“The No-Bill Profession” – Legal Aid and Pro Bono

You know what’s nice? Knowing that the practice of law is a profession that places as its benchmark the pursuit of justice and higher school of thought.  We all go into law school thinking that we’re going to change the world through our practice of the law, and some dolent professor with an Ivy League pedigree extols the virtues of the “Noble Savage” that the lawyer is supposed to be.  We are told, in every class, that the law exists to bring justice and that the role of an attorney is a counselor and advocate for the cause of the downtrodden client.  We are, in the words of the administrators and professors, the gatekeepers of justice, the first line of defense against tyranny, and the vindicators of the downtrodden.

And, of course, we then step out into the real world of practice and become made aware of the fact that all that esoteric bullshit and idealism doesn’t make the student loan payment of the rent.  Nobody’s ringing up their landlord and saying “Hey, I stopped a family of five from being evicted today!  They paid me in a big bag of pork rinds!  Will you accept pork rinds in lieu of rent now?”  If your landlord or utility company would ever stop laughing, what they’d choke out is “No, dipshit.”  Idealism doesn’t pay any of the bills.  “Good feels” doesn’t put food on the table.  Advocacy won’t buy avocado toast.

For that, you need money.  And to make money, you have to let go of the concept that you are anything more than a cutthroat mercenary of the legal world.  Because motherfuckers may need justice, but motherfuckers gotta pay to get it.  And yes, there are lawyers out there who provide representation to those people that need it without regard to their ability to pay, and they do some great goddamn work in doing so.  But, and here’s the thing:

They may not be there for much longer, and society has no viable safety net ready and raring to go for those folks.

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Film Friday: A Time to Kill – Four Truths in a Lie

There’s a sort of fucked up irony in watching Kevin Spacey seek the death penalty for a man who killed the rapists of his ten year old daughter. In 1996, when Spacey was presented as the District Attorney in charge of the trial of Carl Lee Hailey, father of a minor who was brutally raped and vengeance embodied against the abusers of that child, nobody could predict that one day Spacey himself would be in the same place as the two rapists killed by Carl Lee. Well, nobody except his victims, I suppose.

But this is where we’re at for this Film Friday, examining the big screen adaptation of John Grisham’s A Time to Kill, and talking about four unexpected truths regarding the justice system that a layman, or an idealistic lawyer who still thinks things are “fair,” can take away from it.

The world is one fucked up place, folks. Just really, really fucked up.

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Film Friday: Schindler’s List as an example of “Morally Right, Legally Wrong.”

Alright, so over the past few months I pretty much intentionally embroiled myself in the controversy of “go forth and punch a Nazi” with the opinion that physically assaulting someone when their actions are mere speech, and not an imminent threat of violent action, was no bueno. The most common reaction to that opinion was that statement that it was morally correct to punch a Nazi, and therefore justified, regardless of the presence or lack of an imminent threat of actual harm. In essence, the opposition to that position boiled down to “legal or illegal, it’s right to punch people who espouse such vitriolic and hateful opinions.”

I mean, I personally disagree, just because I believe violence is an appropriate response to the threat of use of actual violence, not the intangible threat of some possibility of violence in the future, and I have some issues with the position we should legitimize violence as a response to speech (when it is only speech). Rest assured, I don’t like the goddamn Nazis, I don’t like the goddamn bigots, and I’m not saying we have to discuss the validity of their positions or “hear them out.” My concerns are primarily linked to that whole “slippery slope” thing we lawyers talk about, and the belief that if we legitimize a violent reaction then we’re handing them a nail-and-barbed-wire covered bat to come back with when we speak out against them louder than they speak out against us.

Plus I think that when you punch these fuckers, all you really do is give them more goddamn attention and air time and spur a national fucking debate about “Who the real Nazi is, hmmmm?” God do I fucking hate that fucking trope.

But that’s not the conversation I want to have for this week’s Film Friday, because the majority of people with two fucking brain cells to rub together all agree on the basic premise that Nazis, white supremacists, the alt-right, cue whatever feel good nickname they’ve come up with this month, are absolutely and positively shitheads who make no valuable contribution to society, whose opinions (while constitutionally protected) have no goddamn merit, and who we definitely don’t need to treat as having legitimate speech that adds anything other than disarray to the world. The conversation I want to have this week is a little more nuanced than that, and it’s the concept that something can be legally wrong, but morally right.

And I can think of no better way to illustrate this point than to talk about Schindler’s List, a movie which embodies the principle of “Legal is not always moral, nor is illegal always immoral.”

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New Milford Hates Fetishes: Politics, Optics, and Fetishes

So I was gonna spend some time today on the whole “1L Guidance” thing again, but you know when life reaches up and smacks you around a little? That happened Friday evening as I was preparing to go out and be the Amazing Dancing Badger for a group of furries in Connecticut over the last weekend. This time, the dose of reality came in the form of a link from the super-secret LawyerSlack, a place where attorneys gather…you know, like a Bar Association meeting but with less liquor and pretentiousness.  Someone posted an article about a Connecticut Councilman from the town of New Milford who “voluntarily resigned” after his participation in a certain fandom – possibly one filled with large talking animals and a love of the movie Zootopia – became even more exposed than it had been before.

And, because I’m not a goddamn fan of hypocrisy, let’s talk about this shit.

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A Porpoise’s Take on the Executive Order

I wondered if perhaps the administration was trolling us when it decided to issue an Executive Order (EO) restricting entry to the United States to (a) citizens and (B) visa holders from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Sudan.  This is your new axis of evil.  A combined 218 million people who, when they aren’t struggling to survive each day despite disease and war, are obviously bloodthirsty terrorists just waiting to cause the destruction of the United States.

Look, the world is a really scary place, but it’s a really fucking scary place if you’re a person without a state or one who is wanted dead by the State.  We, as humans, do this not infrequently when the shit gets rough.  We blame groups of people, saying that we lost our jobs or our spouses or our savings or our lives because they took them; because they ­exist.  Japanese internment camps; the turning away of Jewish refugees from Europe; the Chinese under Pres. Arthur;  the Irish and the Italians, to all varying degrees they’ve been ostracized or rejected because we thought that they would bring us (or commit against us) unspeakable harm.  For the past 15 years it’s been Muslims.  Nary a day goes by since 2001 that Muslims are on the lips of someone talking about destruction and violence.  About how they’re bloodthirsty savages or how the religion’s existence is an existential threat to us all.

Now, the President has significant authority to set immigration policy when it comes to the borders, I won’t dispute that.  And I agree that, if you can identify individuals that pose a threat to the US, you should keep them out.  Let’s assume that the ban on these 7 groups of nationals is totally constitutional, I just don’t think it will work.  ISIS is not in the invasion-of-the-West business; they just simply do not have the manpower or the desire to do so.  It is far more effective to instill hate and fear in people and let their own prejudices and fears do the rest.  Will some of those people be willing to attempt entry into the US? Sure, of course they will, but it’s just as likely that this hypothetical guy or gal is coming from Belgium, France, the UK, Russia or one of the former Soviet Union members, so this policy really does nothing to secure anything.

I keep hearing that this isn’t a Muslim ban, that countries with the most Muslims aren’t banned. If tomorrow I was able to issue an EO which said “no one from Israel is allowed a visa to enter the US” what the fuck do you think would happen? You would call me an anti-Semite for putting up a ban of Jewish entry to the US, despite the Jewish diaspora’s enormity.  It doesn’t matter if there are more Muslims in Indonesia that in one of those seven nations.  If anything, that turns the ban into an ethnic ban, rather than a religious one.  We can have that fight too, if you want.

Can someone tell me what happens when a Kurd from Iraq seeks entry?  The President added in his comments on the EO that the exception for persecuted religious minorities is intended to help Christians.  If that doesn’t put a fine enough point on this being a religious preference or test, then let’s meet back here after DHS denies a Kurd, Yazidi or Zoroastrian, because it will most certainly happen.

I need to end this here and ask if this whole exercise of being afraid and angry is exhausting to anyone else?  I mean, I’m not even one of those with a venomous tongue and I’m so fucking tired.  I have to imagine others are too; I have to imagine that we could have put all this effort into something more useful.  But I think it’s convenient and easy to hate on groups and restrict their rights than it is to enhance rights of everyone, to make your own situation better.  It’s sloth that brings us to this state, not hate.  Were we not lazy, we’d look into the numbers and realize that Donald Trump’s assets are conveniently unaffected by the ban.  We’d realize that ISIS is taking every contextless tweet of Donald’s and live-streaming under the narrative of the US hunting down Muslims.  It used to be that they had to twist our words and actions, lie to their prisoners (that’s what they are, those living under ISIS control), they had to spin our conduct to look like we hated Muslims.  Now, they just need to retweet our President.  Honestly, I think the ISIS marketing department is probably going to be let go because there isn’t any fucking work left, just tell your followers to follow @realDonaldTrump.

-Habeas Porpoise