Dead Lawyer Society

Last week, I attended Continuing Legal Education (CLE) in Manhattan, Kansas. This is not to be confused with the Manhattan borough of New York City. They are quite different. For instance, we might consider how to find each. The old joke about Manhattan, KS is that you travel west out of Kansas City on I-70 until you smell it, then turn north and continue until you step in it. Manhattan, NYC, on the other hand, draws with its gravitational pull. You can control your descent into it, but only if your will allows.

For me, the difference is much simpler. Manhattan Island, unlike Manhattan, Kansas, has some redeeming qualities (with apologies to JMo, you know I love you, buddy).

I attended this particular CLE because I needed it, not because I necessarily wanted it. They offered, in one 2-day seminar, 12 total hours of credit (2 of which addressed Professional Responsibility). Wonderful. I can get the requirement for FY 2011 knocked-out in two days. I do so applaud efficiency.

I knew no one, nor did I expect to see any familiar faces. I wasn’t particularly social in law school, and I haven’t socialized in Kansas for more than 20 years. So, I saw no reason to encounter any semblance of familiarity. To pass the time, I eavesdropped and people-watched, all in blissful anonymity.

This was the first CLE seminar I’ve ever attended. Prior to this year, I was exempted from CLE requirements due to my military service, and the military classes/seminars I attended in years past consisted of a relatively homogenous group of lawyers.

What I heard and saw was interesting. The younger (pre-40) lawyers did little talking. Mostly, they consumed energy drinks and fiddled with electronics. The middle-aged crowd socialized in very niche groups. You had the cleancut-civil-law-types in one corner talking about the amusing (only to them) arguments in their latest pleading. The beatnik/burnout crowd all gathered in another corner and bitched about their income and the last time they got their ass handed to them by the pre-40 crowd. The personal injury folks pranced around each other dressed in their Bernie Madoff duds, and the CDLs all sulked at their seats looking like their breakfast consisted of rice crispies pissed-upon by a government official.

Then there were the old folks. This CLE had a large contingent of AARP brethren whose purpose in attending was to maintain their law license. Most didn’t practice, or practiced in a very limited fashion. They clung to their licenses for their own reasons. Most, I suspect, wanted to feel relevant. After all, each of us has a bit of Willy Loman hiding in the back of our soul.

They talked and talked. They arrived early and gathered in groups of 2-4, talking about what was on their minds. They talked about the same thing.

Dead people.

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Do What I Say Or Get Out Of My Blog

I’ve been absent for about a week, and I apologize. I’ll be back in due time.

In the meantime, I have a public service announcement.

In short: save money and rid yourself of debt. Everyone, not just the militaryish folks out there.

This week is Military Saves Week. What is it?

Military Saves is a national campaign to persuade, motivate, and encourage military families to save money every month, and to convince leaders and organizations to be aggressive in promoting automatic savings.

Why should you join such a movement?

You’ll be a part of a global movement dedicated to personal financial stability. Financial stability is about a lot more than knowledge – it takes consistent action over time. Military Saves is a campaign to make every military community a supportive environment to assist in that.

What’s the catch? They want you to commit to two things:

  • I will help myself by saving money, reducing debt, and building wealth over time.
  • I will help my family and my country by encouraging other Americans to Build Wealth, Not Debt.

It won’t put beer in the fridge or an XBox in your living room, but it will make you financially independent, monetarily confident, and stable.

Too many people in today’s world do not save money. They are stupid for neglecting the bedrock of their financial wellbeing. And don’t tell me you don’t earn enough to save. I’ve seen the various superfluous electronic gadgets in your house and the overpriced processed food in your fridge. You have enough to save. No, stop arguing. I’ll no longer entertain your excuses.

I like to think that I have educated and enlightened readers on my blog. Prove it. I challenge each of you to do at least one of the following:

  • Contribute (or increase your contribution) to the Thrift Savings Plan (if you are a government employee).
  • Open or maximize your contribution to a Roth IRA.
  • If you have kids, start a 529 (college savings) plan.
  • Pay off a credit card. Or two. Or three.
  • Pay off your auto loan.
  • Maximize your 401K matching contribution.
  • Start systematically saving on the first day of every month.

Go. Save. Make yourself rich doing so. Feel the euphoria when you see a credit card balance at $0 or an investment account reach a milestone.

It’s for your own good.

You’re welcome.

Fine, I’ll Be Your Huckleberry

The war of the sexes heats up between Carolyn Elefant and Mike Cernovich (at Crime and Federalism). In a way, it’s the legal blog version of Bobby Riggs vs. Billy Jean King. It started with Mike, and Carolyn responded. You can see their blogs for the details. Be sure to also read the comments.

I can see Mike’s frustration. Actually, I’ve felt his frustration. The barrage of “you’d understand if you knew what it was like to ______________” comments is tiresome. At the same time, I try to understand the frustration on both sides of the fence, while managing my own in turn.

However, some comments really torque me. For instance, during a comment tiff directed at Mike:

Let me just ask you – do you have kids? Because it is very, very different – more than I could have ever imagined. Granted, it is a little harder for me now because my husband works out of town most weeks, but even when we were both here full time, someone had to pick up the slack – and it was me.

I can’t speak for Mike, but I have three. One in high school, one in grade school, and one I wish was in grade school. OK, so I can see a bit of the frustration, but I fail to see where such challenges are reserved for women. It seems to me that, anytime a partner picks up some slack, the act is a voluntary and conscious one–not one based on chromosome pairing.

Then, however, at Carolyn’s blog, she really sent me over the edge. She posed several questions, and preceded them with a condescending prologue:

As I said, I don’t blame men — but here are a few questions that I’d like Mike and his male colleagues to answer which may offer some insight:

Hmmm, I believe Mike is a lawyer. I think I’m a lawyer too. Does that make me a male colleague? Why, I guess it does. So, as for your “few questions,” I’ll be your huckleberry. Buckle up.

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How’s That For a Shifted Burden?

A few years ago, I represented a young man accused of “Aggravated Sexual Assault.” It was a pure case, with only one charge against this soldier. It was the first time I defended someone accused of this particular crime, as Article 120 (the military criminal statute regarding rape and most other sex-related crimes (except sodomy)) had recently been rewritten. Previously, all of my experience came from the “Old” Article 120 which was simply entitled “Rape and Carnal Knowledge.” Here’s the gist of the rape elements of old 120:

  1. The accused had sexual intercourse with another (sexual intercourse is penetration (penis to vagina), however slight).
  2. That the sexual intercourse occurred by force and without consent.

Typically, the first element was not contested and was easily proven by the prosecution. The second was not so easy. Force could be slight or constructive, but the consent piece was much more elusive. Most acquittals centered-around the defense showing, in some way, that the accused reasonably believed that consent existed or that the complaining witness engaged in some acts before, during, or after that tend to indicate consent.

Then, congress lowered the bar.

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If You Visit Malawi, Forget Taco Bell


The President of Malawi. Know why he has such a pained look on his face? He's been obeying the law. Image via Wikipedia

Say goodbye to the Malawi market, Taco Bell. You’re done.

Folks in the small, African nation believe in a high level of propriety, and why not? The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports:

Malawian lawmakers will next week debate a law change to criminalise public farting, which a cabinet minister said had been encouraged by democracy.

“The government has a right to ensure public decency. We are entitled to introduce order in the country,” justice and constitutional affairs minister George Chaponda told independent radio station Capital Radio.

“Would you like to see people farting in public anywhere?”

Since the country embraced multi-party politics 16 years ago people had felt free to fart anywhere, Mr Chaponda said.

“It was not there during the time of dictatorship because people were afraid of the consequences. Now because of multipartism or freedom, people would like to fart anywhere,” he said.

Damn freedom thing. It makes a country a disgusting, methane-filled mess. But, Chaponda is not leaving the people stopped-up with their natural gasses. He has a solution.

Mr Chaponda, a key figure in president Bingu wa Mutharika’s government, said that if Malawians cannot control their farting “they should go to the toilet instead of farting in public.”

“Nature can be controlled … it becomes a nuisance if people fart anywhere.”

Now, not only is Taco Bell no longer a viable restaurant to open in Malawi, but they should also seriously consider banning American Football (broadcast or live), Cheetos, beer (especially the cheap stuff), Jack’s Links Beef Jerky, and large quantities of non-dairy creamer. They should also seek to disallow visits from anyone who enjoys watching “Cannonball Run.”

You figure this Chaponda guy must be an uneducated prick, right?

A lawyer himself, Mr Chaponda said that under the amended law farting will be considered a minor offence.

Oh, there we go. The only thing that would add to my amusement there is if he was also a graduate of a “Massachusetts law school.” Then this would be rich, very rich.

Now, they are actually considering beefing-up (no pun intended) an already existing Malawi law. What does it say? I’m glad you asked.

“Any person who voluntarily vitiates the atmosphere in any place so as to make it noxious to the health of persons in general dwelling or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing along a public way, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.”

Now, that’s some fine lawmaking right there. The changes seek to expand the law to include all public locations. That’s great. I’m a fan of simplicity.

The law is brought to you by the same folks who ban pants on ladies and long hair on men.

I’d thank the Military Scott for bringing this to my attention, but I’m not sure if I really feel thankful.

Real Modern Lawyering

We can always trust Mirriam Seddiq to keep things grounded in the practice of law.

I hope that people who are thinking of becoming criminal defense lawyers aren’t doing it because they think we walk around with wings of angels or carry cool, wet cloths to wipe weary brows as we pass through cell blocks.  My wish is that people who are reading this know that it is really fucking hard work and a lot of the people we meet along the way haven’t been friendly or neighborly and have committed, perhaps, some dastardly deeds.  A lot of it is menial, as a friend in a foreign land says “scan, stamp, print, send” and a lot of it involves hours in cars, or trying to get into jails or just, you know, work type stuff.

All the same, she acknowledges that it is still the “coolest job around.”

Isn’t it interesting how some jobs maintain a certain mystique to many, but not to those who experience it on a day-to-day basis? An understanding of the military throws this concept into sharp relief. You see oodles of movies that make it look sexy, engaging, and a constant thrill-ride. It isn’t. There are hours of monotonous tasks followed by a few seconds of exciting (albeit largely hazy) moments.

Many maintain a positive attitude and keep a grounded, long-term perspective on the nature of military service. These folks generally never have reason to call me. Then, there are those who constantly lament that “they aren’t doing what they were trained to do.” They often discover many reasons to necessitate a call to me.

As lawyers, we do what we can for those who need us. Most of the time, it hardly is the stuff of screenplays. As soldiers, they are there to do what the country needs them to do–whether flavored mild or spicy.

Today, I have a lot of stuff to scan. Some of it may be put into an envelope and mailed.

And, I’m having fun.

Where are all the Courts-Martial?

I’m pretty open about my law practice on this blog. Maybe it’s a fault, but it is what it is. I don’t believe in online brands, and that is reflected in my unwillingness to follow the cyber trend of making oneself appear to be the offspring of Clarence Darrow and John Marshall.

Let’s continue this by analyzing another portion of my practice.

Quick trivia question:

Which of the following endeavors has earned me more money?

  • Managing and writing this blog, or
  • Defending servicemembers at court-martial.

Go ahead, take your time. Think this one through.

Ready? OK, what did you decide? Well, of course you said courts-martial. After all, those are the bread and butter of a military criminal defense lawyer. This blog is merely a hobby, and you’ve already noticed that I have no ads to generate income–nor do I want them.

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I Get Spam

I get spam. Some spam gets my attention.

Here is one that really tells it like it is.

I can tell you’re a guru on Sex, Swingers, and Porn Stars in Military Justice Military Underdog! I’m establishing a site in the near future, as well as your post will be very handy for me. Thanks for all your input. With very best wishes x.

Yep, I’m a guru. Don’t you forget it.

[Ed. Note: This refers to a post on a recent Air Force court-martial conviction entitled “Sex, Swingers, and Porn Stars in Military Justice.”]

The Patience of a Saint

I don’t participate in Facebook. Yes, I have a profile, but it has no information about me, and I have no “friends.” I use it to maintain a page that has my relevant office contact info, and I occasionally use it to research witness profiles for upcoming cases. Aside from that, I find it useless.

Lately, the Army embraced Facebook as a means of sharing information with family members and friends concerned about their soldier–especially on deployment or when in training. It has proven an overwhelming pain in their ass.

Colonel Charles Williams, the Garrison Commander at Fort Leonard Wood, maintains a Facebook presence. As Garrison Commander, he is like a mayor. He is overall responsible for all the fort’s infrastructure, buildings, water, roads, civilian employees, public relations, and special community events. To facilitate community discussion, he addresses comments directed at him. This is one that occurred 3 months ago. The topic: Starving Children. It begins with a letter from Cindi, a mom of a trainee in basic training.

I am having a really hard time with this. My son, your soldier, is a 17 year old growing boy. He writes about not getting enough food to eat. He stays so hungry he even dreams about eating. If I were to feed him at home in the same manner as FLW, I would be charged with child abuse and neglect. I have heard, if I send food to him, he’ll be made to eat it all at one sitting. I’m tempted to send it just so he can feel full for once. Please help me to understand the line of thinking and how starving a person will train them to be the best soldier they can be.

Oh my goodness. They are starving trainees! This is horrible. I hope COL Williams kicks someone’s ass.

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