Archives for posts with tag: law

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I Dissent
by Joanie HF Zosike

Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time. (1)

Unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals. (2)

They have never been a 13-year-old girl. (1)

Her pioneering life’s work to advance women’s equality. (3)

Beacon of hope. (4)

A cage pretending to be a pedestal. (1)

Dissents speak to a future age. (1)

Each person will be judged by individual merit not on the basis of an unalterable trait of birth. (1)

Rest in power, Justice Ginsburg. (5)

Ginsburg had long admitted that her collars carry distinct meanings—such as her “Majority Opinion” and “Dissent” jabots. (6)

I have to somehow surmount whatever is going on in my body and concentrate on the court’s work. (1)

Notorious RGB (7)

So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune. (1)

Brooklyn-born daughter of Russian Jews. (8)

Unnerved by her long pauses between sentences (8)

Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true (1)

Ginsburg was to women what Thurgood Marshall was to Blacks (9)

FOOTNOTES: 

  1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  2. Barak Obama
  3. Susan Hyman, lawyer
  4. Kate McKinnon
  5. Heather Cox Richardson, BillMoyers.com
  6. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country
  7. A meme created by former NYU law student Shand Knizhnik on her blog, summer 2013
  8. Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, 9/18/2020
  9. Organization of American Historians

PHOTO: Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Sebastian Kim (2015), Time Magazine.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR (In Memoria): “The only confining thing for me is time,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said. She managed to outrun time for 87 years. She fought like a demon to stay alive, to keep working, because she knew her mission was crucial. She believed sexual liberation (she preferred the word “gender” because she thought there might among critics be a prurient focus on the word “sex”) would benefit both men and women. She said, “Tackling gender discrimination was, case by case, like knitting a sweater.” Just so, she defended a widowed father seeking social welfare to facilitate his being his baby’s caregiver. His case helped proved her point that such social benefits (which would automatically go to a widow) were a reasonable request. She viewed childcare to not be a sex-determined role provided only by a woman. ¶ She was a prime mover, one of the most stalwart prime movers of our times, and it is with admiration and love that I compiled the acrostic below, comprised of quotes from and about the monumental presence who left this earth just this past Friday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah 5781 (September 18, 2020 AD). Every time I think of her, tears fill my eyes. Her courage, her dignity, her sense of humor, her humanity was prodigious. The changes she wrought during her lifetime are inestimable. I am haunted by a communique to her granddaughter dictated from her death bed: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanie HF Zosike, 2019 Writer’s Hotel Sara Patton poetry stipend recipient and August 2020 Featured Poet in The New Guard’s BANG!, teaches School for Creative Judaism’s Pandemic Poetry Workshop.  She is published in Between Ourselves: Letters Between Mothers and Daughters, Women In American Theatre, and 11/9: The Fall of American Democracy. Chapbooks include Character Poems  and Bliss, Not Weight (anthologized in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, Silver Birch Press, 2015). A frequent contributor to Silver Birch Press’s blog, she also appears in Bastille, Dissident Voice, Heresies, Home Planet News, Jewish Forward, Levure Literraire, Maintenant, Public Illumination Magazine (PIM), and Syndic. Author of seven full-length plays and four solo theatre works, she received an Albee fellowship for her play Inside, produced at American Theater for Actors, and a Foundation for Jewish Culture grant for …and Then the Heavens Closed, performed at The Jewish Museum in New York City. She acted with The Living Theatre for 30+ years, directs/acts with DADAnewyork, and co-directs Action Racket Theatre.

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An Upstate New York Christmas Poem on Trial
by Jimmy Vielkind (Capital New York)

(Reporting from Troy, New York, 12/24/13)

The attorneys were some of this city’s finest, wearing red hosiery to reflect the spirit of the season. They met in the ceremonial court room here, a capacious square that was once a church, where many of the most colorful cases in the history of this reviving Victorian industrial capital were argued. Two of the witnesses were raised from the dead.

The topic was a fundamental yuletide question: who really wrote “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” the famous poem that first appeared in the Troy Sentinel in 1823 and begins with the famous line, “’Twas the night before Christmas.”

It was anonymous, but conventional history dictates that Clement Clark Moore, a theology professor, was its author. The poem appears in a volume he published in 1844, and his name is even inscribed on a plaque a few blocks from the court house on River Street, where the Sentinel once had its offices.

That convention has long been disputed by descendents of Henry Livingston Jr., a farmer from Dutchess County who died in 1828—before Moore published the poem under his own name. Hoping to leverage a long-simmering historical debate into a popular spectacle, local publicity artist Duncan Crary concocted the idea of the trial, which drew a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds.

“Put what you’ve learned aside. Right this historical wrong,” said Molly Casey, an attorney for the Livingstons. “You have the opportunity to stop this Grinch from stealing Christmas year after year.”

Molly Casey appeared alongside her father, Jack, a novelist, onetime newspaperman and former parliamentarian for the Republicans who control the State Senate.

The family patriarch, longtime judge John T. Casey, sat nearby in a wheelchair, watching proceedings in a room that now bears his name. Defending Moore was E. Stewart Jones Jr., who has made his name defending the well-heeled but usually-not-angelic in their brushes with the law. His clients include Joe Bruno, the former Senate leader and Troy political patron who was nudged into retirement by a federal prosecution. His grandfather successfully defended storied bootlegger Jack “Legs” Diamond. (Unidentified gunmen, believed to be Albany Police officers, killed Diamond less than 48 hours later.)

“This presentation by the Livingston Family is an exercise in one of the seven deadly sins: greed,” Jones declared, straight-faced, to jurors selected at random.

There is some evidence to back Livingston’s claim. His jolly demeanor is much more in line with the poem’s joyous description of the Christmas celebration, while Moore was more dour and religious. Further, the original text of the poem contained Dutch words for two of Santa’s reindeer—Dunder and Blixem—as opposed to the accepted German words, Donner and Blitzen. They mean “thunder” and “lightning.”

“Moore spoke German. But he didn’t speak Dutch,” said Molly Casey. “The original was written in Dutch. Why would Moore later change it to German—unless he was trying to cover for the fact that this poem was written by another man?”

Like any good lawyer, Jones put the burden of proof on his enemies, and noted there is no physical evidence of a written copy of the poem under Livingston’s hand. Only after Moore published it did Livingston descendants come forward, he argued.

As much as it was a creative way to enliven history, the event was a forum for some of the best characters in greater Albany to enjoy themselves. There is often an element of theater or absurdity in the arenas of law and politics, but it’s usually tucked beneath the a veneer of serious purpose.

The Dec. 18 event was pure spectacle: Jones wore red socks, which he displayed for the crowd after Molly performed a gratuitously sincere witness examination. A Santa Claus with a tenor saxophone played while the jury deliberated. Men in the audience held signs begging “No Clemency for Clement C.” and “Moore is a Bore.” A fog machine and bells welcomed Livingston and Moore from the beyond. (“Slacks?” Moore condescended to the female court aide sitting beside the judge.)

All sides scored laughs with jokes about Troy and its unique take on criminal justice (the juries here are particularly forgiving) and politics.

“Your honor!” Jones objected, as Jack Casey called Livingston to the stand. “Many a witness has left the witness stand in this court room wishing they were dead. But I’ve never heard, even in this city, a witness coming from the dead to testify.”

“If they can vote in Troy,” Casey told retired judge Bud Malone, back on the bench for the evening, “they can testify in Troy.”

After 90 minutes of arguments the attorneys rested, and the jurors split four to two (the four were for Livingston), prompting immediate suggestions that the event become an annual tradition.

“I didn’t rig it!” said Crary, wearing an elf hat and matching red beard, at the after-party. “I swear.”

PHOTO (From Left): Henry Livingston, Jr., and Clement Clarke Moore

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On April 17, 2013, John Densmore — best known as drummer for The Doors — released The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial, a memoir about his extended legal battle with bandmates Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger over the right to use the name “The Doors.”

OFFICIAL OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK: The subject of The Doors Unhinged is the “greed gene”, and how that part of the human psyche propels us toward the accumulation of more and more wealth, even at the expense of our principles and friendships and the well being of society. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, The Doors fractured because of this. In his book, drummer John Densmore looks at the conflict between him and his band mates as they fought over the right to use The Doors’ name. At the same time, Densmore examines how this conflict mirrors and reflects a much larger societal issue — that no amount of money seems to be enough for even the wealthiest people.

OUR THOUGHTS: When The Doors started out in 1965, the bandmates decided to share everything equally — and give everyone equal credit. That meant that no matter who had written a song, the credit line would read: The Doors. This has always struck me as smart — and a way of making sure that everybody stayed involved and felt appreciated, because everybody was making the same amount of money.

But after frontman/rock god Jim Morrison died in 1971, the three remaining bandmates couldn’t agree about how and when to use The Doors’ music and name, with Densmore as the holdout when it came to selling out (especially when it came to using their songs for advertising). All hail, John Densmore! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An original and founding member of the musical group The Doors, John Densmore co-wrote and produced numerous gold and platinum albums and toured the United States, Europe, and Japan. His autobiography, Riders on the Storm, was on the New York Times bestseller list, and in 1993 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He has written numerous articles for Rolling Stone, London Guardian, The Nation, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, and Utne Reader. He co-produced Road To Return, narrated by Tim Robbins — a film that won several prestigious national awards and was screened for Congress, resulting in the writing of a bill. He also executive produced Juvies, a film narrated by Mark Wahlberg that aired on HBO and won numerous awards, including 2004 IDA for excellence and U.S. International Film Fest for creative excellence.

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Joan Jobe Smith (pictured in June 2013 with John Densmore) — author of the Silver Birch Press Release CHARLES BUKOWSKI EPIC GLOTTIS: His Art, His Women (& me) — was a go-go dancer for seven years and in 1966 danced live with The Doors at Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

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Smith and her husband, poet Fred Voss (pictured at left with John Densmore) — a longtime avid fan of The Doors — attended a book signing on June 1, 2013 at Fingerprints, a record store in Long Beach, California, where they waited in line with hundred of other fans for a chance to meet Densmore and hear about his book. The reading was originally planned for late May, but Densmore rescheduled out of respect for his bandmate Ray Manzarek, who passed away on May 20, 2013 at age 74.

Like Fred Voss, I am a longtime, avid fan of The Doors — and I can’t wait to read The Doors Unhinged (great title!), available at Amazon.com.

Photos by Fred Voss and Joan Jobe Smith