The Velvet Hammer

The Velvet Hammer

Stritmatter Kessler Whelan
200 2nd Ave West
Seattle WA 98119
206.448.1777 tel
206.728.2131 fax

A reminder about open flames: a story of how I almost became Michael Jackson

Posted in About me, True life stories

hairafter

The house is beautiful and glowing.  Am standing with back to fully enclosed gas fireplace.  Getting warm.  Talking to Steven who is sitting by the chess board.

Fzzzzzzzzz.  Crackle.

He jumps up running toward me.  Hits at my head.

Turn around to see behind me.  Whaaaaaaaat.

My hair has gotten long lately.  Down to the middle of my back.  Yesterday when we were at Umi Sake House, Alysha told me it was time for a cut.

This evening it is in a pony tail.

Reach up and can feel charcoal pieces here and there mainly near the bottom.

The pretty little tea light candles centered on the fireplace mantel had caught my hair on fire.

Steven says that he saw two flames shooting up about a foot behind me.

Am glad couldn’t see that.

Start to wander around.  Go upstairs to look at damage in bathroom mirror.  Little pieces flake out and a few clumps collect in the basin.

Text the girls the carnage in the sink.  Take another picture to show them hair is still mostly intact.

Yuck.  Says Noelle.

I told you you needed a haircut.  Says Alysha.

Get the vacuum.

Open the doors even though it is 40 outside.

Can’t get rid of the acrid smell.

Shampoo twice.

Whack at hair with scissors to make sure it is mainly straight across at the bottom.

It could have been much worse.

Photo:  Hair after fire – minus about 6″ on the right side.

 

 

Making waves: the value of dissent

Posted in About me, Women

WSTLA 2008 Board

In 2007, when I was President of WSTLA, I wrote an article called the Value of Dissent.

The focus at that time was AAJ and my perception of  its systemic problems in advancing diversity.  I was not liked by AAJ leadership for being aggressively outspoken on the issue.

Seven years later, I am now not liked by WSAJ leadership for being aggressively outspoken on the issue of lawyers directly soliciting clients (which I abhor).

Another past president of WSTLA told me:  sometimes people have a hard time with a woman who speaks out.”  He wasn’t the only person who has shared this thought with me.

Regardless of why organizational leadership particularly dislikes when I  speak up, here is an excerpt from the article WSTLA printed when I was at its helm:

The Value of Dissent

How colorless our world would be if we all had the same opinions…

In the forward to A Mathematician’s Apology (Cambridge University Press 1940) Prof. G.H. Hardy says:

It is never worth a first class man’s time to express a majority opinion. By definition, there are plenty of others to do that.

Progress is made, not by comfortably agreeing with the conventional wisdom, but by having the courage to say what no one else is saying and to say it with clearly articulated reasons that motivate people to change their opinions.

Perhaps the greatest value of dissent is “that the sponsoring and protection of dissent generally have progressive implications” for social change because “[d]issent communicates the fears, hopes, and aspirations of the less powerful to those in power.” Dissent, Injustice, and the Meanings of America. Steven H. Shiffrin. (Princeton University Press 1999).

There is a reason why law students are taught to argue both sides of a case.  Lively debate is considered a fundamental touchstone to the truth finding process necessary in a democratic society.  An organization that shies away from embracing the expression of dissident opinion, no matter how insulting, is an organization that risks being undermined and weakened by its own self satisfaction. 

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.  John Stuart Mill, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1947) at 15.  Quoted in Justice Brennan’s opinion in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964).

Ron Ward, a true hero for the cause of diversity, sent me this quote:  “…..If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder or lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”  FREDRICK DOUGLASS, West Indian Emancipation Celebration at Canandaigua, New York, August 4, 1857.

 Photo:  When I was President of WSTLA with the board 2007/2008

Partying with VABAW – all bar dinners should be like this

Posted in About social networking, Lawyer convention drama

Tam

 

Shellie and I walk into the Triple Door on 3rd and Union.  Late as usual.

Hi.  Hi.  Hug.  How are you.  Hand shake.  Hi.  Everyone is smiling.   Am here to support Ada Ko Wong who is president Elect of VABAW (Vietnamese-American Bar Assn of WA) on its 10th year anniversary.

We figure out where our table is.

And then it’s time to start.

We sit and are joined by Tam Nguyen.  We don’t know him yet.  He is going to be the star of our evening.

Normally bar association dinners are…  Well, they are exactly like you would imagine them to be.  The food is bad.  Talking heads reign supreme at the podium.  And everyone politely claps even as they yawn .

This is not your typical bar dinner.

The presenters are in traditional Vietnamese garb instead of business suits.   Ada is in a mint green flowing gown.

A law student speaks about her VABAW scholarship that placed her in a clerkship in Ho Chi Minh (fka Saigon – but still considered to be Saigon by many – including Tam).  All followed by a fashion show of clothing primarily made of scarves.    I like the horse head one the best.

We clap in delight.  Occasionally lean over each other’s quickly emptying plates to whisper how fun this all is.  But the best part of our evening is our table mate Tam.

Tam is not a lawyer.  He and his family own the Tamarind Tree restaurant in “Little Saigon” as well as Long Provincial down on 2nd & Stewart.  Up until a year ago, Tam also was a pharmacist.  Shellie and I ooh and ahh.  We love the Tamarind Tree.  Particularly sitting outside in the summer.  Shellie says – I’ll take a vegetarian pancake.  My mouth waters.

Tam tells us that he goes to Vietnam once a year.  About 13 years ago, he went to his former neighborhood.  There sitting on a stoop was his best friend from grade school.  Drinking rice wine.  Unemployed like so many.  Ill.  His family’s assets confiscated by the communist government.    His friend had two young girls.  They were unable to go to school.  Only those who had money could send their kids to school.

On his way home Tam worried over the plight of his old friend.  Then had an epiphany.  He conceived of a charitable organization.  Enlisted the help of his best friend, an engineer.  They applied for 501c3.  Obtained charitable status after more than a year of  hassle (the IRS wanted to know where the money would come from, how would it get delivered, and other details for over a year).    The Vietnamese children’s scholarship fund was born.  Each year elders or Buddhist monks in the various provinces are asked to identify children in need.  Then the charity pays for them to go to school

How many children have you helped over the years, I ask.

Thousands he grins widely.

Thousands.

We are absolutely riveted by Tam’s stories (“I was a boat person”), experiences, and humanity.    We are all beaming.

We take down Tam’s email address.  It is long.  Are you on facebook, I ask.

No, Tam shakes his head.  Who has time for that.

So I struggle to thumb type his address into my phone.

Shellie and I need to leave before the fashion show ends.

That was totally worth it wasn’t it, I say, as we head to the parking garage.

Totally she nods.

We drive a mile south to go watch a friend perform at the Comedy Underground in Pioneer Square.  Are joined by one of her associates and another friend Bob.  Laugh.  Bob walks us back to our car.  Which is a good thing.  Because a few feet into our journey, we have to side step two drunks yelling and swinging fists at each other over twenty bucks.

Photo:  Shellie and Tam Nguyen

 

A convention speech and run around Gray’s Lake, Des Moines Iowa

Posted in about public speaking, About running

gray'slake

Get up before alarm rings at 6.  This means it is really 4.  Flop back on bed.  Alarm rings at 6:15. 

Search around for hotel phone on night table.  Don’t find it.  Sigh.  It is on the other side of the bed.  Scramble across.  Hit “O”.  Ask for front desk.  It is front desk.  Can I get a late check out.  Yes. 

Thank heavens.  Don’t have to run now.  Would have been sleep-running.

Reset alarm for 8:30.  Which is 6:30. 

Repeat process.  Get up.  Dressed.  Down to the 2nd floor.  Check in.  Listen to presentation.  Am at the Iowa Association for Justice annual convention in Des Moines.  There’s a break.  Exchange greetings with a few familiar faces.  Meet with tech guy.  Give him thumb drive.   Get miked up.  Break ends.  Do presentation.  The ballroom is short but wide.  Feels as long as a football field.  Pace from one side to the other.   

There are too many slides.  Too many points to make.  Used a presentation that generally takes two hours.  Am cramming it all into one.  Feel like am vomiting way too much information.    When will I learn.  Next time will chop out half the slides. Or more.

Stride out of there.

Back up to room.  Throw on running gear.  Exit rear door of hotel.  Onto Locust street. As in the bug.  Wind hits with a solid whoosh.   Ponytail flies straight back.  Horizontally in sync with the road.

Run through deserted looking city.  All the buildings are linked together by sky walks.  Look up and can see people walking from one building into the other.  Like in a sci fi movie where if you breathe the outside air, your eyes pop out, your skin withers up and you die.  So you stay inside in tubes.

Past cool sculptures of unused park.  Turn left on 15th.  Over a bridge.  Reach Gray’s Lake.  Looks like it’s man made.  According to the van driver is naturally fed by the river.  But can see a concrete feeder tube.  Run around it twice. 

Wind doesn’t die down.  Sometimes catch it just right.  Then it sweeps me along.  A bit like Mary Poppins.

Back through deserted city streets.  Into hotel.  Up to room.  Do business.  Rush out.  Catch van back to airport.

Photo:  Gray’s lake run

When children testify: Direct Exam of a 10 year old son in his father’s wrongful death case

Posted in direct exam, Trial Tips for Attorneys, Wrongful death

noelledog

Children may be scared to testify in a trial.  But being on a witness stand can also be empowering for them.  They are having their day in court.  They are participating in an integral part of our country’s foundational structure.  They are helping the process of determining the truth.

In this case, the trial judge does an excellent job of ensuring that the child feels safe and is as comfortable as possible.  Ellie the courthouse dog is brought in by a prosecutor.  When the child’s name is called, he walks up to the stand with Ellie.  She lays at his feet.  And when the child becomes a little anxious, a timeout is taken so he can pet her.

We are calling the child in this wrongful death case.  He is an only child.  His father was a single custodial parent.  We will not have him on the stand for long.  But the jury needs to see who will be effected by their ultimate verdict.  Our goal is to get them to truly see this young boy.

The child testifies haltingly at first.  The questions are gentle and benign.  One after the other.  Moving along.  Not letting silences linger.  Eventually he relaxes, opens up, gets a little anxious, pets Ellie, and wins our hearts.  Here is his testimony:

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6     THE COURT:  Are you P?
7               THE WITNESS:  Yes.
8               THE COURT:  Hi, I am Judge Middaugh.
9               THE WITNESS:  Nice to meet you.
10               THE COURT:  Nice to meet you too.  Look
11   who you have got over there.  I am so jealous, is that
12   just the most fabulous dog?  She is a cutie.  So I’m
13   going to let the jury know that there is the dog in
14   the courtroom just to be here with P, just in
15   case we have a jury that’s afraid of dogs.  Because
16   that happens sometimes.  So just to let them know that
17   there will be a dog here with P.  So Gabby, if
18   you would not mind telling the jury that P is
19   here and he has the courthouse dog with him.
20               Okay.  And we can get the jury.
21   (In Court/Jury In)
22               THE BAILIFF:  Please rise for the jury.
23               THE COURT:  Okay, have a seat.  So ladies
24   and gentlemen of the jury, as Gabby told you, we have
25   this young gentleman who is going to be testifying
175
1   today.  And we have with him, we call her the
2   courthouse dog, but she actually belongs to this woman
3   who works in the courthouse.  And the dog’s name is
4   Ellie.  Right?  And Ellie sometimes comes and helps
5   out when we have children testify.  And I will tell
6   you honestly, I try to get her up here as much as
7   possible.  So if you want to look at Ellie, you can
8   stand up and take a look, she is right there.
9   Otherwise she is very quiet and she just hangs out.
10   Okay?
11               So P, how old are you?
12               THE WITNESS:  10.
13               THE COURT:  All right.  Do you know what
14   the difference is between the truth and a lie?
15               THE WITNESS:  Yeah.
16               THE COURT:  What’s the difference?
17               THE WITNESS:  Well, the truth is when you
18   are telling, you know, that’s, that’s not made up.
19               THE COURT:  All right.
20               THE WITNESS:  And a lie is something that
21   you just made up.
22               THE COURT:  Okay.  And do you know why you
23   are here today?
24               THE WITNESS:  To –
25               THE COURT:  You are going to testify, talk
176
1   in court, right?
2               THE WITNESS:  Yeah.  About my dad.
3               THE COURT:  Yes.
4               THE WITNESS: (Inaudible).
5               THE COURT:  Okay.  And when you are in
6   court or do you tell the truth or is it okay to lie?
7               THE WITNESS:  Tell the truth.
8               THE COURT:  Okay.  So I will ask you
9   today, do you promise to tell the truth today?  What
10   are you going to say, do you promise to tell the
11   truth?
12               THE WITNESS:  I promise to tell the truth.
13               THE COURT:  Okay.  If during sometimes
14   when questions are asked if you don’t understand the
15   question, will you promise me that you will ask the
16   lawyers to say the question again in a different way
17   so you understand it?
18               THE WITNESS:  Yes.
19               THE COURT:  Okay.  All right.  Then I will
20   take that as having sworn the witness in.  And the
21   first thing you are going to do is you need to state
22   your name, your full name, for the record?
23               THE WITNESS:  My name is P
24   H.
25               THE COURT:  All right.  And I’m going to
177
1   tell you that this little thing right here, sometimes
2   placed over there, that is our microphone.  And we are
3   recorded courtroom, so everything is being recorded
4   and taken down when you say, so you need to make sure
5   you answer all the questions out loud and with words.
6   No nodding of your head and that kind of stuff,
7   understand?
8               THE WITNESS:  All right.
9               THE COURT:  Okay.  Go ahead.  Whoever.
10                   DIRECT EXAMINATION
11   BY MS. KOEHLER:
12       Q.   All right.
13               MS. KOEHLER:  I did want to introduce the
14   guardian ad litem.  Ms. Fargo West is here, Your
15   Honor.  (Inaudible).
16       Q.   (By Ms. Koehler) For the record can you tell
17   us your full name and your address?
18       A.   My name is PH and I don’t
19   know my address.
20       Q.   Do you know where you live?
21       A.   I live in Conconully in the Winrow
22   Apartments.
23       Q.   And who do you live with?
24       A.   I live with my Aunt Mary?
25       Q.   Cousin — lives — who live (inaudible)?
178
1       A.   I’m not sure.
2       Q.   Is Mason here today?
3       A.   Yes, he is.
4       Q.   I’m going to ask you some questions and if
5   you don’t understand the questions, what are you going
6   to do?
7       A.   I’m going to ask you.
8               THE COURT:  You are going to ask her.  If
9   you don’t understand the question, you are going to
10   ask whoever asks the question if they could say it a
11   different way so you can understand it, okay?  All
12   right.
13       A.   Yeah.
14       Q.   (By Ms. Koehler) So can you tell the jury
15   what your birth date is and how old you are?
16       A.   I am 10 years old and my birthday is
17   December 9th.
18       Q.   Where were you born?
19       A.   Where was I born?  I was born in Spokane.
20       Q.   And how long did you live in Spokane?
21       A.   I’m not sure.
22       Q.   Did you like Spokane?
23       A.   Yeah.
24       Q.   What did you like about Spokane?
25       A.   I loved that I grew up there.
179
1       Q.   What are some of the favorite things that you
2   have done in Spokane?
3       A.   I don’t know.
4       Q.   Do you go to school?
5       A.   Yes.
6       Q.   Where do you go?
7       A.   I go to Sunrise Elementary.
8       Q.   What grade are you in?
9       A.   Fourth.
10       Q.   What’s your favorite subject?
11       A.   Reading.
12       Q.   What’s the subject you hate the most?
13       A.   Math.
14       Q.   What kind of books are you reading in the
15   fourth grade?  Do you have chapter books?
16       A.   Yes.
17       Q.   What’s the series that you like, do you have
18   captain — inaudible)?
19       A.   Definitely not.  I don’t — I just read
20   like — kind of like comic books, kind of any kind of
21   (inaudible).  I really like big chapter comic books
22   where people are just talking.  And I read like
23   (inaudible) like actual pages like that.  Fourth grade
24   Eagles, I think.
25       Q.   All right.  Tree House, do you read Tree
180
1   House books?
2       A.   Tree House books?  No, I have heard of those.
3       Q.   How many kids are at your class?
4       A.   32.
5       Q.   So how long have you gone to this elementary
6   school?
7       A.   I’m not sure.
8       Q.   Do you remember going to a different
9   elementary school or have you always gone to
10   (inaudible) school?
11       A.   I (inaudible).
12       Q.   Where was the one you used to go to?
13       A.   (Inaudible) over in, over in Warden.
14       Q.   Pardon?
15       A.   Warden.
16       Q.   Who were you living with when you went to
17   this school?
18       A.   My cousin Mason, me, and my Aunt Mary.
19       Q.   Same people?
20       A.   Yes.
21       Q.   Which school do you like better?
22       A.   Warden.
23       Q.   Why?
24       A.   Because I do.  I miss all my friends there
25   really bad.  I thought I would be able to — I thought
181
1   we — (inaudible), I thought — I don’t know.  Well, I
2   like that better over there, because it’s really hot
3   over there.  Because I (inaudible) no more there.
4       Q.   Did you miss a lot of your friends when you
5   moved back to live with your dad in Spokane?
6       A.   Not that many actually, but yeah.
7       Q.   Did you develop more friends when you went to
8   school than before you started school?
9       A.   Can you say that again?
10       Q.   That was a weird question, wasn’t it?
11               Before you started school did you live in
12   a neighborhood with lots of kids, or you mentioned
13   living with your dad?
14       A.   I was more (inaudible) living with my dad.
15       Q.   Tell us about that?  What does that mean?
16       A.   I mostly stayed in the house and watched TV.
17   Sometimes I was just hanging out with my mom and my
18   dad.
19       Q.   What would you do with your mom and dad?
20       A.   Watching a movie.  Play like Starrysky or
21   something.  It’s kind of hard to remember it’s been a
22   while ago.
23       Q.   I heard something, your uncle testified about
24   was it frisbee ball?
25       A.   Frisbee ball.
182
1       Q.   What is frisbee ball?
2       A.   It’s where — it’s where you get to have like
3   frisbees and they have got a point on them and they go
4   really, really far.  You put your finger inside and
5   throw them as hard as you can and try to — it’s like
6   this metal pull thing where — where it’s a like a
7   metal pull and then there is a whole bunch of chains
8   in the square box thing.  And you have to try to throw
9   it so it can hit the chains and then the — you have
10   to come to the next one, the next one, next one, next
11   one, and then you — you have a course and then
12   that’s — (inaudible).
13       Q.   How did you like to do that?
14       A.   I did it quite a bit.  I did it with my dad
15   and this one guy named Scotty.
16       Q.   So what other kinds of games like that did
17   you do outside?
18       A.   Oh, well, I know I was going to school.
19   There was one kid that would come over for a little
20   bit and my dad had like this nerf, nerf gun.  It was
21   of a missile one kind.  He would shoot it up in the
22   air and then we would try to catch it.  And whoever –
23   whoever would catch it, it would glow.  And if it hit
24   the ground it probably won’t glow, it probably
25   wouldn’t, because the hitting the ground it would
183
1   light up.  Like the corner or something would go hum.
2   Just kind of lay there.
3       Q.   Did you do things like going hiking or would
4   you say you were an outdoors guy, or more of an urban
5   guy?
6       A.   Well, we went like there was like this — me,
7   I lived in like this apartment place.  And we went –
8   went down like this trail, there was a bunch of trails
9   down there.  We — oh, yeah, we went to — we went to
10   this one place called it’s water park.  We went
11   swimming there.  We just — we went to parks too, so.
12       Q.   Your dad, were you pretty close to your dad?
13       A.   Yes.  I was very close to him.
14       Q.   Can you tell us a little bit about that?
15       A.   Well, um. [can't speak]
16       Q.   So your Uncle Mike said that you like to
17   barbecue a lot.  Did you go over to his house for
18   barbecues and things like that?
19       A.   Yeah.  When we went over for barbecues
20   sometimes — most of the time it would be for like
21   holidays, birthday parties, stuff like that.  Or
22   sometimes in the summer, if it was just really hot.
23   It would be just like a hot weekend, we would go over
24   there.  That was like the main place where everybody
25   was going to go.  And like that, like on holidays,
184
1   like on Christmas.
2       Q.   Christmas where everybody –
3       A.   I don’t know it was just a family
4   get-together sometimes.
5       Q.   Can you tell us who you all is in your family
6   so we can kind of get to know your family a little
7   bit?
8       A.   My cousins and –
9       Q.   The people that you would spend time with.
10       A.   Oh, I would spend time with this girl named
11   Hally.  And it was my uncle, my uncle’s daughter.  I
12   would — I would sometimes — sometimes when everybody
13   was inside, I would go outside and be playing soccer
14   with her.  And — and –
15       Q.   That’s okay.
16       A.   Huh?
17       Q.   You getting a little nervous.
18       A.   A little bit.
19       Q.   Take a drink of water and pet Ellie.  I think
20   she wants her tummy rubbed.  She is on her side.  Go
21   ahead, you can do that, no problem.
22       A.   You are very interesting.
23       Q.   Good.
24       A.   That’s very good.
25       Q.   So would you mind sharing with us how it’s
185
1   been for you when your dad got sick, do you remember
2   that?
3       A.   Yeah.  I remember.
4       Q.   And do you feel that you are comfortable
5   sharing with us about that?
6       A.   Sure.
7       Q.   Sure.  Tell us about your dad getting sick.
8   That you — (inaudible)
9       A.   Well, I kind of went through a lot of
10   sadness, because when my dad would talk to his friends
11   that he would be like so the doctor just told me like,
12   Oh, you got cancer.  (Inaudible) but he actually, he
13   actually got — he was supposed to die in 2 months.
14   But he spent (inaudible) he passed away.  But he was
15   sick.  He had like this big puffed up thing on his
16   neck.  It was — it felt like a big ice bag on top of
17   it.  And, oh yeah, me and him couldn’t pay the rent
18   and stuff, so we just went over to our friend’s house
19   for a little while.  Just moved to his friend’s house
20   for a little while.  And there was there was two
21   teenagers, and a boy and his sister, and they were –
22   well, in that same picture.  I would hang out with
23   them when my dad was like downstairs watching TV.  But
24   when my dad would be out or doing something, like
25   going to the store or the hospital whatever, I would
186
1   be like, I would be either be playing with those two
2   or I’d rather be playing on my, my (inaudible).
3       Q.   So your dad let you know what was going on?
4       A.   Um, well, I only pretty much heard like when
5   he would talk to his friends.  The stories, I would
6   get what he was saying.
7       Q.   And figured it out, you know?
8       A.   Yeah.  Yeah.  And my mom would tell me that
9   your dad is pretty sick, you know, but.
10       Q.   Were you really, really, really happy that he
11   got to live longer than they thought he would?
12       A.   Definitely, yeah.
13       Q.   So what did you do to to make — make those
14   times really special for your dad, what did you do to
15   cheer him up?
16       A.   Well, I didn’t really, at that time I really
17   I was like — I never really — I always forgot.  I
18   always forgot that he was sick, because we were always
19   having so much fun.  So I honestly didn’t know until
20   when I was at school one day and it was like three –
21   maybe a month away from school summer.  And he said we
22   are going to go camping that summer, because we didn’t
23   get to do it the last summer.  So and then — and then
24   my mom told me my dad has to — it’s time for him to
25   go over to (inaudible)So I got pretty sad.
187
1       Q.   So he — again, anytime you don’t want to
2   answer my questions, it’s not going to — it’s okay to
3   say for you to say, I don’t want to answer.  I don’t
4   want to invade your privacy too much.  But if you are
5   okay talking then we will be here, you know.  We
6   really want to hear from you what you want to say,
7   okay?
8       A.   Okay.
9       Q.   Still doing okay?
10       A.   I’m fine.
11       Q.   Want to pet her one more time?
12       A.   Sure.
13       Q.   Okay.  Were you able to say good-bye to your
14   daddy before he died?
15       A.   The last time I said good-bye was — was I
16   can’t really remember, but I remember that it was the
17   last weekend that he spent at home, you know.
18       Q.   What did you guys do the last weekend?
19       A.   I can’t really remember.  A little hard to.
20       Q.   Yeah.  So –
21       A.   I kind of feel it was like just the same
22   ordinary thing.  That’s one of the things why I was
23   crying so much that he passed away.
24       Q.   So obviously you were very sad when he passed
25   away?
188
1       A.   Yeah.
2       Q.   Have you been able to talk to somebody about
3   how to get through this time?
4       A.   Yeah.  I have had — I don’t know what they
5   are called.  People who help, that you can talk to.
6       Q.   Counselors?  Yeah?
7       A.   Counselors.  I have had counselors to — I
8   still have a counselor actually.
9       Q.   Is that a her or him?
10       A.   It’s a guy, yeah.  And he is sort
11   (inaudible).
12       Q.   Do you talk to him whenever you feel like it,
13   or do you have appointments?
14       A.   I have like appointments, I don’t know when
15   the appointments are.  But like on Tuesday and
16   Fridays, like that.  (Inaudible).
17       Q.   So you do you see him a couple times a week,
18   or once a week?
19       A.   Once a week definitely.
20       Q.   Do you feel like that you have — do you
21   really like — I mean do you feel like it’s a good
22   idea that you have counselor?
23       A.   Yeah.  Because then I get to express my
24   emotions and then he sends me back home.  Then I will
25   be able to talk to somebody instead of like being in
189
1   my room and crying.
2       Q.   So you seem like you are one heck of a well
3   adjusted 10-year old.  And I guess my question is, how
4   have you been able to just stay so cool?
5       A.   My dad was all about that I guess.  I guess I
6   kind of just learned from him.
7       Q.   Tell us about that?
8       A.   To pull through.  To kind of pull through
9   whatever happens.  What happens, to just to keep on
10   going.
11               MS. KOEHLER:  Thank you, very much.
12               THE COURT:  Any questions?
13               MR. SMITH:  No questions, Your Honor.
14               THE COURT:  Any questions for P from
15   the jury?  You guys just want to pet the dog don’t
16   you?  Okay.  Well, that means you are done.  And so
17   you can go and I guess you can take her with you,
18   though I am very sorry to see her go.  I don’t think
19   she wants to leave.
20               UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER:  I think she
21   just wants to stay.
22               THE COURT:  I think she wants to stay here
23   in the courtroom with us for the day.
24               UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER:  She can stay
25   a while.
190
1               THE COURT:  No, that’s okay.  You can take
2   her, you can take her home.  Thank you, very much,
3   Porter.  You want to walk her out?  I bet you can?
4   Oh, she really does want to stay here.  That you very
5   much for letting her visit with us.
6               THE WITNESS:  Yeah.  Really, thank you.

Transcript from 2014 asbestos wrongful death trial.

Photo:  Noelle celebrating her 21st birthday with a visit to the animal shelter in Nashville.

Running in the rain – the joy of puddles and a squirrel obsessed dog

Posted in About Nala, About running

nalarain

Am wound up tight.   Aggressive tendencies barely restrained.  Okay, maybe not restrained at all.  In full warrior mode.

The defense lawyers haven’t been too bad lately.  Wish they were bad.  Then could have an outlet for this simmering fury.

Sometimes there are organizational politics involved in being a trial lawyer.  We need to band together to deal with the insurance industry and big corporations.  Even when we are on the same side, people get their feelings hurt.  Or want their way.  Or are unhappy that you are going your way instead of theirs.  Or want you to be quiet.  Or want you to stop fighting for what you think is right – because others don’t agree.  Or are scared that dissension will lead to collapse.

Today is a day filled with these politics.  Would much rather be doing client work.  Would much rather be doing just about anything else.

It is pouring outside.  The wind is knocking all the giant maple leaves off their stems.  Blowing them down the road.  Until they give up – waterlogged.  Unable to float anymore.

Go home.  Put on gear.  Rain coat over gear.  Rain vest on Nala.  Leash.  And we are out the door.

The rain has lessened but is constant.  Shoes squish.  By the time we reach the top of the hill, rain coat is completely soaked.  Am warm.  Toss off hood.  Roll up sleeves.  Cold rain hits skin.

A squirrel runs across our path.  Nala zooms after it.  I am braced for impact.  Saw the squirrel at the same time she did.  Nala’s leash is tied around her torso.  Attached at her chest.  Not neck.  So she bounces back to me.  We keep going.  She keeps looking.  Anticipating the next squirrel sighting.

Up we run.  Past Betty Bowen Park and  Kerry Park.  Wind through the residential roads.   Two stooped Asian women are at their usual haunting place on the East side of the top of the hill.  With bumpy bags and grabbers.  Scouring the ground for fallen chestnuts.

Squish.  Squish. Squish.  Back we run through the parks.  Down the hill.  To home.  Wash down Nala.  Dry her off.  And smile.

Photo:  Nala still wet after her run.

Killed by a drunk driver: sample dramshop settlement letter to a bar’s insurance company

Posted in About practicing law, Tips for Attorneys, Wrongful death

bar scene 4

Drunks in cars kill.  But blame is also shared by the bars that choose to over serve intoxicated customers who get in their cars.

This is the story of three young friends who got in the way of two over served drunks in a car.

Excerpt from settlement demand:

The three friends were enjoying a quiet, laid back evening.  The highlight was to stop by 7-11 and pick up some drinks, chips and candy.  They were planning to eat the snacks while watching Cats & Dogs, a family movie.  They left 7-11 and were headed northbound along the four foot paved shoulder of Shoultes Road.   The group was well to the right of the fog line.  Street lighting provided clear illumination.

AA and JJ were walking on the inside of the shoulder.  SS was perched next to them on a small bike he had borrowed from another friend.  SS was the closest to the travelled portion of the roadway.

One minute they were smiling and chatting. The next they were flying through the air.  The friends had no time to run for cover.  No time to react at all.  The VW had accelerated, swerved and struck them from behind.   The force was so tremendous that their shoes and clothing were ripped from their bodies. 

SS was thrown towards the right shoulder.  JJ was thrown to the left, landing in the center of the roadway.  AA was vaulted up into the windshield and driven farther down the roadway before landing on the right shoulder.  Their bodies came to rest 50 to a 100 feet apart from one another.

Witness PDL was watching the wildly swerving vehicle and at first thought it hit a tree limb.  As her vehicle reached the scene, she saw the scattered bodies and debris.  She began screaming and crying.  Her driver Witness M stopped and jumped out of the car to halt traffic and protect the kids until help arrived.  Witness PDL called 911 and stayed on the phone until aid arrived.

The first 911 call came in at 11:27 pm.  Officer King showed up within one minute of being dispatched.  He ran from one young man to the next.  Trying to determine if anyone was alive.  He  found SS about 20 feet south of the bicycle he had been riding.  SS was unresponsive, unconscious, but alive.  His loved ones were not by his side.  No one kissed him, whispered goodbye, or told him how beloved he was.   Medics tried to resuscitate him to no avail.    He died a few minutes after Officer King first checked on him.  Alone.   His head and upper body rested on the cold pavement.  His legs lay off the side of the road in dirt.  There he lay for over four hours, waiting for the Medical Examiner to arrive.

Text of demand – edited:  SKMBT_C55214101608470

Photo:  Bar surveillance video capture of the drunk having another drink

Lift off for Taos in Sonoma

Posted in About social networking, About writing, Lawyer convention drama, Lawyer seminar travel

taos

Steve Gursten:  I’d like you to consider joining the TAOS group.

K3:  What kind of a group is it.

SG:  Plaintiff lawyers who have become friends and share advice.

K3:  Steve thanks for asking.  Honestly, I belong to enough groups.

SG:  This is unlike any group you belong to.  We are small but geographically diverse.  This is a real personal group where we are friends.

K3:  That’s really nice of you Steve, but due  to my schedule I’m not sure if I have time.

A couple months pass.

Diane Gober:   Hi Karen – Steve and I would like to invite you to attend the TAOS meeting in Sonoma this fall.

K3:  Hi Diane and Steve – Um…That is so sweet of you.  But.. I don’t drink wine.

DG/SG:   No problem there is so much else to do there.  You will love this group.  It is wonderful.  We have such great times together.

K3:  Can you share the list with me.

DG/SG:  Sure here it is.

K3:  (Impressed).  I know a lot of people on your list.  What a great group.  I’m not sure about Sonoma.  It looks like everyone is a couple, I don’t drink wine or play golf, or spa, and am a vegetarian.    Maybe I should wait for the next meeting. 

DG:  Oh of course you’ll fit in.  Not everyone is a couple.  You can sightsee and go on hikes.   I always order vegetarian options.

This goes on for a few more weeks.  DG is optimistically indefatigable. 

K3:  Okay Diane and Steve – I’m coming and will bring my daughter.  Thank you so much for inviting me.

DG/SG:  You will have a great time.

Am then bombarded with menus, venues, directions, options,  notices of whose attending, and loving emails of friends greeting friends.  Diane may be the best party planner I’ve ever known.

A few weeks later:

SG:  I found a great way to introduce you to the group.  I’d like you to speak with me on blogging.

K3:  Don’t want to steal your thunder.  This is your time slot  to speak.  Am content to be the newbie, sit back and watch.

SG:  No I insist.  This will be fun.  As a matter of fact – let’s blog about our talk to Taos on blogging.  My blog is MichiganAutoLaw.com (see the Blog section) 

And before we know it here we are.  On our way to TAOS in Sonoma.

Photo:  Cristina and I on a bumpy prop plane bound for Sana Rosa.  She’s typing volunteer lists for the SCIAW Greenlake Walk & Roll Oct 19.  www.sciaw.org.   I’m typing this blog.

Yakkie the Goose: Direct exam of an eye witness

Posted in About practicing law, direct exam, Wrongful death

3,6,8

 

The defense is bringing in a memory expert from back east.  To say the surviving brother’s memory is not real.

This is an asbestos-mesothelioma trial.  The exposure happened in the 1970s.  The only witnesses who can identify the product are the brother (who was then eight) and the deceased.

We call the brother early.  The plan is to inoculate against the defense by proving his clear memory.  We have to do several other things as well.  Such as establishing enough evidence to overcome a motion for directed verdict.

The jury is solemn.   There is tension in the court.  The witness is nervous at first.  Settles in as soft routine questions surround him.  And then, the moment comes when you can feel the jury turn towards instead of away from our side.  The moment comes – with the Story of Yakkie the Goose.

20      Q. So let’s move up to a year to, let’s say you’re around

21   six years old.  Can you tell us a story about when you were

22   six that really sticks out in your mind?

23      A. Oh, well, we went fishing one time.  We seen some baby

24   geese.  It was (inaudible), I believe.  We wanted — me and

25   Jimmie wanted one of the geese.  So my dad went out there

                           108

 1   and he caught one.  We ended up taking it home, and we had

 2   it as a pet.

 3      Q. Well, now how did you carry the goose — was it a

 4   goose or was it a baby goose?

 5      A. It was a baby.  It was tiny.

 6      Q. Do you remember details about how you even got it

 7   home?

 8      A. Well, put it in the car.  Me and Jimmie — we wanted

 9   to hold it but my mom said no.  You’re not — I think she

10   was scared we were going to squish it.  She held it on her

11   lap on the way home.  It pooped all over her lap, so we kind

12   of found that funny.

13      Q. And you would have been around six?

14      A. I believe so, yes.

15      Q. And tell me about the goose — I think — tell me what

16   happened to the goose?  Tell me about your life with the

17   goose?

18      A. We had him, I believe, at least a year.  He grew up to

19   probably — I don’t know, three foot tall.  Never could fly,

20   though.  He used to chase us around the yard.  He slept in

21   our house.  We would have to keep him on the back porch

22   because of my father and mother, but — he would sleep with

23   us on occasion.  He’d actually play hide and go seek with

24   us.

25      Q. How did the goose play hide and go seek?

                           109

 1      A. Well, he would stick his head under the couch

 2   cushions, and my mom would, you know, say go, hide.  And

 3   then she’d say, go get ‘em, Yakkie, and he would just pull

 4   his head out and scream.  He wouldn’t look for us.  He would

 5   just scream until we came out.

 6      Q. You named the goose?

 7      A. I did not.  Jimmie did.

 8      Q. Yakkie?

 9      A. He got to name it.  Yes, Yakkie.  Because he was

10   always yak, yak, yak.

11      Q. So was Yakkie around by the time of the incident that

12   we’re talking about today?

13      A. No.

14      Q. Okay.  So this would have been before your grandma.

15      A. Yes.

16      Q. So sometimes it seems like you have a fairly clear

17   memory.

18      A. Yes.

 

The full direct exam is attached.  You have to imagine the bantering tone that exists between attorney and witness.  The beautiful  simplicity of the messenger and his message.  And the bemused delighted laughter from the jury.

Transcript:   The goose

Photo:  The girls at ages 8, 6 and 3 (with their dogs Coco and Tucker) still remember hanging out on the front lawn that summer. 

 

 

Here Comes The Dean.

Posted in About social networking, Women

DeanClark

She is a stranger who sends me a handwritten letter after having read something about me.  I email her back and invite her to lunch.  She emails back and accepts.  Two months later…

“Hi!”  She says with her warm smile, walking into my room.  “I love this office.  You have great art.”

I take her over to chat with Paul Whelan.  Tour her through the maze that is our office.  Down to the old racket ball court now turned into a courtroom.  Out into the cool sunshine.  Down and across the street to the Boat Street Café.  Where we spend a delightful hour over our tasty baguette sandwiches.

Dean Annette E. Clark, M.D., J.D.  graduated from SU law (previously UPS law may it rest in peace) four years after me.  She immediately was hired on as a professor.  And now has been elevated to head the institution.  By all rights she could be stuck up and full of herself.  But she isn’t.

Her eyes dance.  She is talking and chewing with me.  She is so cozy to be with that  I have no hesitation admitting a piece of lettuce is stuck in my tooth.  Before I dig it out.

We talk of our children – she has two boys, one who is in law school , the other who is a mechanical engineer.  The hopes for our profession.   Whether I would agree to be an adjunct in trial advocacy at SU Law, now that my long time UW teaching partner Bill Bailey has become a full time professor.  How this blog got started.  Even Facebook.

And honestly the whole time I’m thinking, just how cool she is.

Photo:  By Ryan Monahan our IT guy – in our parking lot before Dean Clark hit the road.