Category Archives: Uncategorized

Thank you, Sen. Booker. I’m so sorry, Judge Jackson

I’ve been trying to process how I feel about the circus that is most of the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. No, that’s unfair to clowns. The middle school recess that the GOP bullies have turned these hearings into.

Before turning to the school bullies, I want to thank Sen. Cory Booker, whose words moved me to tears. This clip is about 20 minutes long and all very worth it, but if you don’t have the time, start around the 14-minute mark. I am deeply grateful for Sen. Booker’s speech – it was an act of healing to watch it and, I hope, to speak it.

[Image description: split screen showing Sen. Cory Booker (Black man in dark suit with red tie) on the left and Judge Jackson (Black woman in royal blue suit and black shell; she has shoulder-length braids and glasses) on the right. The video is captioned.]

But what to say of the white boys hurling ignorant insults at this brilliant, brave woman? I want to find a way to apologize to her, as if some ignorant, racist, drunken relative of mine had crashed a civilized gathering at which I had the privilege of listening to and learning from her. I’m grateful that she has a wonderful family and a supportive network of friends with whom she can process this bullshit. And I want to send her comfort food, maybe a big bowl of pasta and a chocolate chip cookie. Or whatever is her favorite when she can get home, kick off the heels, and feel safe amongst people who love her. You don’t deserve any of this, Judge. But you do deserve to be on the Supreme Court.

Godspeed.

In praise of work-life imbalance

Introductory note: I am a privileged, white, cis/het, abled woman, and this post is intended to address other privileged non-marginalized people. I don’t know and would not dare to guess or pontificate on the self-care or life-balance situation of people outside that category. YMMV.

***

I started my legal career in a large commercial law firm where we regularly worked 12-hour days and pulled occasional all-nighters. It wasn’t healthy. After Tim and I started our own firm, we pledged to have more control over our time. And we did. We’d close the office for a “weather emergency” when it hit 70 degrees in March and everyone had spring fever. We’d take off to a baseball game (remember those?) on a whim. But we had started a law firm dedicated to something we cared deeply about: disability rights. So there were also long days, weekend hours, and a general blurring of work/life boundaries.

Now, 26 years after we started that little firm, that imbalance still exists.  We set our own hours — a huge privilege — but we also work plenty of weekends and spend plenty of our off-time thinking and talking about our work. 

And that’s OK. 

Younger lawyers now demand work-life balance. They need time for self-care.  And that’s OK, too. 

But I’m concerned that that demand has become the same sort of brass ring/competition that long hours were to us in the 80s and 90s. Then it was cool to brag that you’d been at the office all weekend, or billed 250 or 300 hours that month,* sweeping into the competition folks who might have needed more time for themselves or their families.

Now if feels — at least from the perspective of this late-Boomer/Gen-X-cusper — that self-care has become as competitive as billable hours once were.  And that the quest for work-life balance can sometimes lose sight of clients with even more radically imbalanced lives.

I’m not suggesting we go back to defining our self-worth in billable hours.  Just that long hours on behalf of a cause you believe in may be the source not only of eye bags, caffeine jitters, and piles of unwashed laundry, but also great satisfaction and even joy. 

Work life balance/imbalance balance.

***

* I was actually present for a conversation among male attorneys comparing competitively who returned to work fastest after their wives gave birth.  Even for the early 90s, that was gross.

 

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.

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!!!

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.

 

Remembering Carrie

Two white-appearing women with cameras and other photo gear. Carrie, on the left, in a denim skirt and black t-shirt using a wheelchair. Amy, on the right, standing, wearing a beige fleece, vest, and jeans. My friend — and multi-talented attorney, activist, and mother — passed last February.  We celebrated her life on Saturday.  These were my words.


When I sat down to write these words, I knew I would be able to plagiarize a lot of my own previous words. I’ve had the privilege of introducing Carrie at various events and presenting awards to her on a number of occasions.

So I did what any nerd would do: searched my computer for documents mentioning Carrie.

As I anticipated, I found the words I had said introducing her for a Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition award, and later an award from our organization, the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, as well as the words I said to introduce her as a candidate for Windsor town board. I’ll reuse some of them in a sec.

But I also found a long list of other documents that show the central role Carrie played in my personal and professional life for the past 20 years.  For example:

  • Lucas v. Iliff – the case on which my husband, Tim Fox, and I first represented Carrie and got to know her, asking her divinity school for accommodations.
  • Lucas v. Kmart – and our tribute to her when that case was recognized by the Impact Fund as the largest disability public accommodations case to date (and possibly through the present), making Kmart stores nationwide accessible to people using wheelchairs.
  • I also found the photos we took for the Impact Fund’s event. Sadly, they didn’t use the one of Carrie, Tim, Kevin Williams, and me all playing poker around our conference table.
  • Lucas v. DU and Lucas v. DU. Or in the words of one of Carrie’s best press releases, “Oops, they did it again!”
  • Carrie’s adoption reference.
  • Carrie’s dumpling sauce.
  • A spreadsheet called “Carrie Lucas Internship Timesheet” – when she interned at our law firm as a law student, prepared court-ready pleadings, and of course taught us more than we taught her.
  • Lucas v. Colorado Rockies: now you can buy accessible seats behind home plate without buying season tickets.
  • Carrie’s EJW photo. After she was awarded the prestigious Equal Justice Works fellowship, I had the privilege of taking the official photo, while she was wearing – of all things – a hat my mother made her.
  • Her first case in federal court, for which we drafted an amicus brief. (Amicus means friend in Latin – never was it truer than on briefs we wrote to support Carrie’s cases.) I also found the brief from the case last year in which she supported us as an amicus, along with Julie Farrar, who just spoke, and Corbett, who is online.
  • The published case of Kerr v. Heather Gardens, setting an obscure but important ADA precedent. Every time I cite it, I recognize how Carrie still helps us and so many other lawyers in so many fields.
  • Lucas v. City and County of Denver: now you can buy accessible tickets to Red Rocks that don’t cost $5,000 on StubHub.
  • The many cases on which we co-counseled, including two in a row against the City of Denver for accommodations for Deaf detainees. (Oops, they did it again!)
  • A long messaging discussion – which I saved, God knows why – about why it is OK to have breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast, but NOT to mix breakfast food and dinner food, reaching the consensus that ketchup on eggs was a desecration.
  • A downloaded copy of “15 Theses – A Protest to Challenge the Church on Disability,” Carrie’s blog post on Reformation Day, in which she set forth 15 specific, biblically-sourced ways in which the Church needed to become more welcoming to disabled people. (She adds:  “I sketched these out during worship last week, but give me time, I could come up with 95.”)  I highly recommend this post to people of all faiths or none.

Carrie (purple dress; short hair; wheelchair) playing with a young golden retriever who has his paws on her knees.

Carrie was the get-shit-donest person I know. We lawyers can be a cautious bunch — always arguing this side and that.  I can recall many occasions when — confronting injustice or simply something that needed doing — while the rest of us were still pondering, planning, and arguing about the best route forward, we would discover that Carrie had already acted.

She saw something that needed to be done and she did it.  One of the best examples of this is when she found out her niece faced the possibility of foster care:  she moved immediately to adopt her.

Then realizing the obstacles she faced as a disabled woman trying to adopt, she made the rights of parents with disabilities the focus of her legal education and career.

When Carrie started her nonprofit, Disabled Parents’ Rights, the number of lawyers in the country who were addressing these issues was in the low- to mid-single-digits.  She quickly became an expert in this crucial area, and was a sought-after speaker and teacher for other lawyers, advocates, and even judges.

You’ll hear a lot about all of her many roles:  mother, lawyer, advocate, arrestee, photographer, cook.  She was all these things.  Then we’d be chatting and she’d say something like, “we’re going to see Hamilton, so I’m making Hamilton skirts for myself and my daughters.”  Or “I have some time over Christmas break — I’ve decided to learn the hammer dulcimer.”

She was the person I always turned to when I need an answer:  What’s the right case to cite?  Who should I vote for?  What does the trinity mean? How do I format a document in Word without throwing my laptop out the window?  She answered these and so many others.

When we gave her the CREEC award a few years ago, we summed up Carrie’s intersectional work and identities by saying: “she may be the only wheelchair-using Latina with a bumper sticker that reads ‘just another disabled lesbian for Christ,’ dressed in camo, driving her trak-chair into the wilderness for the perfect photo.

Carrie was our client, intern, colleague, and co-counsel, but most important to me, she was my dear friend.  She had just the right combination of wisdom, compassion, sarcasm, and love, and I miss her profoundly.

Cartoon drawing of Carrie as a superhero, with an orange cape.

Auto Reply: Unavailable

Thank you for your email.  Unfortunately, I will be unavailable from July 19, 2019 until July 19, 3019.  I am busy, grumpy, and antisocial.  If you are emailing for any of the following reasons, do not expect a reply before our sun goes supernova:  picking my brain, having a networking coffee, or asking me which provision of the ADA regulations applies to your case before you have even checked Westlaw.  If you are asking me to tell you which provision of the ADA regulations applies to your case but you have previously told me you “don’t believe in lawsuits,” please close the email and go fuck yourself.  The following emails may be returned with reasonable promptness:  close friends offering to listen to me whine about my cases; offers to buy me beer and/or dumplings; and Mom.

Gong Xi Gong Xi!* Now put it in the calendar!

Happy New Year!  I loved this wonderful post on Lunar New Year by one of my favorite blogs, Fakequity (get it?  Fake Equity? Motto:  “FAKEQUITY IS BAD. IT SHOWS UP AS ALL TALK AND NO ACTION.”)  The author talks about their love of the Lunar New Year traditions in many Asian cultures, and that “One of the reasons I love lunar new year is it the only Asian holiday even remotely recognized in the US and Western society.”  They then lament those times when organizations schedule random events on Lunar New Year:  “The rant sounds like this: ‘One day! Can we get one day to celebrate? Why did they schedule on this day?!?’”

A couple of years back, an organization I’m in scheduled an event on (IIRC) Purim.  We were quite properly called on it, and rescheduled.  At that time, determined not to make the same mistake, I went into my Google Calendar and checked a bunch of boxes to add a variety of culturally significant holidays:

List titled "Other calendard" with checked boxes for Christian Holidays; Holidays in United States; Jewish Holidays; Muslim Holidays; and Orthodox Holidays."

After reading the Fakequity post, I went to check whether this had resulted in adding Lunar New Year and … of course not.  What’s worse, this is the full list of religious holidays Google lets you add.  After that, it has a very long list of country holidays you can add:

List titled "Other calendard" with checked boxes for Christian Holidays; Holidays in United States; Jewish Holidays; Muslim Holidays; and Orthodox Holidays; Regional Holidays: Holidays in Afghanistan; Holidays in Albania; Holidays in Algeria; Holidays in American Samoa; Holidays in Andorra."

And so on.  So there’s no generic way to add Hindu or other religions’ holidays, Indigenous holidays, or cultural holidays of other parts of Asia or Africa.  To make sure I got at least Chinese cultural holidays, I checked “Holidays in Taiwan,”** which helpfully added such things as “Farmer’s Day.”

Fakequity to the rescue again!  Early this year, they created a list of “2019 Culturally Significant Dates and New Years (x15).”***   These are all going in CREEC’s calendar so we can do our best to respect these diverse holidays.  And also find ways to enjoy culturally significant food throughout the year!

***************

*Or “Gong Shi Gong Shi” if you were lucky enough to study Chinese at Middlebury summer language school sometime in the late 1970s and become completely unable to read any other, much more popular, system of Romanization.

**Why Taiwan and not China?  Because I lived there for three years in the early 1980s and still miss it.

***In this post you will find another of the many reasons I love Fakequity.  In listing the holidays, it says;  “Below is a graphic to share. … I’ve listed the text below [the graphic] for people who want to use a text-to-speech reader …”

What’s in YOUR drafts file?

Panama Jackson of Very Smart Brothas asked his readers, “what do you have saved in your drafts?”  He then listed ten draft posts, each of which provided a brief insight into a brilliant topic.  (At least the ones I understood; his music references went over the head of this middle aged white nerd.)  He urged readers to share their top ten unpublished drafts in comments.  Here are mine — could only find seven worth listing:

  1. “Unlearning” about all the racist, colonialist crap I learned in high school, and since, that I’m working hard to unlearn.
  2. “Professionalism” which so far consists of one sentence: “I care about all the wrong things — and all the wrong people — to ever be considered ‘professional’ or ‘respectable.’ I don’t belong here.”  Hmm.  Bad day in court, perhaps?
  3. “Announcing WhAMBAM: White American Male Bad Actor Manifest:” My attempt to counter the Trump Administration’s list of criminals who are immigrants.  I’m guessing I never finished because the news kept supplying new examples of White American Male Bad Actors.
  4. “Why my freak-out shows my privilege.”  An undeveloped essay about why my post-Trump freak out shows how ignorantly privileged (and privilegedly ignorant) I was pre-Trump.
  5. “Facebook reactions we really need.”  Disability-rights version.  I did the graphic, but didn’t really write anything

Series of graphics titled "Facebook Reactions for Disability Rights Posts." 1. The words "Stupid Questions" surrounded by the red-circle-and-slash sign for "no!" with the caption "No Stupid Questions. 2. The international symbol of accessible inside a flash-like icon, with the text "Presume Competence, Asshole!" 3. Clip-art of an ankle being wrapped in an Ace bandage, with the text "The fact that you sprained your ankle does not mean you get what it's like to be disabled." 4. Text box with the following letters, spaced by dashes "F - U - C - K Y - O - U" with the text, "The lady in accounting who knows how to fingerspell is not an interpreter." 5. Icon of a middle finger flipping the bird with the text, "Please reconsider your microagression," and 6. Cartoon drawing of an older man with tufts of white hair on either side of his head, wearing a flannel shirt, with the text, "No, your building is not grandfathered in."

  1. “Before ‘we’ were so easily offended”: Picking up on a meme noting that fragile white people used to be unwilling to drink from the same water fountain as black people, so the whole safe space sneer is bullshit.  Ended up writing this instead:  “You want a safe space? How about Yale College, 1924.”
  2. “Fatal Disability Discrimination:”  Calling bullshit both as a disability rights lawyer and linguistics major/nerd (and major nerd) on the concept of “after birth abortion” for disabled infants.
  3. “The Orange Dog:” a photo essay on an orange plastic poodle that my father and I exchanged as a gift in the most awkward circumstances we could dream up for the other. For example, me at some just-pre-law-school-graduation event:

Image: Photo of me at age 28, white woman with short dark hair wearing a flowered dress, holding an orange plastic poodle with pink fuzzy rabbit ears. I'm sitting at a table with a bottle of beer in the foreground.