Reflections on 40 Years as a Lawyer

So last night my retirement became official, and I turn my career objectives from lawyering to writing. Twelve hours is hardly enough time for me to know how this will all turn out, but at this point, I can at least look back and feel great satisfaction from my years as a lawyer.  It’s funny, but like a lot of people who ended up going into law, it was never my lifelong goal.  Law was something I fell into when I realized I wouldn’t be a scientist. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have fallen into a better profession.  Here are some of the many high points of my career:

  1. Clerking for the Hon. John Minor Wisdom, Judge, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, in the year immediately following graduation from law school. A great judge, a great, courageous gentleman and mentor. I will always miss him. I still have happy dreams when I’m back in his chambers.
  1. Trial in Tampa – (about which I’ve written an eponymous screenplay and non-fiction honorable-mention winning essay), when as a neophyte second-chair in federal court I took care of six migrant farm workers cum witnesses in a successful prosecution of slavery charges against two farm labor contractors.
  1. Galveston, TX six-week trial defending Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. against claims of four plaintiffs relating to Parlodel and happily ending up with a complete defense verdict, apparently surprising everyone.
  1. Having inspired the board game “You Dirty Rat” – an invention of a plaintiff unhappy with my having thwarted his frivolous claims.
  1. Managing to tie myself by my shoelace – inadvertently – to my chair in the middle of a trial, unable to stand to make objections, but able finally to secure scissors and snip my way to freedom before the judge or the jury noticed.
  1. Many more exciting and fulfilling moments too numerous to mention today.

I was privileged throughout my career to work with outstanding, dedicated people who taught me a tremendous amount, set examples of diligence and perseverance, and made these past 40 years a wonderful, magical journey.

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The Truth Cannot Be Avoided

Here’s a question that Indiana Governor Mike Pence could not answer:  “If a florist refuses to sell flowers for a gay wedding on religious grounds, is that refusal allowed by the new law?”  He was repeatedly asked for a yes or no answer, but would not even address the hypothetical.  Doesn’t that tell you immediately he knows the true answer is “yes”?

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Adel: A Novel in Linked Stories


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The Circle Line (re-circle-ated for newcomers)

“The Circle Line,” published June 1, 2010 in Spilling Ink Review

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Why, Just Why?

We may ponder explanations for a variety of troubling facts of our lives without ever coming close to answers. Among these, let me suggest the troubling facts uppermost in my mind these days – not necessarily in the order of importance:

Why are terrorists sending children into markets with bombs strapped to their chests, blowing these children apart and killing scores of others in the process?

Why do so many Americans care more about their ownership of guns than public safety? Why are guns for them a religion?

Why does the traveling population appear increasingly rude and thoughtless? I’m thinking about drivers and bicyclists who flaunt traffic laws, jaywalkers who put their lives and those of others at risk by just walking into a busy street (not at a cross walk).

Why do so many Americans say they “disapprove of Obama care” yet, when asked about specific provisions of the Affordable Care Act, like them?

Why do so many of us expect the government to provide better services and more benefits, but then are aggrieved when revenues must be raised through taxation?

Why are so many Americans upset that undocumented people in this country might have a right to earn citizenship, when all of us – other than Native Americans – came here as immigrants or are descended from those that were?

Why has Gil Hodges not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Among his many accomplishments were to hit 370 career home runs, which at the time was the career mark for a right-handed batter (as compared to only 211 home runs for the average player in the Hall of Fame), to have 1,274 lifetime RBIs (as compared to only 1,218 for the average position player in the Hall of Fame), to lead the Miracle Mets to become the 1969 World Champions, to play in seven World Series, to hit at least 30 home runs a season from 1950 to 1954, and to have over 100 RBIs from 1949 to 1955. His lifetime slugging percentage was .487, compared to .461 for the average player in the Hall of Fame. His lifetime OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was .846 (compared to only .837 for position players in the Hall of Fame). And let’s not forget that Gil was a great fielding first baseman, with a lifetime fielding percentage of .992, and a model citizen to boot. Until Gil gets his rightful place there, that building in Cooperstown, NY, is to me the Hall of Shame.

Someone smarter than me needs to explain these things, but I doubt that any explanations will make sense.


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One More Time To Cry …

It was sadly inevitable that the inflamed rhetoric of people chanting for justice – based on supposed eyewitness accounts of the death of the so-called “unarmed teenaged” in Ferguson which were disproven by irrefutable forensic evidence – has in some way led to the assassination of two New York City police officers. That’s not to say that what just happened in Brooklyn would not have happened anyway, but clearly the perpetrator felt strongly enough to post on line his promise that two white police officers must die for every black person killed at the hands of the police. With every mentally disturbed person in our society in possession of a gun – or able to secure one quickly – the chants of “No Justice, No Peace!” can easily be interpreted as a call to retaliation or revenge. “No, no, that’s not what we meant by our slogan,” say the protesters. What then did you mean? You put the words out there, to be interpreted however the hearer wishes to interpret them.  These tragic events are nothing new. Police officers – human beings, don’t forget – have been shot and killed for years for no other reason than that they are police officers, representatives of society’s attempt to keep its populace safe and secure. No one puts on the uniform of the police without being aware that, by doing so, they have become a target to many. No one puts on the uniform of the police without being aware, as well, that there are as many handguns in the United States as people and that it takes but an instant for a gun to be pointed out them and fired.

Now, can anyone be surprised that police officers fear for their lives whenever they find themselves in confrontation with the deranged or with those who have likely committed a crime?

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Who In His Right Mind Would Want To Serve the Community?

Who In His Right Mind Would Want To Serve the Community?.

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