It’s a Federal Problem

Diagram of US Federal Government and American ...

Forget all those confusing lines. Erase them all and put a big red circle around the wonderful folks at the top. They can solve any problem. Image via Wikipedia

Assume you just arrived here from outer-space, having discovered this rapidly-deteriorating bluish marble in a third-world solar system. Now, assume that you focused your understanding of the average American’s political and social views to major news outlets You’d believe the following:

1. Anything of consequence or concern should be consolidated with the federal government. Things “of consequence or concern” are defined as anything worrying or angering a human at any particular time. Each person wants their concerns made paramount, and any differing concerns from other humans are merely a pile of shit. Sorting it all out is the problem of appointed officials who also have their own personal things of consequence or concern (but we’ll only fault them if they ignore our things of consequence or concern).

2. State and lower governments should only be trusted with the management of minimally-used gravel roads and community swimming pools (until someone drowns in the pool or dies in a rollover on the gravel road). In cases of geographic isolation, they also may control a small local jail.

This demonstrates several things:

1. We fail in our ability to understand the law of unintended consequences. Big-picture federal laws always, always create oodles of these.

2. We fail to realize that one-size-fits-all clothing is never fashionable, is uncomfortable for many (most), and makes us look like a big, steaming pile of poo.

3. While the federal government is the only one in this nation with the power to print it’s own money, doing so in vast amounts harms everyone’s economic wellbeing. Yet, we don’t regard this problem as immediate because it is a government’s version of a massive stroke–you feel fine and only notice symptoms when it is too late.

4. We fail to understand that the federal government is the least equipped to address individual/smaller group concerns.

5. We love the fact that state and local governments cannot print money and must generally balance their budget, unless our personal peeves are in danger of being cut or underfunded. Then, go Feds!

6. Nothing satisfies us more than rebranding “our problem” as “the federal government’s problem.” It feels good just to type the words.

Each time something tragic occurs in our local world, we want the federal government to do two things: 1. Throw some cash at the problem (especially if we can catch some in our pockets), and 2. Create a law named after the most compelling victim of the problem. At the rate we are going, every name will be associated with a law. Chris’s Law. Earl’s Law. Clyde’s Law. Beavis’ Law. Balasubramani’s Law. Eventually, we’ll re-catalog federal laws. Rather than “Title 10, Title 17, etc,” we’ll be looking in Title Scott or Title Sarah. Each will be divided into sub parts such as “Helen 85623 § 5138.354” (the new law mandating hitter-friendly little league baseball parks (named for Helen, whose son failed to hit a home run in 4th grade (poor, poor Helen))).

Much of our tendency to over-federalize stems from trust issues.

You see, we don’t trust local governments. Why? We realize they are human. They walk in the Veterans Day Parade. We actually shook their hand once. They meet in accessible courthouses and schools. We know they are flawed because we know them. The federal government is unknown and mysterious. We see them on TV and on the internet. That makes them look cool. It makes them look above Cletus, who just got elected to the school board by the elderly of the county. The federal officials in their fancy suits look like they’re getting things done. We don’t have memories of them being pantsed in the middle school hallway 20 years ago.

Sure, we might malign those feds at the coffee shop when things don’t go our way, but, were we to meet them in person, we’d instantly become respectable members of the upright citizens brigade, calling them sir and ma’am. We’re bad and nationwide, until we’re face-to-face.

We like the federal government because their immediate screwups don’t hurt as bad–because the consequences are shared with millions and millions. If the school district in Tuscumbia, MO suffers a judgment for $1M for negligence, the 50 taxpayers in the district feel it immediately and severely. They lack the ability to print $1M in cash and write it off as a spot of inflation. Little do we notice that small, federal spot beginning to fester, growing cancerous, ready to metastasize at any moment.

Oh, and remember those who suffer the unintended consequences of our hyper-federalization of laws? Well, we didn’t like them anyway.

So, congratulations, friend from outer space. You’ve seen us for who we are, and you see the consequences of our actions. You’re lucky. You sit upon the junk we left on the moon, looking down and witnessing the big federal nightmare we’ve created–satisfying it’s appetite on all of us.


Azimuth Check: Catching Up

Line-art drawing of an azimuth

See? Easy. Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a while since I’ve had an azimuth check. For those of you new to these parts, an azimuth check, in orienteering, is when you check to make sure you are going in the right direction–your azimuth. I use it as a potpourri of different things to get my mind back on track.

Yep, That’s My State

Sometimes, I love being from Kansas. (For those of you from one of the coasts, it’s a place you occasionally fly-over). Sometimes, I loathe it. Lately, it has been the latter. I weathered the days of forced “intelligent design” in classrooms (yep, I’m a product of KS public schools). That fight outed KS as a state that didn’t fully grasp the first few amendments of the Constitution. However, it did give us the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and that’s not a bad thing. Pasta be praised.

Now, I’m learning of the case of Brownback v. High School Senior. It seems staffers at the governor’s office found a disparaging tweet by a high school senior. Staffers informed the senior’s principal. The principal decided to give the student a rash of shit and order an apology. The student stood her ground. The student won (as of right now). The First Amendment also won (for now).

As a taxpayer, I’m doubly frustrated. If I understand it correctly, one of Gov. Brownback’s staffers monitors social media on a regular basis for comments about the Gov. I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy about my tax dollars paying salaries to watch social media, especially Twitter. I’d rather the state spend my taxes to refurbish the pavilion that houses the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.

Better Late Than Never

In 1980, the Army separated criminal defense attorneys from installation legal offices in order to prevent any actual or apparent improper influence upon their ability to zealously and fully defend their clients. It was the right call.

I’ve always been frustrated that the Marine Corps did not follow suit. Their lawyers remained under administrative and operational control of the same authorities that maintained the same close, local control of the prosecutors. Having grown in the Army system, it seemed wrong, wrong, wrong.

Finally, heat was brought on the USMC that shed a bright spotlight upon the system, and the Corps chose to amend their system to one similar to the Army’s Trial Defense Service.

So, a few months belated, I’d like to congratulate the USMC for separating their defense counsel into a separate command–Defense Services Organization. You’re 30 years late to the party, but we’re happy to have you all the same. Now, could you talk to your buddies in the Navy?


I’ve now had a private law office focused on military members and veterans for a bit. I noticed some law offices tout themselves as Premier law offices. Where do I get certified as Premier? Is it offered by the Univ. of Phoenix? Are classes required? Is it based on longevity? An LLM? Does it come to me spiritually on a vision quest? Can I eventually be ordained to bestow this title?

It sure seems swell to work for a Premier law office. The lawyers are always smiling and wearing nice suits. They seem to have very, very diverse practice areas. They have spiffy web sites.

And they all seem to have capped teeth.

Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About Solo Practice

I’ve been going nuts with lists lately it seems. I created one about lessons I learned from my first year in practice. It turned into an amended list about things I learned over the last 7-8 years of practice in general. You can find the link up there in the main menu bar at the top of the page under the title. I’d appreciate you taking a gander. By reading it, you’ll join an exclusive group since nobody else reads the goddamn thing.

Why lists lately? Well, I’m attempting to wrap up a few cases before January 1, and to do so I’ve made a lot of lists for each client. At this point, it’s habit.

Now, I’m writing about something that’s been stuck in my craw for a while. When I first decided to leave my comfy government job with a pension and regular paycheck, I did a lot of research about solo practice, the business of running a practice, and things that help my particular business model. I saw tons of articles and lists called “Everything you WANTED [emphasis added] to know about solo practice.” Sure, there was a lot I wanted to know. I wanted to hear that I’d make millions. I wanted to hear that it was easy. I wanted to hear that I’d get great cases and find myself arguing before a jury in minutes. I wanted to know that I’d have no problem finding success. I wanted to know that a rainbow would pop through the window every morning.

OK, I made-up the thing about rainbows. I give a damn about rainbows.

I wanted to hear a lot of things, but I needed to hear more that I did not want to hear.

Nobody published that list. I exaggerate. Some did. Some people talked about aspects about practice that were challenging or undesirable, but they were drowned-out by the volumes of folks talking about solo practice with wide-eyed wonderment and zeal. Sunshine was regularly injected into my rectum.

So, let me attempt to fill the gap or, at the least, write something in solidarity with those who stated that it ain’t all a bed of roses.

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Outsourcing Manhood

The most wonderful women out there are intelligent, educated, accomplished, and fiercely independent.

However, subscribing to this does not mean that men must abandon our testosterone-fueled roots.

Since when did so many find it necessary to outsource testicular productivity?

Thinking of it makes me want to vomit the beer and jalapeños I consumed for dinner.

On Veterans Day, We Should Thank You

Everybody wants to thank veterans on Veterans Day. I suppose that does make some logical sense, considering the name and all, but it’s time we thank the rest of you, instead.

Thanks to the teachers in our schools, who taught us the history of other veterans, and what made them special. Thanks also for teaching our kids, and understanding that their father or mother sometimes went far away.

Thanks to the firefighters and policemen, who kept our families safe when we were somewhere far away.

Thanks to the farmers who get dirty every day to provide our country with food.

Thanks to the doctors and nurses who keep us healthy, and the dentists who say we didn’t brush well enough.

Thanks to the lawyers–some who keep us safe, and others who keep our rights safe, and those who do a little of both.

Thanks to everyone who does a dirty, unwanted job–especially the thankless ones. You make civilized life, as we know it, possible.

Thanks to the families at home, waiting. Keeping things just as we remember them.

Really, what we want to say is thanks to everyone who does a job, and does it well. To those who show others acts of kindness. To the innocents among us. To those who see how pathetic we are as humans, but love us all the same. You make us want to be veterans, because you’re worth it.


Let’s Talk Charities (Updated)

Let’s talk charities for a moment.

Given what happened in Pennsylvania lately, it seems apropos.

This post is a bit of a call to arms. Though, I hardly have the clout (or “Klout”) to do so. After all, my “Klout” score is a meager 26 (whatever the hell that means), and it deems me influential on mohawk haircuts and tattoos. This means that, at best, I’ll probably succeed in having about 5 people join my little charge at windmills. Of those 5, at least 3 will have mohawks and tattoos.

Oh well. Off I go.

Here’s what I’m asking, and I’ll explain in a bit.

  1. This applies if you give monetary support to a charity that supports kids–Boy Scouts, underprivileged youth organizations, youth camps, youth clubs, etc. If you don’t already have plans to do so, seriously consider it. After all, it’s almost the holiday season. Even those of us who sit on the meager end of lawyer salaries still have more means than many, and supporting youth organizations (good ones) is always a way to make a positive difference. Just think about it, OK?
  2. Check to see if the organization prioritizes youth protection. Their policy must be in writing. It must be obvious and apparent. They must require mandatory training for all adults who have contact with youth. They must conduct regular training to emphasize youth protection policies. Background checks are non-negotiable.
  3. If they do, great. If they don’t, withhold all donations, and tell them why. Tell them why in a loud, clear voice. Demand that they prioritize youth protection. Then take your money elsewhere.

Continue reading

To Esq., Or Not To Esq.

I’ve never fully understood placing “Esq.” or “Esquire” after one’s name as a lawyer.

A. Someone told me that it is our version of a doctor calling themselves Dr. as a prefix.

B. Someone else told me that you should never refer to yourself as an Esq., but that it is reserved for others to use when referring to you. I.e. Improper to use Esq. on outgoing correspondence, but it is acceptable for individuals to address correspondence to you with Esq. added.

C. Someone else told me that Esq. is something used to demonstrate the awarding of a Juris Doctor degree, but it did not denote bar membership or the active practice of law.

D. Someone else told me that Esq. was commonly used by people who finished law school but were not yet a member of the bar, just to feel spiffy.

E. And yet someone else told me that placing the term Esq. behind your own name is a fantastic way to demonstrate that you are a self-absorbed prick.

So, what is the truth?

No, seriously, I’m asking.

Or, should I just continue to ignore the term? I am also considering adding the prefix “Hip Hop Mogul” for myself, but that will be the subject of a separate post.


After a few years of reflection, I give you the following: while some well-meaning and good people follow rule B in earnest, the answer is almost always E.

One Deep Fried Hero, Please

In America, we are OK with building nice (and even ostentatious) monuments to our heroes and revered leaders. It’s a nice tribute, and it makes us feel good.

However, we prefer to find a way to beat, bloody, batter, and fry those we’ve placed upon a pedestal. For us, it makes them much tastier, and we love the high.

Updating Quotes – Thoreau

1967 U.S. postage stamp honoring Henry David T...

Image via Wikipedia

Following the lead of those who decided to severely paraphrase a quote on the MLK Memorial in Washington (to make him sound like an egomaniac), it seems appropriate at this point to amend a few other famous quotes.

Start today with Henry David Thoreau. I’m sure he won’t mind just a bit of remodeling to the little cabin on Walden (but spare him the KitchenAid appliances). His quote originally stated:

That government is best which governs least.

It’s often attributed to others, but it is indeed his. (“Civil Disobedience”)

It deserves a bit of updating. He never anticipated iPads or computerized stock markets or 100,000-seat college football stadiums or “Desperate Housewives.” So, let’s help our old friend along. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

That government is best which governs least; unless, of course, we really feel strongly about something, then we’re OK with the government taking charge, overfunding, eliminating or reducing rights, and creating a slew of civil service jobs (many redundant and unnecessary); but we’d rather not pay more taxes to fund it, so find a way to borrow from something else in a way that we don’t immediately notice; but we strenuously object to the same being done for people we don’t like or don’t know, especially dirty people, or people who look dirty; In God We Trust.

Ah, a refreshing remodel.

He might want some of the syntax massaged a bit, but, otherwise, I think he’d be thrilled. Don’t you?

The List

The link is up there.

I received several comments and emails since I published a post about what I’d learned after 1 year in solo practice. They were all good. Most suggested things I’d neglected/forgotten to put in the original post.

Knowing this, I’ve decided to add a page called “The List.” That sounds somewhat self-important, but I couldn’t think of what else to call it, and a really long title would’ve screwed up the header to the blog. So, I went with it. Yes, this site has other lists, like alternatives to capital punishment, but they are even more frivolous than “The List.” If you know of a better, less self-important title, just let me know.

The continuous link for this page can be found up there (gesturing upward to the menu bar).

Please, if you see something missing, let me know. It will be amended continuously for the next couple of months that this blog exists, and attribution will be given.