Monday, November 30, 2020


Haiku of the Feasts

 For 2020, people had some pretty good Thanksgiving meals! 

Gavin whipped up some new things:

Rolled out new dishes
Creamy cheesy Brussel Sprouts
Top notch! Stole the show. 

Desiree, predictably, avoided the turkey:

Brocolli, onions,
mozzarella, anchovies.
Paisans save the day!

As did, in her own way, Christine:

Leg of Lamb with cranberry;
a French Apple Cake.

And the Medievalist, too!:

A rack of lamb ribs,
A salad, shrimp and apples,
Mince meat pie dessert.

Sunday, November 29, 2020


Sunday Reflection: Down and out


I should have posted this picture yesterday-- it is my dad's painting that inspired my Star-Tribune piece yesterday (see previous post). It sits over my computer at home, where I see it every day.

I'm blogging late today because I have been sick. Not COVID-- wrong symptoms for that, and I had a negative test-- but there are still apparently other ailments out there. For me, it was a really debilitating case of vertigo, where I could do nothing but lie motionless in one place for eight hours. As you might imagine, that's not really my thing, but I endured it and then got better. I have no idea where this comes from. It's the first time that anything like that had happened to me.

But, while I was lying there motionless in the dark, I realized just how lucky I am. Since I haven't had an episode like that before, I didn't really know what was happening-- a stroke? A heart attack? Some kind of severe allergic reaction? And in those moments, you think that maybe that's it, that you might just be dying. 

And I kind of thought that it would be ok; those I know and love would be all right, and I'm content with what I have done in the world. 

Then I got better. And that's pretty good, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2020


Joe Biden, bass player

 In today's Star Tribune, I explain how Joe Biden is like America's bass player. You can read that here.

There's a bass-forward sound here:

Friday, November 27, 2020


Haiku Friday: What did you eat?


As I mentioned yesterday, Thanksgiving is a feasting holiday. And I love a good feast! This year, I made a pumpkin pie that involved a lot of rum and kind of a messy crust. Yum.

So what did you eat? Are there leftovers? Can I have some? Let's haiku about that this week. Here, I will go first:

I carve the turkey
Mostly so I can filch bits,
Furtively happy.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2020


Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that it is about a simple and good idea: gratitude. It's not particularly nationalistic or commercialized. It has only the simplest and most ancient of traditions: feasting. What's not to love?

I'm grateful for all of you. It is a pleasure and an honor to reach out into the world every day and know that what I write is read, by people I love and people I do not know. I have posted every day for the last 14 years, and it has brought me great joy. 

Right now I have a piece up at The Atlantic on the spiritual elements of clemency. They connected it to the Flynn pardon, which is ok-- but the headline (which I don't get to write) doesn't really fit the piece. Still, it lays out the heart of what I think about clemency. You can read that here, and I hope that you will. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


My Students: Phil Steger


I'm devoting Wednesdays to profiling some of my former students. My plan is to alternate between people from Baylor and St. Thomas, since I have spent ten years at each now.

Phil Steger was a great guy to have in class-- the kind with good answers and even better questions-- but perhaps even better outside of class, as a part of our community. He came to St. Thomas after getting a theology degree from St. Johns, a beautiful little school about an hour northwest of here where he was an All-American swimmer. Then, for thirteen years before coming to law school he... did a lot of things. Here is how his distillery's (er, more on that later) website describes it: "[Phil] lived in a monastery, served the homeless and desperate migrant workers, smuggled medical supplies into war zones, and helped preserve ancient manuscripts in some of the world’s most dangerous places."

And then he came to law school. And all of that may have had something to do with why it was a lot of fun to have him in class.

When we first did the Trial of Jesus, I asked him to play the role of Peter, who was by far the most important witness (after all, he pretty much saw everything). I was surprised when he showed up in a hoodie, but he pointed out that he was a fisherman, so that's what he was wearing. Then, on the stand, he was fantastic-- he knew the Gospels backwards and forwards, and revealed this authentic reverence for Jesus, who he referred to as the "Teacher" or the "Master." 

After law school, Phil clerked for Diana Murphy on the 8th Circuit, then worked for a big firm here, Dorsey & Whitney. 

But he also founded the Brother Justus Whiskey Company, a local distiller where they "make whiskey the Benedictine Way." And there stuff is really good.

Or at least it is, to drink, when what they are making is whiskey. When the pandemic hit, Phil and his crew switched over to making hand sanitizer. Which is exactly what I would expect. 

And you thought my Yale Law classmates were interesting?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


Please, can we stop talking about Trump?


The election is over. Biden won. Yes, Trump is flailing about trying to find a way to ignore that outcome, but it isn't working at all. 

Please, can we stop talking about Trump?

I have friends and family who are accomplished at so many things: Art, theater, creative writing, advertising, history, law, education, opera etc. etc. etc.  These are fascinating people. But for the most part they have all been reduced to 4th-rate political commentators who can't stop talking about Trump.

It's time to stop allowing him to be the focus of our nation. He wants that, of course. But we don't have to give it to him. 

So let's have conversations about other things. Life is rich, and we are surrounded by beauty and remarkable people. We are divided as a nation not only because we disagree about politics, but because we care about politics too much-- we grossly over-value its importance. And that is a choice.

I'll do my part. No more Trump talk here unless it is about clemency (which is, you know, kind of my gig).

Monday, November 23, 2020


GP Antifa!

 No, "Grosse Pointe Antifa" is not a traditional haiku subject (usually they are about nature). But it brought some good work to the fore!

Christine, from Grosse Pointe, was first and best (she is referring to the "Phyllis Osler Singers," who are no longer affiliated with Phyllis Osler):

Dressed in their finest
from Brooks Brothers and Hickey's;
Martini in hand

Grosse Pointe elite
Loot the local village stores
with Amex in hand

While sidewalk strolling
Osler's - Grosse Pointe Antifa
sing silly carols.

We also heard from IPLawGuy, who has been to Grosse Pointe, but mostly was thinking about the movie:

John Cusack knew it!
Went back to stop "The Grocer"
Antifa Ackroyd.

My dad (who was, I think, referred to as "Commander Spike" in an unrelated, anonymous poem) gave us this clever twist:

Planning to overturn
some pancakes.. perfect cover
green pants and pink shirt.

The Medievalist came in with this one:

Secret antifa,
Destroying Amerika,
Vote Michigan.

And an anonymous Grosse Pointer brought us this:

Lilly Pulitzer
THE Country Club of Detroit
Grosse Pointe Antifa.

Sunday, November 22, 2020


Sunday Reflection: Is the Bible a story or a quote book?

 I often find myself confronted with people who want to use the Bible as a tool to promote a harsh, retributive view of the world: one which allows Christians. to focus on condemning others, on protecting their own "liberty" rather than serving others, and to defend their politics.

These Christians are so different than me; they seem to read the same book to come to opposite conclusions. How can that be?

I think the answer is that we read this one book in two very different ways. I read it as a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end (which we are living out). It also has a protagonist, Jesus, and remarkable and beautiful story arcs that carry throughout the entire book. There are directive, normative lessons in that story (including the direct teachings of Jesus) that apply very much to our modern lives. One part must be read in the context of the others. Chapter two does not make sense when read on its own, and reading one paragraph of chapter two alone tells you almost nothing.

Some people, though, read it as a quote book-- you can just lift out any passage at random and then hold it up to modern life, without context or a relationship to the story as a whole. Reading it that way, you can defend almost anything. 

Not helping are people who describe the Bible as an "instruction book." Especially when we tell kids this, raising the expectation that if you just look on p. 12, you will see how Tab F is supposed to fit into Slot B. (Actually, looking for the answer to that would probably lead kids to Song of Solomon, which would change the adult's tune about the importance of context!).

Saturday, November 21, 2020


Donald Grump

 I can't believe this was created in 2005:


The Beatles, 2020


Is it just me, or is this video's take on "Paperback Writer" the most 2020 thing ever associated with the Beatles? It just has that 2020 vibe of "oh no," even with the perky song going on.

Friday, November 20, 2020


Haiku Friday: Grosse Pointe Antifa


If you somehow missed it yesterday, something wonderful and profoundly silly happened on the interwebs. Monica Palmer, the dopey Republican member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers who swooned when Donald Trump called her (and then tried to rescind her vote to certify the election results), complained that she was being targeted by "Antifa of Grosse Pointe." Which, happily, led to the internet going bananas. Since my family is probably the closest thing to Antifa in Grosse Pointe, I guess she was talking about us...

Anyways, it is worth some haiku! Here, I will go first:

GP Antifa
That must be who looted the
Talbots and Mole Hole.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020


In Remembrance: Drew Days III


In law school, first year students were divided up into "small groups" of 16. That group of 16 had all their classes together and shared a mentor-professor who also taught one of those classes to the small group alone. 

People remember and identified with their small group professors. Mine was Drew Days III, who passed away on November 15. He was a remarkable teacher, a good man, and a profound influence on me and many many others.

He graduated from Hamilton College in upstate New York, where he was a beloved alum. (Kind of like Craig Anderson at Colgate, which, confusingly, is in Hamilton, New York).  He attended Yale for law School, graduating in 1966. He then joined the Peace Corps and served in Honduras for two years before returning to the US and work as a lawyer for the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund. His principal work was in school desegregation, including the successful desegregation of the Tampa schools he had attended. He then headed up the Civil Rights Division in the DOJ during the Carter administration before starting his remarkable teaching career at Yale in 1981. I learned the basics of law from a civil rights pioneer.

He took a detour from teaching after I was his student-- President Clinton chose him as Solicitor General, the government's top advocate in the Supreme Court, and a job held by Thurgood Marshall, Elena Kagan, and others. 

Then he came back to Yale to influence the lives of hundreds more. All along, he was a singer--a tenor in the Yale Russian Chorus-- and involved in some of the more difficult episodes both locally and nationally. 

I know this for certain: he was kind. He was kind to me, and to many others I knew, at a place and time that was not always that way. 

And that example may have been the most profound for the many of us who teach.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


My Students: Gordon Davenport


I'm going to be spending some Wednesdays profiling my former students-- a lot of characters in that group!

It was hard to miss Gordon Davenport at Baylor Law-- he is a big guy, and pretty unforgettable all around. He came to Baylor from undergrad at UT-Austin, where he was a part of the famed Trial Advocacy program there. He had--and has-- a particularly good skill set for trial work, thoughtful, thorough, and able to describe complicated things clearly. It was clear from the start that he was going to do great things, and he has.

During school, he was on a trial ad team I coached, and then after school he helped me coach others. He was able to do so because he was clerking with Walter Smith, the federal judge in town. He's a person you can count on, and I have.

After clerking, Gordon took a job as a federal prosecutor in Tucson. I urged him to do that, because I think it is imperative that people of compassion and good judgment take on that role, and Gordon was exactly that. He has thrived, and now is a leader there in taking on public corruption cases. Abuse of public authority is especially pernicious close to the border, where abuses can be hidden and especially dangerous. He's brave that way, and I'm proud of him. Since my friend and colleague Hank Shea spends much of the year in Tucson, I get to see Gordon fairly regularly-- and I'm always happy to see him. 

Here's why: teaching people like Gordon, and seeing what he does, makes me feel like I am in the right business.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


It's time for the annual Thanksgiving WaPo Op-Ed!


NYU Super-Prof Rachel Barkow and I have an Op-Ed in the print edition of today's Washington Post, arguing that even if the Turkey pardons himself this year, clemency is still worth preserving. You can read that here.

Complaining about the Turkey Pardon is kind of a tradition for me now. Here is a brief history by year:

2018: CNN
2014: Washington Post (with Rachel Barkow)
2013: Atlantic/National Journal (via Ron Fournier), Waco Trib (with PS Ruckman)

Monday, November 16, 2020


Haiku Bonanza! You guys are reading a lot...

 Wow! What a lot of haiku! And so good.. thank you all.

This is from my Mom (I recognize her reading list, though she was "anonymous"):

A ray of hope in 
Robert Putnam’s “The Upswing”
A new day may dawn

Sam Pepy’s diaries
Tell of plague, war, London fire.
Hard times are not new.

David Best has been reading deeply:

a poetic friend
capturing pain and heartbreak
in the written word

beautiful honest
she writes from experience
teaching others well.

Not surprisingly, so has Megan Willome:

California goes dry
worst case scenarios come
but teens conquer all.

("Dry" by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman, a YA thriller)

Desiree is keeping up (and knows something about being a courageous mom, I suspect):

Small girl all alone.
Courageous mom right behind.
Ruby Bridges' tale.

And I might follow the Waco Farmer's lead:

John Wayne: The Life and 
Legend by Scott Eyman. Truth.
Goodness and Beauty.

We had this from Gentlemen Prefer Gamera:

Martin Amis writes
novel about loss.

And IPLawGuy chimed in:

Self help books, again
Hope to understand daughter
and maybe my wife.

As did Christine (such variety!):

Some Michael Cohen,
Poems by Alison Swan,
and fav John Grisham.

But my dad best captured my own sentiments:

Currently I am 
reading wonderful haikus
in Osler's Razor.

Sunday, November 15, 2020


Sunday Reflection: Faith in a pandemic


We are a nation in crisis. The COVID pandemic is raging beyond the expectations of even the pessimists among us. On Friday, there were 181,000 new cases, blowing far past the previous one-day record. The spread means that tougher measures will be needed, which means that the economic hardships will be even greater.

What aggravates me is the cultural issues that led us here. A lot of the hardship could have been avoided if people had simply limited their contact with others and worn a mask. But a strong plurality of the country simply refused.

Here is part of what bugs me so much: Most of those refusers probably identify themselves as Christians. A faith led by Christ who steadfastly taught personal sacrifice for the benefit of others. It is one of the Two Great Commandments, and woven into nearly every lesson he gave. Just that: Christ taught that we sacrifice for others.

And yet for all these Christians, other values trumped that simple one: Personal Freedom. Political allegiance to leaders who denied the need to make any sacrifice. A belief that COVID was an issue in other places. 

If you believe in what Christ taught and apply that to your life, it means doing things different than other people. It means that your liberty will not be as important as your duties to others. That might not be popular or politic, but it is clear.

Saturday, November 14, 2020


The Gist

 I had a great time this week talking to Mike Pesca for Slate's podcast, The Gist. Like a lot of people these days, he wanted to talk about how Trump might use clemency.  You can hear it right here!

Friday, November 13, 2020


Haiku Friday: Whatcha Reading?


I'm thinking about reading a lot right now. I do that when I am in the middle of writing something important, which is what I am doing. What I'm thinking about reading is Barack Obama's not-yet-released memoir (it comes out next week). To get ready, I went back and re-read Ta-Nehisi Coates's essay about the Obama presidency in The Atlantic. I felt a connection to it; Coates called me up as he was getting ready to write it, to work out how clemency fit in. I talked to him as a stood in a field at St. Olaf, about to watch a cross-country meet on a brilliant November morning near a marshfield of bleached tall reeds. 

So... watcha reading? Let's haiku about that this week. Here, I will go first:

Read about the past
While I thought about what's next;
A thin string through time.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2020


PMT: Ron Klain


Yesterday, President-elect Biden chose Ron Klain to be his chief of staff. It may not seem significant in the way that a cabinet position might be viewed, but to those who know the White House, it is seen as a key role-- at least in the right hands. Though it is not defined by law, the position has developed into a particular kind of power center over the past 40 years.

The chief of staff basically runs air traffic control, deciding who gets access to the president and what roles senior officials take on. Though there are ministerial tasks, the job also involves protecting the president.

Most two-term presidents end up having several chiefs of staff (George W. Bush was unusual in having just two), since the average tenure is just 18 months. It is a high-burnout position, as you might imagine. Obama had five, and in just one term Donald Trump has run through four (Reince Priebus, John Kelly, Mick Mulvaney, and Mark Meadows).

Klain seems well-positioned for the job. He's a lawyer, and a graduate of Harvard Law School who clerked for one of the more interesting Supreme Court Justices, Byron "Whizzer" White. He first worked for Biden when the President-Elect was a senator, in 1989. He has already done two stints as chief of staff to two vice-presidents, Al Gore and Biden. 

He has also been in the middle of two prior crises that seem to give him some very relevant experience. First, he headed up the Gore campaign's efforts in the Florida recount in 2000. Second, under Obama he was the "Ebola Czar" in what was an effective effort to prevent a pandemic. 

This should be a hopeful time. And competence in key positions should be part of what gives us hope.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


YLS '90: Charles E. Brown


I'm devoting Wednesdays on the blog to my classmates in the Yale Law Class of 1990.

Charles Brown was one of the more memorable people in our class. I remember sitting directly behind him during the first week of class and thinking "that guy sure has a big head." But, that was pretty much true of all of us at one time or another.

He came to Yale Law after earning a bachelor's degree from Brown University, followed by a master's degree in political science at Princeton. At law school, he was notable for a certain quirkiness and his distinctive sartorial style; he was also one of the few students with a pet. He had a unique and somewhat depressing perspective on the law. His Law Journal note, "Good Grief, 7th Circuit: A Reflection on Rule-Shifting and Power Dynamics in Cost Apportionment Under ERISA" was singular in its dark and hopeless tone.

After law school, he clerked for Hon. Mel Dickson of the 2nd Circuit, and then worked in the Clinton administration in the Department of Labor. After that, he became a partner at Winston & Coie in New York, focusing on labor law and representing large employers. His clients have included Wal-Mart, General Motors, and several food companies. In 2015 and 2018 he was named a "Super Lawyer" in the field of labor law.  He also serves on the governing board of Friends of LaGuardia, an organization which donates money to struggling airlines serving New York and environs. 

Unfortunately, his unpopularity with employees of his clients led to frequent attacks and a profoundly unflattering Broadway play (one of three classmates to have been the subject of Broadway or off-Broadway plays):

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


Three key transition questions

It's clear that Joe Biden won this election-- a conclusion reached by all of the major news outlets and analysts, including Fox News. It's time to think about the transition of power. Here are three key questions.

1) Will Congressional Republicans accept the result?

    It's not really in question whether or not President Trump will accept the results of the election-- he won't. He seems convinced that the fact that he lost is, in itself, proof that the election was illegitimate. Right now, many Republicans in Congress are taking Trump's line. They have every right to litigate the results, but that does not seem to be getting them very far. In the end, the key question will be whether they accept the reality of the results as they become clearer. If they do accept that reality, even as Trump resists it, there will be a schism in the party.

2). Will Biden be able to get his people in place?

Already, Biden has begun creating a kind of shadow government (as happens with every transition), most prominently by naming a high-powered task force to address the pandemic. That is going to drive Trump bananas, since he doesn't want to lose the headlines-- and he may react by trying to stop Biden from this kind of (totally appropriate) action. I'm not sure he will be able to do much about it, though.

3) How will crises be addressed?

We already have an ongoing crisis-- the pandemic. If another arises (say, a foreign power or terrorists threaten national security), we are going to be in a terrible position. The nation's leader is self-obsessed and feckless, and the president-elect has no governmental power right now. This has happened before. In 1860, James Buchanan was the lame duck president when South Carolina and six other states seceded from the union. His inaction accelerated the coming of the civil war and assured that war would not be averted.

What am I missing?


Monday, November 09, 2020


Sleepless poems

You all did a great job with a weird subject. It appears I was not the only one who has been losing sleep.

Gavin had the best all time reason for being up in the middle of the night! (and a great poem):

3 am. She’s up
I feed her. She grasps my thumb. 
Smile, our blue eyes lock. 

The Medievalist was up at 3 too:

Three a.m., oh my!
I am not at all sleepy,
Bad insomnia!

IPLawGuy was also up at three:

 3 AM, my time

To cruise the empty back streets

And blast Manilow.

Christine made it an hour later:

Out cold around 9
Then wide awake around 4
Disruptive sleep.

We heard from my dad:

One two three AM 
Four five six seven o'clock
Now daylight streams in.

Desiree has identified the source, at least:

Sound asleep and then
Snore, snore, snore. Poke the culprit.
Try to sleep again.

DDR has, too:

Night sounds, intriguing:
The drone of the highway, and
The call of night birds.

And Kitty knows wha the problem is, too (along with a pretty good solution)!:

Hot flashes at 1
Bathroom to pee at 4:10
I miss sleeping in

The election is past
Counting the votes continues
Peace and love for all


Sunday, November 08, 2020


Sunday Reflection: New Eras


No matter who you supported in the election, we are going to enter a new era this next January together. The transition from Obama to Trump was abrupt and jarring. This transition will likely be less so. 

As I've said before, it is important to keep politics in perspective. The truth is, almost always the choices we make in our daily lives impact us much more than the person who holds any political office. Whether we exercise is more important than who is the Senator from our state. Whether or not we forgive those who hurt us is going to mean more than who the President is. Our ability to focus and do well at our jobs is going to make a bigger difference in our lives than who the mayor is.

I voted for Joe Biden and am glad he won, but I don't imagine that his being president is going to change my life in any dramatic way. We are responsible for our own fulfillment. 

After four years of President Trump, I fear that we have taken to viewing politics as a form of entertainment more than anything. We elected a reality show star, and suddenly we were all in a reality show!  But politics has to be something other than entertainment.

And so does faith. This administration has been a kind of mega-church with a charismatic pastor and not much else; quite a show, but not authentic. 

Saturday, November 07, 2020


I think it is time for cat videos


Friday, November 06, 2020


Haiku Friday: Sleepless


As the election dragged on, a lot of people I know were literally losing sleep. 

It happens to all of us sometimes, for a lot of reasons (or sometimes, for seemingly no reason at all). We do different things in those moments-- some people wander the house, others lie in bed, some people play keno on line-- but it is frustrating for everyone. 

But... also very human. So let's haiku about that this week. Here, I will go first:

Now I walk downstairs

To turn on the news, a minute,

Well, that did not help.

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

Thursday, November 05, 2020


Political Mayhem Thursday: Now with more mayhem!


I like politics, in the sense that it is about policy-- decisions made by people in power to benefit the country. However, I'm not a huge fan of politics in the sense of party politics and horserace watching, which is hard to avoid right now, as we wait to see how the presidential election finally ends up.

The Trump campaign seems to want it all to end up in court-- in fact, the president seems convinced that the Supreme Court will hand him the election in the end, one way or another. But there are a few issues the Trump team faces with that.

One is having an issue. The election seems to have been pretty clean, and even when they have raised an issue, it involves very few ballots. As Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School in LA put it (in what has to be my favorite quote of the entire election cycle): "A lawsuit without provable facts showing a statutory or constitutional violation is just a tweet with a filing fee."

The other is having some kind of legal talent working for you. From what I hear, the Trump team is having a very hard time finding good lawyers-- and sending Rudy Giuliani to Philly is not exactly deploying top legal talent (though, to his credit, he did find someone who goes by "Thor" to file the Michigan suit). A track record of not paying vendors doesn't help. Neither does the fact that representing Trump will repel the clients of some top firms (not to mention the lawyers themselves-- and yes, good lawyers do turn down clients because they don't like them). 

If Biden prevails in the end, the next important question will be this: is Donald Trump capable of accepting defeat in a way that reflects the best interests of the country?

Wednesday, November 04, 2020


YLS '90: Sushma Soni


I'm devoting Wednesdays to profiling my classmates from the Yale Law Class of 1990, an endlessly fascinating group!

 I'm pretty sure that Sushma Soni was in my "small group"-- a set of 16 students who traveled through the first year together. She was super-smart and an original thinker (there were a lot of people in the class with the first quality, fewer with the second). I do have a distinct memory of a bunch of us-- including Sushma-- going to see "Fatal Attraction" at the theater together, and most of us almost passed out when Glen Close rose out of the tub.

 Sushma came to law school after not only getting an undergrad degree from Northwestern, but a Masters from the Kennedy School at Harvard (a place I find pretty fascinating).  She came in with serious intellectual cred, and was one of those people I would look for in confusing discussions to make a point that was clear, brief, and insightful. 

After law school, she clerked for Judge Butzner on the Fourth Circuit and then, in 1991, went to the Department of Justice. And (in a departure from the template set by some of us who wandered around a lot) she is still there! She is married to a classmate, too-- Jeff Bartos, already profiled here.

Sushma works as an appellate lawyer in the DOJ's civil division, and is (I think) the only person I know who has argued a case in every Circuit Court. In an interview with the Yale Law Women, here is part of what she said about her job:

A typical day in my job involves research and writing. The Appellate Staff has two primary responsibilities, both of them writing-intensive. First, we produce legal memoranda for the Solicitor General, making recommendations as to what course of action the Justice Department should take in particular cases (whether to appeal initially, whether to petition for cert before the Supreme Court, and so on).  Second, we handle briefing and argument for those cases that do actually go to the appellate level. Right now, I’m drafting a brief defending a judgment in favor of the government before one of the courts of appeal.

As a Staff Attorney, I manage all aspects of my appellate cases with only moderate review from a supervising attorney. I also collaborate with attorneys in the Solicitor General’s Office to draft briefs for Civil Division cases that continue on to the Supreme Court. Finally, I help provide comments on briefs submitted by other divisions (such as the Civil Rights Division, the Environment and Natural Resources Division, and others) in pursuit of their own appeals. One of the best parts of my job is the huge variety of legal issues I encounter: Although reviewers generally specialize in a specific area (e.g. intellectual property, antidiscrimination law, or the First Amendment), staff attorneys do not, so at any given moment I will be handling cases in several different subject areas.

 I totally get what she is saying about the joys of being a generalist-- there is lot to be said for learning something new with each case! 



Tuesday, November 03, 2020


Bill Whitaker


One of the great joys of my life is that I get to live in Minnesota and still keep connected to my friends in Waco. One way I have been able to do that is by writing regularly for the Waco Tribune Herald as part of their Board of Contributors. 

The reason I get to do that is because of a great editor and writer named Bill Whitaker. He is unfailingly gracious about my work, and has made it better with his editing. 

And he is a great writer. The paper has gotten smaller and the staff has shrunk in the last several years, as has happened across the country. But the quality of the writing has remained high because of veteran journalists like Tommy Witherspoon and Bill Whitaker. 

One of Bill's great gifts has been to offer opinions without mean edges or bitterness-- something that is far too rare these days.

He retired this past Sunday and wrote a wonderful column to reflect on his tenure and comment on this moment in our national history. (It includes a classic insult directed at me by a reader). You can, and should, read it here.

Monday, November 02, 2020


The closet haiku

 It was another good week, even though the subject (the back of your closet) was super-weird!

The Medievalist has the same shirt I do!

I forgot I still
Had that small green t-shirt from
Nineteen eighty-one.

As does Christine (and from the same place, Hickey's):

Pink oxford cloth shirt
Late 1978
Bought in The Village

Hangs next to my kilt
That was bought in Toronto
Both worn in high school.

And Desiree does, too!:

The back of closet
yields flannel shirt. Perfect for
spirit day -- yee haw!

My dad has quite a closet (and a trenchant observation):

They look familiar
put there by someone thinner
I'd better leave them.

While Amy used an excellent word for it (archeology):

Sister's clothes left here,
and dad's effects, make for strange

Sunday, November 01, 2020


There is One Teacher

 Today I am giving the sermon at First Covenant Church-Minneapolis. You can see it here, starting about 31 minutes into the service.

The text is Matthew 23:1-12:

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.[b] And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.[c] 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?