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William C. Altreuter
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Friday, May 22, 2015

I'm starting to outline a law school course which I'm tentatively calling "Civil Practice". The idea is that it will be a sort of omnibus practice course, which will include elements of New York Practice-- a subject dear to me- along with exercises in some of the more or less untaught lawyer skills. Client counseling skills, negotiation, and some other things. What other things would Outside Counsel readers suggest?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oh, and before I forget, so long B.B. King. I'm pretty sure it would be impossible to overstate his
importance to music, or to American culture. He ranks with Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington-- all giants, and all essential to American music. These days we all have our music in different formats, and play it on different devices, but if there is no B.B. King accessible to you at all times your music collection is incomplete and you need to fix that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One of my Lawyers in Movies theories is that although the narrative of American jurisprudence teaches us that judges are the heroes, its portrayal in popular culture is closer to the truth: the real heroes are the lawyers. It's the lawyers who take the cases, and create the arguments, but the judges get the ink. In the casebooks that we are taught from the decisions always report the names of the judges who wrote, but the names of the lawyers-- and their briefs, for that matter-- are never mentioned. Interestingly, there are apparently not many movies about the Supreme Court (this Wikipedia list omits The Talk of the Town, for my money superior to The Pelican Brief). Part of this is that appellate advocacy can be pretty dry stuff, and part of it is that appellate court judges really have pretty narrowly defined powers. I liked Stephen Carter's The Emperor of Ocean Park when it was about affluent African-American culture, a subject about which I know damn little, and it was all right when it was about academic politics; but its McGuffin was about a corrupt Circuit Court judge, and that was simply too implausible to sustain my suspension of disbelief.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

To LCA's Smith College commencement weekend, one of those celebratory moments tinged with melancholy. This marks the end of 12 years with a daughter at Smith (actually, now that I think of it, eleven years-- CLA transferred in after her year at my alma mater proved unfulfilling.) Smith does it up right-- the campus, which is beautiful all the time, shows up in a particularly spectacular way when in full bloom. My parents and my sister were able to attend, which made us a larger, convivial group. Regular Outside Counsel readers will recall that my father sustained an injury playing tennis, which limited his mobility somewhat, but lemons to lemonade this meant that we enjoyed preferred seating, and I got to spend a little extra time with my folks.
The experience of each of our daughters at Smith was distinctive, and that is a testament to this remarkable school. We were very fortunate to have been able to experience their adventures vicariously, and to have been able to give them each their unique experience.  It was also pretty great to have a reason to visit Northampton regularly, a place I otherwise might never have gotten to.
I didn't even get to Local Burger this time, and now I have no assurance that I ever will again. (We did have one last meal at the East Side Grill, very nice, as always.) We also got a last look at the (amazing) Smith Museum of Art and the Rare Book Room at the library.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Looks like the Bills will be one of the beneficiaries of Tom Brady's preference for slightly softer footballs. Of course, that's assuming that Belichick doesn't spend the summer devising a Bills-beating scheme for whoever the Pats' backup is. I expect he's reviewing film right this moment

Thursday, May 07, 2015

I ran across this news in the New York Law Journal. There's a Utica City Court Judge named Gerald Popeo who was recently investigated by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which concluded that he'd committed a series of acts of misconduct against prosecutors, defense counsel and defendants who appeared before him. This misconduct included that he spoke the phrase "country niggers"; referred to a prosecutor as a "cigar store Indian"; stated that he wished he could slap a grin off of a defendant's face; told a defense attorney to shut up; told a prosecutor that he was more concerned with getting a conviction to add another notch to his belt rather than doing justice; suggested that the prosecutor sought forfeiture of illegal proceeds in order to buy a new couch for his office or a new laptop; and improperly summarily held two defendants in contempt of court and sentenced them to jail time in violation of their due process rights. The Commission rejected the finding of the referee that the judge had spoken the racially offensive words "country niggers" to two young attorneys, one of whom was African American. This last part is kind of weird: basically the panel accepted all of the other findings, but cherry-picked the last out of consideration. It also apparently missed that the "cigar store Indian" crack was racially offensive, probably because the Commission consists of ten white guys and one Hispanic.

I try to avoid calling out judges here on Outside Counsel because who needs the tsuris, you know? However, Judge Popeo, who remains on the bench, is going to be an exception. I have heard some jaw-dropping stuff coming from the bench and the robing room and from chambers, but finding that a judge said these things and then allowing him to continue on the bench is shocking. Of course, undue deference to sitting judges is nothing new, and as far as I can tell it is always political, but the guardians of the credibility of our institutions should be more scrupulous.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

On the way into work this morning I mentioned to A. that Mike Huckabee is running for President again. "I'm a little conflicted about this, " I said. "One the one hand, he is clearly the craziest one in the field right now. On the other, he did pardon Keith Richards".

"You mean like Pappy O'Daniel pardoned the Foggy Bottom Boys?" she asked. Yes, I said, "Exactly like that."

In 1966 William F. Buckley sent Norman Mailer an autographed copy of The Unmaking of a Mayor, the memoir of his unsuccessful run for mayor of New York City the previous year.
Mailer turned to the index and looked up his own name. There he found, in Buckley’s handwriting, the words “Hi, Norman.” (Via Futility Closet.) (When asked what he would do if he won, Buckley said, "Demand a recount".)

Buckley is a pretty good example of why conservative humor is not so funny. Here's a quote from Unmaking: “You can’t walk from one end of New York to the other without a good chance of losing your wallet, your maidenhead, or your life; or without being told that white people are bigoted, that Negroes are shiftless, that free enterprise is the enemy of the working class, that Norman Thomas has betrayed socialism, and that the only thing that will save New York is for the whole United States to become like New York.”

Let's parse this statement a bit. Buckley says that if you walk from the Bronx to Sheepshead Bay you are liable to be robbed, raped or killed; that you will encounter racists and socialists, and that New York is a weird outlier when compared to the rest of the United States. He is using several of the tools used to write humor and to craft arguments, chiefly hyperbole and the litany. At first glance it appears as if he is setting himself in opposition to his audience--  people in New York who vote for mayor-- but actually he is not, and we see this in one of his signature moves: the deployment of arcane vocabulary and esoteric cultural references. "Maidenhead", tehehe, is a reference to the hymen of a virgin, so it's a little dirty. Norman Thomas I had to look up: basically he was a socialist who was mostly active in the 20's, 30's and 40's and who seems to have been a right thinking kinda guy. By making these references Buckley is drawing a circle around himself and his audience: we are the people who are mildly amused by referring to virginity and feel good about recognizing a relatively obscure political figure from earlier in the century.Is it funny? Not particularly. Buckley is basically sneering at everyone who isn't William F. Buckley, and this, to me, is more or less the paradigm of right wing humor. It's Us Against Them, and if you don't think it's funny guess which one you are?

Much is made of Buckley's patrician cool, but he wasn't classy enough to be a good loser, which one supposes is the sort of thing expected from Yale men of his generation. Dismayed by the strong support for Lindsay among wealthy Republicans, Buckley mocked their Upper East Side neighborhood as the “densest national concentration of vegetarians, pacifists, hermaphrodites, junkies, Communists, Randites, clam-juice-and-betel-nut eaters.” I'm not sure why supporters of Ayn Rand get enumerated here, among the hermaphrodites and the junkies, but they were never in better company than when they were set against William F. Buckley's vision for New York.

Viewed in this light, Buckley's little jibe at Mailer-- himself a former mayoral candidate-- seems less funny and more bullying, doesn't it? 

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