Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why Bother Being Politically Correct?

Is anyone really pc? I don't know anyone who doesn't let something truly off-color slip every once in awhile, including me.

But I have to say, when it comes to custody battles, I could truly care less which gender the prevailing parent is, as long as the kids have ended up in a good place (as best anyone can see from the facts, of course).

And this is coming from a person who went to all all-girls' school, where feminism was instilled in me as deeply as my love for classic rock and soul music. But the kind of feminism that teaches women to achieve their full potential, and not search for excuses to underperform because of their gender. To feel good about themselves, and comfortable in their own skin, and never accept anything less than equal treatment. To seek fairness for themselves, and for others. To strive for the truth, and not fool themselves with bland, meaningless euphemisms that accomplish nothing.

Not a bad way to live. Takes a lot of energy and will-power, though, which I often lack. Yet another reason to be glad someone invented chocolate, the supreme comforter of the hopelessly inadequate...

A Rant About Temporary Orders of Protection

My latest article on Huffington Post:

Let's discuss the bad, no, let's make that the absolute worst, court order in family law cases where kids are involved: The temporary order of protection, more affectionately known as the TOP.

First, a disclaimer: Some TOPs have validity, and some actually work. There are people who seriously need to be protected from abusive or threatening individuals, and are at imminent risk of harm. The resulting TOP will work if the respondent has a lingering remnant of respect for the law, or fear of repercussion -- like arrest or imprisonment -- if s/he violates the order. (Many doubt that a simple piece of paper will dissuade a truly violent person from his/her intended harm.) And the TOP is better yet if the police are quick to enforce it. These are the meritorious orders. Who in their right mind can quarrel with them?

But bogus TOPs are more often the norm, and they hurt everyone.

In meritorious cases, family court judges can become so inured to requests for TOP's that at-risk people may be denied the protection they need, sometimes with horrific consequences. It happens, and not just in big cities, either.

What about the respondent in the completely bogus TOP case? S/he is usually cut off from the kids, suddenly and indefinitely -- with little or no physical, telephone, written or even electronic contact -- while the case gets adjourned ad nauseum, based on allegations s/he never even had a chance to contest in court prior to the issuance of the TOP.

And the kids in these cases? Usually they're confused by the abrupt disappearance of one parent. If they're lucky, they won't get poisoned too much by the petitioner or his/her friends and relatives. Chances are, they will. Therapists, come on and join the gang of total strangers (judges, law guardians, child protective services, forensic evaluators, etc. etc.) now intruding on this family.

Let's not forget the petitioner, who thinks s/he has just scored big-time in the impending custody battle. S/he may not have noticed the damage s/he has just caused his/her family - which no custody award in his/her favor will ever erase. And s/he runs the risk that a very patient respondent -- one who's prepared to ride the waves of mostly negative rulings for a while, and who's hired a good lawyer - will eventually expose the phony claims. If the respondent has a fair amount of facts in his/her favor, s/he may even prove it's the petitioner who's really harming the family. Boom. Custody unexpectedly awarded to the respondent.

And everyone will have nice hefty legal fees for their efforts.

There, now, wasn't that a productive exhibition of hostility?


Friday, February 11, 2011

A Family Lawyer Dies In A SWAT Gun Battle

A respected family lawyer in Virginia snapped under pressure. He holded up in his house and pointlessly battled a SWAT team for a few hours. His wife (who is also his law partner) has got to be reeling still from these events.

What happened to Mr. Ferris that would have made him act like a desperado? No one really knows. They found some beer and meds in his house, so maybe he was depressed. They found a picture of a sniper there, too, and - bizarre twist, given his legal practice area -he was also a licensed gun dealer. So maybe he was just a troubled guy, although local residents described him otherwise, and be was apparently very involved in his community.

Very tragic, seeing anyone throw away their life. At least he didn't kill his wife and kids...

I first read about this in the ABA Journal:

I couldn't find out much more, even after reading this:
UPDATE: Cause of death released for Ferris in Chesterfield shoot - WTOC, Savannah, Georgia, news, weather and sports |

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Get Up, Stand Up

Here's an inspired post from Dan Hull (who else?), suggesting that we - and, in particular, educated professionals - should stop wallowing in conformity, stop playing it safe in our thinking, renew our leadership and innovation roles in society. I've blocked and pasted it in its entirety. Even though the post is a little long, Dan's impatience with mediocrity is always refreshing and cogent:

Heroes, Leaders & True Grit: Anyone Out There Have Soul, Style and Sand?

Do "educated" Americans and other Westerners ever stand up anymore?

We live in an increasingly consensus-driven society--if you are a lawyer, or some other kind of professional or executive, it's more cookie-cutter than ever before. You get patted on the head for making your thoughts and actions risk-averse and business as usual. You are rewarded for being a Soulless Dork.

Who leads? Which execs? Which lawyers? Which doctors? Which humans who've acquired or been given valuable educations, experiences, things and gifts many others don't have?

Anglo-Irish, Angry and Brave. So now add this Clergyman and Satirist to our Cosmos of Heroes. He was a unique and rare gent. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the author of Gulliver's Travels, was truly authentic, and maybe not quite as sick and strange as his contemporary critics thought; they saw him through the lens of the many illnesses that plagued his last decade and put him in a permanently bad mood. Certainly, he had no fair shake from any of us in the last century, when we all went nuts on Freud.

Sure, Swift could be abrasive. And hyper-aggressive. He made enemies, both literary and political. But he was influential. We still talk about and, when at our best, emulate the purity underneath his anger and sarcasm. He is of course the man who, in his pursuit of Irish causes, and fighting the alternating apathy and arrogance of the English, suggested that Ireland's poorest address their poverty by selling their children as food to the rich.

Those who knew Dean Swift were impressed that he put his ideas and notions of wrongs to be righted ahead of all of his many simultaneous careers. He put ideas and the plights of others ahead of his own comfort and popularity.

Big Moxie--it fueled Swift's desire for justice and his need to end the suffering of others--had a life-long hold on Swift.

Yet he was very much part of The Establishment of the England and Ireland of his time. In fact, a mainstay.

So who's brave these days?

Are Americans "stand up" people anymore? We live in a consensus society and, if you are a lawyer, or some other kind of Western "professional", it's perhaps even worse.

You get patted on the head for making your thoughts and actions risk-averse and business as usual. It's safe that way. You never need to lead. And you are actually rewarded for "it"--i.e., Flying the Colors of Sameness--in the short term.

Who apart from clever publicity hounds thinks on their own, acts, embraces unpopular but sound ideas about new practice models, and are not afraid of the consequences in our conservative, conformist and essentially tradition-for-tradition's sake calling?

Just pro bono work for the poor and disenfranchised? Bar association causes and events? The Rotary? Insular church groups? Work soup kitchens on Thanksgiving? An occasional letter to the editor? Chamber of Commerce membership for people who look and talk just like you?

Give us a break. Why don't you just put on little hat, play the banjo and do a self-congratulatory dance for co-workers, friends and neighbors?

Reach higher. For starters, what about the 24/7 primacy of the main event: everyday buyers, customers and clients as a focus which never changes? Doing your jobs with skill and pride. Never taking them for granted. Inspiring others with your passion.

What about real innovation? What about thinking and acting on your own--and away from the Change-Hating Mediocre Herd? Never Reading Self-Improvement or "Business Leadership" books? Why not use your "educations" and too-often stagnant minds to think, create, act and lead?

And be like Dean Swift? Substance. Soul. Style. Sand.

Who leads? Which execs? Which lawyers? Which doctors? Which humans who have been given things many others don't have?

Dead of Winter

Up late as usual, trying to get motivated. It's freezing, icy and inky outside, my car's in the shop because some idiot sideswiped me when I was parked on the side of a street so I'm housebound - not like I really want to go anywhere when it's in the single digits even under a tinny sun.
Got my computer back from repairs, so I can write again. I have to pull myself into positive thinking mode again. I see the divorce blogs are focusing, as always, on the latest celebrity blow-out. Who the hell cares??? And once you see it on one site, does it really matter if it's posted somewhere else? The writing blogs focus on the author's latest book tours, current projects, that sort of thing. And the law blogs, chugging away with the pop culture antics of some out-of-control lawyer.
It's the dead of winter.