Category Archives: Uncategorized

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’s 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.

Vote for Saira Rao for Colorado CD-1

I’m writing to urge you to vote for Saira Rao in the primary for our CD-1 representative.  Ballots are due tomorrow (drop-off and other info here:  https://www.coloradodems.org/resources/faqs-answered-for-the-primary/) and I wanted to make this last, important pitch and to urge you to read Neeti Pawar’s article here:

https://medium.com/@neetip/we-deserve-better-eae018ad520b

Neeti Pawar is a brilliant and tireless Denver civil rights lawyer.  Her experience, described in the article, was consistent with our experiences over the years of our current representative deeply NOT getting disability rights, the area of law I know and care the most about.  As has become much clearer in recent days, we are living in increasingly dangerous times — especially for people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized people.  We need a representative who gets this and acts on it, not one who sidesteps civil rights as “not her issue.”

And if health care *is* Rep. DeGette’s issue (as her staffers indicated to Ms. Pawar in the linked article), we — as civil rights and civil liberties fans — have reason for concern.  Rep. DeGette signed into law a bill that imposes Electronic Visit Verification, a system that will require Medicaid recipients and their aides to wear electronic monitors to make sure they are getting and receiving services.  A more intrusive and infantilizing system I cannot possibly imagine.  It is one that has members of the disability rights community very concerned about privacy and autonomy.

Interestingly, in response to outreach by a local pro-DeGette attorney, she responded that she “has always fought to pass legislation in support of disability rights, including stem cell research.”  This underscores her cluelessness.  Touting work on behalf of stem cell research as a disability rights position is exactly precisely not getting disability rights.  It’s saying “I support making people with disabilities not disabled anymore.”  Stem cell research is a great cause; it’s just not remotely a disability rights cause, and anyone for whom that is a go-to response doesn’t get it.

Ultimately, my pitch to vote for Saira Rao may seem like an odd ask in this particular year, as she is a Democratic woman running against an incumbent . . .  Democratic woman.  So she won’t flip a House seat or overthrow the patriarchy (yet). But after having the chance to meet her and speak with her, I believe she is what we need the most:  a better Democrat.  A Democrat that can help us build a future party, powerful and inclusive, that will leave the Republican cavemen behind.  A Democrat who will inspire people of color, people with disabilities

I’m pasting Ms. Pawar’s entire article below.  Please read.  Please share.  Please vote.

 

We Deserve Better

By Neeti Pawar

I saw the images of Diana DeGette traveling to Texas purportedly to assess the conditions in which immigrants are being detained. Many are thanking her — it makes me livid.

We tried to tell her. Me, personally, and many others. Like my friend and tireless immigrant rights activist and attorney Christina Brown who’s been on the front lines of the abhorrent conditions of family detention recently reminded us: “I’m glad people care. But I’m bitter. We screamed so loud in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017…and no one listened.”

No one listened.

I’ve told my story to some; my friend Saira has told it to many. For her it was the last straw to a series of her own experiences in being taken advantage of and then ignored by the Democratic Party establishment — her breaking point in deciding to run for congress to unseat the 22-year, 11-term incumbent.

I had spent several days at DIA when the first Muslim travel ban issued. I witnessed a handful of immigration attorneys passionately and determinedly ensure no family would be lost in the system or turned back without a fight. None were Muslim, none were South Asian. But they cared so deeply to defend against the injustice.

A few days later I attended what was promoted as a “town hall” meeting with my CD-1 Representative, DeGette. I submitted detailed questions online; when I arrived, I was told those questions were just for data collection, that she wouldn’t be answering them. There were cards to write questions — so I wrote them out again. I was told they would be used to identify “themes” and not answered.

The town hall was held at the Police Protection Association building. A location which was marginalizing in and of itself — consistent with the pattern of being out of touch with many of her constituents; or worse, intentionally reinforcing their oppression (this is how systemic racism and oppression works).

The “town hall” was a prepared power point presentation about the Affordable Health Care Act; no questions were taken. Out of growing frustration of my representative’s failure to address the crisis around immigration that was actually occurring in her district and state (Muslim ban, ICE raids, and ICE trolling courthouses and communities), and as one of very few people of color in the 1000+ audience, I disrupted. I stood up and asked my representative to address the crisis and state her plan to protect the obvious next target — DACA status individuals.

My Representative’s response: That she wasn’t aware of any raids, and outright condescending dismissal that DACA status people were at risk; blind unsupported assurances that no one was coming after DACA. She didn’t want to hear it; she didn’t listen. She literally scoffed at my suggestion, at my “paranoia”; suggested I was part of the problem because I was fueling fear mongering; overreacting. She didn’t listen.

On my way out, one of her staffers asked me to meet with her to talk about my concerns. I scheduled a meeting and met with her and another staffer at the Denver office. I shared my background, my experience and my concern, my connections to marginalized communities. I wanted to help. I wanted to give my Representative information from communities whom she was not hearing from. Her staffers nodded in agreement with the frustration. I was hopeful, until they related to me with resignation: “civil rights just isn’t her issue.” That her focus is on health care. It was clear to me: my representative didn’t see that that health care is civil rights. She was clueless to the interconnectedness of all issues and didn’t want to even try to be inclusive around issues of equity.

Stunned, I left. She didn’t want to listen. She didn’t think this was something she was responsible for. She had a long-standing active community member in her office wanting to help. To organize, to educate, to volunteer her time. To help her use her platform and power to get ahead of the issues we knew were coming. The writing was on the wall. She didn’t care.

She didn’t care. She didn’t listen.

Over 1 ½ years later, she’s now traveling to the US/Mexico border. To “see for herself.” It’s too little too late. It’s insulting to those who have been on the border for years, making personal sacrifice to their personal wellbeing, their financial wellbeing, placing strain on relationships and careers. The detention facilities have been in existence for years — under her watch, under both a Democratic president and the current president. She ignored it. And she ignored pleas from those who “screamed so loud in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.” And she didn’t listen. A report on ICE’s practice of family detention was issued in 2016 recommending DHS discontinue the general use of family detention. She did nothing. I expect more from my representative than merely signing on to letters. I expect action.

The public outrage over the recent policy to separate children from families finally got her attention. It was all of us, the people, who reacted loud and vigorously to ultimately pressure the administration to reverse the policy of separating children from their families.

She failed those who needed her most. Now, after the crisis is full blow in the *public eye* (because let’s be clear, the dehumanizing practice of family detention has been happening for years), and during an election year, she now decides to say something. To use her most secure seat in the country, her 22 years of “coalition building,” her “experience” in office, to finally do something. And what does she do? She does what she always does… she leaves her post. She has to “see for herself.” She “co-signs” legislation — co-signing means another representative does the work, writes the bill, gathers the support, builds the coalition. And DeGette allows her rubber-stamped signature to be placed among her colleagues. That’s what co-signing means. It takes nothing, no work, no political capital; it’s the opposite of leadership.

Is this the best she can do in 22 years?

She should have listened.

We deserve better.

Updated 6/26/18 to add responsive information.

Sam Bagenstos for the Michigan Supreme Court

I’m privileged to join Eve Hill, Scott LaBarre, Jennifer Mathis, and Arlene Mayerson in the letter below.  I urge you to donate  to Sam’s campaign and especially to forward this to others in the disability rights community and/or friends and family in Michigan.

Dear Friends,

As some of you may know, Sam Bagenstos is running to be a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.  Sam has been a stalwart of our community for more than two decades.  We hope you will join us in supporting his candidacy.

We are all bombarded with political appeals these days and it can be difficult to decide whom to support.  This one we’re totally clear about.  We want to ask you personally to support Sam with a contribution of $500, $250 or $100.

The future of the Michigan Supreme Court depends on the outcome of this race.  Republican Governor Rick Snyder appointed four of the seven current justices to the Court.  Two of those Snyder appointees are standing for election for the first time this fall.  The outcome of the election will be pivotal for numerous issues of extraordinary importance.

Many of you know Sam personally.  But for those of you who don’t, Sam is the Frank G. Millard Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.  As an attorney, he has played an instrumental role in some of the most important disability rights cases during the last quarter century, including arguing three ADA cases in the U.S. Supreme Court.  In the Obama Administration, Sam led the Justice Department’s disability rights enforcement as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.  His work on enforcing the Olmstead integration mandate, on demanding accessibility in technology, and on promulgating the 2010 ADA regulations made his tenure at DOJ an extremely rich one for the disability rights movement.  Earlier in his career, Sam clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt on the Ninth Circuit and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In short, Sam is both a dedicated public servant and a brilliant and ethical lawyer.

For these reasons, we ask that you donate to Sam Bagenstos’s campaign today.  

Here is the link to Sam’s website where you can learn more about his candidacy, and here is a link to the donation page.

Please note: You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to contribute.  Contributions are NOT tax-deductible and may only be drawn from American funds.  The Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits a judicial campaign committee from soliciting more than $100 per attorney.  If you are an attorney, please regard this as informative and not a solicitation for more than $100.  However, an attorney may make, and the judicial campaign committee may accept, a contribution from an attorney in any amount up to the individual maximum of $6,800.

Thank you for taking the time to consider supporting Sam Bagenstos for the Michigan Supreme Court.

Sincerely,

Eve L. Hill*
Scott LaBarre*
Jennifer Mathis*
Arlene Mayerson*
Amy Robertson*

Paid for by SAMUEL BAGENSTOS FOR JUSTICE | 2730 E STADIUM BLVD NO 310 |Ann Arbor, MI 48104