Friday, March 21, 2014

Remember When

Monday, March 17, 2014
A federal district judge, sitting in Brooklyn, has been removed from a case involving handicap access to a Subway restaurant. The judge sent staff members to the location to examine its wheelchair-accessibility. The judge was skeptical because the plaintiff commenced eight law suits asserting the same charges in identical language, on the same day, against eight different Subways. The judge’s problem was the absence of the lawyers on the case at the site visit. In fact, the judge had his guys go to all eight restaurants, where they allegedly found conditions that did not comport with plaintiff’s claims. Even though empirical observations were being gathered "for judicial notice," it wasn’t kosher to do so without the benefit of counsel to obfuscate and distort the obvious physical conditions at issue. While there is no question that the Federal Rules of Evidence require notice to the lawyers of what the judge was up to, I can’t help but be sympathetic to the judge in his search for truth.

I was a management consultant for years before I became a lawyer. I saw myself as a problemsolver, trying to find reasonable solutions to business issues dealing with information and financial management. When I became a lawyer, these instincts did not leave me, and, admittedly, have sometimes interfered with the proper conduct of my job. Never have I taken it as far as the Brooklyn federal judge, sending Nancy Drew out to the scene of the crime. Also, when I have taken unauthorized "judicial notice" of some salient factor, I usually confessed it to my supervisor. As a result, the forbidden fruit never, maybe never, got incorporated into the resolution of the legal dispute at hand. Still, I am tempted to peek at information available to the general public, but withheld from the court for any numbers of reasons, ranging from the strategic to the incompetent. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
I have commented before on the eagerness of the Domestic Enemies of Sanity to convert the War on Poverty to a War on the Poor by imposing drug testing on public assistance recipients. I thought that it was all wrong, backwards in fact. Major harm is really threatened by the coked-up top dogs who command vast resources and govern the health and welfare of so many of us, not the field mice scratching for an existence. Case in point – Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts professional football team, arrested late Sunday on suspicion of intoxicated driving, and now facing four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. Members of his team, and all other NFL players, are subject to regular drug testing. After all, a pill-popping running back is perceived as a threat to all we hold near and dear. Team owners, and other better members of American society, however, are spared the indignity of aiming for the bottle, so they may concentrate on the management of their non-liquid assets.

I realize that I might seem to be harsh on Irsay and the other vaunted job-creators (who have done a lousy job of creating jobs for several years now, in case anyone didn’t notice). After all, Irsay worked very hard to reach his current position. When his father died in 1997, leaving ownership of the Indianapolis Colts in dispute, Irsay waged a legal battle against his stepmother to gain control of the team. And, that wasn’t a walk in the park. Word has it that Irsay lost several pairs of cufflinks in the struggle.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
As I finished my dim sum at Grand Harmony Restaurant, 98 Mott Street, I looked around at the dozens of tables in the crowded restaurant. I spotted only two other non-Chinese(ish) faces, which is, of course, a powerful endorsement. I enjoyed shrimp dumplings, sticky pork buns, shu mai and something I've never seen before, broad rice noodles wrapped around a crispy middle (fried cotton candy?) with a dab of meat or vegetable in the center. That’s not a very helpful description, but the server spoke a dialect that I haven’t fully mastered. This collection cost $10.50 before tax and tip.

Thursday, March 20, 2014
It may have been unconscious, but I drifted over to Gold River Malaysian Cuisine, 21 Division Street, without thinking about the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The staff was very pleasant and attentive, so I didn’t think to engage them in speculation about the missing airplane. Instead, I merely ordered curried chicken over rice ($6.25) and worked the crossword puzzle. The food was good, the mound of rice much larger than the portion of chicken. The plate also had about half a dozen fresh cucumber spears to balance the spicy curry sauce.

When I finished, I walked down the block to see how Division 31 Restaurant was faring. It seems that they still insist in offering hot pot only at lunchtime to no customers. This was at least the fourth time that I found the joint empty, but unwilling to serve any other food. The difference this time was the removal of their lunchtime special menu from the window, so that no one might ask for what they were never willing to provide.

Friday, March 21, 2014
Last night, I went to a forum at Hunter College on John Lindsay, held in conjunction with the publication of a new book "Summer in the City: John Lindsay, New York, and the American Dream," edited by Hunter College Professor Joseph P. Viteritti. About a dozen politicians, staffers, reporters, and historians participated, including the formidable Sid Davidoff, CCNY ‘60, Lindsay’s then young, aggressive street operative. The hall was packed; several hundred people attended, almost all of whom old enough to have voted for Lindsay at the time. It was suggested that a more contemporary audience might benefit from the discussion of the successes and failures of municipal governance nearly 50 years ago.

There was one aspect of the evening that I could not help but observe through the lens of ethnicity, the quintessential New York lens. Lindsay was the perfect WASP. Born into an upper-middle-class family, Episcopalian, educated at St. Paul’s School, Yale and Yale Law School. He was the last white Protestant mayor of New York, maybe forever. The only other white Protestant mayor before him in the last 100 years was Fiorello H. La Guardia, son of a lapsed Roman Catholic father and a Jewish mother, who somehow emerged as an Episcopalian. By no accounts would La Guardia be considered a WASP. In any case, no one on the stage last night was a WASP – Jews, African-Americans, Hispanic, Italian-Americans. How interesting.  How unlike so much of America we are. 

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