Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Thursday, July 31, 2008

An amusing piece on writing for lifestyle magazines.

"Not too long ago, I was at a party with a number of people who have successful careers in lifestyle journalism. I was chatting with a beautiful, sexy friend who writes for a magazine that covers luxury spa vacations. She got that job, in part, because she wrote a wonderful travel book about bathing culture which one critic claimed 'bred a new publishing hybrid, the beauty-travel memoir, Bruce Chatwin by way of Allure magazine.'
As we chatted, I shared some good news with her: I had just been hired to write a newspaper column about spirits and cocktails.
'You should really meet my friend,' she told me. 'He’s the perfume critic at the Times.'
'Really?' I said. 'Let me just see if I’m hearing this correctly. The luxury spa columnist would like the spirits columnist to meet the perfume columnist.'
'Yes,' she said, with a beautiful, sexy smile.
'Wait,' I said. 'Did you just hear that?'

'Oh, nothing,' I said. 'I just thought for a second that I heard the sound of the Apocalypse happening.'

I don't imagine that anything we write for Spree is all that apocalyptic, but there is a larger point: it is a challenge to write "lifestyle" articles that don't immediately lapse into cliche. This stuff is ephemera about ephemera; it's Mayflies reporting on the evanescent. And it's harder to do than it looks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Alberto Gonzales hasn't had a full-time job since his resignation. He's been scraping by giving a handful of talks at colleges and before private business groups.

And I say good. There are almost too many ways that the Bush Administration has damaged the country to properly number, but among the most prominent is the degradation of our international reputation. The United States' legal system is our crowning achievement, and Gonzales treated it with contempt. He was the worst kind of lawyer-- the lawyer who counseled his client about what he could get away with, instead of what the law required. There's a word for that kind of lawyer, and it is not a pretty one: they are called shysters, and Gonzales's picture belongs next to the definition. (pdf file)

It is interesting that his "spokesman" is Robert Bork Jr., a "corporate communications specialist". The senior Bork doesn't practice-- he's a fellow at the Hudson Institute, and a professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That's the law school founded by Tom Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza guy. Maybe Gonzalez could get a teaching gig there. Or maybe at Regent University's school of law.

Oddly, I can't find Gonzalez in Martindale Hubble or on the State Bar of Texas member search page.

The local angle on all this is that Monica Goodling, the tool that administered the dismantiling of merit appointments at the Department of Justice, was busy overruling Buffalo's own Michael Battle. Battle missed his calling: as an invertebrate, he should have been a Senate Democrat. Battle managed to land on his feet-- he is with Fulbright & Jaworski now. That's a win for Buffalo, although if he wanted to come back and practice here, I doubt that he'd have a problem. Goodling I haven't been able to locate. Nice girl like that, with classy degrees from Messiah College, and Regent University's School of Law, I'm sure there's a frozen custard stand that will hire her.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I didn't watch as much of the Tour de France as I'd have liked to this year, although I did follow it. It's good viewing when giving blood, I've found: soothing and exciting at the same time, the way a baseball game can be. Part of what makes it so much fun is the lore: we all know about the yellow jersey, but the other traditions, like the polka-dot King of the Mountains jersey and the Lanterne Rouge are just as cool.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Useful guide to avoiding bike accidents. Bottom line: people in cars can't see you. It is your job to (a) realize that they are idiots; and (b) proceed accordingly. The right turn is what I fear the most. (Via Flutterby.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Although it is past mid-July the search for my personal hit single of the summer continues. A current contender is "Sequestered in Memphis" by the Hold Steady (which you can listen to here). The number gets bonus points for dealing with legal issues in its hook: "Subpoenaed in Texas/Sequestered in Memphis"-- what's not to like about that? And it's not even the best line in the song.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Up early yesterday to take CLA to the airport for her Dutch adventure. When I got home I didn't really feel like running. It was one of those days where it was either going to be raining or so humid that rain would be a welcome relief, and hot on top of it. On the other hand, I knew I was going to want to have a refreshing beer, so I had to find something to do in order to justify it. After due deliberation, as the judges say, I resolved to tame unruly nature. The Garden Walk is next weekend. There are a number of Garden Walk houses on our block, and although nobody is likely to mistake Big Pink for one of them, I feel like we should make some effort. ("What happened here?" "I don't know. Maybe it's abandoned." "No, I think that tramp on the porch must live there." "Quiet, I think he's looking at us!")

At the Olmsted gala Friday I learned that the wet spring and summer we've had has been terrific for the trees-- Conservancy President David Culligan became quite animated telling me about how there'd be double growth rings this year. It has been such a lush summer that even our yard has a reasonable lawn, and I went at it with zeal, mowing, trimming and edging. I should probably take the whole thing the next step, and fertilize, and overseed this fall. I'm close to winning my long horrible struggle with the yard, but I doubt that I will be this motivated again until September.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I was interested, but hardly surprised by yesterday's NYTimes article about the problems the American Red Cross is experiencing with its blood collection services. Because I'm a platelets donor I get called once a month or so, and have had a chance to regularly observe the inefficiencies in our local operation. I can only imagine that it turns into a worse muddle as it scales. I don't get the sense that there is any coordination between the place that's calling and the donation center, for example. Every time I go, I am subjected to the same history process, even though the the answer to the question about how much time, if any, I have spent living abroad in the period between 1980 and 1990 will never change; even though it is obvious that I haven't had a brain dura graft in the last four weeks. The entire screening process makes me feel like I've lived a very boring, sheltered existence, which is not how I usually feel about my interesting, exciting life. Okay, I haven't been in prison, or juvenile detention, and I haven't been to Africa, or paid for sex, but I've done other things-- I was into the Ramones, like, as soon as their first album was released, and I've been to CBGBs. Maybe I don't eat squirrel brains, but I had some iffy looking oysters once.

I'd like to know more about how the Red Cross is run, but it seem pretty obvious that major changes have to be made if they are looking at board liability after five years of not being able to fix the problems. I'd spin off the disaster relief operation first, and then I would look into breaking the organization down into much smaller regional organizations-- and I mean much smaller, not Northeast/Southeast, etc., and not 50 state Red Crosses, either. Counties might be too small, but it looks to me like the Red Cross is at the point where the economies of scale have been consumed by the inefficiencies of scale, and that can't go on. I give blood because I believe that it is an important social responsibility-- there is no substitute for it, and therefore, if you are healthy you owe it to the community you live in to donate. Even though I fell this way, I have no particular affection for the Red Cross, which I suspect underpays its front line employees, and takes advantage of its reputation to exploit volunteers who should be compensated. I would never contribute money to the organization as it is presently configured, because it looks to me like a classic example of overhead eating up the mission

Thursday, July 17, 2008

EGA invited me to join Goodreads, a site that is something like Facebook, I suppose, dedicated to what you and your friends are reading or have read. It kinda looks like EGA is using it to procrastinate, but I am living in a glass house myself on that score. In order to add some content I did what I often do, and checked the back pages of Outside Counsel for some quick content. This site is supposed to function as a notebook, and it is surprising how often it comes in handy, but I was surprised by how seldom I write straight reviews of things that I have read or am reading. I'm more or less always reading something-- right now, for example, I'm reading Richard Russo's "Bridge of Sighs". It seems, however, that whatever I am reading at any given moment is mostly in the background of what I'm writing, and is only occasionally a jumping off point. Frequently the things I read are merely light amusement, and not worth the trouble to analyze or review; even more frequently what I would have to say about them wouldn't be worth the time of anyone else to read.

For whatever it is worth, the books I found that I have dedicated posts to are fairly representative of the sorts of things I read: Nick Hornby's "Songbook", Brendan Gill's "Here at The New Yorker", Faulkner's Snopes Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson's "The Years of Rice and Salt", Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild", Art and Laurie Pepper's "Straight Life", "The Adventures of Augie March", and a few other things. I've got a review of "Temptations of a Superpower" out there somewhere that I should add for some PoliSci credibility, and maybe I should hunt up a few other things in that line-- as a friend has noted, people curate their bookshelves, and why should this sort of thing be different? If you read this site you've read what I have to say about these books; as with Facebook I'm not sure what value the additional web presence adds. I kinda think these things are actually tools for people who don't care to write much, or don't really know how.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Facestat is a site that allows one to upload a headshot for others to evaluate. The site allows you to select some questions that call for one-word answers. Political affiliation, for example. (Apparently I look conservative.) How old do you think I am? (Big winner here: 45.) It also asks for one-word descriptions, which in my instance range from flattering ("cheerfulprofessor", "MoverShaker") to somewhat less so ("ThurstonHowell", "rodent", "small-eyes", "red"). Someone said "woah", but someone else said "ehhhhh". It's an interesting toy-- a personal focus group of sorts, although now that I think of it, its usefulness is somewhat limited since I don't really know much about the demographic that is using it. It's kind of a Facebook thing, which means that we are dealing with a young crowd. And I guess I already knew that I look red and professorial.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I've been reminded that I have not mentioned seeing "King Lear" at Shakespeare in Delaware Park two weeks ago. We were at the "streaker show" and if the Buffalo News thinks that couple was in their 30's they have a very different body image for the typical Western New Yorker than I do. Mid to late 20's, tops.

I've been looking forward to "Lear", which has been one of my favorites since I started reading Shakespeare. I half suspect that one one of the reasons Saul Elkin runs the thing is because "Lear" is his favorite too, and this way he gets a crack at it. (I think the chance to play Falstaff might be another reason.) Even when he isn't directing or acting Elkin defines the Shakespeare in the Park experience: his plummy recorded announcement at the start of each performance is as much a part of my summer now as the sound of John Sterling on the radio. He's assembled a pretty fair company for Shakespeare-- Tim Newell's Fool is well-done, just as you'd expect from Newell, and although Becca Elkin's Cordella was typecasting of a sort, it was nevertheless a role she is well-fitted for. I'd say the two standouts were Dan Walker as Cornwall, and Tom Zindle as Kent. Kent is easy to carry off, I suppose-- he's the only consistently likable character in the play besides Cordelia-- but Zindle did the disguise parts with brio, changing accents and body English to suit the parts. Walker was menacing-- he's a big guy, and he used his size well, the way a bully would. I flinched as he put out stupid Gloucester's eyes-- it was convincingly played. It occurs to me that it might have been interesting to see Walker as Lear and Elkin as Cornwall. A bigger, more powerful looking Lear might give a better sense of the king's fall from power and decline into insanity, and Lear is himself something of a bully in the first act. It would require Walker to play older, which I think he could do, and Elkin to bring something different to the part-- although Cornwall is Regan's husband he could be older than she without it seeming too odd. I don't think that Lear has to be cast to an age contemporary necessarily, but since it always is, it is hard to know.

I'd like to see more of that sort of thing from Shakespeare in Delaware Park, actually. Swapping roles from night to night-- Iago Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Othello on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, say-- would mix it up, and keep it fresh. We get "Merry Wives" next, but CLA will miss it. Too bad. "Merry Wives" is almost a sitcom, and I think it is well-suited for a summer evening's entertainment.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I was a pretty deft hand at the skillet this week, but due to a series of miscommunications not everybody got to enjoy it. Earlier my sister-in-law and her children stopped at Mighty Taco on their way over to our house; they missed out on a nice grass-fed London broil with a Bernaise sauce that came out rather well. Yesterday I made this chicken Saltimbocca. A. had said "Don't wait dinner," which I took to mean that we shouldn't wait for her, but that she'd eat what I prepared when she got home. What she meant was that she was going to eat before getting home, which means she missed a pretty nice supper. The four ingredient recipe is so simple I almost screwed it up ("Maybe I should add some garlic," I mused). This one goes into the repertoire, I think, but I may try this one first.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Judge Skretny has ruled that the Seneca's downtown Buffalo Buffalo casino was not properly authorized by the Department of the Interior to run gaming operations-- the land is theirs, and it is "Indian country" but it is not "gaming eligible". In order for the Buffalo property to have been gaming eligible under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act the Buffalo parcel had to have been acquired pursuant to the settlement of a land claim, but the Seneca Nation Settlement Act was not enacted to settle a land claim. It was never disputed that the Seneca owned the land where the City of Salamanca is located; the SNSA was enacted to make up for the fact that the 99 year lease was a poor deal for the Seneca. Background here; decision (long, long pdf document) here.

I've followed this pretty closely, and even made a presentation to AHIA on this topic. I think this decision is correct on the law, although the Seneca Nation Settlement Act could have been better written to have made this clear from the get-go. From the quick look I have been able to give the opinion, it seems to me that the Second Circuit is likely to find little to quibble with-- in the manner of District Court decisions there is a pretty comprehensive record. I am very pleased with this outcome. I have no doubt that quite a few people will be upset, notwithstanding the fact that the casino as it exists has provided no benefit whatsoever to the city-- just as the Niagara Falls casino has in its community.

If I were the Seneca, I'd go full steam ahead on building the hotel. The location-- near the waterfront, near the area-- is a good location, and the property could easily supplant the Convention Center for the meetings and convention business that comes to Buffalo. The Niagara Falls casino does a solid business. It has the best spa in the area; books musical acts that appeal to our demographic (not mine-- never even been tempted by Blood, Sweat and Tears, but people go); and it seems as though it does well on that basis alone, leaving the gaming aside. A first rate hotel and convention cneter in Buffalo would be competing against properties that are faded at best. The Mobil Guide gives the Hyatt three stars, the Adam's Mark two. That's pretty low-end. I've been wondering for years why the local hotel industry hasn't been more visible in its opposition to the Buffalo casino. Perhaps it was because they reckoned they were not in competition for the same business. A proper convention hotel would attract outside money, and, unlike a casino, would benefit other businesses. A casino is a gesture of contempt-- it tells the people in your neighborhood that you view them as chumps. If the Seneca are hell-bent on fleecing marks, they can run a jitney to their Falls establishment-- even at $4.50 a gallon they'll make money.

Obviously this is an argument that is far from over, but the result today is an opportunity for the Seneca to demonstrate that they meant it when they told us that they wanted to contribute to the local economy. Handled properly this can work to everyone's benefit.

I was just thinking about backup bands the other day. You know who was pretty good was Elton John's band back in the mid 70's. I don't really like Elton John-I think his singing is whiny, and there isn't a single Bernie Taupin lyric that isn't just slightly wrong enough to wreck the song, except for the Bernie Taupin lyrics that are flat out stupid. (I'm looking at you, "Tiny Dancer".) Even so, Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone, together with Elton's piano are a solid unit, and deserve consideration.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I was sorry to learn that The Honorable David J. Mahoney died over the weekend. If there was ever a judge that deserved the honorific "honorable" it was Judge Mahoney, who was liked by everyone, and who, throughout his career on the bench and at the bar, worked to diminish conflict rather than foster it. He had a solid temperament, and a gentle sense of humor, qualities that are rare enough in the world at large, and rarer still in our glamor profession. I will miss the way he used to defuse contention, and I will miss the cartoons he did for the Erie County Bar Journal. He was the embodiment of honorable.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I was trying to work Jessie Helms into yesterday's post, and couldn't turn the corner. I like the headline in the Village Voice: Jesse Helms Finally Dies; but I think this obit, from the Guardian, really captures how destructive the hateful son of a bitch was: not only did he stand for just about every despicable quality embodied by the American Right, he devised a corrupt system of campaign finance to promote it. The NYTimes obit is notable for is pusillanimity.

I try hard to associate the US with the good things we have contributed to the world: the Bill of Rights, "Moby Dick", the Blues, jazz, and Rock'n'Roll. Like Sarah Vowell, when I fly over the country I try to think about Carl Perkins and William Faulkner. We've produced a fair number of cultural heroes, but we'd have had to produced quite a few more to compensate for horrorshows like Helms. Enjoy hell, Jessie, and say hello to Strom for us.

Friday, July 04, 2008

To the Bison's game last night, our first time this season. It was a 13 inning barn burner which the Herd lost, 7-6, after tying the game with a four run ninth inning charge. They lost the crowd as soon as they went into extras-- it was a full house, but most people were there for the Philharmonic and the fireworks.

The Philharmonic put on an odd concert-- a "Star Wars" medley, and a medley of songs from "The Jungle Book", but then they got down to cases and played a "Tribute to the Armed Forces". I suppose the 4th of July has always been a more or less martial holiday, and that it's me that has changed, but I'm pretty uncomfortable with the Reichsparteitag feel that these displays give off. It seems to me that honoring this aspect of the United States gets it exactly wrong-- our military history is, for the most part, the opposite of what is supposed to be great about America. It's the first nation that was formed out of an idea of what a just society ought to be, and the ideas that are our national foundation remain good ideas, even if largely aspirational. American Triumphalism, on the other hand is one of the great temptations our national character struggles with, and the sight of men in military uniforms, and the sound of stirring military music makes it far too easy to forget that these are children that we are sending into a meatgrinder. I don't like being manipulated that way, and I resent Independence Day being used like that. Far better, I think, to start the day the way NPR has started it for us for years now, by reading the Declaration of Independence. The opportunity to contemplate what we are supposed to be living up to, and holding our government to should be regarded as a patriotic act.

As a lawyer I regard the role of our glamor profession in our society as fundamental, and it pleases me that the law has been so important in making the United States a country which allows human potential to flourish. Our worst enemies have always been ourselves, of course, but because we value law, and believe in its strength, our worst impulses eventually fall. They are falling now, for example, as the courts are repudiating the Bush Administration's cynical rejection of our principles. It pleases me to think that Barack Obama may be our next President, as much for what that would demonstrate to the world about America as for any other reason.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Good survey of regional hot dog styles.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

It is embarassing to be scooped on this, but it's a great story nevertheless: Adam Liptak reports that Justice Roberts incorrectly quotes "Like A Rolling Stone" in his dissenting opinion in Sprint Communications v. APCC Services.

Per Roberts:

"The absence of any right to the substantive recovery means that respondents cannot benefit from the judgment they seek and thus lack Article III standing," Chief Justice Roberts wrote. " 'When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.' Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone, on Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia Records 1965)."

Per Liptak:

"What Mr. Dylan actually sings, of course, is, "When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose." It’s true that many Web sites, including Mr. Dylan’s official one, reproduce the lyric as Chief Justice Roberts does. But a more careful Dylanist might have consulted his iPod.

Liptak continues, "Alex B. Long, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and perhaps the nation’s leading authority on the citation of popular music in judicial opinions, said this was almost certainly the first use of a rock lyric to buttress a legal proposition in a Supreme Court decision. "It’s a landmark opinion," Professor Long said. In the lower courts, according to a study Professor Long published in the Washington & Lee Law Review last year, Mr. Dylan is by far the most cited songwriter. He has been quoted in 26 opinions. Paul Simon is next, with 8 (12 if you count those attributed to Simon & Garfunkel). Bruce Springsteen has 5. But Mr. Dylan has only once before been cited as an authority on Article III standing, which concerns who can bring a lawsuit in federal court. His key contribution to legal discourse has been in another area. 'The correct rule on the necessity of expert testimony has been summarized by Bob Dylan: 'You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,' " a California appeals court wrote in 1981, citing "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Eighteen other decisions have cited that lyric."

As we have pointed out in the past, our url at Outside Counsel is taken from "Absolutely Sweet Marie", but we have never revealed the back story. In view of the intersection of Dylanology and the Law in today's news now seems the time.

Some years back I was retained as local counsel by a former colleague of A's from her Brooklyn District Attorney days. The case (Freight Drivers, Helpers, Dockmen & Allied Workers Local No. 375 v. Kingsway Transports, Inc. 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15318) was a labor law dispute which turned on a rather esoteric question of arbital jurisdiction. The employer, who we represented, had initially objected to and reserved the issue of arbitral jurisdiction but still submitted the issue to the arbitrator, and was now seeking de novo review. At one point during oral argument the judge asked why, if our client had thought that the issue was not arbitable, it had gone forward with the hearing. The answer was that the question of arbitability was part of what had been submitted in the arbitration, and that de novo review made sense in that context, "Because," as my lead counsel argued, "as Bob Dylan said, 'To live outside the law you must be honest'." Later he confided that he had been waiting his entire legal career to drop that line into oral argument, and although it did not carry the day, I knew that the moment deserved to be memorialized. (Thanks to Lawyers, Guns and Money for the Liptak cite.)

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