Category Archives: Uncategorized

Richard Posner leaves bench to invest time in promoting access to justice

Thirty-five years ago, Ronald Reagan appointed Richard Posner to the Seventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals. At the time, Posner was a well-known conservative legal scholar, particularly identified with the “economic analysis of law.” He had written a book with that name.

Recently, he announced that he is leaving the bench. The New York Times says

The immediate reason [was that] he had become concerned with the plight of litigants who represented themselves in civil cases …. Their grievances were real, he said, but the legal system was treating them impatiently, dismissing their cases over technical matters.

“These were almost always people of poor education and often of quite low level of intelligence,” he said. “I gradually began to realize that this wasn’t right, what we were doing.”

Posner’s goal now is “to bring attention and aid to people too poor to afford lawyers.”

Posner’s concerns about access-to-justice place him in line with Antonin Scalia and Neil Gorsuch.

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The Splendid Table comes to Greensboro, not for the hummus

The Splendid Table” is readily recognized as a radio program/podcast/website/blog focused on food. To see “Greensboro” identified as a subject of a recent installment was a minor jolt.

My knee jerked: “Please, not another paean to North Carolina barbecue.”

Maybe, hummus?  MidLaw was the first to posit the theory that hummus originated in Greensboro.

As it turns out, The Splendid Table’s focus is neither barbecue nor hummus. It is “the Greensboro Four” who historically sat in for lunch at Woolworth’s in the 1960’s. In a brief interview, Joseph McNeil gives a dignified and generous account of the sit-ins (it’s impossible not to like the guy), reprising the now iconic, unidentified white lady who encouraged the students, and crediting the solidarity of the UNC-G (then, Women’s College) students who came out to support the Four. But he trashed the food.

The Splendid Table picked up the interview from New York’s Other People’s Food. The theme is “the universality of food to find common ground amid racial and cultural differences.”

MidLaw is able to attest: “universality” and not “quality” is the right theme for downtown food in Greensboro at the time. In the 1970’s, when MidLaw set up shop at Brooks Pierce in downtown Greensboro, Woolworth’s was one of a limited few venues for lunch downtown.

Joseph McNeil does not recount being served in 1960, but he does recall returning to Woolworth’s in the 1970’s after the lunch counter was integrated. He says the coffee was bad and the apple pie was bland (“it sucked,” he says).

There weren’t many choices for lunch in downtown Greensboro back then. The big department stores were departing for the shopping centers, taking with them their cafeterias and dining rooms. What was left were lunch rooms in office towers and a small handful of stand-alone restaurants. MidLaw recalls Mathews Grill, a meat-and-two-vegetables place whose proprietor was busy parleying restaurant proceeds into real estate; The Lotus, a mid-century Chinese restaurant that was far from home; Randy’s Sandwich Shop, which served the standard sandwiches of the day; the Southeastern Soda Shop; and a delicatessen whose name I can’t recall that famously served “Kosher Dogs” (hot dogs smothered in sauerkraut). And Woolworth’s. Mr. McNeil’s word captures everything except the kosher dogs: “bland.”

Woolworth’s led the way. The meats at Woolworth’s were such that the smartest order was a Vegetable Plate. The vegetables came largely from cans and frozen packets. Macaroni and cheese was prepared in large sheets and cut into squares with a knife to make a serving. Greens from a can. The squash casserole was redeemed, if at all, by cheese melted in the juices of the squash and onions. Salt was the key ingredient.

Except those who were members of the Greensboro City Club, lunch most often required flight to the shopping centers, where the great American culinary innovation of the day awaited: the all-you-can-eat salad bar.

So, Joseph McNeil’s commentary on mid-1970’s downtown Greensboro food is about right.

Today though is different. Today, there are a couple of places downtown who might actually earn a place on The Splendid Table.

Here again, McNeil gets it right. He says “we’re going to make progress sometimes in spite of ourselves.”

Hummus Alert — Time Sensitive — Tomato-hummus perihelion at peak this weekend

This seasonal notice should, ideally, have been posted earlier. Regrettably, it was not.

Of course, the foundational post was here all along as loyal followers know. You might have protected yourself.

There is still time. This weekend marks the peak of the tomato-hummus perihelion. Act now. Here is what you do.

Although a preference for Edgecombe tomatoes has been identified in the past, those sourced at the Greensboro Farmers Market have been determined to be equivalent in quality and most dimensions of flavor. MidLaw acknowledges that vine-ripened tomatoes from other North Carolina sources may also meet immediate needs.

WARNING! This alert is subject to unpredictable forces in the tomato markets, including spikes in demand and supply imbalances.

Caveat emptor.

                                  

I need a good statue – the ones we have don’t get the job done


My North Carolina heritage started in the mid-18th Century. After about 1760, my ancestors are from North Carolina all the way down.

Some of them were slaveholders, most not.

One, from Perquimans County, is identified as the first person in North Carolina to have liberated all his slaves because he concluded that slavery itself was immoral. Another, said to be the largest slaveowner in Guilford County, provided for his slaves to be liberated upon his death. This provoked litigation (to the Supreme Court) contesting his will by his disappointed son. His widow, evading local law enforcement, took off with the people to Ohio.

Others included founders of the North Carolina Manumission Society, secret participants in the underground railroad (a participant as best I can tell, it was secret after all), and abolitionists.

But, still others continued to hold slaves. And probably more than anything else my forebears were small farmers, laborers, teachers, and lawyers, preachers. One was an indentured servant.

When war came, two were Confederate officers: one was killed in a daring charge; another served for an initial term, then returned home to his family in Randolph County. Two more were private soldiers, one of whom spent much of his war as a prisoner, while the other one got trounced at Gettysburg then nearly starved to death on a long, solitary walk back to Edgecombe County.

Others opposed the war. One paid the fee that exempted members of peace religions from military service. He provided succor to deserters and escaped POWs for whom Guilford County was a gathering place. Another was imprisoned for refusing to serve in the Confederate army. He was tortured by his North Carolina neighbors at the infamous Confederate prison at Salisbury.

So, what is my heritage? What monument do I claim?

I am not unusual. North Carolina’s story was never one of united, unreserved support for the Civil War. It was never so simple.

Few, if any of us, tie back to only one narrative — or to a simple, narrow “heritage.”

Antonin Scalia advocated for support of legal aid, fundamental to justice

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia believed that the Legal Services Corporation (and, by extension, its client, Legal Aid of North Carolina) pursue equal justice, which is

the most fundamental of American ideals and they pursue equal justice in those areas of life most important to the lives of our citizens. The bulk of [their] cases, if you look at their annual report, involve domestic violence, real estate foreclosures and evictions, child custody, and denial of veterans’ benefits, unemployment compensation, and other governmental benefits. More than a third of the cases closed by [Legal Services] grantees in 2013 involved family law and more than a quarter of them housing.

Scalia asked, “Can there be justice if it is not equal, can there be a just society when some do not have justice?”

And he answered,

Equality, equal treatment is perhaps the most fundamental element of justice. . . . And in today’s law-ridden society, denial of access to professional legal assistance is denial of equal justice.”

It’s fair (more than fair, it’s necessary ) to explore alternative means of delivering equal justice: technology, delivery of services by others than licensed lawyers, new sources of funding. Indeed, it’s reasonable to hope that those who develop new alternatives will be able to do it on a for-profit basis and make lots of money. (The scale is surely there.)

But it’s not right to cut funds before alternatives are available.

Justice Scalia said:

Equality … is perhaps the most fundamental element of justice.

NC legal system — invest or divest?

In the past year the North Carolina legislature enacted cuts or reductions (or proposed to) in the following, which might be characterized as the infrastructure of North Carolina’s legal system.

The number of trial court judges (emergency judges)

               The number of appellate judges

The budget (therefore staff) of the Department of Justice

Funds (therefore staff) for Legal Aid of North Carolina (formerly taken from filing fees)

Funds for the UNC Law School

Dues (paid by lawyers) that fund the North Carolina State Bar.

In periods leading to this year, North Carolina’s population has grown and its economy has grown. Commerce has picked up and unemployment has dropped. The State has pursued a policy of promoting trade and business investment in North Carolina by companies outside the state and outside the United States.

Unless North Carolina’s legal system was overfunded in the past, the conclusion might be reached that more, not fewer, resources are needed to maintain what we’ve got.

The American justice system is credited as a core element of the economic and cultural success of the United States. Enforcement of obligations (commercial and other) —predictably, impartially, efficiently and effectively — is a big part of what made America great.

And, actually, we are at a time when improvements are needed.

Cahiers de Hoummous: I am a moveable feast

I learned recently that there are more organisms — each one a separate little fellow — in the last two inches of my colon than all the human beings who have ever existed.

They work together, these fellows, for good. Shaping up digestion, toning up the immune system, and, apparently, limiting weight gain.

When things go wrong, you will regret it, but when they are treated right, the little fellows go about their business without complaint, promoting harmony, efficacy, and a sense of well-being.

Sauerkraut and yogurt are particularly popular with them, but they like most kinds of healthy organic foods. Vegetables mostly. They like diversity.

Not surprisingly, chickpeas are popular. So is hummus.

Knowing that they are down there – all 70 trillion* of them – going about their business and mine – bumping, jostling, collaborating, getting along – pleases me.

I am a moveable feast, a peaceable kingdom.

*  Figures are approximate and may vary by tens of trillions in either direction.

Guilford College President uniquely prepared to prepare students uniquely — intelligence that is not artificial

Jane Fernandes’ Blog

Gradually, articles written about her, her own writing, and her speeches and oral presentations are showing us more of Jane Fernandes’ personal story.

The President of Guilford College has been deaf from birth. So was her mother. Over time, we have learned that

  • When Jane was a small child, her mother would give her a few coins or a small bill and send her to the store, charging her to buy some item, pay for it, and return with the correct change — without the store keeper realizing that Jane could not hear.
  • Jane attended public schools and after school, her mother would ask “What questions did you ask at school today?” (“My mother knew that if I asked my own questions and found the answers to them, I would have powerful preparation for life.”)
  • Throughout her school days, Jane’s mother caused her to take piano lessons. When Jane complained, her mother sent her to a concert. (“I sat very close to the stage and watched Van Cliburn. As he played, I saw his soul. I saw what chords meant.”)
  • In college, Jane majored in French and spent a year in France.
  • At Guilford College, Jane celebrates the Eastern Music Festival, which is held on Guilford’s campus.

There’s more to tell, but you tell me:

  • Is that a practical liberal arts education or what?
  • Can you imagine a better preparation for a 21st Century educator?
  • Can you imagine a better orientation for a leader in a learning community at this moment?
  • What core capabilities do you want today’s emerging adults to have for what’s coming?

And how about that mother?

A second comment on The Bright Hour

While Nina Riggs’ The Bright Hour is “a memoir of living and dying” which recounts Nina Riggs’ experience of cancer and approaching death, it is profoundly and meaningfully humorous.

I find the writing and the insights to have particular relevance for professionals. Although the book is not explicitly didactic, it is so for a moment. Nina writes:

We contain things and give shape to things in order to be less afraid of them. … The crafted idea does this. It’s why I write. The metaphor does this. … I can hear Montaigne hollering: break it open, look inside, feel it, write it down.

Much to find in this book.

Go get this book – Nina Riggs, The Bright Hour – from Greensboro but far beyond

Nina Riggs’ The Bright Hour, justly, has gathered national appreciation (acclaim, really).  Reviewers say her “memoir of living and dying” is a “stunning” expression of the human spirit. Across the country, readers are recognizing and celebrating it, and rightly.

Nina was a Greensboro poet and the wife of former Brooks Pierce lawyer, our friend John Duberstein. Her story and stunning book have created a quiet sense of wonder and more than a little pride here.

I see The Bright Hour as a liberal education – in itself – and, at the same time, a vibrant affirmation of the value of a liberal education. To make of cancer and a final illness what Nina has done and how …

Nina Riggs, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Michel de Montaigne. How she walked with them, in her Greensboro life and how the three of them made meaning together (and with others) as Nina’s life came to an end are a profound validation of a liberal education and a compelling, ennobling demonstration of what it is, and how, to be human.

Go buy and read this book.