Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I have proposed a Big Pink Rogues Gallery as an annex to the Big Pink HOF, but so far this has not met with enthusiasm. When that changes this will be an exhibit submitted for a first ballot candidate.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Such a busy day, being a crank. First, I must write a letter to Brian Higgins. I have been writing to him on a daily basis, encouraging him to send the NRA back all the money they have sent him, and to support gun control legislation. Today I reminded him that Louise Slaughter, his colleague in the Western New York delegation, and the representative for Webster, where the firefighters were shot by a sniper on Christmas Eve, has never voted the wrong way on gun violence issues, and has never taken NRA money.  He might want to think about that when he expresses condolences.

Then I have to write to my Common Council member, Michael LoCurto. Mr. LoCurto is an estimable councilman, and I want to suggest to him that the City of Buffalo should pursue the insurance company for the moron that rammed into the Gates Circle fountain Christmas night, knocking over and breaking one of the bronze light fixtures. I am reliably informed that the city has never done this, even though Buffalo has no shortage of morons who plow into the fountain. We are blessed in Buffalo with a crack team of lawyers in the Corporation Counsel's office. If they are too busy, I'll take the case pro bono.

Friday, December 21, 2012

There is no way that John Kerry will be as awesome as HRC was.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Robert Bork dead. He was proof that you didn't have to be stupid to be wrong.

The Morning News has an amusing feature in which we are shown a map and asked to guess what it references. I bat about .500 with this game, but I got hung up on this one. "States that aren't crazy? But Virgina? What's that doing there? And usually Vermont is on the Sane States list." Note to Rhode Island: get your act together.
 Promising:  Joe Biden is heading up the Gun Task Force. Biden is okay on this issue, and has nothing to lose. We are in a moment right now. I've been writing to my congressman (who is lousy on this issue) daily. If you are an Outside Counsel reader consider doing the same. My guy, Brian Higgins, is good at getting the gravy for WNY, but terrible on this issue- he voted against extending the assault weapons ban, and in favor of immunizing gun manufacturers from tort liability, for example. This may be the time when a lot of people who took the NRA's money rethink their positions, but they won't if they think this will blow over. Gun nuts are single-minded, and never let up. Over at the ironically named Lawyers, Guns & Money Erik Loomis called for (NRA President) "Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick". His reward for this has been death threats, and a visit from the local constabulary. If that's what we are up against then we all need to demonstrate that the sane outnumber the the deranged and take a public stand.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One of the arguments that Second Amendment nuts like to make is that cars kill more people than guns. Although that is utterly irrelevant, it is also not completely true. In ten US states guns kill more people than cars. Alaska and Arizona lead the way, hardly surprising. Colorado is next, followed by Indiana, Michigan and Nevada. (Indiana is an odd place. I'd be interested in a county-by-county breakdown for Michigan.) Oregon, Virgina, Utah and Washington round out the list. So now you know where it is safe to cross the street, and where it isn't safe to do anything else.

Monday, December 17, 2012

In the 13 years since Columbine there have been 31 school shootings. Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years have occurred in the United States. We need to keep saying this.

The United States leads the world in gun ownership per capita: 88.8 guns per 100 persons. Second place? Serbia, 58.2. Third place? Yemin, 54.8.

The overwhelming number of mass shootings in the US have been committed with firearms that were legally obtained. I'm not sure where Friday's horror would fit into this: it could be argued that the semiautomatic weapons that were used were stolen. It doesn't make that much difference to me, but it might to you.

I have long advocated for a simple, constitutional form of gun control. Firearms related torts should be strict liability torts. If your gun injures or kills someone, you are responsible unless you can prove that the gun was stolen. Guns that entered the stream of commerce without having been registered to a registered dealer or owner would be guns the manufacturer would be strictly liable for, with treble damages.

Responsible people with guns don't kill and maim, but guns are too available to irresponsible people. My proposal would encourage greater responsibility, which I think we can all agree would be a good thing. I expect that it might also have the long term effect of reducing the insane number of firearms that are out in our society.

The United States isn't a dangerous place the way that broken societies are-- it is dangerous because there are too many guns out there. Comparisons to, e.g. motor vehicles are disingenuous for several reasons. One is, of course, that there is no constitutional right to car ownership. For the purposes of this discussion, however, the more important distinction is that when properly used cars don't kill or injure people. Killing and injuring is what guns are designed to do. I'm fine with killing deer or turkeys or ducks or varmints, but let's be real about this: People who have handguns aren't after woodchuck, and woodchuck are unlikely to be shot in their bedrooms, where they keep their handguns. Anyone who says they have a handgun for personal protection is essentially saying that they are okay with the possibility of that handgun being used in a crime, because handguns -- or automatic weapons-- are by their very nature portable and insecure.

The deranged will always be with us. It is a shame, and absolutely we need better, more compassionate treatment for the mentally ill. What we don't need, and shouldn't want, is to give the insane an opportunity to act on their impulses. The poor bastard that shot up the Arizona shopping plaza had his illness criminalized because he had easy access to sophisticated and deadly hardware. Many others of these poor souls have committed suicide by cop-- a double tragedy, since the police officers that ended the perpetrator's suffering are themselves now burdened with the taking of a life.

It needs to change.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The reason I don't hunt is that in order to get a license one must take a firearms safety course. These are exclusively offered by the National Rifle Association, and I refuse to support it in any way. (I could bow hunt I suppose, but the reason I would hunt would be to get delicious venison, and I wouldn't be likely to accomplish that with a bow.) In the 13 years since Columbine there have been 31 school shootings. Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years have occurred in the United States.  and it is past time to start making the people who belong to and support the NRA realize that they are all complicit in this outrage. Have a look at this useful page. Write to anyone who represents you, and tell them that they will not have your support as long as they keep taking the NRA's blood money. This is madness.

Bad Art.

An audio supercut of an entire year of the Grateful Dead tuning their instruments, live on stage. The mind tends to impose intentionality, but even so I was surprised by how compelling this is. At times ambient there are also distinct moments of anticipation and release. Would I play it again? Yes, I think I will. Of course, that's just me: I also own Neil Young's Arc.

2012 jazz sides by women.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 12:12.12

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just a couple of baseball thoughts. (A) Is it really possible that the Yankees have no better third base prospect anywhere in their system than Kevin Youkilis? (B) LOL Mets, what are you thinking? R.A. Dickey is the most popular player on the team, and an upright guy! Pay the man!

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Lawyers in Movies course is offered through the Undergraduate Academies at UB, an interesting program that offers, in addition to seminars like mine, a variety of other sorts of educational experiences. I'm only involved to the extent that I teach classes through the program: I am thought of there as law faculty (as I am at the law school). I mention the program because it seems to me to be doing worthwhile work (in addition to allowing me to do work I find pleasant), and because I was impressed by this list of "48 Good Books". Unlike most lists of this sort I haven't read most of these books, but they all look pretty good. I've often had occasion to think that life as an undergraduate at UB might be pretty alienating: it is big, and it is sprawling, and although it pains me to say it, it is one of the ugliest university campuses I have ever seen. On the other hand, there are nifty programs like the Undergraduate Academies, and in my my experience-- extending now, as student, alumnus, and adjunct faculty-- the people are helpful, friendly and engaged. It also seems to me that most of my students seem pretty happy to be there. Come to think of it, I pretty much always have been too.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Paul Krugman on Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. I've bitched about the Foundation books in the past, here and elsewhere- the characters are cardboard cutouts, and the plot is all deus ex machina, but I have to admit that there's nothing quite like them when I'm down with the flu or something. I guess I like them more than I let on, and of course Krugman makes a good case. It's made-up social science, but it is still social science, and that will always have an appeal for me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

So long, Dave Brubeck. I am glad I saw you when I had the chance, and I will always be glad to hear your music.

I got a flyer from the St. Louis Cardinals in the mail, advertising their season ticket packages. I note that it is possible to get a package that is all Cubs games, which is interesting, and that the "Value Pack", which consists of ten half-price games, is the package to get if you want to see the Mets or the Pirates. I guess that figures. They should have an Ecclesiastical Pack, featuring the Cardinals vs. the Padres, and the Angels. If they threw in the Rays maybe it could be a throwback game and we'd get to see the Cardinals vs. the Devil Rays.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Between 1965 and 1975 Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö wrote a series of novels about a Stockholm detective named Martin Beck. The ten books in the series were conceived of as a whole, and intended as a Marxist critique of the bourgeois neo-liberal welfare state. They go in and out of print in the US, and are worth grabbing when you see a copy-- they don't really need to be read in sequence. I'd never seen a photograph of the authors until today, via the invaluable If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger. Swedish noir at its finest.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

My students asked for a list of movies not covered in class this semester so that they could pick one to write about for their final paper. This is the list I gave them:

In no particular order:
Chicago (2002). Good if you like musicals

Reversal of Fortune (1990)

Class Action (1991) Gene Hackman, Lawrence Fishbourn.

Legal Eagles (1986) directed by Ivan Reitman

A Man For All Seasons (1966) Thomas More is the Roman Catholic patron saint of lawyers
Witness for the Prosecution (1957) Billy Wilder's take on an Agatha Christie classic
The Fortune Cookie (1966) Walter Matheau, Jack Lemon, Billy Wilder directed.

Breaker Morant (1980) Like Witness for the Prosecution this focuses on English Common Law.

Amistad (1997) John Adams was nobody's favorite Founding Father until this came out; now he is everyone's.

A Few Good Men (1992) Speaking of crazy, Tom Cruse and Jack Nicholson

Liar, Liar (1997) Jim Carry

All of Me (1984) Lilly Tomlin, Steve Martin. If you are leaning towards Liar, Liar, consider this instead.

Adam's Rib (1949) This shows up on a lot of lists. I don't teach it for a reason, but if someone wants to take it on, godspeed, as Michael Clayton would say.

North Country (2005) Charlize Theron. Sexual harassment case

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) First Amendment
I'm of half a mind to shake things up, scratch my present list, and pick from this list next semester.

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