Richmond

Not since its pursuit was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence has “happiness” had a bigger cultural moment than now, and not just because of that “room without a roof” earworm. There is a new and rapidly growing science of happiness, a mash-up of economics and psychology sometimes called “hedonics,” which tells us that money can buy happiness, but only to a point. Meanwhile, in corporate America, we witness the emergence of a new C-suite character, the Chief Happiness Officer, who is responsible for employee contentment. Sort of like an HR director, but smiling and magical.

Recently, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research released a paper, “Unhappy Cities,” reporting the findings of a major survey asking respondents about their satisfaction with life. The authors, academics from Harvard and the University of British Columbia, found that there are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. cities and, unsurprisingly, residents of declining cities are less happy than other Americans. (Interestingly, the authors suggest that these unhappy, declining cities were also unhappy during their more prosperous pasts.)

So there are unhappy cities; there are also unhappy (and relatively happier) law schools. When ATL’s own Staci Zaretsky learned that Springfield, Massachusetts — home of her alma mater, the Western New England University School of Law — made the list of unhappiest cities, it came as no surprise: “It’s hard to tell where the local misery ends and that of the law school begins.” Prompted by Staci’s observation, we wondered whether unhappy cities make for unhappy local law students. Or is the law school experience so intense and self-contained that one’s surroundings have little impact? What are law students in the happiest (and unhappiest) cities in the country telling us about their own personal satisfaction?

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Last week, there was a refinery fire in Richmond, California — the “Gary, Indiana of the East Bay.” The fire, with the accompanying smoke and other pollutants shot into the air over the town, added potential injury to the insult of having to live in Richmond.

Less than a week after the fire, residents were already lining up at a local attorney’s door, hoping to file claims against Chevron. Not surprising, right? But the city already has so many health problems, it might be hard to find many cases worth litigating.

I think I’m getting the black lung, Pop….

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Most of the time, the orders coming from certain judicial divas seem slightly, if not overtly, ridiculous and unnecessary. Like, I’m pretty sure Eric Holder knows that he is supposed to respect the Constitution. And sometimes when people sneeze in court, it’s just allergies, not disrespect.

But occasionally, judicial homework assignments seem to make more than a little bit of sense. Take this recent ruling regarding a defendant from Richmond, California. For a 23-year-old accused of trying to sell a grenade launcher to undercover ATF agents in a deal that went wrong and led to a bunch of shooting, the condition of his bond release is quite simple.

In the words of LeVar Burton: take a look, it’s in a book…

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