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Lessons I Have Learned Print E-mail
by John Browning    Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 01:49 PM

          Around this time of year, graduating students at all levels are treated to pearls of wisdom dispensed by commencement speakers.  Theoretically, the bigger the name of the commencement speaker, the more valuable is the advice given to the graduates—who are probably too busy worrying about the dim prospects for jobs and the looming specter of student loan debt to listen to what the dignitary at the podium has to say.  Nationwide, politicians, celebrities, captains of industry, and towering figures in dozens of fields are exchanging enough pithy words about grit, determination, and unlocking your inner potential to fill the average infomercial or self-help book, all in the cause of collecting a fat honorarium check, an honorary degree, or both.  I feel especially sorry for the graduating law students out there, who are entering a summer that, for most, is characterized by uncertain employment prospects, crushing school debt, and of course the dreaded bar exam.  I wish somebody would pass along some nuggets of practical advice to these young people.  And since I’m not a big enough name to rate a real invitation to give such a commencement address, my only chance to impart some of the lessons I’ve learned comes courtesy of this column.  So here goes nothing.

 

1)                 People will never pass up the chance to poke fun at the legal profession, so develop a really good sense of humor (if you don’t have one already).  Case in point: northern Virginia attorney Hana Brilliant, who doubles as the president of the Fair Oaks (Virginia) Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company.  Tired of the ambulance-chasing jokes she heard around the firehouse, Brilliant started the Fair Oaks Ambulance Chase 5k and Kid’s Fun Run, in which runners actually do chase an ambulance and the proceeds benefit the volunteer fire department.  This year’s Ambulance Chase raised over $7,000.

 

2)                 Just because you’re becoming a lawyer doesn’t mean you can’t indulge other passions.  Whether it’s writing or roller derby, building legos or banging drums, find time to pursue other interests that keep you balanced and help you find that inner bliss.  Remember that bit about all work and no play?  One great example of having it all is the Honorable Nicole Laurin-Walker, whose day job consists of presiding over misdemeanor criminal offenses as a municipal court judge in Gilbert, Arizona.  But since 2006, the judge rocks by night as lead singer of the Love Me Nots.  Her band’s “modern take on garage rock” has led to four albums, a European tour, and even a writeup in the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine.  A bout with breast cancer convinced Judge Laurin-Walker that “This whole thing can end at any time, so do what you can while you can do it.”  Presiding over shoplifting charges, DUIs, and domestic violence cases may be what she does in the way of a career, but she finds the time to pursue her musical passions as well.  Find your happiness wherever you can.

 

3)                 Never stop learning, and be open to learning from unexpected sources.  Armed with your J.D. diploma and a passing score on the bar exam, you may think you know everything.  You do not.  Listen and learn from anyone and everyone, from the grizzled old trial lawyers telling you war stories to the legal secretaries and paralegals urging you to be nice to the courthouse staff.  To this day, I delight in learning—whether it’s from the continuing legal education courses or professional journals that keep me current on the areas of law in which I practice, or even from pop culture.  Rappers like Kanye West have waxed philosophical on the finer points of family law, as in the song “Gold Digger:” “If you ain’t no punk, holla ‘We want pre-nup!  We want pre-nup!/Yeah, it’s something that you need to have, ‘cause when she leaves . . .she gon’ leave with half.”  Similarly, Jay-Z helps break down 4th Amendment search-and-seizure law and the finer points of criminal procedure in his song “99 Problems” when he says “Well my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back/and I know my rights so you gon’ need a warrant for that.”

 

4)                 Be respectful of the judiciary, no matter how they behave.  Judges can be pretty sarcastic when they want to be.  In response to an out-of-state lawyer’s motion to change the venue of a case away from Galveston in the Southern District of Texas, the federal judge noted “Defendant will be pleased to discover that the highway is paved and lighted all the way to Galveston, and thanks to the efforts of this Court’s predecessor . . . the trip should be free of rustlers, hooligans, or vicious varmints of unsavory kind.  Moreover, the speed limit was recently increased to seventy miles per hour on most of the road leading to Galveston, so Defendant should be able to hurtle to justice at lightning speed.”  Smith v. Colonial Penn Ins. Co., 943 F. Supp. 782, 752 (S.D. Tex. 1996).

 

5)                 Give back.  Remember why you decided to become a lawyer in the first place.  Maybe it was a lawyer who came to speak at a career day when you were in high school, or some attorney who made an impression on you in your youth, or a relative’s brush with the legal system.  No matter how busy you may be, make some time to give back—to your community, to the legal profession, or to people who can’t afford to pay for legal services.  I was fortunate enough to go through both my undergraduate education and my law school years with the aid of academic scholarships, and I am happy to write checks that will help support future students in getting their degrees.  Similarly, while I’ve won plenty of cases for companies that barely acknowledged the victories beyond paying my bill, nothing compares to hearing the heartfelt thanks of a pro bono client.  A judge I know refers to it as “billable hours for the soul,” and I can’t describe it better than that.

 

They don’t teach you this stuff in law school, but they probably should.

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Break Our Laws, You’re a Mexican, No Problem! Print E-mail
by James Reza    Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 01:23 PM

There’s a song that I sing by Kenny Chesney titled, “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” which reminds me of the Obama Administration’s executive order to let Mexican’s who have broken our immigration laws to stay in our country without the fear of being deported if they are of a certain age.  Many think that President Obama with his dismal economy record faces quite a challenge for the Presidency in November.  Thus, he rolled out his executive order to let Mexicans stay, work, go to school, and enjoy the fruits of our Nation to shore up the Hispanic vote.  Meanwhile, others from different parts of the world who want to immigrate here legally have to wait in line and pony up some money to legally migrate here.  Were I an Italian, a black from Africa, etc. wanting to come legally to the U.S., I would be incensed at President Obama’s lax enforcement of our immigrations laws towards Mexicans.

One has to wonder why President Obama and other politicians from both sides of the aisle court Hispanics, just because they are growing in number.  What both major political parties fail to realize is that Hispanics have a dismal showing at the ballot box.

The population of the United States by race according to the 2000 to 2010 census states that we have 308,745,538 U.S. citizens.  There are 37,685,848 African Americans, and 50,477,694 Hispanic or Latino and 196,817,552 White.  In the 2008 presidential election 131 million people voted.  76.3% of voters were white, 12.1% were black and 7.4% were Hispanic.  Though the white share of voters was the lower ever, it still was higher than the 65.8% white share of the total U.S. population.  Were I President Obama, I think I’d be courting white voters instead of Hispanics.  Blacks, who vote more than Hispanics are already in the hip pocket of President Obama and the Democrat Party, so he could care less if Mexicans take jobs away from Blacks who’s unemployment rate is the highest in 27 years and runs around 16.7%.  What a friend blacks have in Obama don’t they?

A few months ago, a friend, Judge Manuel Valdez (D) called me.  Aware that the Judge was a candidate for the new District 33 congressional seat created in the Dallas/Fort Worth in a heavy minority area, he in a despairing voice told me of the lies he was told by those pledging him their support. The Judge told me that those who initially promised their support were also running for the same congressional seat.  One such politician he mentioned was ex-State Senator Domingo Garcia from Dallas who was instrumental in drawing up the congressional district to favor a minority, possibly a Hispanic to win the congressional seat.  Having helped Judge Valdez a lot when I lived in his district in the 80s I sensed he wanted me to help him in his campaign.  However, I told the Judge that I lived out of his district and there was no way that I a Republican would help a Democrat. Knowing that Judge Valdez, is a Catholic and a minister of communion at his church I asked him, “Judge, how in the world can you belong to a political party who’s leader, the President of the United States, is assaulting the very fabric of our Catholic beliefs in demanding abortion insurance mandates to Catholic institutions?  And, favors same sex marriage, which not only our church, but other denominations as well find it against God’s teachings?” The Judge then told me something I found rather interesting, he said, “James, when I tell Democrats that I’m against abortion, they are appalled!”

Keeping an eye on the outcome of the 33 congressional District race I was surprised when Judge Valdez, a popular political figure in Fort Worth came in fourth among 11 Democrat candidates from Dallas, Fort Worth, Irving and Burleson.  I was also surprised that more Tarrant Country residents turned out in greater numbers than their Dallas counterparts.  It is estimated that there are 469,456 residents in the new 33rd congressional district, 62.3% Hispanic and 17.8 % black, however, Marc Veasey, a state representative, is black and garnered more votes that Domingo Garcia his run-off opponent.  Both Garcia and Veasey will square off in a run-off race on July 31.  Another bit of surprise to me is that Mr. Veasey spent around $200,000 in the primary, while Mr. Garcia spent more than twice that at $486,607 after loaning his campaign $600,000.  Earlier in this piece, I stated why I’m puzzled why both major parties are courting Hispanics.  Let me explain why I made that statement, in Dallas in a heavy Hispanic precinct of 6,900 registered voters, only 1,000 voted!  And Mr. Garcia won by only 27 votes.  In the new 33rd congressional district, which boasts a whopping 61.3% Hispanic representation, many do not take into account these Hispanics’ voting requirements such as citizenship. Meaning, many could be illegal aliens.  Which makes one have to wonder and maybe understand why President Obama passed his new immigration mandate to maybe in the not to distant future let new Mexican immigrants register to vote.

As President Obama boasts of what he’s done for Mexican illegal immigrants with his new immigration mandate in recent meetings with American Hispanic groups, Mexican immigrants continue to commit horrible crimes in high numbers in our country.  One such crime occurred recently at Camp County, Texas, where a Mexican national, Ignacio Saldana-Rivera sexually assaulted a six-month family member.  Saldana had been arrested for assault family violence and interfering with an emergency phone call.  Authorities say this stemmed from the infant’s mother calling 911 to report the assault and Saldana allegedly assaulted the woman to keep her from reporting him.  After an investigation, the Camp County Sheriff’s Office deemed the woman’s claims to be true and charged Saldana with aggravated sexual assault of a child.  After a thorough investigation Saldana is being investigated as to having assaulted a second child.  Yes, my fellow Americans President Obama is such a kind soul in letting animals like Saldana an illegal from Mexico to roam our streets so he can get Hispanic votes.  Well my friends, this is one American Hispanic that will not be swayed with this illegal alien mandate nonsense and I pray you won’t be either!

 

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Religious and Free Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Tue, Jun 19, 2012, 02:27 PM

Faith and freedom coexist in Western Civilization, not as adversaries as some would have it but in a symbiosis. Faith begets freedom and freedom, faith. When Thomas Jefferson declared the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, he presumed to speak to a people steeped in a certain kind of learning. Self-evidence requires thinking after all.

People aren’t all the same height, weight, color, strength, skill, wealth, IQ or anything. The proposition he makes is accepted as truth only in terms of moral equality. The moral worth of every single individual under heaven is such that rights inhere in them—from a street sweeper to the bank president, from unemployed to self-employed or retired, from blue collar to white collar, from penniless to rich. The proposition is only accepted as truth by Western societies and cultures that emerged through hundreds of years of historic experience with Christianity. Ultimately individuals have rights—rights bound to be respected, because they are children of God and made in his image and likeness.

It may come as surprise to some people today to learn that the most basic and common standards of conduct are all directly linked to systematic codes of behavior based on the morality stemming from religion. ‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’ in one sense alludes to an enlarged physical realm for action, opportunity and a realized potential when (and only when) a majority of people aren’t stealing your stuff; ripping off your limbs; accosting wives, husbands, sons and daughters; tearing down fences; and burning down your house and barn.

If Western societies continue to secularize without regard for religion, then they do so benefiting from a residual good will and habits instilled by millions of people over centuries, who lived their religion and fought to live it; and fought again to keep the freedoms won, in order to follow their faith according to conscience so long as they did no harm to others. It is interesting that so many years removed from the factual dependence of freedom and legitimacy of civil authority on religion, that we have come to view religion and its expression as being dependent somehow on secular authority for legitimacy. Many see freedom as somehow threatened by religious exercise, whether in the public square or on private compounds, instead of seeing religious life as an outgrowth of freedom and the most concrete emanation of freedom possible. Metaphysically, one has to ask whether life has a purpose external to materiality. If so then it is first and foremost the province of religion and spirituality. If not, then life is all a matter of the state belonging to the state.

Fortunately a few states like Texas have court jurisprudence friendly towards parental rights and religious liberties, and the Texas Supreme Court has upheld again and again that religious institutions possess autonomy free from significant oversight by state agencies and courts. The recognition is vital to promoting liberty as understood by Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders. Its presumption is deference by the state to God’s own purpose for every human being and the individual’s prerogative-imperative to seek and find, and to pursue life’s spiritual journey. Any other ordering in terms of respect or priority vis-à-vis the secular state and religion descends into fascism, communism or an autocracy where freedom dies.

Fortunately faith is substantial and hardly powerless, and the greatest achievements in American secular freedom were accomplished on the heels as it were, after a season of revival. The Great Awakening fueled support for ideas animating the American Revolution. The Second Great Awakening served as ideational basis for changes leading to women’s suffrage and an end to slavery. Revivalism led to labor reform and the amelioration of urban problems after the period of rapid industrialization. Now is time for hope and fervent prayer for yet another great Revival to reclaim the legacy of freedom and to meet the unprecedented challenges facing us in the twenty-first century: May future generations be free enough to be religious; and may enough of them also be religious, so that all may keep their freedom.

___________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC) and is in the Republican Primary Run-Off Election for U. S. Congress TX-District 25 on July 31st. He is author of two books: Horse Sense for the New Millennium (2011); and The Nexus of Faith and Freedom (2012). See http://www.wesriddle,net/. Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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Lessons I Have Learned Print E-mail
by John Browning    Tue, Jun 19, 2012, 02:22 PM

Around this time of year, graduating students at all levels are treated to pearls of wisdom dispensed by commencement speakers.  Theoretically, the bigger the name of the commencement speaker, the more valuable is the advice given to the graduates—who are probably too busy worrying about the dim prospects for jobs and the looming specter of student loan debt to listen to what the dignitary at the podium has to say.  Nationwide, politicians, celebrities, captains of industry, and towering figures in dozens of fields are exchanging enough pithy words about grit, determination, and unlocking your inner potential to fill the average infomercial or self-help book, all in the cause of collecting a fat honorarium check, an honorary degree, or both.  I feel especially sorry for the graduating law students out there, who are entering a summer that, for most, is characterized by uncertain employment prospects, crushing school debt, and of course the dreaded bar exam.  I wish somebody would pass along some nuggets of practical advice to these young people.  And since I’m not a big enough name to rate a real invitation to give such a commencement address, my only chance to impart some of the lessons I’ve learned comes courtesy of this column.  So here goes nothing.

 

1)            People will never pass up the chance to poke fun at the legal profession, so develop a really good sense of humor (if you don’t have one already).  Case in point: northern Virginia attorney Hana Brilliant, who doubles as the president of the Fair Oaks (Virginia) Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company.  Tired of the ambulance-chasing jokes she heard around the firehouse, Brilliant started the Fair Oaks Ambulance Chase 5k and Kid’s Fun Run, in which runners actually do chase an ambulance and the proceeds benefit the volunteer fire department.  This year’s Ambulance Chase raised over $7,000.

 

2)            Just because you’re becoming a lawyer doesn’t mean you can’t indulge other passions.  Whether it’s writing or roller derby, building legos or banging drums, find time to pursue other interests that keep you balanced and help you find that inner bliss.  Remember that bit about all work and no play?  One great example of having it all is the Honorable Nicole Laurin-Walker, whose day job consists of presiding over misdemeanor criminal offenses as a municipal court judge in Gilbert, Arizona.  But since 2006, the judge rocks by night as lead singer of the Love Me Nots.  Her band’s “modern take on garage rock” has led to four albums, a European tour, and even a writeup in the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine.  A bout with breast cancer convinced Judge Laurin-Walker that “This whole thing can end at any time, so do what you can while you can do it.”  Presiding over shoplifting charges, DUIs, and domestic violence cases may be what she does in the way of a career, but she finds the time to pursue her musical passions as well.  Find your happiness wherever you can.

 

3)            Never stop learning, and be open to learning from unexpected sources.  Armed with your J.D. diploma and a passing score on the bar exam, you may think you know everything.  You do not.  Listen and learn from anyone and everyone, from the grizzled old trial lawyers telling you war stories to the legal secretaries and paralegals urging you to be nice to the courthouse staff.  To this day, I delight in learning—whether it’s from the continuing legal education courses or professional journals that keep me current on the areas of law in which I practice, or even from pop culture.  Rappers like Kanye West have waxed philosophical on the finer points of family law, as in the song “Gold Digger:” “If you ain’t no punk, holla ‘We want pre-nup!  We want pre-nup!/Yeah, it’s something that you need to have, ‘cause when she leaves . . .she gon’ leave with half.”  Similarly, Jay-Z helps break down 4th Amendment search-and-seizure law and the finer points of criminal procedure in his song “99 Problems” when he says “Well my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back/and I know my rights so you gon’ need a warrant for that.”

 

4)            Be respectful of the judiciary, no matter how they behave.  Judges can be pretty sarcastic when they want to be.  In response to an out-of-state lawyer’s motion to change the venue of a case away from Galveston in the Southern District of Texas, the federal judge noted “Defendant will be pleased to discover that the highway is paved and lighted all the way to Galveston, and thanks to the efforts of this Court’s predecessor . . . the trip should be free of rustlers, hooligans, or vicious varmints of unsavory kind.  Moreover, the speed limit was recently increased to seventy miles per hour on most of the road leading to Galveston, so Defendant should be able to hurtle to justice at lightning speed.”  Smith v. Colonial Penn Ins. Co., 943 F. Supp. 782, 752 (S.D. Tex. 1996).

 

5)            Give back.  Remember why you decided to become a lawyer in the first place.  Maybe it was a lawyer who came to speak at a career day when you were in high school, or some attorney who made an impression on you in your youth, or a relative’s brush with the legal system.  No matter how busy you may be, make some time to give back—to your community, to the legal profession, or to people who can’t afford to pay for legal services.  I was fortunate enough to go through both my undergraduate education and my law school years with the aid of academic scholarships, and I am happy to write checks that will help support future students in getting their degrees.  Similarly, while I’ve won plenty of cases for companies that barely acknowledged the victories beyond paying my bill, nothing compares to hearing the heartfelt thanks of a pro bono client.  A judge I know refers to it as “billable hours for the soul,” and I can’t describe it better than that.

 

They don’t teach you this stuff in law school, but they probably should.

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The Flag and the Republic for Which It Stands Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Sun, Jun 17, 2012, 03:26 PM

The Flag was defined by the Second Continental Congress 14 June 1777 meeting in Philadelphia.  The Flag of the United States would have thirteen stripes alternating red and white, and the “union” in the upper left would contain thirteen white stars in a blue field representing the new constellation.  Congress subsequently determined that upon the admission of a new State, its own star would be added to the union on the next Fourth of July succeeding admission.  Thirteen stripes continue to signify the thirteen original colonies, which became the first states of an independent federal Republic.  As you can imagine, the 100th birthday of the Flag in 1877 was quite an occasion considering the nation united had barely survived War Between the States.  Indeed, the year 1877 would mark the end of military occupation and “Reconstruction” in the South.  To commemorate the Flag’s centennial, the U.S. Government requested that it be flown from all public buildings and from that time, unofficial Flag Day celebrations continued each year.  In the 1890s it was popular in Philadelphia for schoolchildren to gather at Independence Square or near the Betsy Ross House to celebrate the Flag’s birthday.  To this day, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the only state where Flag Day is a public holiday, although the day is observed to honor the Flag in all 50 states. 

October 12, 1892 was the 400th Anniversary of the discovery of America, so that particular Columbus Day celebration was very much anticipated and planned for.  In September that year, a Boston-based youth magazine called The Youth’s Companion published the first rendition of what would become the Pledge of Allegiance.  When Columbus Day rolled around the following month, some 12 million school children across the nation recited the words.  Originally the pledge was to “my Flag,” but so many immigrants had come and were coming to the country by the late nineteenth/early twentieth century there was justifiable concern that some might mistake the meaning!  In 1923 “my Flag” became “the Flag of the United States,” and the following year it became “the Flag of the United States of America.”  Also in 1923 citizens who gathered for the first National Flag Conference in Washington, D.C. not only amended language of the Pledge, but also codified guidelines for “unofficial” proper display and respect for the Flag.  Their National Flag Code served as basis for what became public law, adopted by Congress in 1942 and contained in Title 36 of the United States Code.  The Pledge was included in that code and so gained official sanction.  A year later the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not actually be forced to recite the Pledge, although virtually every schoolchild did. 

The last change in the Pledge of Allegiance occurred on Flag Day 1954, when the words “under God” were added.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower remarked, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”  The resultant thirty-one words comprise an individual profession of loyalty and devotion, not only to the Flag but to an American ideal and way of life: I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

The insertion of the words “under God” was particularly key and fundamental—and a proper change, although most advocates argued the words were implied from the beginning and generally understood in much the same way as “my Flag” had always meant “the Flag of the United States of America.”  Notice, however, that while many people will recite the Pledge with a pause after Nation, there is in fact no comma there.  The words “under God” modify Nation and qualify the word indivisible.  To Boston educators who wrote the word “indivisible” into the first draft appearing in The Youth’s Companion, it may have meant something more than the words “under God,” either implicitly or explicitly.  To Southerners, however, the words “under God” mean and have always meant the most.  Indeed, it is only if and as the Nation remains a moral compact—sanctioned, blessed, protected, in accordance with Him as it were—that any manmade Union or governmental construct can or should be considered indivisible.

 

___________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford.  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC) and is in the Republican Primary Run-Off Election for U. S. Congress TX-District 25 on July 31st. He is author of two books: Horse Sense for the New Millennium (2011); and The Nexus of Faith and Freedom (2012).  See www.WesRiddle.com, e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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