All posts filed under: Heroes

Is it Good to “Think Like a Lawyer”?

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I have always been puzzled by the venerable phrase “thinking like a lawyer.” What does it mean and should we take it as a  compliment or a put-down? I think the idea is  best captured by a metaphor trial lawyers sometimes  use to describe the craft of a colleague they especially admire or an adversary they fear — he or she can “see out the front.”  It means the ability to look over a complex […]


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Heroes / Legal Fictions

Michael Asimow  of  Stanford Law School shares with  us his review of the new film Marshall: This enjoyable and inspiring movie is a worthy contribution to the courtroom movie genre.  You’re going to love it. The movie memorializes the great Thurgood Marshall (who later won Brown v. Bd. of Education and sat on the Supreme Court). The film brings to life a forgotten rape case in Connecticut that Marshall tried early in his career when he was the […]

Small Revolutionary Acts

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Heroes / Repairing the System

How does social reform happen?  History books tend to portray social reform as a tidal wave  that sweeps away an unjust and obsolete status quo, but I think reform is better understood as the  cumulative result of  individual acts of opposition to concrete injustices people encounter in their own lives. Only with hindsight can we  assess the importance of any one action. Even  an idle question posed  in a conversation between old friends might turn […]

Creating the Future

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Heroes / Repairing The Systen

James Lorenz died  earlier this year. In the late 1960s  Lorenz  showed  himself to be one of the most important  social entrepreneurs of the second half of the Twentieth Century.  A 26 year old associate in a Los Angeles corporate firm, Lorenz not  only dreamed up the idea of  a network of local legal services  offices placed all over rural California  to serve its farmworkers, but also attracted  the political support necessary to get his […]

Shameless Self-Promotion

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Heroes / Repairing the System

Back in 1969 I worked  in a legal services office in the Imperial Valley  on the California-Mexican Border.   Most of our clients were Mexican-Americans who had the usual poor people legal problems–rent arrears,  welfare, and  consumer debt. For instance, I  found  I had a large number of clients who were being dunned for unpaid bills at the County Hospital. Since my employer,  California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA),  believed that we should not only represent […]

Creative Math

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Heroes / Repairing the System

I believe that imagination, not logic, is the essential ingredient in good legal reasoning.  But imagination need not be vague or dreamy. Sometimes the imaginative solution to a thorny legal problem can be as clear and simple as 1,2,3. A good example is found in a recent case involving the recurring evil of political gerrymanders. This NYT editorial tells the story well. “Gerrymander” is a term most people have heard of, but few understand. […]

Don’t Blame Donald!

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Heroes / Repairing the System

Here is a NYT article detailing the misery of migrant farm workers in California’s Salinas Valley. The gist of the story is that since the 1930’s Salinas Valley has been famous for the quality of its vegetables and the poverty of the migrant workers who harvest them. And this is one we can’t blame on Donald Trump. Salinas is in the middle of California, a state with a Democratic governor, a Democratic legislature, and […]

A Golden Oldie

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Book/film List / Heroes / Legal Fictions

The first season of Amazon’s Goliath grabs you from start to finish. Billy Bob Thorton is dynamite as Billy McBride, a failed lawyer trying to bring down a vicious corporation; and perennial Emmy winner David E. Kelly has lost none of his ability to write sizzling dialogue. Still I can’t deny that Thornton’s character bears a strong resemblance to Paul Newman in The Verdict, a down-and- out lawyer with alcohol and marital problems. And […]

Winner or Loser?

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Book/film List / Heroes

The new film Don’t Think Twice is my favorite kind of movie; it makes you laugh watching it and makes you think later on. In telling the story of the breakup of an improvisational comedy troupe in NYC, the movie celebrates how a combination of talent and camaraderie can produce infectious excitement. But it is also a cautionary tale about how group success falls prey to individual ambition. The troupe specializes in taking a random […]

A Wise Latina

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Democracy's Constitution / Heroes / The Supremes

Sonia Sotomayor has been a different kind of Supreme Court justice from the beginning.   At her confirmation hearing, instead of putting the Senate committee to sleep with platitudes, she told a male Senator that she thought a “wise Latina” might  have some valuable insights to offer in constitutional discussions. Then she ignored the  tradition for first term justices  to be  seen but not heard by  immediately joining in the colloquies  with counsel  during oral […]