Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I enjoy reading Greil Marcus, but usually the insights I take away from his writing are different from the points he is trying to make. That may be why I liked "Mystery Train" the best-- it seemed more like a conversation we were both having, rather than a harangue that I was only half paying attention to, like "Lipstick Traces". "Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads" didn't quite get there for me, and "Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes" was full of interesting information, but didn't quite get there for me on the Dylan stuff. (I've said elsewhere that "Invisible Republic" might have worked better as a book about The Band.) Still, I loved "The Rose & the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad", and I know that I'll get around to The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice. If John H. Summers' review is correct, the thesis of the book is that the United States, "alone among the world of nations, subsists in its symbols: Upon the virtue of its symbols it depends for its survival." This is, I think, close enough to correct to be completely wrong. It is true to say that the United States was the first nation created out of a set of ideas-- from a philosophy, if you like. It is also true that there are a number of symbols that stand for those ideas, here and abroad, and that the US is unusual in that many of those symbols resonate with greater meaning abroad than at home. But there are symbols that represent almost every nation. The pervasiveness of American iconography is distinctive, not the mere fact of it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This year's HOF ballot: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Dante Bichette, Bert Blyleven, Bobby Bonilla, Scott Brosius, Jay Buhner, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, Dave Concepcion, Eric Davis, Andre Dawson, Tony Fernandez, Steve Garvey, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Tony Gwynn, Orel Hershiser, Tommy John, Wally Joyner, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Paul O'Neill, Dave Parker, Jim Rice, Cal Ripken Jr., Bret Saberhagen, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Devon White, Bobby Witt.

I'd vote for Goose. Gwynn should be on anyone's ticket. There are some close calls-- I'd take Tommy John over Orel Hershiser, but maybe that's because Bulldog was so bad as a member of my Metropolitans (born in Buffalo, though-- who knew?). Dale Murphy's numbers don't look so gaudy today, but he was deadly in the mid-89's, when a 30 HR year was a really big deal. Donny Baseball, I'm afraid, doesn't make the cut. A 14 year career wasn't long enough to get him to where he needs to be.

Dave Parker presents an interesting case. On the merits, he should be in. I'd vote for him. If he makes it, than maybe Mark McGwire will someday-- but I wouldn't vote for McGwire. Supplements or no, McGwire looks more like a Dave Kingman sort of player to me, and that isn't HOF.

I think I'd vote for Bert Blyleven.

Some funny close calls. Remember when Bobby Bonilla figured to be a lock? Jose Canseco was the best player in the game for a couple of seasons. Eric Davis was amazing, before he got sick. Steve Garvey-- how'd he get to be so overrated? And what do we do with Jim Rice?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Proposed voir dire for prospective jurors in Scooter Libby's pending trial. (Salon's Tim Grieve drolly proposes that someone ask the same questions at Bush's next press conference.)

Have you ever served in the United States military?
What one source do you get most of your news from?
Other than a traffic ticket, have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a crime?
Based on either your personal experience or what you have read or heard about him in the news, please describe any feelings you have about Vice President Cheney.
[T]he defendant in this case is presumed innocent. When you hear that, what does it mean to you?
Are you the kind of person who makes a decision quickly, or are you the kind of person who takes time to make a decision?
When you feel you are correct, will you still listen to the arguments of others who do not agree with you? If yes: Are you sometimes persuaded to change your position?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Years ago, when we lived in Brooklyn A. would go to the gym on Saturday mornings, and EGA and I would stay home and watch PeeWee's Playhouse. I forget what gym it was, but Madonna went there too, so Amy Arbus' story kinda resonated with me:

"Madonna just wandered along like everyone else. I recognized her as the girl who went to my gym—as the girl who would sit around naked longest in the locker room. Now that I think back on it, how could either of us have afforded a gym membership? She still had a last name at that point, and when I told her I worked for the Voice, she said, 'Oh, that’s so funny. They’re reviewing my first single this week.'"

New York really was a different place back then. Much hipper, much more dangerous. A. reports that the other woman at the gym-- a lot of dancers-- were catty about her: "I think she's a talentless cow", that sort of thing. "Desperately Seeking Susan" was about to come out, and although I'd have bet that there was a contemporary Martin Scorsese that captured that time better, I just looked it up and the Scorsese movie that was out that year was "After Hours" so I'd have been wrong. Man, Rosanna Arquette was huge in the mid-80s, wasn't she?

Monday, November 20, 2006

To Cyrus Chestnut and Kevin Mahogany last night, at Bruce Eaton's Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz series at the Albright-Knox. We've seen Chestnut before, and you pretty much know what you are going to get with a pairing like this anyway-- the Joe Williams songbook, more or less, but that's a fine thing when it is done this well. The show was pretty off the cuff-- they'd played a set the night before, and there was very little overlap from what I can tell. Chestnut uses all the notes, baby, and Mahogany joked about how he didn't leave him anything, which prompted a story: a few years ago he was backstage at a festival in Europe where Kenny Barron and Brad Meldhu were playing a duet set. Barron came off, looking impeccable, and Mehldau followed, wet through. Someone said, "What happened to you?" and Mehldau said,"Man, Kenny Barron is kicking my ass."

Late in the set they asked if there were any requests, and got some sophisticated suggestions ("Ruby, My Dear" was one I'd have liked to have heard; they'd done "Lush Life" the night before, and I was hoping for that, as was, I'm sure, LCA). Someone suggested "Miss Otis Regrets", and then, from left field, someone else called out, "Me and Mrs. Jones". That cracked them both up. "'Me and Mrs. Jones'," Mahogany said, "Is that why Miss Otis regrets?" Then he rumbled right into it. It took Chestnut a moment to catch up, but he was right there by the time Mahogany got to "...we got a thing...". I reckon they were about halfway through it before he ran out of lyrics he remembered, and they broke up in laughter. "A lot of people don't know that my R&B runs a lot deeper than my jazz," Mahogany said, before they finished off with "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Centerpiece". It was mighty fine.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Because the Buffalo News prefers lame stuff like "Prickly City" to quality funnies local readers may not be aware that "Judge Parker" is presently featuring a storyline about judicial elections. It's not clear to me where the lawyers in "Judge Parker" practice, but it looks like judicial selection reform is as needed there as it is here in the Empire State. The way it is shaping up, Randy, the young partner in Judge Parker's firm (I think hizzonor retired a few thousand years ago), is up against a lout whose campaign is being underwritten by his unattractive lush of a wife. It looks like the bad guys are planning a family values sort of campaign, and will be trying to plant the notion that Randy, who is in his 40s and single is unsuited for either the bench or the military, if you get my meaning.

Interestingly, the stuff that Randy is being coached on in the example to the right is exactly the sort of stuff that judicial candidates are barred from talking about. Randy's opponent's wife may be a drunken harridan, but if they pose for campaign photos with their Golden Retriever they will be running a clean fight.

Contrast this flawed system, in which the clearly qualified (and not gay, although it shouldn't make any difference) Randy is likely to be defeated by the brutish Reggie Black to the process by which Jerry McCarthy was chosen to become a Federal Magistrate Judge. Prospective Judge McCarthy is a partner in the biggest firm around here (I believe the biggest New York firm outside of the city) and a past president of the Erie County Bar Association. His selection was widely rumored, and my first thought was along the lines of "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." But you know what? Why shouldn't a guy like that be a judge? He has proven himself as a lawyer, he has demonstrated that he can work effectively with other members of the bar-- he's exactly the sort of person who should be on the bench. It's interesting that there were 42 applicants. This suggests that the kindergarten teachers of our local bar did an outstanding job instilling self-esteem. I've had matters with Jerry-- his kindergarten teacher did a real good job-- but in my experience with him, I've found that he does a nice job as well. Lawyers are a lazy lot, but he's been in the office every Friday afternoon I've had to call him. I'd call this a quality selection, and one more example of why merit selection is the way to go.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Top Ten Lamest Superheros. In our household we like Doug Ramsey, what can I say? (Via Making Light.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Some years back we had an intern from Germany working out of our New York office. We were in a more expansive head back then, and frequently took on European students who were looking for a brief experience with US law, but until Angelica they were always in Buffalo, where we were, rather than in New York, which was a room with a phone line and a terrific view, but no full-time employee. She was fine with this-- she was really mostly interested in being in New York, where her boyfriend was, and although we gave her stuff to read, and she sat in on a deposition or two, and went to court once or twice, she really didn't do much. Her name hasn't crossed my mind in forever, but just now, as I was purging my email I saw that I'd received spam from her name. I guess it's like the millions of monkeys with typewriters.

"Reason to Rock" is an excellent collection of rock criticism, organized in an interesting way. Following a series of introductory pieces that define the elements of the form, the author describes the background and creative output of a number of artists, followed by an essay explicating a particular song. The selections are enough off the beaten path to make it interesting: "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat", "Rain", "White Room". Worthwhile.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Calling "shotgun"-- the rules. (Via kottke.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I suppose I shouldn't admit this, but the new deposition rules the Chief Administrative Judge has issued are obliging me to change my game a little. I feel like a member of the Philadelphia Flyers suddenly on Olympic ice, you know? I keep hearing whistles, and looking around saying, "Wha? Me?"

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A and I were 83 and 84 at our polling place at roughly 8:00 this morning. 96 or 97 was coming in as we left. That's pretty good for our district, which is about as liberal Democrat as it comes. Two years ago I was 128 at about 7:50, which means that we are tracking pretty close (for an off-year) to Presidential election turnout.

They are calling for rain latter, and I wonder what that will mean in the Reynolds/Davis race.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Loki is an add-on to Firefox that locates you in meatspace by finding your IP address, then allows you to use Google Maps to find directions. And not just to addresses, either. You can find types of things, too. I can see this being extremely useful. (It also seems to have added latitude and longitude information to my browser, which is pleasing.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

To the oral argument of the Citizens Against Casino Gambling v. Gail Norton, et al matter this afternoon. I'm going to talk about this lawsuit at AHIA next week, so I wanted to be as current as possible. This meant that I ended up sitting in court until about six, which was not something I'd planned on, but the arguments were interesting, and the level of advocacy was pretty high.

The story goes like this: Salamanca, New York is a city near the Pennsylvania border that sits on land that was leased from the Seneca 99 years ago. (Actually, in 1890.) When the lease was running out Congress realized something was going to have to be done. The deal that had been struck back in the day was pretty unfair in the waning days of the 20th century, and the Seneca had made it clear that they intended to make up for it this go-round. John LaFalce was the congressman for the area at the time, and after some wrangling a deal was cut, and the Seneca Nation Settlement Act was passed. The statute provided that the Seneca would get $45 million bucks from the feds, and $24 million from New York State. The Seneca would negotiate new leases with the people who lived in Salamanca, or owned buildings on the land. The statute provided that the Seneca could use the money to buy "Land within its aboriginal area in the State or situated within or near proximity to former reservation land".

This land could acquire "restricted fee status" unless the Secretary of the Interior made a determination within 30 days after the comment period that such lands should not be subject to the provisions of section 2116 of the Revised Statutes (25 U.S.C. 177)". Governor Pataki then cut a deal with the Seneca which was intended to allow the Nation to acquire property in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, with the idea that they would develop it into casinos. There were payments negotiated and whatnot, none of which were particularly favorable to the cities or counties where this land was being taken off of the tax rolls, but there was a popular school of thought that casinos in those cities would be a good vehicle for economic revitalization. Buffalo's mayor, Tony Masiello, was a huge fan.

There have been all sorts of lawsuits, and efforts to stop the Buffalo casino since. The casino in the Falls is up and running, and although Niagara County and the City of Niagara Falls haven't seen any of the revenue that they were promised-- yet, I guess, giving the venture the benefit of the doubt-- the casino itself seems to be prospering, which makes it unique in that sad, blighted community.

There's a lot of technical stuff about when Indians can have gambling on their land. It boils down to whether it was land that they held before 1988, or if it is after-acquired land purchased or otherwise acquired as settlement of a land claim, subject to approval by the Secretary of the Interior. Today's argument was whether the property in downtown Buffalo can be considered "Indian Land" as defined by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. There were some collateral questions as well-- the Seneca wanted the right to file an amicus brief, and the federal government-- which is the party being sued here, since the Seneca have sovereign immunity, argued that the whole thing should be dismissed, but the real, bottom line question is whether the purchase of property pursuant to the Seneca Nation Settlement Act--property which has the restrictions on alienation that characterizes property that is immune from taxation-- is "Indian Land" within the meaning of the IGRA.

One argument that I liked was that the legislation was not intended to settle a land dispute, because there was never a question that the Salamanca property was the Seneca's. Maybe so, but the statute does provide for a means for the Seneca to acquire land, and for that land to acquire restricted fee status. Why?

The case presents a close question, I think, and one of the reasons I think so is the ham fisted way John LaFalce drafted this particular example of the sausage maker's art. He sat in front of me, mugging and shrugging and shaking his head, but the fact is that none of the other land settlement statutes in Article 25 have language like this one, and it looks to me like it was written to keep the possibility of a Buffalo casino open. "Near proximity"-- what the hell is that supposed to mean? One of the things that wasn't really mentioned was the Niagara Falls casino-- it is a lot closer to aboriginal land, but I'm sure there are other issues.

There were a lot of people there I know, and inevitably one of them introduced me to LaFalce, who was, I think, curious about why I was there. I was not dressed in lawyer drag, just a jacket, tie and khakis, but I was not a reporter he knew. "I have an academic interest," I said, whenever someone asked why I was there. "I'm thinking of writing something about this." That seemed to satisfy LaFalce, and although I wanted to ask why he'd drafted the legislation the way he did, I held off. Once the wheels were in motion on the Buffalo property he'd tried to get the brakes applied-- the public record is full of correspondence to Norton objecting. I suppose it's possible that the Seneca put one over on him, and he really was all good intentions. It could be, but I think my theory is probably closer. Still and all, now he is on the anti-casino side for real, and that means I shouldn't cross-examine him in public. Even I'm that polite.

The matter is before Judge Skretny, who I would characterize as "careful". He's probably inclined to give the government a pretty fair amount of deference, but I think he is also probably inclined to find the answer that the Second Circuit will agree with, too. Only chumps make predictions based on the questions asked at oral argument, so here are mine: he'll deny the Fed's motion to dismiss; he'll decline to rule on the environmental and National Historic Places arguments on the grounds that they are moot. He will permit the Seneca to file an amicus brief, but will reject the arguments made in it. And he will rule that the Secretary of the Interior failed to properly rule on the Seneca's application to acquire the Buffalo parcel.

Confidential to whoever that US Attorney was: the grain elevator that the Seneca tore down was an HO Oats elevator. It's pronounced "H" "O"-- not "Ho". A Ho elevator would be something else, I imagine.

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