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…
I thought about titling this column “Litigation Aphorisms,” but who the heck would have read it?
So I went instead with the first of three critical things you should know about litigation, all of which I learned from Neil Falconer when I practiced at the 20-lawyer firm of Steinhart & Falconer in San Francisco back in the 1980s. (I also dedicated The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Neil. He wasn’t a “mentor”; he just accidentally taught young lawyers by osmosis what it meant to be a lawyer.)
Neil’s first aphorism was this: “Never tell a small child not to stick peanuts up his nose.”
Why does that matter?
Or maybe I should start with a more basic question: What the heck does that mean?
I was a senior in high school when the O.J. Simpson verdict came down. I was in a classroom in Indiana, everybody was watching on television. After the verdict was announced, the first thing I heard was my white teacher saying “bulls**t.” The next thing I heard was a bunch of black people screaming (I went to a pretty diverse high school). Then, basically, all the black people started streaming out of class. Nobody went back to school that day. I found my cousin. We high-fived. At that moment, I really believed that a racist cop had planted blood evidence to frame O.J.
Of course, that’s not what I think happened now. I think O.J. murdered those two people in a jealous rage, got caught and thought about killing himself, didn’t, then hired the best lawyers in the country, and beat the rap.
Still, I’m happy he got off. I know that is a controversial thing to say. It’s not really normal to be “happy” when a guilty person evades justice, unless you’re watching a mob movie. But I think Mark Fuhrman was a racist cop, and I think the O.J. case went a long way towards showing state prosecutors that basing your cases on racist cops is a bad thing. The state knows that putting blatantly racist people on the stand isn’t the best way to get a conviction. I’m willing to suffer the injustice of a guilty man going free to make the larger point that racist cops are not credible witnesses.
And so as I sit here, watching the news and reading Twitter accounts of people who are just “happy” that George Zimmerman was acquitted of any wrongdoing in the death of Trayvon Martin, I’m forced to wonder what “larger point” is being serviced today by the release of a man who shot an unarmed teenager to death?
* Online gambling wants to come back to the U.S. after the government cracked down last year. Anybody want odds on whether this works? [Wall Street Journal]
* In news that only affects those who want to dress like whores, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister may systematically mistreat the disabled. [Fox News]
* Post-disaster price gouging is sad, but inevitable. Oklahoma’s Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt is having none of it. [The National Law Journal]
* Obama will address drone policy and Gitmo in a security speech today because, after the last couple weeks of scandal, he’s hoping to introduce fodder for another round of withering criticism. [Huffington Post]
* The Daily Caller is all over the idea that Michelle Obama may have dated the Inspector General of the IRS at Harvard Law. Which proves… actually, I have no idea if the Daily Caller even knows why this might be significant. [Daily Caller]
* U.S. and Chinese law schools are collaborating more. American law schools are really desperate to open themselves to more students, aren’t they? [China Daily]
* The Jodi Arias jury may not be able to make a decision on sentencing. If you cared about this story at all, you’ve already heard Nancy Grace’s opinion. [NBC News]
* Elie argues with folks about Greece v. Galloway and legislative prayer. Video after the jump…
If it seems like the Jodi Arias murder trial has lasted for weeks, that’s because it has — the courtroom drama began on January 2, 2013, and the proceedings have dragged on until today. HLN legal commentator Nancy Grace has had a field day with all of the allegations in this “who-done-it” murder mystery, just as Grace did in the earlier murder trial of Casey Anthony.
Arias originally blamed the killing of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, on masked intruders. Years later, she admitted that she killed him, but chalked it up to self-defense — in the form of 27 stab wounds, one gunshot wound to the head, and a slit throat.
Lo and behold, after more than 15 hours of deliberations, the jury has finally reached a verdict….
Back in October, I waded into the rough waters of discussing women’s weight issues, and the discrimination that naturally follows. Again, I know that’s not much of a news flash; in a society that’s obsessed with beauty, of course overweight people, women especially (trust me, I’ve been there many a time), are going to be scrutinized and looked down upon with disgust. From what they wear to what they eat, everything they do is viewed with an eye toward absolute repulsion — because honestly, how dare they believe they’re normal. If you’re an overweight woman, your every waking move is going to be stigmatized.
In fact, rather damning character traits are regularly ascribed to overweight people, without any care as to whether those individuals are actually lazy, greedy, or devoid of self control. Ah, stereotypes. Even when they’re completely untrue, they’re so damn hard to shake.
Is it any surprise that these platitudes follow overweight women into the courtroom?
It’s rare for a lawyer to face criminal charges (even if you might get a different impression based on the content of our pages). It’s rare for a criminal case to go to trial (as opposed to being resolved through a plea agreement). It’s rare for a defendant to take the witness stand at his own trial. And it’s rare for such a defendant to win an acquittal.
But this is exactly what happened in the case of Bryan Brooks, which we covered last month. Brooks went into the courtroom and emerged victorious, but it was not an easy experience. When you’re the defendant as opposed to defense counsel, your life and liberty are on the line. Higher stakes would be hard to imagine.
I recently sat down with Bryan to hear the story of his harrowing journey through the criminal justice system….
The average person is relatively honest. Why do we create rules that force otherwise honest people to lie?
We do this to many people. Think first about physicians.
For some reason, New Mom and Baby should spend one extra night at the hospital. Mom and Baby are doing fine, but the doctor sees a reason for one more night of rest. What does Doc do?
The insurance company won’t pay for, and Mom can’t afford, an extra night at the hospital, so Doc lies: He falsely notes that Baby is “jaundiced,” which justifies the necessary night at the hospital. The rules have turned Doc into a liar.
I’m sure that’s just the start of what the insurance bureaucracy does to turn honest physicians into routine liars. But I’m thinking today of rules that turn perfectly honest lawyers into liars. Once you start thinking about it, you’ll come up with endless examples . . .
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 six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
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