Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Over the last week two things that I regard as irritants have yielded two of life's little pleasures. I hate eye examinations. They seem pressure-filled: which is better, this, or this? They are boring. And they seem to take forever. On the other hand, I now have bifocal contacts, and am seeing better than I have in a long time. Also, a nice fresh pair of contacts is an odd little treat.

I also hate getting my hair cut. A haircut is also boring and slow, and frequently involves awkward social interaction. However, the haircut I got on Thursday is terrific. A good haircut is like a fresh shine on your shoes-- it improves your overall appearance in a subtle way that just makes you feel great. This cut is so good I may make a habit of going to New York every couple of weeks just to see Luigi.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This coming fall term I'm going to be teaching a seminar at UB called "Lawyers in Movies". The idea is to "explore the cultural attitudes towards law and lawyers by discussing the way the profession has been portrayed in movies". I have some movies in mind, but I'd also like some suggestions. It's an undergraduate seminar, which means that the students will be younger than what I'm used to, and most of the movies on my list so far are black & white, which I'm told kids today can't see. I'm thinking that I'm going to have to have an exam or two as well, since undergraduates probably require more feedback than law students. Other than "My Cousin Vinny", which is on the list, and is everybody's favorite lawyer movie, what other movies should I include? You can use the comments, or email me at outsidecounsel2001 at

I just ran down the dates that the eight movies I know I'm using were released and even I'm surprised. 1959,1960,1962,1966,1973,1982, 1992 and 2007. Yea g-ds, are they even talkies? 92 is "Vinnie", of course, ticking "LIKE THIS". Anybody wanna guess the rest?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When a vacancy occurs in New York State Supreme Court a merit selection process is used to fill the spot. A judicial screening panel all applicants, then makes a recommendation to the governor. The committee is composed of five appointments made by the governor, two from the Legislature, two from the state's chief judge, one from the New York State Bar Association, one from the presiding justice of the Department of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court where the vacancy occurred and two from the attorney general. The person appointed has to stand for election the following November, but the advantages of incumbency are pretty powerful, and it is rare for candidates running with "Judge" in front of their name to lose. When you are a judge, fund raising is a lot easier. The list of panel members on the NYS Court website appears a bit out of date, but when last constituted these were the members and who they were appointed by: Dianne Bennett, Esq. - CHAIR (Governor)Hodgson Russ LLP; Bob Witmer, Esq.(Governor)Nixon Peabody LLP;
Robert P. Fine, Esq. (Governor) Hurwitz & Fine, P.C.; Vincent E. Doyle III, Esq.
(Chief Judge Judith Kaye),Connors & Vilardo LLP; Sharon M. Porcellio, Esq.
(Chief Judge Judith Kaye) Ward Norris Heller & Reidy LLP; John A. Cirando, Esq.
(Presiding Justice, Henry J. Scudder)D.J. & J.A. Cirando; Philip Spellane, Esq.
(Temporary President of the Senate, Dean Skelos and Assembly Minority Leader Tedisco); Harris Beach PLLC; and A. Vincent Buzard, Esq.,(NYS Bar Association). Two of the governor's slots and two of the AG's slots are open, as is a slot that the Legislature fills.

Friday, February 20, 2009

One more for the Perils of an Elected Judiciary file. According to the Buffalo News "Joseph G. Makowski is expected to resign his seat as a State Supreme Court justice—possibly in the next few days— amid a state judicial investigation and a potential grand jury probe of written claims he made trying to clear a friend in a drunken-driving case". The manner in which soon-to-be Mr. Makowski has been brought low is characteristic of his style on the bench. I have seldom encountered a more arrogant, imperious judge, and it figures that he appears to have reckoned that he wouldn't get called out for throwing his weight around. As a judge this cat has made a career out of making lawyer's lives miserable, and although the local judicial administration had taken steps to rein him in somewhat there is only so much that can be done short of taking the guy off the bench altogether. Now it seems like his own hubris has accomplished that, and with any luck he'll be disbarred and darken our glamor profession no further. Talk about your fairy tale endings.
UPDATE: Mr. Makowski resigned. Buffalo Pundit has the details. If he gets to keep his pension by resigning it is an outrage

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Serious comic book fans will tell you that what makes the form great is that it is all angst-y, and that as a storytelling medium comics are cinematic, and Marvel was better than DC because Spiderman was such a realistic teenager. I say, sure, okay, but beat the Space Canine Patrol Agency! You can't, can you! What possibly could? I had this comic, and I morn its loss even today. The SCPA had at least one other appearance that I can recall, featuring a clairvoyant dog called Prophetic Pup. It seems to me that he had a big domed head, but maybe he wore a turban.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The revelation that A-Rod was using steroids back in in '03, and the subsequent hubbub has been percolating in my mind for a few days. What is there to say about it? I liked the crack that some sports radio character made: "If he was going to take steroids, why didn't he take the good kind that get you hits after the seventh inning?" That gets close to the problem, but not close enough-- it's a snarky way of saying that Rodriguez has never seemed clutch, but it ducks the statistical reality-- by the numbers he's already one of the all-time greats. Bonds and Clemens also qualify for the "Why, when you had everything already?" question, and it is interesting to wonder if the same drive to become great also lead all three of them to take the chance with steroids. Nobody ever thinks they'll get caught, at anything, which is why the jails are full, so it is easy to see how the risk of getting busted got by them. And the health risk? That probably seemed even more unlikely. By the way, isn't it interesting that now we have a white guy, a black guy and a Hispanic guy to be the Mount Rushmore of the Steroid Era in baseball?

What really gnawed at me, though, was that a lot of sportswriters were talking about Alex Rodriguez in terms that suggested that he was the likely savior of the sport. I've never heard a fan say that, but it seemed even odder hearing it from the sporting press. Fact is, what A-Rod, Clemens and Bonds all always seemed to have in common has always been that nobody seems to have liked them much-- ever.

As I read William C. Rhoden's column in the NYTimes Friday it struck me. Rhoden called Rodriguez "baseball's biggest star" and then I realized what was bothering me. No way is Alex Rodriguez baseball's biggest star. He is a phenomenal player, absolutely. He is a terrific athlete-- drugs or no drugs. But to call him baseball's biggest star is to misunderstand something fundamental about what we expect from our pop culture/sports heroes. It is the equivalent of saying that Kiss is/was as great as the Beatles. You could certainly make an argument that Gene Simmons and his Kabuki pals are more notable than I think they are, but to rank them with the Babe Ruth of rock bands you are going to have to base your argument on the same grounds that the A-Rod people are using to assert that poor old Alex ranks with the greats. It is purely a statistical argument. Kiss (is that supposed to be all caps, by the way?) sold a ton of sides-- more, I guess, than the Beatles-- and therefore Kiss is better. Certainly that is one metric, and it is certainly an important one, but it is not the only one. In an odd way this is Bill James' fault. I yield to no-one in my admiration for James' work. He changed the way we think about baseball, and sports, and he did it while writing about it in a deft, humorous way. I'd say that the best of Bill James' writing is some of the best humor writing produced since Russell Baker was at his peak, and it is a real loss to our culture that a lot of it is buried away in old "Baseball Abstracts" that a lot of people are never going to read. James has been right more often than not, and he was certainly right to argue that greater scientific objectivity should be applied to our understanding of baseball-- the game itself, and the careers of the players. It took a long time to get there, but now most people who watch baseball understand things like on-base percentage, and the reasons that power can be more valuable than average, and why saves are a poor measure of effectiveness across historical periods. What we've lost sight of, sort of, is that the sport is more than merely what we read in the agate print. Are Alex Rodriguez' statistics amazing? Of course. A-Rod is so far out on the bell curve that he is already one of the game's great outliers. Is he the bigest star in the game? Oh no. No he is not. He is not the way Pete Rose was not, only maybe people went to the ballpark to see Pete Rose. I'm not so sure that people in Cleveland, or Detroit say, "Hey, the Yanks are in town. Let's go to a game, we might see A-Rod do something amazing." That's what people say when you are one of the game's biggest stars. I said it once when I was in Montreal and the Giants were in town, and Bonds didn't disappoint. I saw Bo Jackson play in Yankee Stadium on that theory, and Bo was great too. I can think of a lot of players like that, but A-Rod has never been one of them. A-Rod is only baseball's biggest star in the sense that the person who has the high score on the Asteroids game is the biggest star of the pizza place the kids hang around at after school.

It is certainly disappointing that Alex Rodriguez is such a tool, but he has been kind of a tool for his whole career. He is incapable of disappointing me, and he shouldn't be capable of disappointing anyone else. Except maybe Madonna.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The plane crash is certainly horrible. In a city the size of Buffalo there's usually only about three degrees of separation from an event like this, which means that just about everyone will have either a personal connection to one of the 50 people that died, or know someone who does. The Buffalo News is updating the list as next of kin are notified. So far all I've heard are stories about people who weren't on the plane, but might have been, which always makes me think of the Flitcraft Parable. We adjust ourselves to beams falling, and then no more of them fall, so we adjust to them not falling.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Governor Paterson was pretty unhappy with the process that brought him Jonathan Lippman as his nominee for Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, and Wayne Barrett is fuming. It is a little troubling that Judge Lippman has only ever worked in the court system-- some time actually representing clients is a nice qualtity in any judge. Barrett's beef is that Lippman is a crony of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. His other rabbi was Chief Judge Judith Kaye, which suggests that Judge Lippman's rise isn't as tawdry as Barrett suggests, but the Voice article is worth reading for its portrayal of New York judicial politics. The NYTimes is gentler in its coverage, emphasizing Judge Lippman's accomplishments as an administrator. In that connection it is interesting to consider that one of the candidates on the list that the governor had to pick from included the Hon. Eugene Pigott, the former Chief Administrative Judge for the Appellate Division, Fourth Department. It is also still interesting that Judge Carmen Ciparick who has been on the Court of Appeals for 15 years, and who the other five Court of Appeals judges voted to serve as the acting chief judge after Judge Kaye retired, was somehow not on the list of finalists. The question of what qualifies someone to be a good judge is an interesting one, and being Chief Judge is certainly a job that calls for an unusual set of skills, but it is not a unique skill set. I'm a fan of the merit selection process that New York uses to appoint Court of Appeals judges, but that's not the same as saying that it is not a political process. It obviously is, and like any political process it could always stand a little more sunlight. Judge Lippman breezed through the Judiciary Committee, and the full State Senate will now vote on his appointment

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We saw Blossom Dearie play a couple of times with my parents when we were living in New York (I don't think it was at Michael's Pub, but it might have been). We saw her again when she came to Artpark in the Church (she had a cold that night). She was one of those performers that are kind of a test. If you got it, she was likely to be on a short list of favorites, and if you didn't get it no amount of explaining would ever help you understand. I always liked the fact that Miles Davis was a fan-- Miles understood that underneath the little girl voice there was serious swing. She had some of Miles' attitude, too-- the first time we saw her my father approached her in between sets to tell her how much he enjoyed her work and she brushed him off like he was some kind of a panhandler.
UPDATE: Over at Dreamtime, a hilarious story about Blossom being Blossom. I'll bet there are tons of stories like this.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

I've had a venison tenderloin in the freezer for a bit. I love game, but my politics make it impossible to go get my own-- until I can hunt deer with a brick we are forced to depend upon the generosity of friends. The gift of the tenderloin-- a prize cut-- was pretty special, and I wanted to use it in something good. This recipe looked appealing, and turned out well. Next time I'll use the mustard it calls for-- A. says she hates mustard, but it would have married the flavors well, and what I think she means is that she hates yellow mustard. It might also benefit from a mix of white wine and dry vermouth instead of just white wine-- the vermouth would add a herbaceous note. As I recall, the last time I did venison I marinated it in a gin based liquid-- clearly deer go best with martinis.

Friday, February 06, 2009

When Obama tapped Tom Daschle for Health and Human Services I was disapointed. The pick made sense-- obviously Daschle was being called upon to help move the levers. Obama hasn't logged the kind of Washington time necessary to aquire the backroom arm twisting skills on big stuff like healthcare reform, and he took a lesson from the Clinton crash-and-burn and turned to someone who knew the ropes. I give the guy credit, he is good at learning from the past and avoiding the mistakes of his predecessors. Plus, Daschle has been there for Obama from the day he arrived in the Senate, and was certainly helpful in helping him to win Iowa. My problem with the Daschle pick really came down to two things. First, it meant that Obama approach to healthcare really was going to look like what he campaigned on, rather than the more fundamental reform I'd like to see. My other problem was that by picking Daschle Obama left Howard Dean out in the cold.

I don't know whether Dean would have preferred H&HS or Surgeon General, and Sanjay Gupta, media figure, makes sense as Surgeon General, but Dean deserved to be asked. He created the model that Obama followed to win, and even more important he created the 50 State strategy that allowed Obama to win. He did it without grandstanding or self-aggrandizing, he did it in the face of considerable Washington insider resistance (not just Rahm Emanuel-- Chuck Schumer was unhappy and vocal about it too), and he did it out of sincere commitment to advancing the Democratic agenda. Newsweek's Eleanor Clift has the reasons why this isn't going to happen, and just the fact that the idea is being floated in Newsweek makes me think that maybe the notion is half-baked. Even so, Dean has a habit of being right about things. He is a loyal, right-thinking guy. Unlike Daschle he has demonstrated that he can run a big, complicated organization. Tapping him to come in off the bench would make a lot of lefties, like me, happy. It is not a pick without a downside, but I think it would be a good call, and the right thing to do.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery today for what is being described as "early-stage pancreatic cancer". This is her second bout with cancer-- She was treated for colon cancer ten years ago. She is 75, and about as tough as can be. From anactuarial standpoint I think it has been pretty widely assumed that her seat was likely to be one that Obama would have to fill.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

This recipe for Cajun Sausage Bread has a sort of church cookbook style that I like, basically because it uses those bake-and-serve biscuits. The filling is the real deal, aromatic and spicy, and I suppose you could make the dumpling dough from scratch, but why go to that effort? I found the recipe itself to be written in a somewhat confusing way-- what you want to do is set up your mis, with a chopped onion, chopped green pepper, chopped jalapeno, and chopped celery. In a separate bowl mix the salt, chili powder, black pepper, bay leaves and dried thyme. I went with a slightly larger dice for the andouille-- I like the texture of andouille, and didn't want to sacrifice that. Start the sausage browning, then add the spice mixture and let the two cook together until brown, then add the miripoix and saute until soft. I used canned tomatoes, and their juice-- about half a one pound can, along with the Worcestershire and a healthy slug of Tabasco. Cook it down, then add two tablespoons of flour, and two tablespoons of water. Cook that down (about a minute-- I guess the idea is to bind the mixture together a bit) then set aside. Toss in the chopped green onions at this point- they are there to brighten the flavor a bit.

Rolling out the tube biscuits makes working with them seem a little more like cooking. I was trying for a an attractive half-moon shape with crimped edges, and I suppose someone with more patience could achieve that effect. They might be prettier brushed with an egg wash, too. Recommended to CLA for the next time she wants to bring something that is relatively equipment simple.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The experience of spectator sports is a varied one, I think. I like baseball so much that I'll pause in the middle of a run to watch a few at-bats of a high school game, and there are few pleasures in life greater than settling into a seat at a game with a scorecard in my lap and a beer in my hand. Baseball is nice on the radio, too, especially on a long drive. In recent years I have developed a taste for soccer, which really is beautiful to watch, and I get a kick out of rugby, which is a pretty pure expression of the joys of sport for its own sake, with the added attraction of violent collisions. Some years ago, on a flight to Dublin, I found myself wrapped up in a video of a hurling match, which convinced me that I'll watch pretty much anything if you call it sports, although I'll except car driving from that. NBA doesn't do much for me, although college hoops can be diverting. Tennis, golf-- there is a hypnotic pleasure to it all, but the best sport for planting yourself in front of the television really has to be football. I have largely managed to resist the NFL in recent years-- this season I probably only watched three or four games in their entirety, and it is a tribute to the addictive quality of the spectacle that this statement makes me feel vaguely virtuous. Although I probably didn't do anything all that productive with that time, squandering three and a half hours watching a game makes me feel a little guilty, which is probably why I find the experience enhanced by going to Coles to do it-- if I'm going to waste that kind of time, best to really blow it up.

The universal exception is the Super Bowl, which is a national ritual. Although it has acquired a reputation for producing indifferent games, it seems to me that over the last X years or so we've seen IV-V really terrific performances, and last night's was one of them. I love it in sports when the unexpected happens, and we got a few of those sorts of events in XLIII. A safety, which gave all those people with bad squares in their office pools a little thrill. A 100 yard return of an interception. (The longest play in Super Bowl history, and always one of the most exciting things to see in football.) Great drives, great defensive play (sometimes- sometimes it was pretty shabby D, but that's okay too-- it gives you an opportunity to shout at the tv.) A lot of stupid penalties, and a lot of shaky officiating (two challenges were upheld, which is a pretty poor average, I'd say), but even so an exciting game. What I especially liked about it was that it didn't turn into a boring beatdown. Too often it seems like the first quarter of the Super Bowl is a cautious back-and forth. In the second quarter a pattern develops, and the teams go into halftime with a low score that more or less reflects the ultimate result. In the third quarter the better team pours it on, and the opponent begins to demonstrate where its weaknesses have been all season. We didn't get that this time. Kurt Warner needs speed and precision, and he wasn't getting it, but then he did. The Cardinals did something that is pretty rare-- they made adjustments, and they hung tough. They kept working at getting into their game, and it nearly worked. For a 9-7 team from the weakest division in the league they showed a lot.

Also, Bruce Springsteen was a lot better than I'd expected, not at all the big cheeseball he might have been. It is a low bar, but that was easily the best halftime show the NFL has ever provided.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

To Dr. Lonnie Smith, Bruce Eaton's Super Bowl Program in the Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz program at the Albright-Knox. This is the first time we've had organ jazz in the series, which is funny when you think about it. Dr. Lonnie, who is probably the most important musician working in the form today, is from Buffalo, and the city has deep roots in that sort of chitlin' circuit sound. A little organ usually goes a long way with me, but this was terrific stuff, warm and humorous, with real muscle underneath. It helped that this was a trio with guitar and drums, rather than the somewhat more conventional tenor sax-- there is a place for that, but this was more pleasing to me on a sunny Sunday after Mr. Ed's.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?