One Year

Everyone will have a One Year story right about now.

On March 10, 2020, I flew to Los Angeles for a two-day site visit. We were starting to get a sense that the coronavirus was serious, and — after a nerve-wracking few hours of wiping down my arm rests and drop-down table — my flight ended with a man being removed by ambulance in respiratory distress.

Throughout the day of March 11, I trooped around a large housing development in my Amtrak hard hat with a large group of opinionated architectural experts and took increasingly concerned calls from Tim back in Denver: This is looking really bad. Maybe we should give folks the option to work at home? And by the end of the day: please take your laptops with you and plan to work from home until further notice. Lunch that day in L.A. — Peruvian food with a couple of fair housing gurus from HUD — would be my last in-restaurant restaurant meal for over a year.

We cancelled the second day of surveys and I grabbed the first flight home the morning of March 12. One woman on our flight was wearing a full haz-mat suit and gas mask. Another man kept sneezing on people. When we landed in Denver, I drove home and — with these very few exceptions — didn’t leave:

  • Occasional trips to the office with Tim, though fewer as COVID cases spiked and it became clear that our doofus aging-Beach-Boy property manager was an anti-masker.
  • Four trips that took me inside a post office or UPS store.
  • Approximately three carry-out meals that required me to go inside a restaurant.
  • Two trips to the dentist.
  • One gathering with two other friends on an outdoor deck.
  • One adventure inside a Walgreens to get our flu shots.

I participated in my first virtual hearing on March 17. CREEC had its first virtual Happy Hour on March 20 and its first virtual event on September 17. We said farewell to several CREEC employees and welcomed several new ones, all without gathering in person. I argued virtual motions and participated in virtual conferences in a suit jacket, Blue Loom scarf (of course), and shorts.

We started isolating on March 12, 2020.  We got our first COVID vaccines on March 7, 2021. 

With the exception of the flu shot and our COVID shots last Sunday, I have not been inside a store since March 11, 2020. I’m fine with that.

I am beyond grateful for those who made it possible for an aging asthmatic and a quad to radically isolate for a year, especially Tim’s assistant Bob Wilson, who masked, scrubbed up, stuck by us, and kept his hilarious sense of humor through a very intense year, and every single person who delivered groceries and other things to our door. You had the interactions we were afraid to have.

My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic and the incompetence of the last administration.  It really didn’t have to happen this way.

Holly learns the stairs

A series of photos in which our adorable puppy adorably attempts to climb down the steps but adorably gives up.  Adorable puppy is now seven — and happily climbs up and down the stairs — so the photos have been sort of sitting around waiting to be publicly adorable for over six years. Still: adorable, no?

 

 

Co-Harmony

I wrote this a (large but unspecified) number of years ago, decided that I should not publish it given the cast of characters I was co-counseling with at the time (not that any of them would read my deathless prose), and put it aside. For some reason — Monday afternoon of a long weekend, maybe? — I was noodling around in my drafts folder, found it again, and decided enough time had passed that no one would recognize themselves. 

I love co-counseling.  Working on interesting legal issues with a good team is one of the absolute joys of being a lawyer. I have been very lucky, too, with the teams I have had the privilege to work with, snark with, drink with, and learn from.  On rare occasions, though, it doesn’t go as smoothly.  As I pondered the co-counsel relationships that worked well and those that didn’t, I decided that there are a couple of basic principles that could guide you to find your dream team, or warn you off the duds.  Call it E-Harmony for co-counsel: 

Co-Harmony.  Six points of compatibility!

  1. Technological compatibility:  If one firm is using the latest case management technology and the other firm has large redwelds of dead trees, it may not work out.  If the dead trees firm is proud of its ignorance and ridicules the advanced technology of the tech-nerd firm, it definitely will not work out.  It’s not cool to announce that you don’t understand your own firm’s email program.  Not cool.
  2. Hierarchical compatibility.  Will the senior lawyer insist on speaking only to other senior lawyers, or chat and work comfortably with more junior lawyers and even (gasp!) paralegals?  Corollary:  If the other firm’s senior lawyers treat their own junior lawyers or paralegals like crap, run.  Fast.
  3. Reachability compatibility.  Is everyone more or less equally neurotic about being reachable?  Or does one firm carry smart phones with email while the other gets email only on a desktop computer at the office during work hours, possibly after their admin prints it out? 
  4. Deadline compatibility.  You’re either an afternoon-of-the-deadline filer or a 11:59:59 p.m.-of-the-deadline filer.  If you’re the former co-counseling with the latter, you will spend many days from mid-afternoon (when your last draft was finished) to 11:59:59 banging your forehead slowly and painfully on your desk, often while your significant other enjoys a festive night out with your friends.*
  5. Grammar and bluebook nerd compatibility.  Everyone has to agree to care whether the comma is italicized, or at least to defer to the lawyer(s) on the team who do.  Or not.  If one firm is compulsive about making briefs look beautiful and the other resists these efforts, it will not work out. 
  6. Sense of humor compatibility:  Try telling a mild joke about opposing counsel’s tie.  If the other lawyers don’t even chuckle, they will not — down the road — enjoy your brilliant, side-splittingly hilarious, vaguely disgusting analysis of your opposing counsel’s legal arguments.  Not a good match.  Corollary:  Both firms’ cynicism level should be roughly equal.  This is why co-counseling across the plaintiff/defendant divide rarely works smoothly.

Go forth and co-counsel!

*See: written long before the pandemic.

 

 

Putting the fence to even better use!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the #BlackLivesMatter sign that I put up on a long stretch of fence on the side of our property facing a pretty heavily traveled frontage-ish road. First, I’m happy to report that, almost three weeks later, it remains unvandalized. That is, it exceeded my “Kerry 2004” sign by two weeks and six days.  

Wooden fence with "#BLACKLIVESMATTER" and a blank poster board stapled to it, photographed from across a residential street.

But even better, a few days later, Olive Davis and Janie Reilly, two 11-year-old neighbors, asked if they could add their own posters.  OMG yes!  Check this out!  The kids are way more than OK.  For this and so many reasons, I have great faith that the next generation will take much better care of this country than we have. 

Olive (white girl; purple shirt; denim shorts) and Janie (white girl; black tshirt; denim shorts) working together to staple a sign under the #BlackLivesMatter sign. Two helmets and a skateboard are on the ground near their feet.

Pink sign reading We R = [equal sign], all in glitter with rainbow cotton balls dotted around

Orange construction paper sign with a heart outlined in white and filled in with rainbow colors.

Two construction paper signs. One green that reads "This to shall pass," in various colors of ink with rainbow cotton balls dotted around. The second is on light blue paper and says Reach 4 the Sky with cotton ball clouds and a light-colored hand reaching up from below.

Purple construction paper sign that reads "Every Vote counts" in various colors and giltter, with two rainbow cotton balls.

 

Blue construction paper sign that reads, "Love is Love" in red and blue ink with glitter and two multicolored cotton balls.

 

Two construction paper signs. The top yellow paper with the words "Black lives Matter" in various colored inks with glitter. The bottom with the words "Be Your Best Self" with multicolored cotton balls.

Thank you Olive and Janie – you made my day!!!

Putting the fence to good use

Wooden fence with "#BLACKLIVESMATTER" and a blank poster board stapled to it, photographed from across a residential street.

We first used our fence in 2004 during the Kerry campaign, which led to some interesting back and forth after someone tore down the sign.  First, my angry and self-righteous initial response.

Me (white lady, brown hair, flowered sundress) standing by a sign that reads, "Republicans do not respect private property or free speech! Republican thugs ripped down our sign and vandalized our fence."

After cooling off a bit, I put up blank posterboard and invited people to use their words rather than tearing down others’ words. This resulted in some great free expression, including thanks for the signs, anger that I had accused republicans of tearing down the first sign, accusations that DU frat boys tore down the first sign; accusations that DU frat boys suck; random graffiti; and (my favorite) a long note from a Japanese person expressing that this was one of the things they liked about our country.

We cranked it up again in 2008 urging people to caucus for Obama.

Wooden fence with poster reading "Barack Obama. Hope. Courage. Vision. Caucus for Obama. February 5, 2008"

Didn’t feel — what?  motivated?  the need? — to do anything in 2016.  Now the moment calls for #BlackLivesMatter.  I suppose later this summer, it will call for a Biden-Abrams poster.

I enthusiastically support [Biden/Sanders] and you should, too!!!!!

I’m going to go full-on unfiltered bitch on everyone.  My Warren sisters – we get one more day to grieve; my fellow Dems who are deeply unthrilled with the remaining choices – you get one more day to gripe.

Then we all pivot to VOCALLY/VISIBLY ENTHUSIASTICALLY SUPPORTING THE FIELD AND THE EVENTUAL NOMINEE.

Why? Because we don’t save our country from Trump by “holding our noses and voting.” We save our country by inspiring the 91,739,344 people who didn’t vote last time to get their asses to the polls.

It’s true that of the 327,000,000 people in the U.S., neither Sanders nor Biden would have been my choice for president. (My choice would be Julie Gonzales, followed closely by Stacey Abrams and Elizabeth Warren.) But that’s not how it works.

You know how to do this. You’ve had dinner at a friend’s house and happily, enthusiastically, eaten and even praised food that — if you were being honest — would have skipped the dog’s dish and gone straight to the compost heap. But there was a higher value: your love for your friend.

That’s where we are now. For the love of our current and future fellow Americans, for the love of the people at the border and in camps, for the love of the law that Trump’s courts would destroy, for the love of the earth, for the love of the truth, we need to happily, enthusiastically eat the dish called Democratic Nominee.

Every time you say something enthusiastic about Biden or Sanders, you are saving the country.  Your capes await you.

Super hero capes including Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Batman, and Iron Man

Windbag Privilege

I’m having a very specific reaction to those among the Republican impeachment cast of characters who are lawyers: Giuliani; Sekulow; Dershowitz; Barr; Starr. They are evil, incompetent, unethical, and generally loathsome people. But each one of them—to a man—would get more respect in most courtrooms than I would. Because of their gender and race. Because they look like what judges expect lawyers to look like. Hell, because they look like the judge himself. You lady lawyers know what I’m talking about. Lawyers of color, disabled lawyers, queer lawyers probably have similar experiences. Some old white windbag stands up and spouts incomprehensible bullshit or demonstrable lies. Sits down. Then I stand up facing a look of skepticism so familiar I barely notice it any more. The look that says, “that reassuring old white dude sounds so REASONABLE. Just look at him. Nice haircut, suit and tie, TALL. You’d better have a damn good story to overcome the comfort I take in his story.”

Often I do. I’m good at my job. But I start in a procedural, evidentiary, legal hole dug out right behind the podium by centuries of white patriarchy.

Watching these famous lawyers, all male, all white, wearing their expensive suits and unearned reputations, debasing themselves with arguments even they are smart enough to know are bullshit, being taken seriously by the media as lawyers … brings a very personal rage.

Mourning the passing and celebrating the life of Judge Wiley Y. Daniel

Image: photo of Black man, balding with a mustache and wire-framed glasses, wearing a suit, a flowered bow tie, and a matching vest.

Photo credit:  David Zalubowski, Special to The Denver Post

Yesterday, we celebrated the life and mourned the passing of Judge Wiley Y. Daniel, a Senior United States District Judge in the District of Colorado. I have been privileged to practice before Judge Daniel from early in my legal career to earlier this year, and each time it was a delightful experience. He was always prepared, knowledgeable, practical, respectful, and funny. He worked hard to put everyone in the courtroom at ease so we could get to the business at hand, for example, carefully establishing out-of-state counsel’s college football and basketball allegiances before proceeding.

In one of my earliest appearances before Judge Daniel, I was arguing for wheelchair access to Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Opposing counsel observed that Red Rocks was built into the side of a steep mountain.  Judge Daniel responded by asking (something to the effect of — unlike the below, we didn’t get the transcript), “That’s all well and good, but why should the burden of that geography fall only on people with disabilities?”  He has, from the get go, understood the fundamental premise of disability civil rights.

In June, 2018, we again appeared before Judge Daniel on the question of wheelchair access to Red Rocks, though this time it was to seek final approval of a class action settlement addressing ticketing and scalping problems that had excluded people with disabilities. Final approval hearings are always upbeat events, as the parties have settled and appear before the judge jointly requesting his blessing of the settlement. Judge Daniel quizzed us on the details of the agreement, indicated his intent to approve it, and then took the opportunity to talk about civil rights and disability rights:

I have had occasion, both as a lawyer, and more importantly as a Judge, to see the evolution of the [ADA]. … [T]here have been strides to make accessibility more an important ingredient of public access to facilities, transportation modes and anything else. So what I’m really saying is, since I have been around a long time, I’m pleased that we’re making strides, but I’m also disappointed that lawsuits have to be filed before anybody, such as the City and County of Denver or other public bodies have to do the right thing, and so I hope that this outcome here can be another further example of how the law can work in a proactive way, but hopefully it also sends a message that even without a lawsuit, I think entities such as City and County of Denver and other public entities have an obligation to, on their own, figure out what should be done to make it easier, rather than harder, for folks with disabilities to have the same access that everybody else has.

[T]hat’s why one of the wonders of being a practicing attorney is [that] practicing attorneys, if they are interested in social justice, if they are interested in being social engineers for justice, can still play a vital role in moving the needle more quickly.

[A]ll of that is what I am uplifting and raising as an illustration [that] we are making progress, but we’re a long way from perfection, and I say that parallels some of the issues that still exist in this country on racial issues, where we have civil rights laws that go back to the mid 60s, but we still have, today, the clear rise of white supremacy, we clearly have nationalists that are running for congress today, running hateful statements and awful things, but they will get votes. And so I think our country has a long way to go to, in effect, liberate us from the battles that have been in existence and will remain in existence, and to the extent that courts can help resolve them, I’m just gratified that I can play some small role in this, and hopefully we will reach a point, at some point, where these laws will become truly an integral part of the fabric of our life.

 Judge Daniel, we are surpassingly gratified that you played such a large role in advancing civil rights in Colorado and improving the fabric of our life. We miss you very much.

[Apologies for cross-posting.]

Tony Kronman: Black Lives Do Not In Fact Matter. 

In 2017, Yale University renamed Calhoun College (at Yale, they call dormitories “residential colleges” because … Yale) after Grace Murray Hopper, a “trailblazing computer scientist, brilliant mathematician and teacher, and dedicated public servant.”  John C. Calhoun was a prominent Yale alumnus and U.S. Senator and, of course, passionate defender of slavery as a positive good.

Yale Law professor and former dean Anthony Kronman objects, explaining that, in his view:

Hitler and Stalin would have to come off buildings, but he says “less egregious” cases like Calhoun are different.

This is literally valuing the millions of white lives lost to the Holocaust and to Stalinism more highly than the millions of black lives lost to American slavery. And by “literally,” I literally mean “literally.”

Kronman accuses those who supported renaming a Yale college (that is, a dorm) — discarding the name of a prominent supporter of slavery for the name of a pioneering female scientist — of the sort of historical revisionism practiced by the Soviet Politburo.

Kronman says that colleges and universities have a responsibility to “cultivate the capacity for enduring the moral ambiguities of life.”

What in the absolute fuck is morally ambiguous about slavery?  It is precisely this sort of academic arrogance that actively devalues and excludes students of color and prevents real intellectual discussion and evolution. It also requires a special sort of intellectual laziness to easily acknowledge other countries’ monsters while being unwilling to face up to our own.

I’m ashamed of my school’s former dean and proud of Prof. John Fabian Witt for his excellent point-by-point demolition of Prof. Kronman’s indefensible defense of the defense of slavery.

 

White People Listserv Freakout: A Template

White Person:  [Expresses demonstrably racist/sexist/ableist/transmisiast/nativist view.]

Reasoned Response:  Here is why your *ist views  are wrong.

White Person:  You just called me a *ist!  You hurt my feelings! [Optional: list of all the wonderful things I’ve done for BIPOC/disabled/female/LGBTQ* people.]

White Chorus:  You hurt White Person’s feelings!  He’s such a nice guy!  He has done so many good things for BIPOC/disabled/female/LGBTQ* people!  Two wrongs don’t make a right!  Both sides need to apologize!

White Apologist:  Reasoned Response said something negative about white people.  That’s just like saying something negative about BIPOC/disabled/female/LGBTQ*/etc people.

Reasoned Response:  No, actually, *ism is about power differentials.

Discussion Police:  We’ve been talking about this for a whole day.  It’s annoying.  A civil rights listserv is no place to discuss *ism.  Time to end the discussion.

Rinse.  Repeat.