Wednesday, April 14, 2021


My Students: Matt Fass


I'm devoting Wednesdays to profiling some of my former students, alternating between Baylor and St. Thomas law schools.
I'm pretty sure that Matt Fass is the tallest student I've ever had, and also one of the best. 
Based on his performance in my classes, I had him co-author an article with me, and a very important one: the first one in which I ever suggested reviving the Ford Clemency Board model in our own time (an idea I am still pushing). If you are interested, you can download and read it here
After law school, Matt went to work as a prosecutor, first in Wichita County (right up along the Oklahoma border) and then in Harris County, which is mostly Houston. For about four years after that, until 2018, he worked defending people accused of crimes in Harris County.
And then he swerved. Hard.
After a short period working as a flight instructor, he became an airline pilot! He currently works for United Express out of Houston, flying to places ranging from Lake Charles to Memphis to Mobile to Albuquerque.  If you are interested in such things (and I am), you can see their route map here.
And that, my friends, is a swerve!  

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


A New Tragedy; A New Empathy


On Sunday, there was another troubling shooting in Minnesota. A veteran police officer in Brooklyn Center-- which is just north of Minneapolis--fatally shot Daunte Wright in his car. The officer claimed that she mistook her gun for her Taser. 

The officer is white, and Wright was black. It's yet another case where the death is rooted in over-policing and race. This time, it appears that the incident stemmed from a traffic stop for either having an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror or having expired tags. 

There is so much work left to do.

And, of course, the Derek Chauvin trial is continuing this week. On that, my dad published a really remarkable blog post that I hope everyone will read (you can do that here).  It's a perspective I haven't seen elsewhere-- based on his own experience of dying of asphyxia. I remember the day he describes; I was coming into Detroit just then for the Detroit Homecoming, and ended up going straight to the hospital. It was a terrifying moment. 

But, in the end, he was there. He still is. And that means he can tell us this important story.

Monday, April 12, 2021


Those favorite clothes

 Wow! Great haiku again last week.

I loved this one from Desiree, because I can just see it:

9 years old, rockin'
my yellow snail skirt at the
science fair. So cool.

And Jill Scoggins, the same:

Handmade by Mom, my
dress shows costumes of the world.
Age 6. It’s smashing. 

And IPLawGuy told a good (and true) story:

Brown Cardigan
Assistant kept "borrowing"
It slowly became hers.

The Medievalist is right on about this:

Those olde cargo shorts,
Everyday pandemic,
Need throwing away.

This one was anonymous, but I really liked it:

Mother-in-law’s gift
A ski sweater from Denmark
Wore it fifty years.

Sunday, April 11, 2021


Sunday Reflection: Selflessness and individualism


A year later, the pandemic endures. This past Friday, April 9, there were over 80,000 new cases reported, more than twice as many as we saw a year ago, when everything was shut down because the danger was so extreme. 

Part of the problem now is that there are large swaths of people unwilling to be vaccinated, wear masks, or social distance. Because they tend to live near and socialize with others who hold similar views, this is creating islands of COVID vulnerability, where the virus will flourish and mutate-- thus threatening those outside of those islands. Many of those islands are comprised of Christians.

This brings to the surface one of the enduring paradoxes of American life. The US, which prizes individualism, is full of people who practice a faith that encourages selflessness in the service of others. The Gospel teachings of Jesus aren't about rights; they are about humility, sacrifice, and service. It's strange  to have not wearing a mask or refusing a vaccine characterized as somehow a virtuous assertion of "rights"-- and stranger still to have these choices that endanger other people asserted by Christians. 

And yeah, in the picture I am getting the Fisher-Price vaccine.

Saturday, April 10, 2021



 There has been a lot of (mostly misleading) talk of a fentanyl overdose at the Derek Chauvin. 

But, amidst all that, there is this: Prince died five years ago, in April, 2016, of an opioid overdose. It seems so long ago. 

Maybe it is time to take that pandemic seriously-- and no, not by locking people up, but by controlling the narcotic.

Friday, April 09, 2021


Haiku Friday: Clothes we miss


Aren't there some clothes you just wish would last forever? I tend to actually do keep some clothes forever, but most of them do wear out, get lost, or maybe migrate to the back of the closet.

Maybe it's a dress or shirt you loved, or the perfect swimsuit (I know that I still miss my perfect Adidas beach shorts). Or perhaps it is is a whole bygone genre of fashion that miss. No matter- just give us a haiku!

Here, I will go first (reminiscing on a favorite in the picture above):

Old green/red sweater
I loved you to death (though
Some moths sped demise).

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula and have some fun!

Thursday, April 08, 2021


Political Mayhem Thursday: More Taxes!


As the New York Times reports, the Biden administration's new tax plan would increase taxes by $2.5 trillion, much of it coming from new rules that will require companies like Apple to  actually, you know, pay taxes. I'm all for that. I do not understand the utility of allowing a myriad of tax dodges that incentivize companies to move abroad. It also would raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, from 21%. Some will cry that this is more than many other countries' rates, but it also is about the same rate that many middle-class Americans pay. 
The Trump administration's model-- lower taxes (mostly for the very rich) and spend more-- created massive deficits (just as the same recipe did for Reagan and George W. Bush). Under Trump, the deficit went up by $7.8 trillion, most of it before the pandemic.  Biden is at least trying to raise some revenue for the massive amounts of money he is spending.
I'm not in the camp that says "deficits don't matter," and I'm concerned about the level of spending being proposed. But... better to spend and tax than to spend and not tax, which has been the predominant model-- politically palatable, but terrible policy. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2021


My Students: Laura Reilly


I'm devoting Wednesdays on my blog to profiling my former students, alternating between Baylor and St. Thomas.

Laura Reilly came to St. Thomas after getting degrees from Rhodes College and U. of Memphis (for a Masters in criminology), and I remember her coming to talk to me before she even started law school. She had a background in criminal justice-- she had spent three years working on the federal weed and seed program-- and was eager to dig in.

She was the kind of student you love to have: bright, engaged, hard-working, and open-minded. She excelled in my classes, and I talked her into taking my clinic as well, where she worked on a difficult case and excelled. 

After law school, she went off to work for a big firm, but.... criminal law will always be there when she gets done with that other thing!

Tuesday, April 06, 2021


It's time for Minnesota Hockey Hair!!!!

Some people still wonder why I moved to Minnesota. Other people know, though-- it's because my hockey hair totally fits in here!

 You want the flow? Here you go!

Monday, April 05, 2021


Opening day in verse!

 I worried this theme might be too limiting, but I was wrong!

We heard, of course, from Nats fan IPLawGuy:

One World Series win
An exchange for future pain
Deal with the Devil?

And Red Socks fan Craig A (yeah, I know it is "Sox," but still...):

Red Sox playing in 
the shadows of banners past.
Fenway dogs and beers!

Christine came in with quality:

Rays win, Yankees lose
Verdant fields and snow flurries
Glasses still rosy

As did Mets fan Susan Stabile:

Mets first game delayed
Maybe that's not a bad thing--
They haven't lost yet.

And the Medievalist:

I have given up, 
There is no joy in Mudville,

My team is useless.

And IPLawGuy came back, this time to comment on my Tigers:

Miguel Cabrera
Certain Hall of Famer
Stuck with weak Tigers.

Sunday, April 04, 2021


Sunday Reflection: Pandemic Easter (II)


It's been quite a year since last Easter. For nearly everyone, there has been a low of some kind: an illness, a work setback, a death in the family or within your circle of friends. It's been Good Friday for a while.

But Easter always follows. And perhaps this year it is more important than ever. Things change for the better, in ways we never imagine.

Good Friday and Easter remind us that the highest highs begin with the lowest lows. Our walk to the top of mountaintops begins with looking up from deep in the valley. Despair and joy are linked, tied together across time.

I love what I do, and sometimes I am good at it. But I got into law at the very bottom. I was desperate for a job, having been rejected again and again. All I could find was a job delivering flowers, and I wasn't very good at that.  I answered an ad looking for a "young resourceful person," and it turned out to be from small law firm looking for someone to do some process serving, filing of documents, and other low-level tasks. I soon found what I wanted to do. And what I do now is connected to that low moment, for which I will always be grateful.

Happy Easter-- and I hope that there is a light on the horizon for us all.

Saturday, April 03, 2021


Hobo Johnson

 I got hooked on his music a few years ago-- and he has a Tiny Desk concert!

Friday, April 02, 2021


Haiku Friday: Opening day!


Yesterday was opening day for baseball-- except in DC, where the Washington Senators got Covid instead. 

Meanwhile, the Twins celebrated by blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning to lose to the Brewers. I'm still not totally used to being a Twins fan, and am still partial to the Tigers, who beat Cleveland. 
So, let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:
This is normalcy--
My team blows a big lead late
I'm ready for that.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!

Thursday, April 01, 2021


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Chauvin Trial


The world's eyes are on Minneapolis right now as the trial of Derek Chauvin proceeds. As you might imagine, I've been talking about it some: to the New York Times, ABC News, GMA, the London Times, WBZ in Boston, and others. Today, I'll be with Al-Jazeera in the morning and ABC News in the afternoon (on their livestream). 

If you want to follow the trial online, one great source is the Minneapolis Star Tribune

So, what am I seeing? Here are some highlights:

-- The openings weren't surprising, except perhaps for the defense's brevity (I knew they would not go long, but thought they would take more than 20 minutes). The government did one thing that seemed particularly effective. When they showed the video (which of course they did), they left the sound in instead of muting it and talking over the video. The sounds of people calling out for Chauvin to stop is a big part of what makes the video compelling. 

-- So far, the most important testimony is likely that of Genevieve Hanson, a Minneapolis firefighter (shown here). 

-- Charles McMillan, who testified yesterday, was also effective, though his testimony did not go directly to any element of the crime. He struck me as more of a sentencing witness.

-- The prosecution has done one thing that I think is really wrong. They called a nine-year-old girl to the stand to testify about what she saw. That's immoral-- the testimony did not add anything to what others said in terms of facts, and re-traumatizing a child is something that should be done only if it is essential (and it wasn't in this case). Prosecutors view their work as protecting children from trauma-- that should carry over into the choices they make at trial.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021


My students: Robert Callahan

 I'm devoting Wednesdays on my blog to profiling some of my former students, alternating between Baylor and St. Thomas.

Robert Callahan, Jr. came to Baylor Law after undergrad at Gonzaga-- meaning that he just may have his two alma maters facing off in the NCAA basketball championship game. 

Whatever they did at Gonzaga worked pretty well, because by the time Robert arrived at my class at Baylor, he was well-prepared for law school. I was impressed by him and made him a member of a mock trial team that I coached with Mag. Judge Jeff Manske (a team that included current Baylor advocacy director Robert Little). He was already a skilled trial lawyer-- principled, sharp, unafraid, and quick on his feet. 

He has thrived since then, both as a lawyer and a member of the Waco community. After a stint with a small law firm, Robert spent four years as a county prosecutor and then went into private practice on the defense side. He has excelled: in fact, in 2020 he won the Percy Foreman Award from the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association, recognizing him statewide (and Texas is a pretty big state) as the outstanding lawyer. I'm really proud of him and what he has done.

Perhaps just as importantly, he is often a voice of conscience in debates within and beyond Waco. (If you want a taste, follow him on Twitter-- @RCallahanWaco). That fearlessness and sense of principle I saw in him as a law student has endured and expanded. As a teacher, there is nothing that makes me happier. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021


2020 turned out pretty well for China


I've just finished reading a fascinating article in The New Yorker, Peter Hessler's The Rise of Made-in-China Diplomacy.

In short, if you think Donald Trump somehow limited the power of China, you'd be wrong. I'm no Trump fan, but I really thought that if he did anything, at least he addressed the trade imbalance with China.

Except, he didn't. As it turns out...

-- Chinese companies dealt with tariffs by passing the cost on to their American customers. Basically, they ended up being a tax hike that we paid.

-- China was the only major economy that grew in 2020.

-- The driver of that growth was exports, including to the United States.

-- One tiny part of that export growth? Manufacturing Trump flags and MAGA hats, of course. Do Trump fans even bother to read the label? Hessler reports: "After the Capitol was stormed, on January 6th, Jin Gang, in Shaoxing, reported a spike in orders for Trump flags. He sent me pictures on WeChat of the new designs that were being manufactured by the Johnin assembly lines: “Trump 2024: The Revenge Tour,” “Trump 2024: Take America Back,” and “Trump 2024: Save America Again!” 

-- What American media do the Communist Chinese allow their citizens access to? Fox News. As Hessler describes it, "In a detail that is unlikely to appear in any of the station’s promotional materials, the Communist Party didn’t bother to block Fox’s Web site, unlike those of CNN, the Times, and other American sources."

-- Hessler teaches English at a Chinese school. One of his anecdotes:  "All November, a student in the front row of my journalism class wore a “Trump: Keep America Great” baseball cap. He referred to the President as Chuan Jianguo, an ironic Chinese nickname that pairs the Trump surname with a Communist-era patriotic moniker—essentially, Make-China-Great-Again Trump."

There's more, but maybe I'll just leave it with "Make-China-Great-Again-Trump."

Monday, March 29, 2021


Warm and wonderful haiku

 We had it!

From Gavin:

Sun, 40 degrees. 
Late March in the Twin Cities
Pale legs, shorts, flip-flops. 

From the Medievalist (who is obviously NOT in Minnesota):

Flowers are blooming,
Sunshine is on my shoulders,
Coat back in closet.

From Tim Fournier (welcome!):

The water wings on
And the muck boots stored away
I float blissfully. 

From IPLawGuy:

Buds, blossoms, flowers
but in March, Global Warming 
Scary consequences.

From Desiree:

"No pants after June!"
says my shorts-wearing colleague.
Teachers love summer.

From Christine:

The sun shines, higher
in the sky, as soil warms up...
beneath, the world greens.

And I liked this anonymous entry:

Warm day, bought periwinkle
Blue pansies with joy

Sunday, March 28, 2021


Sunday Reflection: Palm Sunday


Today is Palm Sunday. I've had some very memorable Palm Sundays; there is something about it that seems to engage my soul.

For one thing, it's baffling. I mean... what a scene! Jesus is entering the city of Jerusalem and two key things happen. First, he arrives riding a donkey. Second, people law down palms in his path. On their face, neither of those things make sense. The second seems to be part of a story of glory, while the first seems to be an act of humility. The juxtaposition of the two is striking and confusing. 

Or is it?

Victory and humility almost always go together, if we examine them closely. Few truly successful people lack humility. 

If you ever got to meet one of your heroes, you probably know that already.

Saturday, March 27, 2021


Not that anybody asked, but...

 ... this is just about my favorite scene in any superhero movie:

Friday, March 26, 2021


Haiku Friday: Warmth


Warm weather is coming again-- even here in Minnesota. And in a few months, maybe, hopefully, we will be able to gather again in groups, in the sunshine.
Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:
The smell of wood smoke
Will now come from our backyards;
The outdoors beckons.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun....

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