John Y. Brown, III: Federal Judge David Hale

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Miller, Hale and Brown in 1995

25 years ago this fall, I found myself shoveling books in and out of a law school locker next to a tall, clean-cut young man who was soft spoken and kind yet also very thoughtful and keenly intelligent.

We became easy friends and enjoyed each others company through our law school years. We went out weekends with our wives and served together as summer associates at Brown, Todd and Heyburn (now Frost, Brown, Todd). By the end of our legal education I counted David Hale as one of my closest friends in life.

A few years after that, David was my closest advisors in my effort to run for Secretary of State. When my campaign seemed in trouble, David intervened. He introduced me to his dear friend, a Harvard College and Harvard Law grad named Jonathan Miller. The two men single handedly managed my campaign, wrote my commercials, and David even used the backyard of his parent’s house (and his father’s office inside) to film my commercials. I was 31 and David and Jonathan were in their late 20s. We had a lot of pluck and energy and had no real idea what we were doing —but had the youthful exuberance that led us to believe we could do it successfully anyway. And we were right.

David continued to be a dear friend and advisor ever since. We became neighbors for many years and in times of personal self-doubt or spiritual upheaval, David Hale was always there…always offering to be helpful and give his time and thoughtful and caring insights. But perhaps most importantly, to always listen. David listens better than about anyone I’ve ever known. And has the rare gift of being a person who has never heard a stupid or silly question. I remember pulling David aside in my mid 30’s one day after we had lunch and asking embarrassingly, “What exactly is the Holy Spirit? I think it is something I’ve felt before but didn’t know there was an actual term for it.” David explained it to me calmly and matter-of-factly without ever wincing — just like I had asked him directions to the nearest convenient store.

David’s priorities have never wavered. When he wasn’t at work, he seemed to be involved at his church or doing something with is family. And if he wasn’t doing any of those things, he was reading some meaty book or talking to a close friend about history, law, politics or religion.

In the 25 years I have known David he has never spoken a curse word or shared an off-color joke. At least not in my presence. It’s kinda maddening, to tell you the truth. And forces me to reign in my own salty language and penchant for occasional coarse humor when in private. This side of David may be maddening to me. But it also makes me a better person. David has that affect on people. Most remarkably of all, you never feel like David is judging you or feeling holier than thou. You just get the sense that you are with a good friend, no better and no worse, but who is perhaps trying a little harder than you to be a little bit better person that day.

David is a devoted father and husband who pays attention to the big things in life. But he also tends to the smaller details. I remember several times walking or driving by David’s house and seeing him pulling up “crab grass.” He explained to me what it was and why it had to be yanked out— but I never paid close attention because I never wanted to feel compelled to comb through my yard pulling out irritating weeds. I never said it to David but thought to myself, “Hell, I can’t tell the difference between crabgrass and real grass…why don’t you just leave it and pretend it all blends together?” And I didn’t say it, of course, because David would never do that.

David sees the big picture about as well as anyone I know. He stays focused on the main point of the main thing and for the main reasons in every matter. But he also deals with the details just as deftly — and prunes away the extraneous crabgrass as he mentally mows through a complicated concept or situation he is analyzing — whether in his personal or professional life. And when he is finished explaining to you why he has decided whatever conclusion he has come to, you feel grateful David has so thoughtfully simplified and clarified such a complex and thorny situation for you. And pointed you in the right direction.

And the same traits that have helped make David Hale such a great friend to so many and a model person I look up to so admiringly, are many of the same traits that will help make him a great federal judge, just as he has served so honorably as our U.S Attorney in recent years.

It’s a cliche to say when something good happens to someone that it “Couldn’t have happened to a better guy.” Except in that rare instance when it is not a cliche. And such is the case with David J Hale’s appointment today, by a unanimous U.S Senate vote, to make him our new federal court judge for the Western District of Kentucky.

And we are all fortunate to have David in this role overseeing the proper dispensation of justice –where he is sure to be as good and decent and thoughtful a federal judge as he is a good and decent and thoughtful person.

Will Meyerhofer: Save the World

Will MeyerhoferIf law students are annoying, then pre-law students are twice as annoying. There’s something about observing these lemmings scrabble their way into the maws of ruthless law schools, despite dire warnings and appeals to common sense, that just…gets under my skin.

Even after so much effort has been expended for their benefit – i.e., which part of “Way Worse Than Being a Dentist” didn’t you understand? – these piteous creatures patiently queue up for their punishment, hungry to “learn to think like a lawyer.” If your resolve weakens, and pity prevails over contempt, you might mistakenly engage one in conversation. For your trouble, you’ll receive an earful of a clueless pipsqueak’s master plan to save the world. Because – you hadn’t heard? – that’s why he’s going to law school: The betterment of humanity.

Because that’s what the world so desperately needs:  Another lawyer.

Somehow or other, these automata get it into their programming that, if they actually did want to save the world, becoming a lawyer would be a sensible way to do it. They are unaware of how imbecilic their words sound to anyone not entirely befuddled by the miasma of law school propaganda.

Law schools inundate proto-lawyers with ‘lawyers save the world’ nonsense, cramming their crania with musty tales of Brown v Board of Ed. That’s because the schools are well aware of the likely effect of such indoctrination: Greasing the rails to the killing floor. If a kid can tell himself he’s going to “change the world” – as opposed to, say, “make a lot of money and feel like a big deal” – then he’ll line up that extra bit more smugly for the $160k/year that makes his eyes roll up into his head and a little string of drool form at the corner of his mouth.

It’s simple: If you can tell yourself you’re doing it for the good of humankind, you won’t feel so guilty selling out in the most soulless, stereotypical way imaginable.

 

You know the vast majority of law students will end up deeply in debt and unemployed. We all know that. But before that happens, the sorry little shlemiels honest-to-god tell themselves they’re going to save the world.

The problem is lawyers very seldom do change the world, at least for the better. The bulk of significant positive change that the world experiences at any given moment – surprise! – doesn’t derive from the actions of lawyers. It derives from the actions of non-lawyers, or, at very least, lawyers acting in non-lawyer-y ways.

Evidence? Let’s start with a quote from one of the nation’s top civil rights attorneys, Michelle Alexander, from her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:

In recent years…a bit of mythology has sprung up regarding the centrality of litigation to racial justice struggles. The success of the brilliant legal crusade that led to Brown has created a widespread perception that civil rights lawyers are the most important players in racial justice advocacy…Not surprisingly…many civil rights organizations became top-heavy with lawyers. This development enhanced their ability to wage legal battles but impeded their ability to acknowledge or respond to the emergence of a new caste system. Lawyers have a tendency to identify and concentrate on problems they know how to solve – i.e., problems that can be solved through litigation. The mass incarceration of people of color is not that kind of problem.

Got that? Here’s a top-flight lawyer, at the center of a struggle to address the disaster of a nation that locks up a vast percentage of its poorest, most vulnerable citizens based largely on their race (whites don’t go to jail for minor drug possession offenses, blacks do.) What’s she saying? There are too many lawyers.

Read the rest of…
Will Meyerhofer: Save the World

The RP: Fancy Farm 2014 — A Twitter Recap

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John Y’s Musings from the Middle: My Memorial Day Epiphany

jyb_musingsAs I walked out my front door this morning carrying my laptop bag, I pulled the door behind me with a prolonged tug that caused my index finger to mash between the door and the door pane. 

I clasped my throbbing finger as my voice strained to curse loudly enough to offer relief but not so loud that neighbors could hear. 

I slowly uncovered and peeked at my swollen finger tip and then went back inside for no other reason than to sigh loudly and curse louder than I had outside in hopes someone would wake up and ask me about my injured finger.

But no one did.

So I left. Again. This time with a sore finger tip and hurt feelings.

It was at this moment I realized how grateful I was for the brave men and women and who fought and died in combat so wimpy and whiny guys like me –who would never have made it in combat– can have a good life today.

And even do frivolous things like writing on Facebook this morning about mashing a finger tip.

And also to do easy but more thoughtful things like thanking the many stronger and braver American service men and women who came before me –and many others like me — and had our backs. And gave their lives for people they would never know but who someday, like today, might want to say “Thank you.”

Thank you. And thank you again. Every day, of course- –but especially on Memorial Day.

==

SALUTE

Those who fought and died so that those who came after could live freely and in peace.

Lauren Mayer: We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

I’m probably dating myself by referencing that antique, fairly offensive Virginia Slims tagline, encouraging women to embrace feminist progress by flaunting their own florally decorated brand of cigarettes.  Now it comes across as hideously dated, but in the 1960s, the idea that women could do anything that men could – including poisoning themselves with nicotine – was both novel and incredibly exciting.  When I was around eight years old, I remember struggling with whether I would prefer to be a world famous concert pianist or the first female president.  (Yeah, I was thinking small . . . . )

I got a taste of politics as a college intern in Washington (although no one made a pass at me except for a bartender with bad breath. . .  but I digress), and learned fairly quickly that I didn’t have a thick enough skin to survive in that arena.  But I always wondered whether I’d get to see someone else achieve that ‘first female president’ goal.

Like all good starving artists, I was working as a waitress in New York when Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as the first female member of a major party presidential ticket, and all of us called our mothers in a collective burst of feminist solidarity.   So by 2008, I was ready for some more groundbreaking – excited for Hillary Clinton to be even a viable candidate, and thrilled that I resembled Sarah Palin enough to come in 2nd in a lookalike contest.

But now it’s looking like Mrs. Clinton isn’t just a possibility, she’s already assumed to be the de facto nominee for 2016 (if she chooses to run; the suspense over that choice has been as gripping as any of the soap operas that have gone off the air). It’s fascinating to see how people react.  If nothing else, she has proven that she definitely has the resilience, thick skin, and quick reflexes to rebound from whatever gets thrown at her, from insults to conspiracy theories to random shoes (to insulting conspiracy theories about how she was somehow behind that shoe throwing . . . )

 

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Thank You to a Real Public Servant

jyb_musingsThank you– to a real public servant. 

Louis Hall, a quiet and unassuming man, who went to work every day at our State Capitol for 62 years, retired today. 

Louis never held elective office. And never aspired to. 

Louis never helped shape public policy or wrote a Supreme Court decision or issued an executive order. And that was fine with him.

But Louis was a personality, a smile, and a sunny disposition who did his job dutifully every day in our state Capitol and made it a little bit better place to work. And has been doing so since Alben W Barkley was the vice-president of the United States and presidential candidates relied on corny musical jingles like “I like Ike” to get elected.

Lewis was a friend to everyone who took the time to say hello back to him. As well as a friend to those who didn’t. And in a place where friendliness can often be suspect, there was never an ulterior motive with Louis.

He was a constant fixture at our state Capitol for over six decades. While history was getting made –or not getting made– Lewis was quietly and graciously doing his job and never failed to deliver a kind word or humorous remark whenever he had the opportunity.

And those things are important in ways that are difficult to measure and are never fully appreciated –until they are gone.

Monday morning will start off like every other Monday at our state Capitol, for those who work there. But by lunchtime –or certainly by late afternoon–something will feel like it is missing even though it will be hard to put your finger on what that something is.

It will be the daily smile you took for granted and the friendly face you always enjoyed seeing as you turned to walk down a hallway at the state Capitol.

And could never imagine not being there.

KPB’s “Guess the KY Gubernatorial Ticket” Contest

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With Crit Luallen’s announcement yesterday that she would NOT be seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2015, the field that will be jockeying for the Governor’s Mansion next year should be coming into sharper focus soon after the next Kentucky Derby winner poses with its garland of roses.

The RP’s Kentucky Political Brief is turning this political horse race into an opportunity for you to WIN BIG BUCKS.  OK, actually something more valuable — two lower Rupp Arena tickets to an early season University of Kentucky men’s basketball home game. (And they are going to be stacked!)

Here’s the contest:

In the comments section below this post (note that you need to use your Facebook account to participate), guess the names of each Governor/Lt. Governor ticket that will be officially formed by the start of political speaking at the 2014 Fancy Farm Picnic.  The tiebreaker will be the recorded air temperature in Fancy Farm, Kentucky at 2:00 PM CDT, Saturday, August 2, 2014.  Entries can be made NOW, and you can make your guess anytime before the conclusion of the Kentucky Derby, late afternoon, Saturday, May 3.

Your entry will be judged as follows:  1 point for each correct gubernatorial prediction.  5 points for each correct ticket (Governor and Lt. Governor).  You will lose 2 points for each Governor candidate you incorrectly predict (that is, if they have not officially chosen a running mate by Fancy Farm).  There will be no penalties for incorrect LG picks, because those are hard.

While I won’t claim the prize if I win, here are my bets (in alphabetical order so I don’t get in any trouble):

Cathy Bailey and Matt Bevin

Jamie Comer and Ellen Williams

Jack Conway and Sannie Overly

Adam Edelen and Rocky Adkins

Hal Heiner and K.C. Crosbie

Daniel Mongiardo and Todd Hollenbach

Fancy Farm Temperature at 2:00 PM CDT, August 2: 94 degrees

OK, now your turn.  And a reminder — only entries made below this post before the finish of this year’s Kentucky Derby will be eligible, and the contest is not a reflection of who makes the post next May, but rather, which tickets have been officially entered by Fancy Farm 2014.

All right — your turn:

Jonathan Miller on the Crit Luallen Announcement

Please Vote for Me — on Dancing with the Stars

Dancing with the Stars 2I never thought I’d say this again, but…I’d like to ask for your vote.

Don’t worry: I haven’t fallen off the recovering politician wagon.

Lisa and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary by competing in Lexington’s version of Dancing with the Stars (sponsored by our local Rotary Club).  And despite my two left liberal feet, with the awesome instruction of Arthur Murray dance teacher Rae Dunn, and the continued fitness direction of globally-recognized personal trainer Josh Bowen, we’re actually getting in pretty good shape for the competition on May 10.

But I need your help.

(Sorry for that last sentence.  My fundraising letter-writing muscle is to blame)

Your vote matters. and it is easy, affordable and for a great cause.  Click here and scroll down the left side of the page to my picture, enter the number of votes you want to cast (at $5 per vote), and click the button at the bottom of the page to “pay now and vote.”

Your $5 contribution will go straight to benefit an incredible local program: Surgery on Sunday, as well as to the Lexington Rotary Club Endowment Fund, which supports more than 15 local community initiatives and charitable endeavors including the Carnegie Center of Literacy and Learning, Central Kentucky Radio Eye, Saint James Place, Explorium of Lexington, The Friends of the Arboretum, God’s Pantry Food Bank,  International Book Project, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Mustang Troop, OWL-Opportunity for Work and Learning, Toyota Bluegrass Miracle League, World Fit and the YMCA of Central Kentucky Back to School Rallies.

So please click here, vote for me early and often (just $5 a vote!!!), and I promise not to run any negative campaign ads against my opponents.  (Of course, if independent groups and 527s join the fray, I can’t do anything about that.)

Jeff Smith: Chris Christie is Toast

The good news for Chris Christie is that some of the country’s most prominent  pundits believe that nearly three months after the George Washington Bridge  scandal first broke, the New Jersey governor is in good shape.

“You go around and you talk to Republicans, and they like Chris Christie more  today than they did three months ago … other than Jeb Bush, he still has the  clearest path to this nomination,” said“Morning Joe” host and Politico columnist Joe Scarborough last Tuesday,  apparently not as an April Fool’s joke. Scarborough reasoned that the liberal  media’s Christie pile-on might have endeared the governor to some conservatives  put off by his post-Hurricane Sandy embrace of President Barack Obama.

The bad news for Christie is that unlike some pundits, federal prosecutors  are not persuaded by white-shoe law firms’ “independent” investigations or  confrontational press conferences during which politicians are said to have  regained their “mojo.” Political pundits don’t tend to think like lawyers;  they’re focused on the horse race. It’s no wonder the narrative thus far has  downplayed legal liability.

I noted this divide in January, when I predicted  that Christie’s real problem was legal, not political, and that he would  ultimately be brought down not by Bridgegate itself but by an unrelated  investigation stemming from it in the same way that Monica Lewinsky had nothing  to do with an ill-fated Arkansas land deal called Whitewater and Al Capone went  down for tax evasion. Federal prosecutorial tentacles would make an octopus  envious. And so despite two marathon press conferences, a 360-page report  produced after an internal investigation by Christie’s lawyer Randy Mastro and  beheadings for much of his inner circle, Christie is actually in worse  shape than he was in when the scandal first broke.

***

The first reason for this is simple. As I know  all too well, having gone to prison for charges related to campaign finance  violations, years can elapse between the time federal agencies first begin  probing a target and the time they actually bring charges, and the deliberate,  exhaustive nature of federal investigations is legend. (To take one example,  when I reported for my post-conviction interview with agents, they knew the  dates I had visited a casino and amounts of money I had withdrawn from an ATM a  decade earlier, despite this being totally unrelated to the investigation.) Just  ask Vincent Gray, the soon-to-be  former mayor of Washington, D.C., who has been on the defensive after a  multi-year federal investigation into his campaign finances. The recent lull in  the Christie case (briefly interrupted Friday afternoon by the appearance  of Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak before a grand jury) may be just an  illusion—a glassy ocean surface with vicious activity occurring in the depths.  No one who talks to the feds would breathe a word, for multiple reasons, from  the obvious (prosecutorial orders/fear of an obstruction of justice charge) to  the more subtle (the shame of snitching on a beloved boss and patron).

Christie’s continuing  travel and exceptional  fundraising as Republic Governors Association chair and likely  presidential candidate is aimed in large part at combating the impression of  a weakening governor with all avenues of political advancement quickly closing.  But given the length, breadth and opacity of federal investigations, this is  like a surfer in the eye of the hurricane exhorting his pals, “Rain’s stopped – surf’s up!”

Perhaps there’s even a whiff of denial on Christie’s part: If I just  pretend that everything’s back to normal, and wow the national Republican  audiences who like me more than ever, maybe this will all fade away.

Jeff SmithI know the psychology well: After the feds knocked on my door the morning of  my re-election kickoff fundraiser, I gritted my teeth, raised $100,000 that  night (on the advice of counsel, who recommended that I proceed as if nothing  were amiss) and wished the successful event could make it all go away. (I ended  up returning all the donations.) But while a federal target is traipsing around  with billionaires in Orlando and Las Vegas, the gears of justice continue  grinding away with a singular focus. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like  a nail; and for federal prosecutors focused on public corruption, the bigger the  public figure, the larger the scalp. Of course, the only thing sweeter than  bringing down a front-running presidential candidate would be nabbing one who  made his name prosecuting public corruption as a U.S. attorney.

The second reason Christie may be in worse shape now is the accumulation of  troubling information about David Samson. The Christie-appointed Port Authority  Commission chairman’s continued silence in the face of emails suggesting that he  wanted to “retaliate” against Port Authority staff who re-opened the lanes is disturbing enough. In  another e-mail, Samson accused the authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye  (who was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat) of “stirring up  trouble” by talking about the lane closures. Both of these contemporaneous  emails strongly indicate that if – as Christie has maintained – Samson denied  knowing the reason for the lane closures, he was lying. If Samson, per the  emails, knew the truth then and told Christie, the governor has been lying.  Neither option suits Christie, which may explain why the internal investigatory  report essentially ignored the emails.

But far more problematic from a legal perspective are the myriad conflict of  interest questions raised by the involvement of Samson’s law firm, Wolff &  Samson, in Port Authority business. First came Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s  allegation that New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Christie ally, threatened to  withhold hurricane recovery aid to Hoboken – one of the state’s hardest hit  cities – unless Zimmer agreed to support a billion-dollar development project  spearheaded by a Wolff & Samson client. Guadagno strenuously denies  that accusation as “false” and “illogical,” but MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki obtained  emails related to the project sent from a Wolff & Samson attorney  representing the developer to a Hoboken city attorney, pressing Hoboken’s  attorney to speak with Samson and copying him on the email. If the Port  Authority chairman’s law associate was trying to muscle the city into  green-lighting a development—and keeping him in the loop on his activities—that  would obliterate the line between Samson’s personal business interests and his  public role as chairman.

Read the rest of…
Jeff Smith: Chris Christie is Toast

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