October 24, 2014
Popular elections of American state judges is wasteful, anti-business, provincial, third-rate and a global joke.
On Tuesday, November 4, Americans will vote in mid-term federal elections for all House seats and one-third of the U.S. Senate seats. Moreover, except in Louisiana (with its general election in early December), voters in each state will vote on November 4 for candidates for office in a extraordinarily wide variety of state, county, municipal and local elections. Unfortunately, voters in 37 (Louisiana, again) of the 38 states that popularly elect judges will also participate on November 4 in those contests. Popular elections to select our state judges, we believe, is a wankfest of the first order.
Anyone who has read my or my firm's writings in various Midwestern-based papers and legal periodicals over the past 20 years, or has read this blog since Tom Welshonce, Holden Oliver and I started it nine years ago, knows that Hull McGuire prefers whenever possible to do its business litigation in federal courts, where judges are appointed on the basis of merit, and regards state courts as unpredictable and often dysfunctional venues to be avoided. Regular readers also know that our problem with state courts is that most of them are filled at all levels with judges who are elected. We won't repeat all of our arguments here. America outgrew electing state judges generations ago, and to continue this practice is wrong.
In that regard, do see Mark Stern's recent excellent if somewhat disturbing article in Slate entitled "Justice for Sale: SCOTUS is poised to make judicial elections even more corrupt". Stern predicts that, in a new Florida case before Supreme Court, the Court's holding in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) that the First Amendment prohibits government from restricting independent political expenditures in federal elections by a corporation or association will be extended to state judiciary elections. As we've urged for years, let's put an end to the popular election of American state judges. See, e.g., "Is that a popularly-elected state judge in your pocket? Or you just hugely happy to see me?".
In the vast majority of American states, judges are still elected. That American regime is third-rate, a global embarrassment, expensive and, frankly, looks and smells fishy, even where elected judges are honest and able. Indeed, the process taints all elected judges. Moreover, as Stern's article points, no other developed nations have this tribal and arguably medieval selection method for the judiciary. We think judges should be appointed on a merit system by people who know how to identify and evaluate the excellent lawyers we want on the bench. The elections still conducted in some form by 38 states provide us (with a few notable exceptions) with the dregs, gives elected judges "constituents" and makes justice seem as if it's for sale.
Say no to popularly electing judges. Get your state legislators off their knees.
October 23, 2014
Clients 99.5% of the time are not paying you to be perfect. Clients don't want perfect. (In the rare times they do want perfect, they will let you know, Justin.) Clients want excellent. Be excellent, not perfect. See, e.g., "Rule 10: Be Accurate, Thorough and Timely--But Not Perfect" of our world-famous irritating but dead-on accurate, deeply soulful, arresting and life-changing 12 Rules of Client Service.
Perfectionism: The horror, the horror.
October 22, 2014
Bradlee with Washington Post owner Katherine Graham in 1971.
Ben Bradlee's death saddens me and many, many other people. In the 1970s and 1980s, Washington Post managing editor Bradlee was an idol to me and most of my friends in college, in Washington, D.C. or in New York when we were writing or editing student dailies, selling our first freelance piece, doing our first jobs with a newspaper or wire service or writing a first book. Bradlee set the standard; he was the standard. He was brave, smart, patrician, demanding, salty, funny and fun.
No one was more dedicated to journalism done right, done under pressure and done both for its art and for the public good. No one was cooler. We felt like we knew him. We wanted to be him.
Last night around midnight, the Washington Post published this comprehensive biography and obituary, written by another Post former managing editor:
Ben Bradlee Dies at 93
By Robert G. Kaiser
Benjamin C. Bradlee, who presided over The Washington Post newsroom for 26 years and guided The Post’s transformation into one of the world’s leading newspapers, died Oct. 21 at his home in Washington of natural causes. He was 93.
From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily. He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines. His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.
The most compelling story of Mr. Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of greatest consequence, was Watergate, a political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history.
But Mr. Bradlee’s most important decision, made with Katharine Graham, The Post’s publisher, may have been to print stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration went to court to try to quash those stories, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the New York Times and The Post to publish them.
President Obama recalled Mr. Bradlee’s legacy on Tuesday night in a statement that said: “For Benjamin Bradlee, journalism was more than a profession — it was a public good vital to our democracy. A true newspaperman, he transformed the Washington Post into one of the country’s finest newspapers, and with him at the helm, a growing army of reporters published the Pentagon Papers, exposed Watergate, and told stories that needed to be told — stories that helped us understand our world and one another a little bit better. The standard he set — a standard for honest, objective, meticulous reporting — encouraged so many others to enter the profession. And that standard is why, last year, I was proud to honor Ben with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Today, we offer our thoughts and prayers to Ben’s family, and all who were fortunate to share in what truly was a good life.”
The Post’s circulation nearly doubled while Mr. Bradlee was in charge of the newsroom — first as managing editor and then as executive editor — as did the size of its newsroom staff. And he gave the paper ambition.
Mr. Bradlee stationed correspondents around the globe, opened bureaus across the Washington region and from coast to coast in the United States, and he created features and sections — most notably Style, one of his proudest inventions — that were widely copied by others.
During his tenure, a paper that had previously won just four Pulitzer Prizes, only one of which was for reporting, won 17 more, including the Public Service award for the Watergate coverage.
“Ben Bradlee was the best American newspaper editor of his time and had the greatest impact on his newspaper of any modern editor,” said Donald E. Graham, who succeeded his mother as publisher of The Post and Mr. Bradlee’s boss.
“So much of The Post is Ben,” Mrs. Graham said in 1994, three years after Mr. Bradlee retired as editor. “He created it as we know it today.”
Leonard Downie Jr., who succeeded Mr. Bradlee as The Post’s executive editor in 1991, said, “Ben’s influence remained very much alive at The Washington Post long after he retired, distinguishing the newspaper and our newsroom as unique in journalism.” President Obama saluted Mr. Bradlee’s role at The Post when giving him the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2013: “He transformed that newspaper into one of the finest in the world.”
Mr. Bradlee’s patrician good looks, gravelly voice, profane vocabulary and zest for journalism and for life all contributed to the charismatic personality that dominated and shaped The Post. Modern American newspaper editors rarely achieve much fame, but Mr. Bradlee became a celebrity and loved the status.
October 21, 2014
Born Christa Päffgen in Cologne (1938-1988)
Long story, but yesterday morning I had breakfast here in New York with Ruth Westheimer (Dr. Ruth) who at 86 is just one month older than my own Mom and just as sharp and vibrant. I met her about 10 years ago and see her every 2 years or so--but I never really talked her longer than a couple of minutes before yesterday. She is funny and classy and bawdy all at once.
And, as I told her in the middle of breakfast, she's got big ones.
Google Dr. Ruth some time.
She was born in Bavaria in 1929. Just a few months older than Anne Frank, she lost both parents in the Holocaust after they were taken from her in 1941, but did not really learn of their deaths until 1945. She escaped the Nazis and spent her early teen years in a Swiss orphanage. She was trained and served as a scout and sniper in the late 1940s after moving to Palestine. That career was cut short when she was seriously injured by a shell in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. She spent months in the hospital. She speaks four languages (including Hebrew) but spoke no English when she arrived in NYC in the mid-1950s. She has lived in the same Washington Heights apartment for 50 years. She has been married 2 times and has been widowed since 1997. She has kids and grandkids. She is a single mother, survivor, winner, dreamer and doer. A problem solver.
And a joy to be around. I gather that she is totally incapable of feeling sorry for herself, even for a minute.
She is 4' 7" in height. That's right. 4 feet 7 inches.
An off-Broadway play about her is still running.
And she is precocious and funny. Yesterday a waiter recognized her and eagerly offered to go to the buffet for her almost as soon as we entered the dining room and before we even sat down. She quickly but graciously allowed him to do so--and then gave the star-struck waiter and fan her food preferences. Off to the buffet he went. She smiled mischievously and said: "It's nice to be Dr. Ruth."
October 20, 2014
No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.
--H.G. Wells (1866-1946)
October 19, 2014
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane, 1858, by John Quidor (1801-1881) Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.
A couple of years ago, my friend and Renaissance man Ray Ward at his superb the (new) legal writer flagged a nicely done nuts-and-bolts resource for answering written interrogatories by Manhattan's Judge Gerald Lebovits which appeared in the January 2012 New York State Bar Association Journal.
What? You've seen this post before?
Good. It's one of our many "evergreen" pieces on working and practicing law. We will post it again and again until maybe we start hearing and reading reports that exemplary standards and uncannily high quality lawyering are taking over the profession--and it's all that clients, GCs, lawyers, judges and law school profs ever talk about.
October 18, 2014
NRDC's Hinerfeld: "They win lawsuits."
Several years ago, I wrote "Has the NRDC Gone Hollywood?" at the request of Environmental Protection Magazine, where I had a bi-monthly column and feature commitment. Based on my trip to the Robert Redford house in Santa Monica, California, and my interviews with environmental activists and strategists with offices there, "Has the NRDC Gone Hollywood?" is about white-hat environmental attorneys at the Los Angeles office of the well-regarded Natural Resources Defense Council, a national public interest lobby now in its 45th year. I'm told the piece is still hip and funny. We are not certain if it was ever linked to by this blog. So I am sharing this with you now.
Has the NRDC Gone Hollywood?
By J. Daniel Hull
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Daniel Hinerfeld, the young, ultra-articulate director of communications for the Southern California office of the Natural Resources Defense Council ("NRDC"), agreed to let me drop by in mid-September to interview him and some other NRDC staffers so I could write this installment.
I was slightly nervous about visiting. It was a little unseemly, I thought, for me to mingle brazenly with the Los Angeles office of the smartest, hippest, and arguably most successful public interest group in the world. I grew up in the Midwest, and as an environmental lawyer, I have represented chiefly companies -- some quite large and many of them processors, transporters, or storers of fossil fuels.
While several clients have been laudably progressive in their environmental quality management, more than a few of them allegedly violated their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits or were driven into consent orders under the Clean Water Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or Resource Conservation Recovery Act.
Plenty troubling was one ex-client: an operator of 50 underground storage tanks outside of Pittsburgh with a history of alleged groundwater contamination violations and a compliance program which, in the good years, consisted of sporadically checking properties to see if the ground had caught fire.
So, I wasn't really sure if I had the cultural, political, or professional qualifications to visit the NRDC's Los Angeles office and write this article. But the energetic Hinerfeld was quick to point out that, as a single issue, protection of the environment often transcends politics and culture wars.
"It's really a bi-partisan issue," he noted. "Everyone wants clean air and clean water." Hinerfeld, of course, is right. Although it's true that environmental compliance costs on occasion have put good companies out of business and good people out of jobs, strictly speaking, we all -- Republicans, Democrats, Independents, whatever -- want a healthy planet.
October 17, 2014
Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, New York
Since 2011, a former law partner of mine, Tom Corbett, a first-rate trial lawyer and past U.S. Attorney, has been the Republican governor of Pennsylvania. Not bad, considering that Pennsylvania, like its neighbor New Jersey, has been steadily morphing from GOP to Democratic in the last 25 years. In the November 2010 election, Corbett was able to take control back from Democrats, who had enjoyed 8 years under the popular Ed Rendell. Now running for his second term in a close race, Corbett is again hardworking and people-savvy as a campaigner. He generally picks topflight staff for everything. So he is way too smart to let this happen, via the Philadelphia Daily News: "Smiling black woman next to Corbett on his website was Photo-shopped." According the Corbett campaign, others in the offending image were photoshopped, too. Not the best damage control, either, guys. Finally, not too good picture of you, Governor. Bad week, I'd say.
October 15, 2014
On this day in 1764, Edward Gibbon, historian and Member of Parliament, saw friars singing in the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter in Rome. The experience inspires him to write what would become the controversial History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. His best reason for Rome's fall: Romans had become decadent and soft.
October 14, 2014
Our world-famous 12 Rules of Client Service. Revel in their wisdom. Ignore them at your peril. Teach them to your coworkers. Argue about them. Improve them.
October 13, 2014
October 11, 2014
Melrose Market, Seattle, 5:00 pm, October 11, 2014. Officiant: John Daniel Hull
October 10, 2014
Ray Davies cries "Victoria", Glastonbury 2010
October 09, 2014
People will not wait to be introduced and will even begin to speak with strangers as they stand in a line, sit next to each other at an event, or gather in a crowd.
--Kwintessential, a London-based consultancy on what to expect in America
One of my best Brit friends is a City (central London) lawyer who lives part of the time in Kent. He and his wife live in a very old village which is about the same population it was 1000 years ago: about 200. To a degree, and at only certain times, I like making him uncomfortable with my American colonial manners, and in some situations work at it pretty hard. In most respects, however, I do as my European hosts do wherever I am and wherever they take me. But there are exceptions. For one thing, I refuse to park my friendliness and open curiosity about people, places and things. I can't help it. Even when I am trying to tone things down.
Like the time I upset everyone by chatting up my Kent friend's butcher early one quiet Saturday morning while the butcher was cutting up something that we would prepare later for dinner. Just the three of us. No one else was in the store. It was quite tiny but had a prosperous look. The butcher was clearly proud of his shop. I started asking the butcher about the store, how business and even his hat, which I complimented him on. Which took me only about 30 seconds. The butcher looked a bit frantic, said nothing and turned to my friend for help or an explanation. The butcher got both. My friend quickly said something like "He's an American...very friendly you know...what are we to do?"
It's true. American manners drives Brits, Germans and most northern Europeans nuts: American informality, openness, curiosity non-stop cheerfulness and friendliness. Over on their side of the pond, even a very self-assured and accomplished southern England executive, consultant, lawyer or other professional, for example, would rather choke to death than talk to strangers in a subway or ask how to get to a bank or money exchange. But wide-open is what Americans are and have always been; if you want to do business in the U.S., you need to step up. Or at least tolerate us. When we Yanks are over there, you guys can complain and be mortified all you want. And you do.
There is no end to multi-cultural etiquette primers on "doing business internationally", and most of them are of course drivel. The best advice in a nutshell? Go where you need to go, and watch your American hosts carefully as you work--but do "go native". Be prepared to amp yourself up just a notch. The website of UK-based Kwintessential does a nice job of laying out the overall business atmosphere here in a few sentences:
American friendliness and informality is legendary. People will not wait to be introduced and will even begin to speak with strangers as they stand in a line, sit next to each other at an event, or gather in a crowd.
Americans are direct in the way they communicate. They value logic and linear thinking [note: not sure I agree with foregoing clause] and expect people to speak clearly and in a straightforward manner. Time is money in the U.S. so people tend to get to the point quickly and are annoyed by beating around the bush.
Communicating virtually (i.e. through email, SMS, Skype, etc) is very common with very little protocol or formality in the interaction. If you are from a culture that is more subtle in communication style, try not to be insulted by the directness.
October 08, 2014
Half my life is an act of revision.
--John Irving (1942-)
October 07, 2014
In our series, and also from the June 6, 2012 edition of Vanity Fair:
in 1984, the Washington Post published data it had obtained about a satellite payload, and some officials in the Reagan administration were not pleased. Managing editor Bradlee's patriotism was publicly questioned. There were even suggestions that at one time he had worked for the Kremlin. Bradlee, like his friend John Kennedy, was a World War II veteran who had served in the Navy. One right wing writer made the mistake of asking Bradlee "What did you do during WWII?". Bradlee's response began:
I suspect I did more for my country in the war than you did. I spent four years in destroyers in the Pacific Ocean. My theatre ribbon has 10 battle stars on it.
That's just for starters.
Bradlee receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 20, 2013.
October 05, 2014
"I don't set out to offend or shock, but I also don't do anything to avoid it."
For all you prisoners of rock 'n' roll.
October 04, 2014
Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
--Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)
Chekov in Melikhovo, Russia, 1897
October 03, 2014
Double Bridge Publishing Company, Inc.. Double Bridge is a new online publishing service based in Washington, D.C. launched last month by Florida businessman Richard O'Brien. Double Bridge uses a crowdsourcing model to identify, evaluate, edit, market and publish fiction and nonfiction works of published, unpublished and new authors. It was established to get the best writing to an eager reading public without the usual bottlenecks caused by entrenched literary agent-publishing house regimes that affirmatively limit the number of titles published each year.
Unlike most established brick and mortar publishers, Double Bridge relies on crowdsourcing for much of its publishing functions, and provides valuable review services, close to cost, to writers and the public. A manuscript is reviewed for a small fee by several qualified reviewers who help decide the next steps for the work. Double Bridge has over 100 reviewers to critique and edit manuscripts quickly, usually within 24 hours, to get the process moving in the right direction. If you indeed know writers who are seeking publication of their work, please let me know who they are or have them contact me by our blog, by Messenger or by emails. Just find me. See also www.doublebridgepublishing.com.
Over-Communicate--just don't spazz it up too much.
October 02, 2014
Earlier this week we weighed in briefly on the life of former Washington Post managing editor Bill Bradlee, now 93 and ailing. Bradlee served at the Post during a long and often-turbulent period in American history (1968-1991). There are lots of great stories about Bradlee--who was outspoken, forceful, combative and funny. Many highlight verbal or written comebacks Bradlee made to those who made unfriendly or hostile remarks about the Post or him. During a spat with the publisher of another newspaper, Bradlee once wrote:
To the Publisher:
Editors do run the risk of appearing arrogant if they choose to disagree with anyone who calls them arrogant.
You sound like one of those publishers who aims to please his pals in the community and give the what they want.
No one will call you arrogant that way. No one will call you a newspaperman, either.
Source: Vanity Fair, June 6, 2012
Bradlee and Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward circa 1980.
October 01, 2014
Guess I'm hooked. Who is she? She would have been born around 1956 at latest, I think.
September 30, 2014
Well, I try my best to be just like I am.
But everybody wants you to be just like them
They say sing while you slave--and I just get bored.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
--Maggie's Farm, Robert Allen Zimmerman (1941- )
September 29, 2014
You had a lot of Cuban or Spanish-speaking guys in masks and rubber gloves, with walkie-talkies, arrested in the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at 2:00 in the morning. What the hell were they in there for? What were they doing?
If you read this blog and don't know who Ben Bradlee is, you should, and so we are going pretend that you know anyway. Tons has been written about Bradlee (and will continue to be written about him) due to his colorful management style, years as a reporter, close friendship with President Kennedy and celebrated mentor-editor role in the two years of coverage of the Watergate break-in of June 1972. Patrician yet famously profane and often hilariously bawdy in his language around the newsroom, Bradlee as Managing Editor of the Washington Post (1968-1991) supported reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward in their reporting on Watergate which, with Bradlee playing stage manager at the Post, prematurely ended Richard Nixon's presidency. Nixon resigned in August of 1974. There are lots of interesting stories down through the years about Bradlee himself--but lately the news is sad. Based on a recent C-Span interview with Bradlee's wife, soulmate and fellow Post star Sally Quinn, Politico notes that Bradlee, now 93, is suffering from dementia, sleeping most days away in a hospice, and apparently steadily declining. When Bradlee does leave us, there will be no one left in American journalism or letters who is even remotely like him. We will start today rounding up a few of the better stories. Bradlee was a storyteller with a powerful intellect, and he was funny as hell.
Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, circa 1971
September 28, 2014
Ain't no way in the world I'm going out that front door.
--Sonny Boy Williamson, Marshall Sehorn and Elmore James
September 26, 2014
Last Friday night I saw Rory Kennedy's documentary Last Days in Viet Nam at the E Street Cinema, in Northwest Washington, D.C. a few blocks from the White House. It combines new interviews with recently found film footage (for real, no hype) shot in Saigon in the spring of 1975 when U.S. military and civilian staff coped with a well-meaning but half delusional American ambassador and the wrenching question of who would/would not be evacuated out on U.S. flights as the North Vietnamese army moved triumphantly into the city. Nicely done, apolitical and poignant. Boomers--most of us were in our 20s at the time--will like it especially. I've met and spent a little time with the film's quiet, hardworking and unassuming director-producer. A full-time filmmaker with several fine documentaries under her belt, Kennedy, 45, is the youngest child of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY).