Orlando: Lessons Learned

Orlando’s recent series of unfortunate events included one sparking national debate where a nutcase managed to make his way into a nightclub and kill or maim at least 100 people solely because they loved someone of the same sex.  I’ve waited some time to throw in my opinions regarding the Pulse shooting out of respect for the dead and their families.

I will address my opinions on the subject today.  There’s lessons to be learned from the Pulse shooting, important ones about human nature, communication, and reactions in times of crisis.  We can and probably will ignore them.  In the hopes someone will listen, I offer those lessons here.

Love those around you in the darkest times. 

There’s a standard pattern that follows every one of these tragedies.  First comes the shock. Then there’s depression.  The cycle culminates with incredulous outrage and a demand for action.  All of this is solved by simply loving those around you when they need it most.

Orlando gets this at the local level.  People are lining up in droves to donate blood, volunteer in any way possible, and donate time, energy, or money if possible.  Even Truett Cathy’s Chik-Fil-A, a restaurant chain vilified once for taking a position on “traditional marriage,” contributed food to those in need.  The rest of us?  The message of love isn’t exactly sinking in.  Take a good, hard look at social media and see the clickbait headlines, the “they deserved it,” the “unfriend me if you think (x)” and  my special favorite, “Repeal the Second Amendment.”  I’ll get to that in a moment.

Here’s a better idea.  Why not take a revolutionary idea and, as noted legal scholar and humanitarian Jonathan Cena once said, “Rise Above Hate?” Are you angry about the Pulse shooting?  Then call someone up and tell them you love them.  If you have kids, hug them.  Hell, just ask someone on Facebook Messenger if they’re happy.  If they say “yes,” then say “I’m so glad to hear you’re happy. Good for you” and leave it at that.

Tragedies further agendas, and Orlando is no exception. 

After the shock and the outrage, something has to be done. There’s always a call for action, and this time there’s no difference.  On one side, you have “push the Muslims out and stop Muslim immigration.” On the other, it’s the tired “gun control” rhetoric for which no one can come up with a sensible, reasoned answer grounded in logic and sound policy decisions.

As you listen to your favorite talking head in the days and weeks to come, remember that lesson.  When the Left tells you it’s time to put someone who’s on a terrorist watch list on a “no gun buy” list, they’re doing so for a reason.  When the Right tells you it’s time to ban Muslims, they’re doing it for a reason.  Tragedies bring with them emotional requirements for action, and all sides are exploiting Orlando for their own personal gain.

“Gun Control” isn’t the solution here.  Especially not repealing the Second Amendment. 

In the aftermath of Orlando, Rolling Stone took great pains to find a Con Law “professor” who would give them the mechanism they desired for ridding Americans of pesky firearms: repeal the Second Amendment.

It’s a nice appeal to emotion and social justice.  And the issue of individual citizens being able to own, keep, and bear firearms in light of the D.C. v. Heller holding is definitely controversial, one Fault Lines managing editor Scott Greenfield called an “impressive piece of lawyering.” Some agree with the issue, some disagree. The takeaway point is that when you start discussing “bans” on guns, or “repealing” the Second Amendment, you have to remember those discussions involve serious words.  And despite what SJWs would have you believe, words do actually mean things.

When you say “ban,” you’d be well served to remember what “ban” actually means in the context of the law.  When you say “repeal,” go back to the first sentence.  The law isn’t some nice, touchy-feely instrument that brings you fairness.  Nor is it a scalpel used to trim that which you disagree from the mass you find palatable.  It is a bludgeon, and when you start modifying laws you don’t like don’t be surprised when the extra “law” of unintended consequences kicks in.

Some people don’t like the Second Amendment, or the privileges it brings. I get that.  If there’s truly a need to repeal it, then that document Trevor Noah of the Daily Show referred to as the “drunk grandpa who says things at times we don’t agree with” has a mechanism built in so we can change things.  But, going back to SHG, before you hit the “repeal” button on the Constitution remember there’s other rights people would love to see modified or taken entirely from us.  The First and Fourth Amendments might just as well get removed along with the Second, but no one in the aftermath of the Pulse shooting seems to think about that when screaming “REPEAL.”

There are gay celebrities speaking out about this issue, and tech companies are silencing them. 

Listening to the Sean Hannity show last night, I heard a caller speak about the “gay sect” of Hollywood, denounce them as cowards, and ask why no gay celebrities were speaking out about this debacle.  I ask this “industry insider” a question: Does the name Milo Yiannopolous ring a bell?  He’s been speaking out about the impact of Islam on gay culture for some time now, at the possible expense of his life.

Milo’s been attacked during his tours on college campuses.  He wanted to hold a talk at a nearby university in Orlando but couldn’t when the college had no way of guaranteeing Milo’s safety.  While attempting to find an alternate venue, Twitter suspended Yiannopolous’s account.  It’s unsurprising, really; they “un-verified” him after the Trust and Safety Council formed to appease those Milo offended by speaking truths.

Rather than cower down, Milo went to ground zero in Orlando, flanked by security, and gave his press conference.  He stood in the face of the public and the press and said what the world needed to hear.  This isn’t “radical Islam,” it’s “Islam,” backed by statistics, and no amount of blame shifting or apologia would fix that.  In response, Twitter suspended Milo’s account for another 24 hours.

Other social media companies are silencing those who speak out about the homophobic components of Islam.  A major LGBTQ publication’s page has been removed from Facebook for violating “terms of service.”  Post “Islam is like Hitler” on Facebook and watch as you get your account suspended for a day’s timeout.

The Left’s Reaction To Orlando Proves They Don’t Care About Gay People. 

No matter how much the media wants to spin it, the tweet from presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump proves he cares more about the LGBTQ community and their rights than anything done by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

Yes, he’s a blowhard.  Yes, he’s a braggart.  Call him all the things you want, but the first reaction from the Left was “This is a gun issue!  It’s not  an Islam issue! Islam is peaceful! Guns are not!”

It was a follower of Islam who wrecked the lives of 300 people in Orlando at the Pulse, and that was the first time a Democrat achingly forced the words “Radical Islam” out for public consumption.  In other countries, followers of Islam believe homosexuality is immoral and should be made illegal, that Sharia law should be enacted (which makes a woman’s testimony 50% less credible than a man’s on the witness stand), and think it perfectly acceptable to throw someone off a building just because they happen to love someone of the same sex.

If you are a part of the LGBTQ community, and want to know who cares about you more than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, take a second look at Donald Trump.  It’s clear the establishment doesn’t care about you.  They’d rather put a religion at the altar of the Oppression Olympics than people who’ve been unable to marry in this country for centuries.  A vote for a Democratic president is a vote against LGBTQ people, their allies, and the rights of those to love as they please.

It may be uncomfortable for you.  But it’s time to Make America Great Again.

A short DCS rant on medicine

One of my kids might be sick, and I’m fucking pissed that I can’t talk about it more than where I do here or even discuss the nature of the illness because the most corrupt organization in Tennessee, the Department of Children’s Services, could take my son if they wanted to based on him being sick with a virus that’s only treatable with Motrin and Tylenol.

Mrs. S. and I both put our kids in preschool following my son’s first year birthday.  The biggest rationale was when my daughter went to “daycare” at three months some fuckwad of a parent sent their child to the daycare with RSV.  It’s a common virus, and every kid gets it at some point.  When you get it earlier in life, though, it makes things difficult.  In my daughter’s case, it meant two trips to the ER with an IV stuck in her tiny hand wondering if she’d make it past the day.

We waited a year for my son to get past that point where RSV would affect him in such a manner.  That was easy enough, and when our in home caregiver couldn’t provide services anymore then we were able to get them into preschool, and a good one, which is apparently important these days. Then the bad stuff started happening.  I got notes on the door three kids had been confirmed with “Hand foot and mouth disease,” in my son’s room.  He’d been irritable a couple of days, but seemed fine.

Today after his nap, he woke up irritable and couldn’t be placated with food, beverage, or anything else.  He was grumpy all afternoon, didn’t eat dinner, and went to bed early.  It’s now 10:30 as I write this and I’m on vigil to make sure my daughter doesn’t decide to bang on the door of her room to wake my son up.

Tomorrow we will take my son to the doctor.  We will make sure he has a confirmed diagnosis, because that’s what day cares (and families visiting in town) want.  We will have to reschedule our weeks for the illness if he’s suffering from hand, foot, and mouth disease, and there’s a chance I could get it.  But my wife will keep working, because despite her clinic being broken into by a tweaker scumbag she’s a soldier and will keep on working to make low income families have healthy pets.

I’m lucky to write where I’m able.  I’m lucky to be able to do work when I can.  What infuriates me about this matter is that I’ve seen families separated because the kids had “hand, foot, and mouth disease” on removal by DCS, which is inane. Social workers thought their knowledge better than a doctor’s, and because the kids were in “pain,” the parents lost their kids.

The moral is simple.  Never trust DCS, CPS, or any other agency claiming the good of your children is their goal.  Lock the doors, record the conversations, and make them get a warrant.  Then call a lawyer.  You will be better off in the long run.

 

 

Transmet, Journalism, and Modern Media

“Journalism is just a gun.  It’s only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that’s all you need.  Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world.” –Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan #3 (November 1997)

Transmetropolitan (what I will refer to from this point on as “Transmet”) was a central point in getting me back into comic books.  The bleak, sci-fi series by Warren Ellis featured a deranged Hunter S. Thompson like writer named Spider Jerusalem who found himself focused on the Truth, no matter how painful or ugly it was for people.  Throughout the wildly popular series, a central theme that kept running was the power of the media, the power of authority, and the constant need to expose corruption and lies through the truth.

Warren Ellis wrote those words almost two decades ago, speaking to the power of journalism.  Spider’s work was different from that of his colleagues in that he focused exclusively on the Truth, rather than the comfortable pabulum most of those in The City wanted to hear or the talking points politicians needed.  His relentless obsession with the truth meant Spider took beatings from police, attacks from hitmen, and his own work censored by the President.

It never mattered to Spider.  No matter the attack, he never backed down.  He destroyed his foes through the power of the Truth and his ability to influence his readers through a unique, special take, and in the process toppled a corrupt government.  By the end of Transmet’s run, the world is a better place for Spider’s work, and his “filthy assistants” are set to carry on his life’s mission: the pursuit and exposure of the truth.

Why don’t we have a Spider Jerusalem in our midst today?  Why does the media stick to narratives instead of fact-checking and doing honest reporting?  Why do they bow and scrape to the establishment rather than muckrake like a motherfucker, question everything authoritarians say, and then raise hell?  Has the media lost its spine or has it simply just lost a Spider ready and poised to strike with venom?

I ask these questions because right now in the aftermath of an Orlando shooting by an Islamic terrorist claiming allegiance to ISIS, American media is taking great care to make sure no one hears anything other than “Not all Muslims” and “Islam is a religion of peace” and “There was an assault rifle involved!  Oh my goodness, let’s ban all the guns!”  When a Presidential candidate’s Twitter account signals being correct on Radical Islam being a threat to the United States, he’s dismissed as “shameful.”  Meanwhile, when the other presumptive candidate issues a “woman card” for sale on her website featuring the bathroom stall image of a woman, no one raises hell over that.

I ask these questions because when a Presidential Candidate erupts into a frenzy over the qualifications of a judge to hear a case against him, the media vilifies him as a “racist” and continues to frame the discussion over and over again, with Jake Tapper at CNN even being lauded for continuing to press the issue in front of that candidate.  Yet no one seems to be questioning the other candidate’s questionable past of hiding her husband’s continued sexual assaults by calling them “sluts” and “bimbos” and then playing to her alleged strengths by being “pro women” this election cycle.

I ask these questions because when a rally is shut down because of “peaceful protests” that later turn out to be the work of an organized criminal gang the media falsely reports on it.  I ask these questions because when an alleged assault is revealed a hoax the story quietly goes away without full and fair apologies.  I ask, especially, when a story goes from “Dad kills son for being gay” within 24 hours to “More to this death than we originally thought” just due to a bit of fact checking and hell raising by people like you and me.

Spider’s biggest concern was that he’d reveal the truth and people wouldn’t listen or wouldn’t care.  Unfortunately that nightmare is occurring in real time, right before our very eyes.  We can mute those on Twitter who don’t share our worldview.  Facebook is worse; the almighty Algorithm only shows you that which you want to see.  There is no more room for Spider’s brand of truth in the 21st Century.  There’s only room for shared delusions of “fact.”

We need a Spider Jerusalem right now, more than ever.  This year, our election cycle mimics that shown by Transmet in the Beast and the Smiler.   I won’t reveal too much, but if you do a bit of digging and think a little bit you’ll be able to figure out which candidate I find the Beast and which I find the Smiler.  And with both parties needed a massive revival, it’s time the media gets a good thrashing from the Angry Chair Leg of Truth by someone unafraid, almost bulletproof to take on the mainstream media.

One issue of Transmet contains a quote from a favorite writer of mine, H.L. Mencken.  I leave you with this here.

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.  Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it.  And even if he is not romantic personally his is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.

Is there a romantic among us?

Will the real Spider Jerusalem please stand up? 

Costello v Zavodnik: Promise Kept

Earlier in the week horror writer Michael David Anderson asked me on Facebook for my take on a story about a man sued for $30,000 over a $40 printer sold on Craigslist.  Before I begin my analysis of the Doug Costello/Gersh Zavodnik legal battle, I need to discuss a couple of prefatory notes:

  1. Never ask me for advice or my legal take on Facebook.  I don’t trade my knowledge without a price.  Facebook isn’t a place where the attorney-client privilege is respected, and I have clients I have to take care of.  Plus, there’s always the chance someone might construe what I say as legal advice.  However, Anderson manned up and donated to repairing Prevent a Litter’s mobile spay/neuter unit, which you should do too.  So Michael Anderson gets his article here.
  2. None of this should be construed as legal advice.  As mentioned in #1, that’s stuff you have to pay for.
  3. This involves an Indiana case.  I am a Tennessee attorney.  Therefore, all of this is analysis.  Are we clear?

Now then, let’s move on.  My take on the thirty grand printer lawsuit is simple.  Doug Costello sold a vexatious litigant named Gersh Zavodnik a printer, tried to handle the entire thing without getting an attorney, suffered for it, and will probably continue to suffer.  This is a case study in why you should get a lawyer the moment you receive any sort of lawsuit or legal threat instead of relying on Avvo, RocketLawyer, Legal Zoom or any of the other bullshit “disruptive” legal tech companies.

Back in 2009, Costello sold Zavodnik a printer through Craigslist.  The sale, including shipping, amounted to less than $75.  What Costello didn’t know was that Gersh Zavodnik is an infamous Indiana pro se (self represented) litigant, notorious for filing lawsuit after lawsuit over internet purchases.  It got so bad the Indiana Supreme Court told him “Stop it” two years ago.

Court records show Zavodnik has filed at least 123 civil lawsuits in Marion and surrounding counties since 2008. Most revolve around Internet sales and purchases gone bad.

He also is a party to 34 cases before the Indiana Court of Appeals, including 23 requesting the appointment of special judges to hear his complaints because of previous tiffs with the judges handling those cases.

The 2014 Indiana Supreme Court opinion in Gavodnik v. Harper isn’t the kindest treatment one could expect from jurists.  In the first page, the Court blasts Zavodnik as a “prolific, abusive litigant” who regularly blasts out voluminous filings placing an unnecessary burden on the Court.  In 2013 the Indiana Supremes threatened sanctions, and in the 2014 opinion they declined once again “as a matter of grace.”  However, the Harper opinion provided guidelines for courts on how to sanction abusive litigants like Zavodnik, who repeatedly files suits in order to stop people from “stealing his money.”

The only person on the receiving end of theft was Costello, who found himself liable for approximately $30,000 in damages after failing to respond to Requests for Admissions filed by Zavodnik in Marion Superior Court.  There were two sets: one asking Costello to admit he’d breached a contract to the tune of thirty grand and another asking Costello to admit he’d cause damage meriting awards of $300k to $600k for Zavodnik.

Here’s the thing about Requests for Admissions: If you don’t answer them in a certain time frame in most states, the person who sends the requests can then, as a matter of course, move to have the entire set of admissions legally admitted by law, on the record.  Costello claimed he never received any of the Requests for Admissions, but that didn’t stop Zavodnik from moving to have them all placed on record as true for the purposes of his suit.  Eventually, Costello got smart, hired an attorney after he realized the awards granted Zavodnik might bankrupt him, and then moved to have some of the admissions withdrawn.

The Trial Court granted the six figure admissions as withdrawn, because the damages were for “unspecified reasons.” However, they left the $30,000 plus award in place because it was for a specific admission.  The breach of contract was untenable, and Costello had to pay for that admission.  Hold on, we’re not done yet.

Costello and his attorney appealed the verdict, and the Indiana Court of Appeals blasted the Trial Court for not recognizing Zavodnik’s repeated history of vexatious litigation, skewered them for not adhering to the Indiana Supreme Court’s 2014 guidelines on how to deal with litigants like Zavodnik, and then remanded the entire case back to trial court with instructions to see whether this case should proceed due to Zavodnik’s “repeated, flagrant, and continuing failure to comply with Indiana’s Rules of Procedure.”

The bottom line is this story isn’t finished.  Yet, despite all the hoopla and Costello’s emotional response to Zavodnik’s work, there’s some lessons to be learned here.

  1. Watch who you do business with.  Zavodnik had a history of suing people for online purchases, and Costello still sold the printer.
  2. Hire an attorney the moment you get papers served on you.  If Costello had retained counsel the moment Zavodnik started this bullshit then most of this emotional and legal mess wouldn’t be a problem.  Yet it is, because Costello thought it cheaper to handle the matter himself.  Yes, attorneys cost money, but we also make things go away faster than those who try to handle matters on their own.
  3. Vexatious litigants like Zavodnik exist, and if you’re smart you’ll avoid them by hiring an attorney.  Most of us can make things like this go away quickly, but Costello chose to handle the matter pro se until the time potential damages were six figures.  Get the lawyer first, and the investment will be worth it.

    So there you go.  Assholes like Zavodnik will plague our legal system until more judges start cracking down and issuing sanctions.  It’s not a comfortable feeling, but it’s the truth, and the best way to avoid all the heartache isn’t to handle this matter yourself.  Hire an attorney and you’re automatically find yourself in a better condition than Doug Costello.

    And to quote noted legal scholar Enzo Amore “And You Can’t Teach That.”

Also buy Michael David Anderson’s books “Teddy” and “Wake” here.

Cut a break for the lawyer in hard times.

There’s a local, very prominent attorney experiencing rough times. People are happy to spread memes and info regarding the incident all over social media. I cannot and will not support this, and those of you who benefit from the services of an attorney, no matter how great or small the issue, honestly shouldn’t either. All you’re doing is participating in a public shaming of someone who’s fought for the rights of so many citizens in court.

It’s fun participating in online lynch mobs. I get it. You get to sit behind a keyboard and call someone an asshole, call for their firing, and create neat cat pictures featuring your jokes on a person. You have that right, and it’s one I’ll defend, no matter how reprehensible I personally may find the practice. It’s also fun exposing double standards, and who doesn’t like a great lawyer joke? Most of us have a great sense of humor, but when you’re turning on a guy going through hard times who’s probably walked a few of you from criminal charges you might want to reconsider participating in a public pillorying.

This job requires commitment to all others but yourself first. It’s a profession where those in private practice help others unsure if the final bill will ever be paid. Substance abuse is rampant as those who bend or break under pressure tend to take the easy way out. When the law school bubble burst around the time I was sworn in, I saw first hand how eager this state was to fuck attorneys and their clients. I kept to my oath, defended those charged with offenses, and never bitched about it.  I imagine this brother in the Bar was of like mind when he started his practice.

None of this changes my commitment to free speech or the open exchange of ideas. If it’s your desire to make fun of someone going through a rough patch, go ahead. Just remember it might happen to you some day, and make sure you have thick enough skin to withstand the internet assault coming with criminal charges.

Verdict in the Legion of Doom Twitter Fight

Today, in case you hate fun and intelligent conversation, Andrew King, our resident prosecutor at Fault Lines, wrote a post defending the freedom of speech of both Milo Yiannopolous and the NJ Weedman.  It was one of those times King wrote something I didn’t want to excessively drink over, throw something, or punch him regarding.  He was right, and the post merits a good read.  What I took issue with was him calling the league of us Internet super villains the “Legion of Doom.”  Specifically, because he referred to Milo as “Lex Luther.” With hair no less.

Now I’m a DC neophyte, and I remember a timeline where Luthor (not “Luther”) had hair.  But I remembered a bit where the author of that storyline declared it non-cannon.  I called King out on his shit, and it turns out I have to give him at least some credit.  He knows his comic book references.  This time I was in the right.  I was sure of it.  And I needed a third party neutral to prove me right.  So I pooled my resources and got a comics shop owner who is a DC comics guru to issue a ruling.  The response was so classic it didn’t merit a Twitter response.  I had to share it here.  The owner didn’t just settle the debate, he did so in legalese form that was so hysterical it merited a blog post.

“Plaintiff Seaton wishes to prove the Alexander Luthor storyline non-cannon in the DC universe.  In doing so, Plaintiff fails to describe an accurate description of the word “cannon,” as DC has fucked themselves with cannon regularly. See “New 52,” and “Flashpoint.”  However, the Dollar Comics Universe regularly fucks itself in the ass with canonical resets and erasures. See “Hush,” for an example.”

“Defendant King wishes to prove the Alexander Luthor story is cannon. Technically, the New 52 and Flashpoint erases Defendant King’s argument since they render the Alexander Luthor story invalid.  Plaintiff Seaton has the better argument here, but I cannot ignore the will of the writers or the company when making this ruling.”

“Accordingly, the holding of this “judge,” (which I find hysterical, by the way), is that Plaintiff Seaton has failed to meet his standard of proof the Alexander Luthor storyline, buttressed by decades of DC cannon and only erased by stupid corporate moves, is not cannon.  Therefore, Defendant King wins, and the Internet Supervillain group called “The Legion of Doom” involving Milo Yiannopolous (who’s done more for free speech than most Americans) may be called as such.  This is remanded to both assholes for work consistent with my findings.   And the next time King and Seaton engage me in this I’m charging a consulting fee.”

So I publicly apologize to Andrew King for not getting comic book cannon right.  I was wrong.  I will admit it.  And you need to read Fault Lines to get any sort of understanding of why this debate is so important.

Compound Communication Update: Blab

I’ve been a naughty boy in neglecting Mediation is Dead lately. Those of you who know me outside my online presence know of my upswing in work hours, as well as my continued attempts at finding new ways to improve my practice and work through efficient means. As I write this, I’m attempting to work on a show idea for a new platform called “Blab” I just recently learned about. This will allow better interaction with my audience, as well as allow me to have on guests from time to time. I liked the Collaborative Compound Podcasts, but i’m still figuring a lot of shit out. This will, if people dig it enough, be the new method of bringing you content outside the site.

A big focus point for me is getting the message and site content out as frequently as I would like. Unfortunately, due to work obligations and time spent writing elsewhere I don’t always accomplish that goal. The end result is spreading my message of litigation versus mediation and a “conflict free” life may suffer as a result. Fortunately for me, I have the blessing of several great mentors and friends who provide me with the tools to have a national (and sometimes international) voice on issues I care about. The Compound, and this site, are still my babies. It’s my platform for personal expression and sharing my views, so I can’t allow this to continue without more daily content.

The Blab show will go live soon. You’ll need the Blab app to view and take part. There isn’t an Android app, but you can go to this site and check out the show.

I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Spring Cleaning At The Compound

Today I’m working, and Mrs. S. lets me know something that apparently slipped my mind.  Today was the day we did our “spring cleaning” and changed what was my office into our son’s new bedroom.

So I came home early, and helped get the bookshelves re-arranged and the baby bed in its new location.  I went through the mountain of garbage the office had collected.  I jettisoned old bits of my life that I didn’t need anymore (like 1L BarBri CDs), and re-organized the stuff I did need (now my deck indexes are easy to locate).

It was also fun finding a few things I missed.  I’d been searching for a wallet I’d bought about a year ago to house the coins I use for coin tricks.  By going through all the stuff I had to throw away or keep, I managed to find it, and it’s going to work better than the cheap gimmick I referred to as “Little Murray Sparkles.”

It was good to re-organize and get the house in order again.  Now, if I want to put something away I can just walk into one room and get it.  When I come home I can put all my stuff in the bedroom and not worry about where it might or might not be.  Everything’s in a great place, and it’s all organized for easy location.

On top of that, the cleaning meant I got to go through our book collection and re-organize the library.  My wife did a great job, but when it comes to organizing books I managed that like a hoss.  All my magic texts are in one place now, and all our really nice volumes of classic literature on another shelf.  The photo albums I let her sort, because that’s her thing.

In the end, my son has his own room, I can walk into my bedroom and get anything I need with a moment’s notice, and no peace in the house gets disturbed.  It was worth taking some time off today to get a little spring cleaning accomplished.

But this gives me some pause. I threw a lot away today.  Stuff some people would normally save, or try to rationalize as something to sell at a “yard sale.”  Why did I just jettison it, turn it into a situation where I got rid of this stuff when others wouldn’t let it go?  Simple:  Because I can move past that which makes me uncomfortable.  Others cannot.  I can lose the past life stuff that most people want to hang on to.

Take some time and take stock of not only your physical possessions, but also that baggage you’re carrying emotionally right now.  Take some time and do your own “spring cleaning” that will make your life easier, less cluttered.  You just might find yourself better for it.

The Task Force: Doing What Needed To Be Done

By now if you’re in or around Knoxville you’ve probably heard about my incendiary remarks to the Indigent Representation Task Force.  You may have read the Knoxville News-Sentinel article regarding Chairman William Koch’s attempts at backpedaling on a letter he sent me in February, claiming any attempts to raise rates of funding for indigent defense attorneys would be dead on arrival.  If you read Simple Justice or Fault Lines, you’ve seen the coverage of the “Listening Tour’s” stop and know I looked Bill Koch in the eye and told him the entire Task Force was a “sham,” designed to create the veneer of caring while doing as little as possible to fund indigent defense.  Someone had to do this, because none of you would.

When the legislature announced the “Indigent Representation Task Force,” everyone said “Great job” and held out hope things might actually change.  I have five years worth of material proving it wouldn’t, and I called the task force out on it. When they got upset and responded to me, I tried to be as civil as possible regarding the entire matter until I learned the amount of work the Task Force wanted to accomplish would amount to no change at all, since our state’s legislature cares more about criminalizing its citizens and saving money for taxpayers than ensuring every person accused of a crime gets a full, fair, effective defense.

When I prepared to speak on the issue, I had a few attorneys reach out to me and plead I don’t take the “Task Force” to task.  “Don’t do this,” said one attorney.  “This is Chief Justice Lee’s baby, and she’s really keen on making things better.”

Turns out that was complete bullshit, as evidenced by Jamie Satterfield’s ability to make the Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice double down on Bill Koch’s special brand of stupid.

I had to start my practice with indigent defense work.  If you don’t get an offer at a big law firm, or an offer at all, then you’re going to the trenches and practicing indigent defense.  It’s how you try cases.  It’s how you learn to be a better lawyer from the start.  You learn from your mistakes and you move forward, but the judges start to know you and what you’re capable of doing.  The DAs and States’ attorneys know more when you do indigent work, because they’ll see how you handle negotiations versus an outright plea deal.  It’s a cornerstone for young attorneys, and they get shafted for it.

Tennessee’s rates are only slightly better than Wisconsin’s for court-appointed work.  When you compare that with Dean Strang’s analysis, it amounts to kicking money to the State to prosecute your clients.  When you take that rate, and then you see your state attempt to cut the rate through asinine systems like preferential contract court appointed attorneys, then you start getting into a system that violates the law, the Constitution, and forces judges into violations of the Canons of Judicial Conduct.

In 2011, when the contract system was first floated, we stopped that through a national campaign.  In 2013, we shrugged, because we knew the State would do whatever the hell it wanted through the Administrative Office of the Courts.  All this time, people grumbled about how lawyers and their clients were getting screwed.  People would get on Facebook and leave a #RaiseTheRates hash tag.  They’d privately talk about studies the Tennessee Bar Association conducted.  They’d grumble.  But no one did a damn thing.

Why didn’t you have the guts to say something besides a quiet grumble to your brothers and sisters in the local Bar association?  Was it out of fear you might get an adverse ruling from a judge?  Were you afraid Dwight Tarwater might use his connections to Governor Haslam to make sure you were run out of business?  Was the thought of upsetting Justice Lee too much for you?  Or maybe you’re comfortable in a salaried job and just didn’t care what happened.  You agreed it was better to keep people as numbers instead of treating them as actual humans.

You were afraid of what might happen, and that prevented actual change.

Did you not see those in power would exploit your fear?  Did you not think for one second they wouldn’t exploit that by making you act civil to them and offer suggestions they wouldn’t even give the time of day?  They’re the ones holding the purse strings, and they already told you before this “listening tour” started there’d be no more funding.  Yet you held out hope, and were nice, because you feared them.

The Task Force needed someone to fear, consequences be damned, if the Sixth Amendment is to mean anything in the Volunteer State.  I took that cause up because I don’t want the younger lawyers starting in Juvenile Court or Misdemeanor Sessions getting shafted because of “taxpayer savings.”  So I orchestrated a plan, with the help of someone I’m honored and privileged to call a mentor and friend.  That plan embarrassed the Task Force nationally, and we’re not done yet.

Now I am the New Face of Fear for the Indigent Representation Task Force.  I guarantee you I have no invitations to dinner parties at Bill Koch’s house forthcoming.  Dwight Tarwater won’t be asking me for donations to Governor Haslam’s re-election campaign.  I probably will suffer a few economic consequences for calling “bullshit” on their sham campaign to make people think they care about your constitutional rights.

But they’re scared.  The public knows there’s deception afoot.  And when the public knows they’re being lied to, it can get pretty ugly for those lying.

I’ll keep hammering at this until change occurs, because Gideon means something to this angry, redneck, small town lawyer.

Tim Burchette’s Budget Gaffe

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchette made a major screw-up when announcing his budget for Knox County this year.  I’m going to call him out on it.  In announcing his decision to fund the creation of a mental health facility, he made the mistake of telling the public law enforcement “had to take” the life of a mentally ill man who fired on them.  I’m not going to say this is the exact quote, but it’s damned close.

“One of the largest treatment centers for the mentally ill is the Knox County Jail, and that’s a shame.  We just had a story recently where a young man who’d come home from the war, he was mentally ill, and he opened fire on a couple of Knox County police, and they had no choice but to take his life.”

Bad move, Mayor Burchette, especially when you’re attempting to peddle your mental heath treatment facility.  It’s not the creation of such a complex that has me shaking my head.  It’s your abject decision to frame it in the context of a cop shooting, one under questionable circumstances, and use that to advance your chosen narrative of “we need better mental health facilities than a jail.”

Every time a police officer fires his or her service weapon at a person with the intent to kill, they’re making a conscientious decision to impose a death sentence on that person.  Saying they had “no choice” is a ridiculous option, especially when the cops had “less lethal” alternatives like Tasers to mitigate the incident and the individual with mental health issues.  If this person were mentally ill, perhaps suicidal, there’s a good possibility that man might have chosen to “check out” through suicide by cop.  Since police seem to be rather gun-happy these days, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the cops decided to assist in the suicide.

There is an issue with mental health in our society.  That’s not in debate.  Another important point to consider is we still stigmatize mental illness, so much to the point we can’t have honest discussions about the problem. I commend Mayor Burchette for his commitment to making sure the mentally ill aren’t locked in prison cells beside those incarcerated for actual crimes, but framing the discussion through a cop shooting isn’t the best tactic.