Can you imagine a Workd Series where winner takes all the money?  So, how crazy are we trial lawyers?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

All You Need Is Love - Don't Discriminate Against LGBTQ

The Missouri Legislature is reconvening Monday. The Senate, after forcing the cessation of a 39 hour filibuster, passed SJR 39, a measure specifically targeting members of the LGBTQ community for discrimination.  The measure is going before the Missouri House. Stop SJR 39! There are many brave legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, who oppose this legislation. Missouri religious freedom is already protected by several Missouri statutes, the Missouri Constitution and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Don't be fooled. This resolution, SJR39, is designed to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. This is not who we, as Missourians, are.

Remember the Beatles, who were ahead of their time. All you need is love.

All you need is love, all together now
All you need is love, everybody
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need