All posts filed under: Heroes

Giving the Devil His Due

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Heroes / The Sjupremes

I find myself putting more faith these days in the old saying “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers,” especially right after the death of one of the rich and/or famous. In an attempt not to speak ill of the dead, the media rushes in to over-inflate the deceased’s accomplishments. The recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a good example. Here is an article in which The Atlantic is lavish in […]

Lawyers without Borders

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Heroes / lawyers without borders

Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has lost his license to practice law. This op-ed in the NYT tells why. Pu dared to criticize government policy and was convicted under a law which criminalized “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” But the article makes clear that while this was the explicit crime charged, the government’s long standing hostility to Pu was generated by his representation of clients alleging human rights abuses. Doctors have an advantage over […]

Thanks giving

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We have Louis Brandeis to thank for the insight that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Government officials are more likely to correct problems the public is aware of. That’s why Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA), federal state, and local, are so important. Here is a recent NYT article about statistics showing that Chicago policemen accused of misbehavior were seldom disciplined by their department, and when they were, the officer tended to be black or the […]

Not on the LSAT

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Book/film List / Heroes / Legal Fictions

I am told that the greatest compliment one trial lawyer can pay to another is the comment that he or she “can see out the front.” It means the lawyer has not only knowledge of the facts of the case up to the present, but also the uncanny ability to foresee how the future will unfurl. Steven Spielberg’s new film Bridge of Spies gives us a good example of this lawyerly talent. The movie tells […]

The Accidental Lawyer

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If there was a competition for the greatest civil rights/civil liberties lawyer of the second half of the Twentieth Century, the name Anthony Amsterdam would quickly surface. While Amsterdam did not wage single-handed the fight against the constitutionality of the death penalty, those who joined him would be the first to recognize that his creativity and stamina were central to the effort. Pure chance placed me in a Little Rock, Arkansas courtroom in the summer […]

The Heart as Well as the Head

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Guile is Good! -- the Book (excerpts) / Heroes

“The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o’er a cold decree.” (Merchant of Venice,Act I Scene ii, ll. 18-19) Shakespeare here voices a view of the relationship between reason, passion, and law that still rules our discussions today. Law and reason are partners; passion is their enemy. This image supports the idea of the lawyer as a “cool” technician creating sophisticated legal schemes much like a computer engineer spins […]

Using Law to Teach about Life

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Nancy Schiff is a law teacher of a special sort– one who uses law to teach about life. She teaches high school students, not college grads, and she does not teach legal codes; instead she focuses on the unspoken codes of behavior that determine success in the adult world. Nancy is the Executive Director of the Center For Youth Development Through Law, a non-profit that runs an internship program for promising low income high school […]

Some Judgments Are Too Final

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Heroes / Repairing the System

Here is a photo of Thomas Thompson who was executed at San Quentin in 1998. Thompson was sentenced to death after being convicted of murder and rape in Orange County, California. The death sentence was voided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because Thompson had not received effective assistance of counsel at his trial. That court also concluded that the prosecution had “manipulated witnesses and evidence” against him in “a desire to win at […]

Woman Bites Dog!

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You know the well-worn story of the would-be reformer who comes to office only to discover that “real” reform is “unattainable”; the pragmatic decision in the “world of the possible” is learn to accept a half loaf or less. But here’s a new story. Kara Stein, a new appointee to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) either never received the “world of the possible” memo, or has decided to disregard it. This editorial from the […]

Dickens All Over Again

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Charles Dickens became famous writing novels about the social evils of 19th Century London. One such evil was the debtor prison from which poor Londoners could never escape the consequences of their poverty.  Now we find that this Dickensian script is being played out in of all places, Ferguson, Missouri. Here’s how it works.  Cash-strapped Missouri municipalities like Ferguson are in need of money.  They decide to raise the money they need by issuing more […]