Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I guess you never know. I haven't appeared before John A. Michalek many times, although I have a case that was before him until recently. He impressed me as a decent sort, a down the middle, even tempered judge who was good on the law and respectful of the attorneys. Come to find out he was apparently on the take. I am really surprised.

I'm also surprised that this decent seeming judge managed to get himself caught up in such an odd, stupid way. Asking someone like Steve Pigeon to pull strings for a relative? Dude, you are a New York State Supreme Court Justice-- you have strings of your own you can pull.

One reads that many Republicans who have held or presently hold office have other plans that conflict with their convention. In a way that's too bad-- who doesn't enjoy hissing and throwing popcorn at the TV when, say, Ted Cruz or John McCain appears on the screen. Fortunately, Donald Trump has a plan: he is going to invite Mike Tyson, Mike Ditka, Bobby Knight, and NASCAR CEO Brian France to address the assembled. From Deadspin:
Earlier this month, Trump voiced his desire to have “winners” at the convention, and said that he was “thinking about getting some of the great sports people who like me a lot.” His campaign has pulled enough strings to net a convicted rapist, a clueless CEO, and two pricks.
I don't see how this hurts Trump, and it  might actually help him. Absolutely your baseline Trump voter will have greater familiarity with these sports titans than with Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan, and those guys are boring anyway. This lineup has Fox prime time written all over it, and I for one plan on watching the hell out of it.

UPDATE: Apparently not true. Too bad

Friday, June 24, 2016

I am declaring Paul Simon's "Wristband" my personal hit single of the summer. As ever the criteria for this designation are fluid, but if I am in a car when the song comes on and I say, "Hey, turn it up," that is a leading indicator

As an American I have lived my life as part of an ongoing social science experiment. That's what the (old, white) men who wrote our Constitution were doing-- they were concocting a system from a set of abstract ideas. Other countries have since done the same thing, of course, but until the European Union all of these concoctions have endured with or as a result of horrifying violence and the loss of life. The EU, imperfect though it is, has been different, and I am very disappointed that a majority of British voters have decided that they no longer want to be a part of this remarkable thing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It now appears that Omar Mateen, the Orlando mass murderer, was mostly a deranged person, and not so much a terrorist in the political sense. The reason this makes a difference is that it goes to what sorts of legislative measures might operate to prevent or make more uncommon this sort of crime. The legislation that the Senate voted down the other day was focused on screening, and frankly that does not get it done. As I have mentioned here before, last year I had a student in my law school class who went home one day, shot his parents, and was then shot and killed himself in a firefight with the police. Of course nobody saw this coming, and as it happens that includes a faculty member who is one of the leading forensic psychologists in the country. Screening laws aren't going to keep anyone from obtaining a firearm, because they presume an insight into the consciousness of the individual that is impossible.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Years ago, when I was practicing in the Bronx more or less daily I used to regularly have dreams in which Roy Cohn was a frequent character. I really don't know to this day how Cohn took up residence in my subconscious, but there he was, seldom a lead character, but always in the background. I researched him, trying to figure out where he'd gotten in-- as it happened the Bronx is one of those places where there is seldom as much as three degrees of separation. Remo Acito, for whom I worked at the time, told me once that he'd done some small favor for Cohn, appearing in court to seek an adjournment, or some such, maybe in connection with the Lionel Train case? Cohn, as was his way, had tried to return the favor, but Remo declined- "I thought it was best to stay away from it," he said, and of course he was right.

And now he is back, although I suppose he never really left. Naturally he represented Donald Trump- the two belong together, like apple pie and ice cream. Now that the commentators have gotten their minds around the idea of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee it has become fashionable to speak of him as the inevitable culmination of something or other. Lots of people think Trump is the end result of Nixon's Southern Strategy, for example, and certainly that racial demagoguery is part of what I think is going on here-- but I think it goes deeper. Cohn embodied a peculiar dark side of American culture, probably extending back to Aaron Burr; the notion that in America any deal you can make is a deal you can profit from, and the best deal is the one where the other side takes all the risk. If that sounds familiar it's because you have been following this election. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

EGS advises that her commute is made more pleasant by listing to WFMU, and that is certainly a pleasure I have had when I've had a matter in the NYC metro area. A somewhat more arcane treat is typically only available to me when I am required to appear in Westchester. Phil Schaap hosts a morning program called Bird Filght on Columbia University's station, WKCR, that is devoted to the music of Charlie Parker, and it is an amazing thing to hear. Not infrequently Schaap will embark upon a long narrative-- so long, in fact, that he pauses from time to time to announce how long he has been monologuing-- before playing the Parker number or numbers he has been elucidating. He is an amazing raconteur, who seems to know where Parker was, who he was playing with, and what he was wearing on a day-to-day basis. Come to find out that he has found two disks worth of Parker out-takes from the Verve days, and I have to admit that's pretty exciting. Charlie Parker veneration is a peculiar subset of jazz connoisseurship, and I am probably never going to pop for something like the complete Benedetti recordings, but this sounds worth looking into.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Charley Pierce on the perils of an elected judiciary

I have resisted writing about the Orlando horror because I couldn't think of a way to really get a hold on it. It is such a perfect confluence of awful: two kinds of bigotry, access to automatic weapons, all of it. I think about the people who were vacationing with their families in Orlando, and what it must have been like for them-- and of course I think about the families of the victims, who will live with this for the rest of their lives. I tried to go to the vigil held here in Buffalo, in Niagara Square, but I couldn't stay; there was praying, and frankly praying is just about the last response that seems right to me. I am angry and sick, and I feel even worse knowing that this thing is being exploited politically by the sort of people that embody the worst of America, or, I suppose, of humanity. Even worse than that is the awareness that this changes nothing. In a week or two people will have moved on, because, I guess, that is a survival tactic we have evolved. If we remembered with vivid clarity every painful episode like this we might become like characters in a Beckett novel, unable to react to anything. So tortured, self-loathing people like this guy will still be able to get automatic weapons, and horrible United States Senators will express their hollow pieties, and loathsome human beings will say loathsome things about all of it, up to and including the character or nature of the victims.

So now I've said something, because that is a thing that I do.

Friday, June 10, 2016

To Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires at Canalside last night, a terrific evening of soul that far exceeded my expectations- although not the expectations of the young hipsters who surround me. They knew all the words, and good for them. I'm happy to have caught up with this artist, who has great presence, great moves, great material and a great band. If I might allow myself one minor note of criticism it would be this: Mr. Bradley doesn't need to use quite that much of James Brown's shtick. It was, I think, mostly new to the kids in the audience, and he carried it off with aplomb, but he is good enough on his own to not need it-- itself an accomplishment.

See him. I'd see him again in a minute.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

It seems important to me to note that Hillary Clinton has done something that no woman has ever done before. We'd be remarking on the historic nature of her accomplishment a lot more if it had happened eight years ago; it is still a great achievement, and no less so because she has been so despicably and unjustifiably maligned over the entirety of her public life .

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

I'm not surprised, but Sanders' rallies have a better playlist.

For reasons that don't bear going into at the moment I find myself representing a legal resident of the US who is in deportation proceedings. Immigration law is entirely new to me, but I have a handle on the parameters of my client's case. We started out with him in the detention center in Batavia, and that was grim, but now that I am learning the ropes a little what I am realizing is that it was grim because it was a holding center. The people I interacted with out there, and the people I have been dealing with and, today, observing at the Buffalo Immigration Court, have been unusually pleasant, and this is surprising the hell out of me.

The whole thing has me a little jumpy, so I thought I'd go over to Immigration Court today to observe how the proceedings go. I'm glad that I did-- had I not I expect that my demeanor at my client's upcoming hearing would have been very different. What I saw was, of course, just a small sample-- two pro se individuals, both, I think, residents of Canada. One was there because he was being denied admission to the US on account of some sort of Canadian drug conviction; the other a woman who'd had a Green Card and given it up. It looked like a pretty busy docket, and this was a master calendar day, so all that was happening was that hearing dates were being set, but I was struck by how patiently, carefully and gently the judge handed each matter. If I hadn't checked it out in advance I'd have brought a lot more grrrrrrr in my attitude when I appear, but now I think I know better.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Is Paul Simon the worst great songwriter, or the best terrible songwriter?”* As it happens this sort of question is the sort of thing I sometimes compose essays about in my mind before drifting off to sleep. If you were building a rock and roll Parthenon you'd start, I think, with Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan, but who are the artists on the tier just below that? Neil Young? George Clinton? Jerry Lee Lewis? In the end such rankings are arbitrary and unhelpful, and they are also, I think, more or less unique to rock-- we don't argue about Miles Davis v. Clifford Brown-- we just enjoy both while acknowledging that they each embody greatness of different sorts.

All that said, Paul Simon is an interesting case, I think, because his output is so even. You can point to any number of bad Bob Dylan songs, or albums, or even decades, but Simon rolls on. Elvis made more than his share of terrible records, but Simon hasn't ever, really. I think, sometimes, that the issue with Simon is that he is such a New Yorker-- and actually such a specific sort of New Yorker, that his sensibility may be a bit too oblique. If you've never had brunch at Barney Greengrass can you understand Paul Simon? And yet, isn't part of the point of Paul Simon his omnivorous multiculturalism?

I'm liking the new one, and I am not surprised.

* Does anyone else think it is odd that Slate's pop culture writers have the same names as 60's rockers? Bill Wyman, Carl Wilson.....

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Marilyn Monroe's birthday today, and thanks to Sheila O'Malley for reminding me, and for this quote, from Billy Wilder: "She knew where the laugh was."

It is impossible to watch her without wanting to exclaim over how really good she was; and then to wonder if part of that isn't because we know how complicated she actually was, and how sad.

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