Author Archives: Midlaw

I am the past Managing Partner at Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard, a law firm with 95 attorneys in offices in Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington, North Carolina. I also have roles at Guilford College, Westtown School, the NC IOLTA Plan, the Tannenbaum-Sternberger Foundation, The Greensboro Public Library Foundation and the NC Bar Association and Legal Aid of NC. For many years a resident of Greensboro, I am a native of Tarboro and Edgecombe County. I have a taste for and interest in hummus, which is extensively exercised in this blog.

Marcus in a dyspeptic moment

What was he reading?

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius advises

Cast out the thirst for books that you may not die growling, but with true graciousness, and grateful to the gods from the heart.

For most of his career, and especially while he campaigned on the northern borders, which is when he wrote The Meditations, Marcus had no access to cable TV.

Allowing for the subsequent passage of time, one may perhaps broadly interpret what he was saying as: “watch too much cable TV and you will die growling.”  Grrrr.

Cast out that thirst.

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Response to burdens on justice system: legal navigators sail into view

The statistics about the courts are so extreme that you can’t believe them: 30 million people a year are unrepresented in state courts; 86% of the civil legal problems of low-income people go with little or no legal help.

You can’t relate to numbers like this. There’s a phrase for it: “psychic numbing.”

The 30 million cases are mostly low-dollar, routine kinds of things. So the most representative stories aren’t all that dramatic. They are numbingly mundane.

The real story is about the system.

Nobody loves the system. But the system is the infrastructure for the rule of law. And the rule of law keeps the economy moving. The growing burdens on the system are the result of an increasingly complex society. The system is overloaded.

Innovations are needed.

A response is beginning to gather. Where a high volume of low-dollar, routine traffic is choking the system, the idea is that you don’t need a Juris Doctor to handle those problems, even though you do need somebody who knows what they are doing. The response that’s gathering support is to create a new category of legal services, or a new cohort of legal services providers, ones that are focussed on limited legal processes or procedures. Ones that focus on the mundane.

Call them navigators for now. They don’t need a three-year legal education in order to know what they are doing and to do better than non-lawyers representing themselves.

The context for legal services – a critical system is staggering under the load

The Internet says that the population of the United States is a bit more than 229 million people.Bird caught in a net

The Justice Lab at Georgetown Law Center estimates that 30 million people every year lack legal representation in state courts cases.

In seventy-five percent of civil cases in state courts, at least one party is unrepresented. Eighty-six percent of the civil legal problems of low-income people get little or no legal help.

This is not a lawyer problem. It is a system problem.

The United States has created an exceedingly complex society. Rich or poor, everyone gets entangled with the legal system at every turn: housing, healthcare, education, domestic relations, domestic violence, jobs, consumer finance, retirement, disaster recovery, insurance, veterans, taxes, citizenship, death.

The system is clogged. Poor people trying to resolve legal issues in a clogged system without lawyersExacerbatious.

The problem goes to the foundations of the rule of law. It is bigger than something lawyers alone can fix.

 

 

The “first planter of education” at Guilford College was a woman “who stepped directly from the forest” – Anne the Huntress

Guilford College is rightly celebrated as the first coeducational college in the South.

What may be less well known is the tale of the first “planter of education” in the community that became Guilford College. She was known as “Anne the Huntress.” Her character and attributes color the culture, if not the attire, of women (and men) at Guilford College to this day. She stepped directly from the forest.

Quoth Dorothy Gilbert:

The first planter of education [in the New Garden community] was a woman who stepped directly from the forest in 1790 and vanished away into it seventeen years later. Her coming was dramatic. A large company had gathered to watch a shooting match, and suddenly there was among them a beautiful young woman carrying a highly ornamented rifle and equipped with a shot pouch, belt, hunting knife, and hatchet. She asked permission to take a shot with contesting riflemen: then she stepped to the line, gracefully raised her rifle, took quick aim, and fired. The ball drove the center sixty yards away. And this was the teacher, for Ann the Huntress – she never gave another name – lingered happily in the community for years: and as she visited from home to home, she taught the children for her recreation and killed the deer for her livelihood. She particularly objected to careless pronunciation, and young Quakers began the use of the final consonant. The speech within that neighborhood showed perceptible differences, and Addison Coffin believed that the influence of Anne the Huntress accounted for it and prepared the way for the success of [what became Guilford College].

This teacher “who wore Indian leggings and carried her rifle,” Gilbert believed, ”deserves commemoration in the annals of the profession.” She came from the forest and she planted a tradition of education and refinement at the very beginnings of the New Garden settlement in the Carolinas. “Ann the Huntress” was her name.

To this day, selected Guilford students may be observed to exhibit memorable attire. Perhaps there is a strain of the Huntress in that.

While no latter-day Guilford student is known to carry a silver-plated rifle (nor would a rifle likely be welcome on campus in these parlous times), one account of Ann’s 1790 bullseye reports that she fired a second shot immediately after the first – and landed it “neatly atop the first;” and hitting the mark is another Huntress attribute that characterizes Guilford students to this day. It is seen in the performance of Guilford’s golf and basketball teams, the creations of its Mark Dixon’s sculpture students, and the precision of all those accounting majors.

Issues of careless pronunciation among present-day Guilfordians want closer scrutiny.

 

WUNC to broadcast interview with Brian Lampkin about The Tarboro Three

The Tarboro Three will be a lead story on WUNC’s The State of Things next Tuesday (August 20) at noon.

Frank Stasio will interview author and former Tarboro resident Brian Lampkin about Brian’s recent book, The Tarboro Three: Rape, Race, and Secrecy (Scuppernong Editions/2019).

The Tarboro Three is of interest for the story itself of course, but it’s also worth reading to see how a Tarboro immigrant, now emigrant, observed and now interprets Tarboro.

The interview will air on Tuesday, but then it’ll be posted on WUNC’s website as a podcast after that. WUNC is on “terrestrial radio” at 91.5 FM in the Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham area; at 88.9 FM from Manteo, serving the North East outer banks and coastal communities; at 91.9 from Fayetteville; at 91.1 just south of Winston-Salem in the Welcome, NC, area; and, at 90.9 FM from Rocky Mount.

Lawyers, information, intelligence (organic and artificial), which is primary?

I’ve come across three articles today that grapple with artificial intelligence.

One says that automation and artificial intelligence will take over all human jobs within 125 years (half in the next 25 years). Another says, well, OK, but lawyers have at least 7 skills that no machine will ever take. And the third says that all routine lawyer jobs will be taken by the machines, but maybe not the exceptional, non-routine, jobs.

All businesses will be (are) information in some fashion. Virtually all information can be digitized. Ultimately, all that information will be obtained, accessed, and understood by means of automation and artificial intelligence.

Virtually all evidence in virtually all business and commercial cases will be obtained and accessed as it comes into being. Discovery will be completed before there is a complaint.

The role of lawyers will be something new. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that the role of lawyers will go back to the origins of the profession.

One of those articles says, “Lawyers Are in the Information Business. Get Over It.”

Maybe instead, information companies are in the law business.

 

Contronyms: at the frontiers of language

Somewhere in Southern California, there’s a lady named Judith Herman.  She’s got a blog: Lexie Kahn, Word Snooper. Her snoop is “Lexie Kahn, Private Etymologist.”

Herman is doing good work.

She’s published “25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites;” and “16 More Words That Are Their Own Opposites.” Others are on this trail. Somebody posted “20 Words That Are Their Own Opposites.” Grammarly posted 75 Contronyms (Words with Contradictory Meanings)

Words that mean exactly what they don’t mean.

Go English!

 

 

Basil is for Idiots

Basil is for idiots, but pesto

basil_genovese-plantOver the millennia, the peoples of the Mediterranean have learned a simple but profound truth: Almost anything goes better with olive oil, garlic and a little salt. Maybe some lemon juice. Over time, they realized that, if you have the oil, the garlic, and the salt, then you can just go out into the back yard, scoop up almost anything that’s green and fresh, and mash that up with the oil and garlic and have something good to eat …  although, if you try this, things will go a lot better if you have some basil or parsley in your yard.

Which of course brings the discussion to pesto and pistou and persillade and green sauce. It’s time to get ready.

With fresh basil, you can have the best pesto. The good news is: any idiot can raise good, fresh, plentiful basil.

All basil wants is a lot of sunshine, plenty to drink and a well-drained place to sit. (Basil and I are a lot alike.) You can have all the fresh basil you want – at trifling cost.

It’s a little amazing how many different recipes are described as the one for “classic” pesto, and it’s daunting to observe the near-religious fervor that infuses notes and articles about it. Just put “pesto recipe” into your search engine and push the button.

Remember what Bobby Bare said: “Just buy you some basil and plant it by June, and you’ll be a rocking and a rolling soon.”

Mulebus – Leggett, where school busing – mulebusing – began?

Not Leggett in fact, but in concept

The history of public education in North Carolina is documented. Charles Lee Smith, The History of Education in North Carolina, Bob Etheridge, The History of Education in North Carolina, Benjamin R. Justesen & Scott Mathews, Public Education.

What’s not documented so well is the history of public education in small places in North Carolina. In the late 19th and early 20th Century, small places provided public education for themselves (albeit, on a racially and not equal discriminatory basis). They had small schools, one-room schools, no grade levels, one teacher per school. Out in the country, local citizens provided room and board in their homes for the teachers. Everything was close and personal.

Leggett was such a community: a small place in a remote corner of a county whose prominence was fading with the end of the Civil War. Small and remote? Yes – but even so, for Lower Fishing Creek Township, Leggett was uptown. For all northwest Edgecombe County.

Leggett had its own School Board early on. When the time came for consolidation of one-room schools, Leggett was among the leaders. Lower Fishing Creek. Upper Fishing Creek. With consolidation came the need to bring the students to school. Busing.

Leggett claims to be where school busing began in North Carolina. They did it with mules.

Soup in milk cartons — Spanish; fortune awaits at Greensboro Farmers Market

These Spaniards sell fresh soups, chilled, in the likes of milk cartons in their grocery stores. Sometimes in bottles, like milk bottles. Salmorejo, gazpacho, ajoblanco. Wonderful, highly flavorful, fresh cold soups.

Maybe they do this in grocery stores in the US. I am not a good shopper. Often I don’t see what’s there.

I suppose it’s a close call, but when you can get such soups, so fresh, so easily, and so economically, with little or no chemicals, why would you go to the trouble to make them yourself?

Maybe we could get them at the Farmers Market? They’d need coolers. Like they do for seafood and and chickens.

If not, you’d want to learn to make your own ajoblanco.