Category Archives: Uncategorized

Justice innovations — chucking 20th Century models out the window

In the clamor about innovation in the legal profession, a singular idea is striking a chord.

Real innovation, some are saying, will not consist of new ways to perform the chores of 20th Century lawyering. Instead, real innovation will focus on new ways to solve people’s problems. Maybe not every legal problem requires a lawyer. Maybe not every question implicates the Magna Carta.

Outside the justice business, the great new companies of the 21st Century — Amazon, Apple, Uber — are chucking 20th Century models out the window. They are reinventing what they do and getting things done cheaper and faster than ever before.

For law, it’s different.

Society has gotten way more complex. Demands for law-based outcomes have exploded —especially in low-dollar personal contexts like healthcare, housing, domestic affairs, veterans rights, social security, disaster recovery, and consumer financial issues. But legal outcomes continue to be delivered for the most part in the same old ways.

All this weighs most heavily on people without a lot of money. They are the ones with all the domestic and housing and veterans issues. 80% of the people who need to use the justice system can’t afford it. They can’t afford the lawyers. And the ones who can afford lawyers aren’t happy about that. Too often, they get expensive, slow, lawyer-centered solutions. “There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot.

Innovations are coming, but before now they have focussed mostly on how lawyers work, and not so much on customer experiences.

In North Carolina though, some intimations of change are appearing. George Hausen says that Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) is North Carolina’s “laboratory of innovation” for the justice system and he claims some victories. He points to

  • LANC-fostered medical-legal partnerships,
  • LANC’s eviction diversion program,
  • LANC’S call center, self-help clinics, and videos,
  • LANC’S foreclosure prevention programs, and
  • partnerships between LANC and North Carolina’s members of Congress to ensure delivery of veterans benefits.

LANC catches problems aborning and finds solutions that bypass the legal system. They take lawyers out of the picture.

LANC receives high volumes of requests for services in low-dollar kerfuffles. It has developed expertise in subject matters that not many private lawyers can match such as personal housing issues, foreclosure prevention, consumer issues, veterans benefits, healthcare, domestic violence, natural disasters. LANC’s perspectives on the system (high-volume, low-dollar) are unique. Its solutions are innovative.

Government support and private philanthropy (institutional and personal) for LANC is a good investment in justice system innovation. LANC needs a lot more support than it gets.

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Cahiers de hoummous: chickpea shortage looming, discipline advised

In the past 10 years, domestic demand for chickpeas in the United States has gone from less than 47,000 tons to nearly 200,000 tons a year. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, demand doubled. From 2016 to 2017, US acreage planted in chickpeas increased by an estimated 86%.

In 2017, Americans ate 1.85 pounds of chickpeas apiece, up from 1.21 pounds the year before.

Now, there is word of shortages — droughts in the US and India. Prices rising,

Have we overdone this hummus thing?

Chickpea discipline is needed.  Roll your own. Don’t eat too much. Wait until next season. (Pray for rain?)

A storm blows your house down and you have to have a lawyer

N&O storm photo

Legal aid brings legal services to help with basic human needs of people who can’t afford lawyers.

Right now in Greensboro, Legal Aid of North Carolina is bringing disaster legal services to people hit by that tornado:

  • Assistance with appeals of FEMA and other benefits available to disaster survivors
  • Assistance with life, medical and property insurance claims
  • Help with home repair contracts and contractors
  • Replacement of wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the disaster
  • Assisting in consumer protection matters, remedies, and procedures
  • Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems
  • Counseling on landlord/tenant problems

Legal Aid of North Carolina, the North Carolina Bar Association, the American Bar Association and FEMA are bringing Disaster Legal Services for low-income tornado survivors in Greensboro. There is a hotline: 1-833-242-3549.

Far more than in the past, people need legal services to help with basic needs. It’s the system we have built. Disaster relief is a small department of the help that Legal Aid delivers to low wealth people.

There’s a lot more to say:

  • why legal assistance for everybody must be a key feature in the complex system we have built;
  • why needed services can’t be provided solely by volunteer pro bono assistance; and so,
  • why Legal Aid needs and merits both government and charitable resources.

For now, it’s good to know they’re on the job in Greensboro. That tornado was a disaster.

Cahiers de Hoummous: Consider the eggplant

Baba Ganoush, or Baba Ganouj

MidLaw has railed in the past against the misappropriation of the term “hummus” for non-chickpea purposes.

“Pumpkin hummus”, ” butterbean hummus.” Bah! Pumpkus and butterbumkus!

Consider the eggplant.

For thousands of years, eggplants have provisioned their own dip.

Eggplant dip is virtually identical to hummus, differing only by the substitution of eggplant for chickpeas in the traditional recipe.

But eggplant has never sought to be known as “eggplant hummus.” It’s had its own name from the start: baba ghanoush (which, by the way, has its own sort-of-interesting etymology and also suffers from competing Arab and Jewish identities). Curiously, while hummus and baba ghanoush come from the same place and same time, nobody wants eggplant’s name. There’s no bababutterbean, no pumpkinoush.

Baba ganoush, by the way — although never known as “eggplant hummus” —  is a mighty good dip.

Your move, butterbean.

Robust Tarboro Jewish community in 19th & early 20th Century — first bank holding company in US had roots in Tarboro

Tarboro attracted its first Jewish citizens just before the Civil War, following the construction of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.

Tarboro and Edgecombe investors had influenced the railroad to build its main line through Edgecombe County instead of Wake County. A spur line was built off the main line, which is now the Nash-Edgecombe County line, to Tarboro. It connected Tarboro to the wider world.

With the railroad, Jewish citizens among many others came to town. By the late 19th Century, Tarboro was home to a Jewish community that was robust, prosperous and creative, although it never exceeded 15 families.   A hundred years later,  they were mostly gone. Several with origins in Tarboro’s Jewish community went on to have notable careers well beyond Edgecombe County, including an international “man of curiosity, mysticism, and luck,” and a ground-breaking, nationally prominent American banker and consumer champion (by then a Presbyterian) who established the first bank holding company in the United States and originated Morris Plan banks.

Arthur J. Morris, University of Virginia Archives

Harold Bernard “Dov” Shugar

Gladys Knight at Carolina Theatre, Pips

Gladys Knight gave an hour-and-a-half concert the other night at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, playing to a sold-out crowd. She’s way north of Medicare and MRDs, but so was the audience. The performance was fresh, energetic, upbeat.

In her wind-up to “Midnight Train to Georgia” and in her only reference to them all night long, she pointed to the crowd and said, “Y’all be my Pips.”

That deal was done.

Cahiers de Hoummous: Dispatches from the field

From the field comes this report:

Saturday night we went to this Israeli  restaurant in New Orleans called Shaya. They had asparagus hummus, which was hummus topped with a blob of greengarlic, snap peas, sumac, and cabernet vinaigrette. We also had a cauliflower hummus which had a topping of caramelized onions, parsley and cilantro. And they offered a tahini hummus, which we did not sample.

“Hummus topped with”: that’s the ticket. But then, was the underlying purée of chickpeas, or not?

Undeniably though, this dispatch goes beyond nomenclature. Asparagus, cauliflower: right there’s some boon companions for chickpeas.

And, “tahini hummus” makes the nomenclature point. It’s an acceptable rendering of “hummus b’tahini”. It’s chickpeas with tahini. Not tahini instead of chickpeas.

 

Cahiers de hoummous: dismay at “chickpea hummus” usage prompts wider concerns & reprises old ones

MidLaw’s recent fulmination about “chickpea hummus” brought multiple responses. They ranged

  • from “O tempora! O mores!”
  • to an objection for the record to the employment of the phrase “chai tea” down at Starbucks,
  • another, to “cheese quesadilla,”
  • then, “pizza pie,”
  • to a reference to Vermont Royster‘s war on the word “upcoming” at The Wall Street Journal.

A quick trip to the search engine and resulting visit with the editor of The Southeast Missourian was needed to refresh the memory about Royster and his war:

Vermont Royster, editor of the WSJ at the time, waged war on the word “upcoming,” which many reporters liked and used because it was simple and easy to understand. But to Royster, whose office was on the floor above the main newsroom, it was a poor and lazy word choice, which led to his posting of the following typewritten memo on the newsroom bulletin board:

“The next time I see ‘upcoming’ in The Wall Street Journal, I will be downcoming and somebody will be outgoing.”

As far as I know, “upcoming” never appeared again.

MidLaw’s inquiry into this is ongoing.

Vermont Royster was the celebrated Raleigh-NC-born, -bred and Chapel Hill-educated Wall Street Journal editor. He qualified then and now as the old-fashioned kind of conservative.

There’s no telling where holding the line out at the hummus boundaries will take you, but it always comes back to NC.

O mores!

 

Cahiers de hoummous: chickpea hummus?

MidLaw has warned — no, thundered! — that no good can come of using the term “hummus” to denominate dips made of foreign substances.  “Pumpkin hummus,” “beet hummus,” “sweet potato hummus.” Bah!

Well, the chicks have come home to roost.

MidLaw was at a fancy event in a hotel the other night. Fancy hors-d’oeuvres were served. Each separate offering was accompanied by a small card naming the dish. And there at the end, on the far side of the artichoke dip, was a bowl of what was labeled “chickpea hummus.”

Chickpea hummus?

If you do not label it “hummus b’tahini,” that’s OK. But this label said “chickpea hummus”. Might as well have said “chickpea chickpeas,” or “hummus hummus”.

Would you say “eggplant aubergines,” or “green bean haricots verts”? Bean wrap burrito.

One must hold the line — in large things and small.

An odd bit of verse with an odd provenance about notable NC lawyers in the 19th Century

An odd little book found recently in a used bookstore (The Captain’s Bookshelf in Asheville), recites the following odd verse, which is attributed to Tarboro’s John L. Bridgers (see below). It features three leading lawyers of 19th Century North Carolina: Bartholomew F. Moore, Judge Robert Strange, Jr., and William A. Wright. All three are figures worth knowing about (see below), but this piece of doggerel about them is its own reward:

Messieurs Moore, Strange and Wright

Met to drink and good cheer to exchange

Said Moore, ‘of us three

The whole town will agree

There’s only one knave, and that’s Strange.”

Said Strange, rather sore,

‘I’m sure there’s one Moore –

A terrible knave and a bite,

Who cheated his mother,

His sister and brother.’

‘Oh, yes,” replied Moore, ‘that’s Wright.’

The book from which this comes is Law Tales for Laymen, written by Joseph Lacy Seawell and published in 1925. Seawell was the Clerk of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Seawell attributes the verse to “John L. Bridgers”. (He says Bridgers “tells” it, not that he “wrote” it.) There were two John L. Bridgers (John and John Jr.).  Both were prominent lawyers, farmers, and businessmen from Tarboro. The elder Bridgers died in 1884. He had commanded the Edgecombe Guards and Fort Macon in the Civil War. His son, John L. Bridgers, Jr., was a local judge and an author of The History of Edgecombe County. He died in 1932. Jr. seems the more likely source of the verse.

Bartholomew Moore was one of that extraordinary line of lawyers who emerged along the Edgecombe-Nash County line. He was among the most distinguished North Carolina lawyers in the 19th Century. Famously, he represented Will in State v. Will, a landmark judicial opinion which arose from Edgecombe County and was a major step forward in establishing the legal rights of enslaved people. Moore strenuously opposed the Civil War and refused to appear in Confederate courts, which required an oath of allegiance. Even so, he remained a prominent and highly respected member of the North Carolina Bar throughout the War and afterward.

Robert Strange, Jr., from Fayetteville, was a lawyer, a superior court judge and a United States senator. He wrote Eoneguski, or the Cherokee Chief, which is said to be the first novel set in North Carolina.

About William A. Wright, a superficial Internet search finds no references, which is Strange, but which permits MidLaw to say nothing Moore, and that’s alWright.