4.30.2007

Are You Fucking Kidding Me?

For the past week, I've been working my ass of on a brief that is due on Wednesday. This morning I called my co-counsel to tell him I would have a pretty-close-to-final draft finished by tomorrow afternoon. He called back a couple of hours later to tell me, "Oops, sorry. The brief isn't due until May 11." So I didn't have to work all weekend? Great. Thanks.

4.28.2007

Tall Tales? Answers

Long-awaited answers to the true/false quiz:
  1. I was in a hot tub with a 6'5" woman on Saturday night. False. It was on a Friday night; She was very tall.
  2. Andrew is going to Italy on Monday. True. He's going to visit Casey. See #9, infra.
  3. Someone I know was offered a job as a spy. True. Or false. I can't tell you. But, if he, or she, was offered a job as a spy, and I already knew about it, he, or she, obviously won't make a very good one.
  4. My brother and I crashed a Russian birthday party at a schvitz. True, sort of...(that's where we met the 6'5" woman).
  5. I'm getting over it. True. But it is still really hard sometimes.
  6. My rolling suitcase lost a wheel. True. On the way to the airport. But I bought it at REI three years ago, so I brought it to the REI flagship store in Seattle and they gave me a brand new one.
  7. The Alaska Supreme Court upheld the public interest litigant rule. False. This really sucks. More on this the next time I'm feeling lawyerly.
  8. I am going to Law Camp this week. True at the time. Now I'm back.
  9. Andrew and Casey broke up. I have no idea any more. Andrew just went to Italy to visit her.
  10. My doctor told me to start drinking espresso. True. He said it is better for my stomach than regular coffee. But my doctor in this case is also my brother, and he isn't quite a doctor, yet.
  11. A public interest lawyer without a trust fund cannot spend $170 on a pair shoes, no matter how cool they are. True. Unequivocally. But that still might not stop me.
  12. It rained constantly while I was in Seattle . False. It was gorgeous.
  13. I wish I wasn't so picky. True. When there is something I like, nothing else will suffice. Sometimes that makes life difficult.
  14. I'm losing my mind. False. I thought I was for a while, and someone even made a point of telling me she thought I was too. But I'm not. In fact, it's been a long time since I've been this sane.
  15. I have never read any Kurt Vonnegut. Was True. But I have now read 2/3 of Mother Night.

4.27.2007

Should I Get Under The Table?

I'm at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. An announcement was just made that the Department of Homeland Security Threat Level has been raised to orange. What the fuck does that even mean? Apparently it doesn't matter, and no one gives a shit, because, looking around, no one got out of line at McDonald's, Starbucks, or ManchuWOK. I love America.

Time to go. Some guy just sat down next to me and his cologne is giving me a headache and is making my eyes burn. Perhaps he is the threat?

Law Camp Wrap-Up

The NITA training is over, and I am finally heading home. Pretending to be in a trial setting was a lot of fun, and we all got really into it. We were broken down into small groups of 8 (4 plaintiff's attorneys and 4 defendant's attorneys.). The pretend plaintiff was a woman who claimed she was fired from her job because of her disability (epilepsy) in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The faux-defendant was the child care center that fired her. The group I was with was full of funny people. For example, yesterday, Taylor, Dan, and I had an inside-joke contest going throughout the day. The object was to try to inject quotes from the Big Lebowski into cross examination of a witness. Taylor did it first: when he was playing the role of the witness, I was examining him and he responded with "that's just like your opinion, man." Then when I gave my sample closing argument I said, "this case has a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous..." But Dan won. Right after I said my line, someone's cell phone started ringing. From the back of the room, Dan, with his Aussie accent, yelled, "phone's ringin', dude." Brilliant. But in addition to being funny, everyone in our group was very supportive, and we learned a lot from each other.

Last night, instead of working on the opening statement I had to give this morning, I met Taylor, Dan, and Udi at AJ's, a bar in our hotel described as "one of St. Louis' hottest nightspots." If that's true, all I have to say is, "yikes." Last night it was full of a bunch of dudes in town for a cigar conference. Seriously. They had portable humidor briefcases with them. Yikes, indeed.

Taylor put it out there first: "So, we're a bunch of winners, huh? Drinking in a bar full of guys instead of doing our work." Naturally, that led to a discussion about women, and lo and behold, we all had been dumped recently (except Udi--but he was shooting pool with the cigar guys and wasn't paying attention to our conversation.). Since we had been in a competitive mood all week, we decided to see who had it worst. The contenders:
Taylor: We were living together for 4 years. She moved out in February. She said she just wasn't happy anymore.
Me: She moved in with another guy while I was in Africa. I found out about it by reading it on her blog.
Dan: She left me for her Ph.D. advisor, who left his wife and kids for her.
Taylor won the "That Really Sucks" Award, because they owned a house together, they are still dealing with splitting everything up, and most of her shit is still at his house. I won "Most Cliche." And Dan got top prize in the "You Just Can't Compete With That" category which is funny, because just a few nights prior, we were talking about how Dan's accent wasn't fair because, "dude, you just can't compete with that."

Later, one of the instructors showed up. Udi got into an argument with him about the location of the law school the guy teaches at. Udi swore one of the buildings was on Broadway. The instructor, Brian, told him it wasn't and, um, because he taught there, he should know. It wasn't until Udi took out his Treo and pulled up a Google Maps image of New York that he realize that he was thinking of the wrong law school. Nevertheless, Brian told us that in the 20 years he has been training lawyers and law students, he has never had as much fun as he has had this week with us. He was also drunk.

Shortly after midnight I was back in my room to try to prepare a 7-minute opening statement that I would have to know well enough to deliver cold at 8:30 AM. By 12:50 I had a couple of catchy opening sentences and decided to wing the rest of it. That plan actually worked out well, because this morning, just before it was my turn to stand up and deliver my opening, the instructors encouraged us to "go over the top" and be a little outrageous. So, during my opening statement I busted out a phrase Carrie and I coined earlier in the week: "Her disability does not matter. There's only one thing to say about it: Epilepsy Schmepilepsy."

4.26.2007

American (Civil Liberties Union) Idol

The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) training feels, at times, like American Idol for law nerds. The training is about basic trial skills: opening and closing statements, direct and cross examination of witnesses, etc. You are expected to review a lot of material with very little prep time (we are doing a 4-5 day course in 2.5 days), digest it, then use it when you role play an examination of a witness in front of a room full of people. While people shout objections at you. Or, you will stand up and have to ask a question conveying a certain emotion: like "incredulous," "scared," or "curious." Oh, and everything you do is recorded and then you watch it with one of the instructors who critiques you. That is after the instructor in the room tells you what you fucked up in front of everyone.

It is intense. It starts at 8 am every day and we don't finish until 5:30ish. And then there's homework. It's exhausting. By mid-day of day 2 (today), we were all pooped.

Making matters worse, everyone here is really smart, which means I have to take this seriously in order to satiate my competitive side. Of the 32 ACLU lawyers doing the training, about 20 of them went to Harvard or Yale. I used to be really intimidated by my colleagues who went to reallly imprressive sounding. But I have since realized that it's not that they are any smarter than me, it's that I'm just a lot lazier than them. Case in point: Last night, when most people were studiously reviewing their materials on impeaching material witnesses, I went back to my room to do the same. But I decided that my time could be better spent watching re-runs of Friends on cable.

All in all, it's been a fun week, though I am definitely ready to go home (I've been in the same hotel room for 6 days; I actually unpacked all of my stuff and put my clothes in the dresser.). It's been great to spend some time with the people I've become friendly with over the years, like Winston, Udi, and Ines. And I've made a few new friends as well: Taylor, Dan, C-Dub, and Lois. And then there's Carrie. We' met a few years ago at a training for new staff attorneys. But we haven't really had much contact over the years. Then this happened:

Winston: The Mets got blown out by Colorado today.
Carrie: They shouldn't be losing to the Rockies, the Rockies suck.
Me: Even a bad team can have a good day.
Carrie: That's the beauty of baseball.
Me: (long pause) Will you marry me?
Carrie: No.

Later, she was dropping quotes from the Big Lebowski like a freshman dropping an 8 AM class. Then, at dinner, where she ordered carefully to avoid meat, when her dish showed up with little bits of bacon in it, she smiled and said, "well, since it's already here I guess I'll have to eat it."

Likes (and gets) baseball + Lebowski fan + eats bacon despite claiming to be a vegetarian = perfect woman. I'm smitten.

4.23.2007

Steve Santagati Lives!


The host of Bachelorettes in Alaska is on TV right now and is being referred to as a "relationship expert." He's on an entertainment "news" show discussing a fight between Alec Baldwin and his daughter. This is hilarious!

This is from Steve Santagati's bio:
You are probably on this website because of The MANual; the relationship advice book he wrote for Random House, which will be released in the spring of 2007. Steve has been doling out relationship advice for a very long time, much of it drawn from his own personal experience as a three-decade serial dater. He compliments that experience with the knowledge he has accumulated from the people he has advised over the years. He hasn't just read about the intricacies of relationships; he lived them, and still is today. He believes that there is no substitute for real life experience, and tells women what is really going on in a way that they can instantly practice in the real world.

Steve currently works out of New York City, but travels frequently to kiteboard or flyfish every chance he gets.

Law Camp Jail

I've been in my room for the past 9 hours working on a brief (save for a short walk over to Starbucks) that needs to be finished by tomorrow. I had to skip the officially-scheduled Monday night dinner on a riverboat on the Mississippi, had to turn down dinner and a trip to a riverboat casino with Winston and his cohorts, and had to say no when Ines invited me to go with her to a jazz club. This sucks.

Law Camp

I'm at the ACLU national staff conference in St. Louis, or Law Camp, as I'm calling it. Most of the ACLU employees from across the country are here--more than 500 people. There are lawyers (lots of 'em), but also administrative folks, lobbyists, organizers, directors, fundraisers, public educators, consultants, and other special guests. The conference lasts for three days (but, like me, most of the legal staff will be here for an additional three days of trial skills trainign). There are meetings and workshops and presentations and speeches and t-shirts and stickers and buttons and drinks. Lots and lots of drinks.

Some of the workshops and presentations include:
  • Juvenile Justice and the School to Prison Pipeline
  • Supreme Court Update
  • Using International and Comparative Law in Litigation
  • Privacy Rights: Going on the Offensive
  • Non-Litigation Strategies to Address Prisoners' Rights
  • Challenges of Challenging Religious Symbols
  • Public Attitudes About Race, Crime, and Drugs: What We Know and What We Need to Know
  • Civil Rights Responses to Violence Against Women
  • Challenging the Expansion of Immigration Detention
  • Enforcement and Legal Protection for Undocumented Aliens
  • The Vagaries of Electronic Paperless Voting
I skipped most of yesterday's workshops in order to work on a brief that is due this week and to watch the Mets game with Winston. Last night I had a few drinks with Ines and caught up with some people I have met over the past few years. And, as is the course with these things, I met a bunch of new people who look at me like I'm from another planet when they learn I live in Alaska.

I stayed out way too late last night and woke up way too early for Anthony Romero's breakfast speech this morning. For now, it's back to work on my brief, then a lunch presentation by Chemerinsky, then back to the brief, then I'm going to play on the Drug Law Reform Project softball team (The Recreationalists (formerly Bong Hits 4 Jeter)) in a grudge match against the Washington Legislative Office.

4.22.2007

Meet Me In St. Louis

I'm in St. Louis for a conference and a trial skills training program. I got in on Saturday afternoon and I will be here until Friday. The first workshop I am supposed to attend is an on-camera media training for legal staff. The problem is that at the same time, the Mets are playing the Braves. Winston and I are debating skipping the workshop and watching the game. Ines thinks we are nuts, but that's mostly because we want to skip the training to watch the game, and not skip it to go to a wax museum with her.

The wax museum is across the street from the restaurant Ines and I ate at last night. From our sidewalk table we watched the proprietor of the museum sit inside and do nothing (the museum closed at 5:00; we were eating dinner around 9:30) except freeze and pretend he was made of wax whenever people walked by.

4.20.2007

Tall Tales?

True or False?
  1. I was in a hot tub with a 6'5" woman on Saturday night
  2. Andrew is going to Italy on Monday
  3. Someone I know was offered a job as a spy
  4. My brother and I crashed a Russian birthday party at a schvitz
  5. I'm getting over it
  6. My rolling suitcase lost a wheel
  7. The Alaska Supreme Court upheld the public interest litigant rule
  8. I am going to Law Camp this week
  9. Andrew and Casey broke up
  10. My doctor told me to start drinking espresso
  11. A public interest lawyer without a trust fund cannot spend $170 on a pair shoes, no matter how cool they are
  12. It rained constantly while I was in Seattle
  13. I wish I wasn't so picky
  14. I'm losing my mind
  15. I have never read any Kurt Vonnegut
Answers soon.

Ruth Bader Calls Bullshit

In a terse dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Breyer, calls "bullshit" on the Kennedy-Roberts-Scalia-Thomas-Alito majority in Gonzales v. Carhart. Some highlights (citations omitted):
Today’s decision is alarming. It refuses to take Casey and Stenberg seriously. It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It blurs the line, firmly drawn in Casey,between previability and postviability abortions. And, for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health.
. . .
As Casey comprehended, at stake in cases challenging abortion restrictions is a woman’s “control over her [own] destiny.” “There was a time, not so long ago,” when women were “regarded as the center of home and family life, with attendant special responsibilities that precluded full and independent legal status under the Constitution.” Those views, this Court made clear in Casey, “are no longer consistent with our understanding of the family, the individual, or the Constitution.” Women, it is now acknowledged, have the talent, capacity, and right “to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation.” Their ability to realize their full potential, the Court recognized, is intimately connected to “their ability to control their reproductive lives.” Ibid. Thus, legal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures do not seek to vindicate some generalized notion of privacy; rather, they center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.
. . .
The Court offers flimsy and transparent justifications for upholding a nationwide ban on intact D&E sans any exception to safeguard a women’s health. Today’s ruling, the Court declares, advances “a premise central to [Casey’s] conclusion”—i.e.,the Government’s “legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life.” But the Act scarcely furthers that interest: The law saves not a single fetus from destruction, for it targets only a method of performing abortion. And surely the statute was not designed to protect the lives or health of pregnant women. In short, the Court upholds a law that, while doing nothing to “preserv[e] … fetal life,” bars a woman from choosing intact D&E although her doctor “reasonably believes [that procedure] will best protect [her].”
. . .
Delivery of an intact, albeit nonviable, fetus warrants special condemnation, the Court maintains, because a fetus that is not dismembered resembles an infant. But so, too, does a fetus delivered intact after it is terminated by injection a day or two before the surgical evacuation, or a fetus delivered through medical induction or cesarean. Yet, the availability of those procedures—along with D&E by dismemberment—the Court says, saves the ban on intact D&E from a declaration of unconstitutionality. Never mind that the procedures deemed acceptable might put a woman’s health at greater risk.

Ultimately, the Court admits that “moral concerns” are at work, concerns that could yield prohibitions on any abortion. Notably, the concerns expressed are untethered to any ground genuinely serving the Government’s interest in preserving life. By allowing such concerns to carry the day and case, overriding fundamental rights, the Court dishonors our precedent.

Revealing in this regard, the Court invokes an antiabortion shibboleth for which it concededly has no reliable evidence: Women who have abortions come to regret their choices, and consequently suffer from “[s]evere depression and loss of esteem.” Because of women’s fragile emotional state and because of the “bond of love the mother has for her child,” the Court worries, doctors may withhold information about the nature of the intact D&E procedure. The solution the Court approves, then, is not to require doctors to inform women, accurately and adequately, of the different procedures and their attendant risks. Instead, the Court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice, even at the expense of their safety.

This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution—ideas that have long since been discredited. Though today’s majority may regard women’s feelings on the matter as “self-evident,” this Court has repeatedly confirmed that “[t]he destiny of the woman must be shaped … on her own conception of her spiritual imperatives and her place in society.”
. . .
Though today’s opinion does not go so far as to discard Roe or Casey, the Court, differently composed than it was when we last considered a restrictive abortion regulation, is hardly faithful to our earlier invocations of “the rule of law” and the “principles of stare decisis.” Congress imposed a ban despite our clear prior holdings that the State cannot proscribe an abortion procedure when its use is necessary to protect a woman’s health. Although Congress’ findings could not withstand the crucible of trial, the Court defers to the legislative override of our Constitution-based rulings. A decision so at odds with our jurisprudence should not have staying power.

In sum, the notion that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act furthers any legitimate governmental interest is, quite simply, irrational. The Court’s defense of the statute provides no saving explanation. In candor, the Act, and the Court’s defense of it, cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court—and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives.

So Angry I Could Kill A Fetus

It's late. I'm tired. I want to sleep, but I can't because I'm really pissed off. I'm furious with Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito for being intellectually dishonest when it is their job--no, their duty--their sworn oath--to be just the opposite. I'm mad at Sandra Day O'Connor for retiring. I'm angry that someone else's religious convictions and morals are being shoved down my throat.

Tonight, on my flight to Seattle, sitting next to a pregnant woman (of course), I finally had a chance to read the entire Gonzales v. Carhart opinion. If ever there was an opinion written with a predetermined outcome (as most are), this was it.

Abortions are gruesome; no denying that. The D&E (dilation and evacuation), the most common form of second-trimester abortion, involves dilating the cervix, then having a doctor pull out the fetus piece by piece, because fetuses tend break apart when gripped with forceps and yanked towards the outside world, but also because a whole fetus will not fit through the cervix--the head tends to get stuck. For health and safety reasons there are occasions when it is preferable to try to remove the fetus intact. This procedure, known as, among others, an intact D&E, lowers the risk that pieces of fetus (think little legs and fingers) will be left in the uterus, and of the woman being cut by a piece of fetus as it is removed. When an intact D&E is performed, the doctor will take measures to allow the fetus to pass through the cervix: the doctor will either poke a hole in the fetus's skull and insert a vacuum tube and suck out the contents, thereby causing the skull to collapse, or just crush the skull. By essentially deflating the head, the fetus can be removed intact. It is this process, either removing the contents of, or crushing, the skull that causes fetal demise (Though the exact method used depends on the doctor and whether the fetus is coming out in a breech position or head first.). The intact D&E has become known as the so-called "partial-birth abortion" because the fetus is partially outside the mother (partially "born") when it is "killed."

In 2000 the Supreme Court ruled that Nebraska's Partial Birth Abortion Act was unconstitutional because it was so broad that it banned even the most common D&E procedures (thereby burdening a woman's ability to make reproductive choices) and because it did not allow an exception to protect a woman's health. In 2003 Congress, responding to the ills thrust upon our society by the prospect of a 20 week-old fetus's legs touching air before it is aborted, passed the Federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. This Act addressed the shortcomings in Nebraska's unconstitutional law, and, no surprise, a Supreme Court with a couple of new faces since 2000, ruled it was constitutional by a 5-4 vote. It is a terrible ruling. It completely ignores precedent and will do much more harm than good.

The federal law does nothing to protect fetuses, promote women's health, or maintain a woman's liberty to direct her own life and destiny--the only three reasons why Congress may legislate in this area. In fact, the Act does just the opposite: it harms women's health because it does not contain a health exception (a doctor may only perform the procedure if necessary to save the life of the woman) and it moves the women's rights movement back years.

The absurdity of this law is evident: a procedure that may be medically desirable must be outlawed because it offends some people because an intact fetus resembles a baby. But the "standard" D&E, which involves removing a fetus one leg or arm at a time and is arguably more gruesome, is constitutional. Why not ban this one too? Because they can't; Yet. Banning the most common abortion technique would require the Court to completely overturn Roe and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. Gonzales v. Carhart doesn't go that far, but it lays the groundwork for that fateful day.

4.18.2007

Going Backwards

A stunning step backwards for women's health, privacy, and the notion that doctors, not politicians, should make medical judgments.

4.17.2007

The Sound of Silence

I hung out with Alli tonight for the first time in over three months. One of the reasons we broke up last fall was that I noticed I didn't miss her when she wasn't around. Tonight, despite laughing like we used to and the fact that she was as cute as ever, I was reminded of that. I also realized that there are no songs that remind me of her or make me think about her. This is telling; all of the special ones have songs that remind me of them. Either they are songs that we shared or discovered together, songs that marked a special occasion, or songs that put words to the heartache or happiness they made me feel.

For instance, I think fondly of my 12 year old self and Jen Abramowitz every time I hear Leaving on a Jetplane or Groovy Kind of Love by Phil Collins (hey, it was the 80's; I was young). 500 Miles by the Proclaimers was the song Jenna and I shared (hey, it was the early 90's; we were young) and Fool in the Rain by Led Zeppelin reminds me of how I felt when she broke my heart. I don't remember the name of it, but there is a really cheesy Donna Lewis song that reminds me of Taryn LoVascio and the Summer of 96. Bela Fleck makes me think of Lindsay, and one special night in particular. Emma is recent, and because our dalliance occupied the better part of two years, lots of songs make my thoughts turn to her. But a few will endure and remind me of her when I look back on the 2007 version of myself much like I now look back on the 12 year old B-Dice: The King of Carrot Flowers by Neutral Milk Hotel, Just What I Need by Rufus King (yes, that is Cliff's song from Bring It On), and pretty much everything by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. But with Alli there isn't a single song that comes to mind, the significance of which has not gone unnoticed.

4.16.2007

I'm Such a Dork

Scene: REI checkout counter. A cute blond girl is looking up my membership information so I can apply my dividend to a new bike lock. She looks up from the computer screen, purses her lips and squints at me, as if she is trying to remember something.

REI Girl: Are you a writer?
Me: Huh? (thinking: writer or rider?)
REI Girl: (repeats slower) Are...you...a...writer?
Me: Huh?
REI Girl: Are you a writer? Your name sounds really familiar, like I think you wrote something I read.
Me: (excited) I won second place in the Anchorage Press Haiku Contest!
REI Girl: When?
Me: Last year.
REI Girl: Nope, that's not it.

T.M.I.

I saw this on a vanity license plate today: UNCUT

4.12.2007

Shoot Me Now

I'm on hold with Office Depot. They have theme music:

Whoa-oh, Office Depot, Whoa-Oh/
Whoa-oh, Office Depot, Whoa-Oh/
Here to lend you a hand/
And for all that you do/
Whoa-Oh, Office Depot, Whoa-Oh/
Whoa-Oh, Office Depot, Whoa-Oh
(repeat indefinitely)

There is an 80's electric guitar riff in the background.

Please, someone, put a bullet in my head.

4.11.2007

Wednesday > Tuesday

An eventful Wednesday. Much better than Tuesday. If I wasn't a nihilist, I'd be happy. Instead, I feel nothing because I know it doesn't mean anything. On to today's notes:

I made it to work before 10:00 today (barely).

The office copier/printer broke on Monday. My boss is out of town, so as the most senior staff person left in the office, the rest of the staff turned to me for help. I've been calling the company we lease the machine from all week, and they still haven't called me back. So, here's a big "fuck you/you suck/thanks for giving me an excuse to void our contract" to Ikon Office Solutions, a company that (even before this incident) has displayed terrible customer service.

Mabel thought raspberry was spelled razberry. Seriously.

Viv is doing a 10-day detox fast and I keep accidentally talking about food in front of her.

Winston is in town to do some work on our marijuana lawsuit. Around this time last year, when the case got underway, Winston and Eloise spent some time up here. As I have previously detailed in this space, I heart Eloise alot. Unfortunately, she is no longer on the case, so Winston brought Nadav. Nadav is nice, but he is no Eloise. Eloise knows Nadav and she agrees. She also made me promise I wouldn't see any moose with Nadav for fear that doing so would diminish the memory of the time a moose chased us on the Coastal Trail. Though it conflicts with my new nihilistic tendencies, I wish she was here.

Winston and Eloise at the Juneau airport (07.06.06)

Today I went to talk about free speech with Terry's Philosophy of Law class at the University of Alaska. It was a lot of fun. The students were sharp and engaged. They asked a lot of good questions and really put me on the spot a few times. Fortunately, my oral argument skills are more honed than theirs and I was able to wiggle out of a few jams with gems like this:
Student: But doesn't that contradict what you just said?
Me: I don't know, does it? Why don't you explain it.
I love being on this side of the Socratic Method.

As I was leaving the office to go to the class, Jennifer commented that I looked "like a professor that a coed should never meet with without bringing a friend along." (I was wearing my "cool law school professor" outfit: jeans, sneakers, untucked buttown down shirt, brown blazer, scarf.) I asked her if that meant I looked good or smarmy--like I would sleep with my students. She said I looked cute, but also kind of like a predator that would exchange sex for an A. Avoiding this appearance was foremost on my mind when a gaggle of female students came up to ask some questions after class. One of them just stood there and didn't ask any questions, then when the others left she said, "I like that you didn't wear a tie. It makes you look much cooler." Then she smiled, and touched her hair. I blushed, and stammered something like, "Uh, um, uh...thanks." I quickly walked away.

I had a very nice, very expensive, dinner with Winston and Nadav at the Crow's Nest, courtesy of their expense account. Thanks, Uncle Anthony.

It was great to catch up with Winston, though recounting what has happened in the last 6 months since we last spent any time together brought up a few unpleasant memories. But he's dealing with some similar issues, so we commiserated.

Nadav is an interesting fellow. His father is a "spiritual healer" and his older brother is a minor celebrity in LA. Needless to say, both of these facts led to some good stories. He also used the word "boink" in a sentence.

I can't work at a law firm. I stay up too late doing non-billable things.

Hey, That's a Sharp Looking Sportcoat!*

A few weeks ago The Longtime Litigator told me I looked like a slob. Prior to that, someone gave me shit about my sheets having holes, being mismatched, and otherwise not properly fitting on my bed. Last week, Viv and I discussed The Longtime Litigator's comment, and Viv explained that there was some merit to it, specifically noting that all of my t-shirts had holes and were frayed along the collar. That led me to comment that, "Well, there is the old adage that you dress for the job you want, not the job you have. And apparently I want to work at a video store."**

This all made me think,what has happened to me? When did I stop caring? And why don't my sheets fit on my bed anymore?

It's not that I look bad--I have nice clothes, but they are always wrinkled, I tend to wear the same thing over and over again, and I stopped worrying if things matched a long time ago (witness the orange t-shirt and brown pants combo that has appeared frequently this winter)--but I've strayed very far since the time when I was voted "best dressed" in my high school class (yes, I just admitted that publicly. ugh). Still, this "disheveled preppy" look that I have cultivated doesn't reek of professionalism, and more often than not, I am realizing that that is important in my line of work. To wit: I had a meeting one day last week so I showed up at the office wearing a jacket and tie and freshly-pressed pants. My boss, surprised, asked, "Why so dressed up?" "I have some lawyer things to do today," I replied. He questioned, "Um, don't you have lawyer things to do everyday?"

One of the things I like about working for a nonprofit is that I don't have to wear a suit everyday. And I'm glad. I couldn't sit in my office day in and day out dressed like that. But I think it is time to make some changes. I have become way too comfortable in my routine. I've worked at the same place for 4 1/2 years. I established myself there a long time ago, and there has been little motivation to keep up appearances. But now that I am spending more time in court, more time with other lawyers, and make more public appearances, and now that our office staff has expanded a bit and I am going to have 4 (!) interns to look after this summer, it seems like a good time to start dressing a bit more professionally. Oh, and I got a (long-overdue) raise, so I can sort-of afford to buy some new pants.

I've started wearing a jacket (but not a tie) to work more often. I'm going to buy an iron. And I bought new t-shirts. As for my bed sheets, I have no idea what happened. My sheets used to match, but I suppose that, given all the things I have lost and misplaced over the years, it's not surprising that a bed sheet or two have disappeared. But how did I wind up with sheets that don't fit my bed? Rather than attempt to solve this mystery, I employed Viv's assistance and purchased a nice new set of high-thread-count-super-soft sheets that are appropriately cut to fit my queen-size mattress. Alas, I think the sheets may be too soft and comfortable as I am having much difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, leading to episodes like yesterday where I stay home and watch movies instead of going to work. The other old adage is true, too, it seems: don't judge a book by its cover (i.e., professional dress does not = professional attitude). That's the next thing I'm going to work on. But since I am now a nihilist, I may not.

*This is the slogan for Yuremovic's Sportsjackets and Slacks, a fake clothing company mentioned in an old SNL routine. Back in the day, Howard and I used to say that line to each other, using George Wendt's fake Chicago accent of course, every time we had to dress up for something.
**A fine and noble profession, just not what I went to school and accumulated massive debt for.

Thin Walls Redux

Once again, I'm writing and I can hear my neighbors fucking. Thank god I'm a nihilist, otherwise this would probably bother me.

And, yes, I recognize the irony in that last sentence.

4.10.2007

Tuesdays Are The New Mondays


I came in to work quite late today. I spent most of the morning at home watching The Big Lebowski. I think I'm becoming a nihilist.


4.07.2007

Supremely Surreal (part II)

I had about 25 minutes to kill until the argument started. I took a few minutes and looked around, watching the courtroom fill with people--all of whom looked to the front and eyed me with a "who the hell is that guy?" look. I tried to burn the images into my memory--the rich wood tones, the frieze, the beautiful, intricate ceiling. Winston was there, so I went over and talked to him for a couple of minutes. Then I spotted an attorney who interviewed me several years ago for a job I didn't get. I shot him a little smile. After a few more minutes of standing awkwardly in the front of the courtroom and being stared at by everyone, I took my seat.

The counsel table is really close to where the Justices sit, less than 10 feet away. It was so surreal to be so close to them--to see how old (Ginsburg), young (Alito) and handsome (Roberts), they looked.

At 10:00 sharp the Justices walked in and took their seats. After some preliminary administrative matters (swearing in new attorneys to the Supreme Court Bar), the argument started. K-Starr got out about 4 sentences before the justices started peppering him with questions. If you are facing the Justices, I was seated on the far left. Justices Breyer, Thomas, and Kennedy were right in front of me, all up in my grill. Justice Thomas had a tendency to lean back in his chair, and given the angle at which I was looking at him, often I would just see his head bobbing above the bench. I had to try not to laugh each time that happened.

I couldn't believe that I was sitting there at the counsel table while this case--the biggest student free speech case in decades--was being argued. The questions the Justices were asking right in front of me--the questions that were part of a conversation that I seemed to be a part of--would be reflected in an opinion that will be reviewed, cited, and studied for years to come. It was surreal. It was powerful. It was really cool.

Suddenly it was Doug's turn. He got even fewer words out than Starr before the questions started coming. Doug did a great job, but Scalia gave him a really hard time and tried (unsuccessfully) to trip him up. All of the Justices seemed to be having fun with this one as there were 4 or 5 times when the whole courtroom erupted with laughter.

Before I knew it, it was over. I had to collect my things quickly because the attorneys for the next case were hovering behind me and itching to take their seats. I threw all of my papers in a folder, grabbed my souvenir quill pens and headed back to the lawyers' lounge. Shortly thereafter we were headed down the front steps into the media throng. I took my place behind Doug as he stood before the cameras and did a bunch of interviews. Then I did a few of my own.


When the press was finished with us, we went out for lunch and I got the details for the Court TV interview--I had to be at the studio at 5:15 and a car would be waiting for me when I was done. "Just look for the black Lincoln," I was instructed.

I showed up at the studio and was ushered into the green room where Outrageous Courtroom Moments, or something like it, was playing on a TV. A few minutes later K-Starr showed up. He was as entertained as I was by the scenes of people attacking each other in court. We kicked it for about 15 minutes--he was really friendly--then we went in to makeup. I asked the makeup artist if she had anything that could make me look like I had more hair. She laughed, said no, but then told me that because I have a very round head I would look good totally bald. I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not.

This whole time I was thinking how ridiculous this was--I'm at the Supreme Court; I'm hanging out with Ken Starr; I'm about to go on national TV (That's why I look like I'm about to laugh at the beginning of the interview.). When it was over Ken and I took our makeup off and chatted for a few more minutes. Then he took a phone call and I went outside to look for my black Lincoln. There were, like, 10 of them outside the building. I eventually found the one that was waiting for me and was taken to a cocktail party at Doug's hotel. I stayed there for about an hour and then Rebecca came to get me. We picked up some Thai food and went back to her place to watch a movie. It was a quiet ending to an otherwise crazy, hectic, ridiculous, hilarious, inspiring, exhausting, memorable, whirlwind of a day.

4.06.2007

Supremely Surreal (part I)

The day of the oral argument began with Rebecca and I playing house again, yuppie-style. She was out the door at 5:30 to work out. I was up at 6:00, making coffee, blowing my nose, and popping Sudafed. By 7:30 we were both wearing our respective suit pants and dress shirts and were sharing counterspace in the bathroom--I was brushing my teeth and tying my tie and she was doing something with her hair and using peroxide to remove the specks of blood from my freshly shaved cheek that had settled on my collar. Then, in between sips of coffee, she helped me button the cuffs of my shirt.

Rebecca dropped me off a few blocks from the courthouse and circled around to look for parking. The line of people waiting to get in to watch the argument stretched all the way down the massive front steps of the building and curved around the block. There were lots of protesters, teenagers,and people with sleeping bags. I wasn't sure if it was the Supreme Court or a Phish show. Then I heard someone call my name. I turned around and there was JG. She got there early (2 1/2 hours b4 the argument), but not early enough--some people got there at 4:30 AM. The line was too long; there was no way she was going to get in.

It was so cool to see so many people (and so many kids!) lined up and fired up about a case I had been working on. To be honest, I felt pretty important. I walked past the line and went into the side entrance of the courthouse to look for the cafeteria where I was meeting the other attorneys and their friends/guests/families. The attorneys and parties for the second case of the day were there as well. The second case, Wilkie v. Robbins, involved a Wyoming rancher suing the gov't for a variety of reasons relating to a taking of his land (a rich Wyoming rancher, Steve explained, as he had hired Larry Tribe to represent him). "There's Tribe," Steve motioned with his head. Then a man in head-to-toe-denim with a cowboy boots, a leather vest, and a 10-gallon hat walked by. "See if you can spot the rancher," he chuckled.

Just before 9 AM, after about 20 minutes of chatting with the other attorneys and our media relations guru, we headed out of the cafeteria and into the main lobby of the building (because we were sitting at counsel table we didn't have to wait in line) and waited behind a velvet rope across from the elevator. At 9 sharp, they removed the rope, and we boarded the elevator. Only, there was a strict 10 person limit and the elevator operator told me I would have to get off. I was totally afraid that something would go wrong and that they weren't going to let me into the courtroom, so I didn't want to leave my group. I said, "No, it's okay, I'm with them," and pointed at the other lawyers I was with. That didn't work and the woman told me I would have to get off. Steve looked at me and said, "It's okay. You'll find us upstairs." I wasn't so sure.

BH4J Legal Team

But I was worrying for no reason. When I got off the elevator I asked the security guard where the lawyers' lounge was. "Third door on the left, but you can't go in there. The lawyers are meeting with the Clerk now." "But I am one of the lawyers," I pleaded. "Oh, okay," he said, "go ahead."

The lawyers' lounge is the pre-game staging area. You drop off your stuff, hang up your coat, drink some water, go to the bathroom, and basically try to keep your shit together knowing that you are going to be in front of the Supreme Court in a few minutes. I wasn't nervous at all, though, because my responsibilities were limited: keep the briefs and record handy in case Doug needed anything and don't knock anything over. I decided to follow the advice I had been given: "act like you belong there, because you do, and have fun with it." So I did, though it was hard to feel like I belonged--I was the only one there with a worn Patagonia shoulder bag and not a briefcase, and I had, by far, the longest sideburns of any of the lawyers in the room.

I mingled, shook hands, made small talk with the attorneys opposing us and the attorneys there for the next case. Then the Clerk came in, we all sat down, he passed out the counsel table passes, explained how things would work, and let us know that if we needed anything--coffee, pens, sewing kit, cuff links, cough drops (Tribe asked for some)--we should just let him know. He instructed us to be seated at the table by 9:55 (it was now 9:25) because the argument would start promptly at 10:00 (he wasn't kidding). When he was finished we went through another security checkpoint and into the courtroom. Armed with our counsel table passes, we walked all the way to the front.

4.03.2007

Tuesdays With Me

Today was a loooong day. I got stuck at work all day and couldn't leave to go to the gym or get lunch. By the end of the day I was exhausted, starving, and needed exercise. So I went home, made some food, and fell asleep. Then Viv came over and we took Josie for a walk, carefully navigating around the ice swamp surrounding my house and spending most of our hour on the coastal trail discussing who was more depressed, though, really, neither of us has any reason to be.

There's a lot more that I want to write about, but I'm too tired. I do, however, want to share these links:

A behind the scenes look at the writers of Lost.
Seven minute Sopranos recap.
Wal-Mart's spin machine.
Until you open the box, all things are possible at once.

4.01.2007

Opening Day

The Mets opened the season by beating the Cardinals 6-1. Winston called three times to discuss the game, though each time we should have been talking about our brief that is due in 2 weeks.

I can't explain why I love baseball so much. Or why I think it is so important, or why I am so consumed by it. But others more proficient with the pen than I can:
"It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, you rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then, just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops."
-The late A. Bartlett Giamatti, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball and father of actor Paul Giamatti

The Kids Are Alright

I participated in a public forum on student free speech rights on Saturday night. The event was to include a presentation on the BH4J case by the attorney who argued the case for us in the Supreme Court and a moderated panel discussion/Q&A session. But due to bad weather in Juneau, the other attorney couldn't fly to Anchorage, so I had to give the presentation on the case and field the vast majority of the questions during the panel discussion.

Normally, I wouldn't mind such a last-minute change in plans, but since getting hit with the flu a few weeks ago I've been battling a cough and pretty much lose my voice by the end of each day. Having already given an hour-long presentation to my Board of Directors that morning, I wasn't looking forward to another few hours of talking.

The turnout was great--there were about 100 or so people there, most of them teenagers, and they were interested and engaged in the discussion. My voice held up, but I may have told this room full of students that "basically the First Amendment protects your right to be an asshole." As K-Rock pointed out, emboldening kids who like to push buttons and piss off their teachers with such knowledge may not have been the best idea, but it should drum up some more business for my office.

It's Here. Finally.

The 2007 Major League Baseball season starts today. I'm really excited. It has been five long, cold months since the Mets season ended with Carlos Beltran striking out with the bases loaded, sending the Cardinals to the World Series and sending the Mets home.

With the new season comes new hope and new drama. Memories will be made; heroes will be born; records will be broken. Opening day brims with potential and expectation. It also signals the end of winter and means I can stop fretting over girls and can start worrying about the Mets pitching staff.

Rogers Hornsby once said, "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." I feel sort-of the same way. Except that I don't just stare out the window. Rather, what my non-baseball season life is like can be best summed up by this exchange between the characters played by Uma Thurman and Timothy Hutton in the movie Beautiful Girls:
Uma: I think you Knight's Ridge boys take the ladies way too seriously.
Tim: Only until baseball season starts.
Uma: Pitchers and catchers report in two months, three weeks, and six days.
Tim: Wanna go home with me?
Uma: No.