As Joe wrote yesterday, a 19-year-old Detroit woman named Renisha McBride was fatally shot last weekend on the porch of a Dearborn Heights home. Her death has received national media attention because of the speculation that, as Joe put it, it follows “the same basic pattern of an African-American in a predominantly white neighborhood at night running afoul of a gun-toting homeowner.”
The family members of Renisha McBride issued a press statement last night asking for peace while they mourn and promising to meet with activist groups after Renisha’s funeral. The funeral is scheduled for today at 10 a.m.
Authorities have slowly released details related to the young woman’s death. Some of these details match the statements made by Renisha’s family. Some do not.
Before leapfrogging over the specifics of Renisha’s case and launching a politically motivated rant, let’s look at what we do and don’t know about the tragedy that occurred on that Dearborn Heights porch. If Renisha McBride is more than a political prop, she deserves at least that much . . . .
So it’s happened again. Another state, another neighborhood, another young black person shot to death by someone based on a loose, subjective “fear.” This time it’s Michigan, and it’s a young woman instead of a teenage boy, but otherwise it’s the same basic pattern of an African-American in a predominately white neighborhood at night running afoul of a gun-toting homeowner.
There will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the prevalence of “Stand Your Ground” laws (which Michigan boasts), followed by the equal and opposite reaction loudly pointing out that Stand Your Ground doesn’t apply to this particular case (which it doesn’t).
However, while what happened in Michigan may not invoke the state’s Stand Your Ground law, the existence and high-profile nature of laws that lower the standard for legally forgivable gunplay has everything to do with what happened in Michigan…
The United States stands alone in its permissive laws regarding gun ownership among major industrialized powers. But the United States is also one of the most heterogeneous countries on the planet. Are those two factors related? Could it be that our fear of each other inspires pro-gun laws that one doesn’t see in less diverse cultures?
There’s an argument that the Second Amendment itself was adopted to defend slavery. Please note: I don’t agree with this argument. I think the Second Amendment was adopted because we’d just fought a war that we couldn’t have won without the martial powers of citizens militias. That’s why “A well regulated Militia” is right in the text of the Amendment (a phrase modern gun nuts are quick to gloss over). But it’s clear that widespread gun ownership helped white plantation owners keep control of their slaves. And the right to bear arms was certainly useful when it came time to “settle” additional territory away from the people who were already living there. Gun rights, who has them, and who does not, are inextricably tied to our history of racial oppression.
Do these “race-war” justifications for gun ownership still apply to our modern understanding of the right? A new study suggests that they could…
* The Supreme Court’s Term opens today, and the conservative justices may have the opportunity to shift the law even further to the right when it comes to today’s social issues. [Los Angeles Times]
* In his Biglaw days, Chief Justice Roberts “gave his adversaries heartburn.” Now, his litigation skills serve the same purpose for those giving oral arguments before SCOTUS. [National Law Journal]
* It seems that in the end, Justice Ginsburg’s career choices have been whittled down to the lyrics found in one of The Clash’s catchiest songs: Should she stay or should she go now? [Washington Post]
* In other news, in case you were wondering, Justice Antonin Scalia, a firm believer in the Devil, is just as scary in real life as he is when he haunts your dreams (which is impressive!). [New York Magazine]
* “If this continues, it’s going to be very problematic.” Clients are very annoyed, and some Biglaw firms continue to worry about how the government shutdown will affect their bottom line. [New York Law Journal]
* The defections at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas: Weil Gotshal’s Houston office is still leaking partners like a sieve. We’ll have more on these developments later today. [Law360 (sub. req.)]
* President Obama continues to comment on the important issues of the day. He’d “think about changing” the Redskins team name if he were its owner — just like this fired Quinn Emanuel associate. [CNN]
* Viva la raza! The federal government is too slow for California, so the governor signed a bill into law that will allow illegal immigrants to become licensed as lawyers. Congratulations to Sergio Garcia. [Reuters]
* No, we won’t remove that embarrassing story we wrote about you — but at least we’re not trying to charge you hundreds of dollars for its removal like those pesky mug shot websites. [New York Times]
The most racist thing that happened to me in Biglaw occurred during one of my callbacks. I was being led from one partner’s office to another partner’s office by the recruiting lady at a Biglaw firm (which I won’t name). The partner who was supposed to interview me next was delayed, and so the recruiting lady and I were loitering outside his office for a second. While I’m standing there, another old white partner comes out of his office waving an inter-office mail envelope in my face. He barks, “Where have you been all day? Get this up to [some floor].” I’m in a suit, by the way. The recruiting lady is mortified, and she stammers something like, “This is Elie… he’s interviewing with us today… from HARVARD.” Without a word of apology, the partner grunts “okay,” and then shuffles back into his office, leaving the door open so I guess he could yell at the real mail guy, whenever he appeared.
Needless to say, I didn’t accept my offer with that firm.
These kinds of things happen to lawyers of color all the time. For the first year at the firm I did go to, I eschewed the “business casual” dress code and wore a full suit everyday. I just didn’t want to be mistaken for the mail guy, and was still young and stupid enough to believe that there was some kind of personal choice I could adopt that would make prejudiced white people treat me fairly.
But there’s not really anything you can do to disabuse people of their racist stereotypes. All you can do is keep on doing your thing, as this one California law student is learning…
I do not mean to say that life as a young woman of color at a large corporate law firm felt like just one Big Marathon of Blatant Racist and Sexist Slights. The experience is, of course, far more nuanced and subtle than that, and often more insidious and harder to battle for its very sublety.
This weekend, a black man got into a car accident, climbed out of the wreckage through the back window of his vehicle, went looking for help, and was shot to death by the police. I should also mention that the black guy was unarmed.
In a surprise twist, the police officer has been charged with voluntary manslaughter. I’m sure that the people who think it’s okay when black people get shot to death will find a way to defend the officer, and they’ll deny that race played a role in the shooting. But I’d like to think that even the people who don’t think this guy was killed because he was black can at least agree that the police can’t be allowed to gun people down in this fashion.
The police are supposed to protect and serve, not shoot to kill…
There’s a great episode of 30 Rock where Twofer (the black character who went to Harvard) gets offended when Tracy Morgan (the black character who did not go to Harvard) says “the n-word” to him, colloquially, as black people allegedly say to each other based on movies and music. Twofer threatens to sue Tracy Morgan for workplace harassment, while Tracy argues that it’s okay for black people to use the word. Then there’s a great, great scene where Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan try to get Twofer to say the word too.
It doesn’t go well. He says it, Morgan threatens to punch him, and Fey says, “It just sounds so hateful coming from you.” The scene pretty much explains why I personally don’t use the word. I don’t say it around white people, I don’t say it to other black people, I don’t use it when I’m getting a haircut, and I don’t use it around the dinner table with my family at Thanksgiving. It’s not a word that I can “pull off” (I can pull it off in writing when I use it ironically, I think), and I’m totally okay with that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who sees intense hypocrisy in the fact that some black people can and do pull it off while no white person (outside of Louie C.K. and maybe Bill Maher) is allowed to try. White people got a 400-year head start in the New World, and black people can deploy an extra noun when listening to Jay-Z. There are greater tragedies.
But the N-word is not a “professional” word, and I don’t think it should be used in that context. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white or from whatever racist planet Rush Limbaugh is from. At the point where you are using the n-word to talk to your employees, you need to help yourself to a thesaurus.
Apparently, there’s a jury of my peers who agrees with me…
* Is Justice Ginsburg, our favorite judicial diva, foiling her own jurisprudential legacy by refusing to retire from the Supreme Court before another president takes office? [Daily Beast]
* Year-over-year, there’s been a double-digit drop in demand for legal services, so now is a great time to start speculating about which firm will be the next to conduct layoffs. [Am Law Daily]
* Don’t despair, the results of the Am Law Midlevel Survey are out, and associates are more satisfied than ever — except for the women. They’re “leaning out,” so to speak. [Am Law Daily]
* New York City (d/b/a Mayor Michael Bloomberg) wants Judge Shira Scheindlin to stay her stop-and-frisk rulings pending appeal, because racial profiling is an effective crime fighting tool. [New York Law Journal]
* If you want to know why law school is three years long instead of two, it’s because back in the day, the T14s of the world were convinced it’d “stop the proles from sullying the image of the bar.” [The Economist]
* In an effort to keep law school deans’ listserv drama and email scandals to a minimum, the American Bar Association just doled out some rules to keep their ivory tower talk in check. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* “[I]f I die because of this, my life will have been worthwhile.” The HSBC whistleblower would face death to talk about the big bank’s money laundering — and to see the lovely Marni Halasa. [Huffington Post]
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
Non-attorneys would think the stress comes from preparing for a big trial, deposing a hostile witness, or crafting the perfect contract for a picky client.
But that’s nothing compared to the constant, nagging, real-life kind, the kind you get from the day-to-day grind of being a law-abiding attorney.
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Additional information can be located on our website, at www.sgtlaw.com.