Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Tamale Cooking Class!

Posted: November 15, 2011 in Family and Friends, Justice, Peace

Tamale Making Class

The link above is to a flyer about a unique opportunity coming up the week after Thanksgiving. Our new friends, Carmen and Patricia, are teaching an authentic tamale cooking class (where we also get to learn/practice Spanish!). Our good friend, Cindy Short, is making this happen, and you should contact Cindy directly if you want to sign up for the class (as explained on the flyer).

We recently hosted Carmen (from Peru) and Patricia (from Mexico) in our home for a similar class, and it was fantastic. We got to know these ladies through spending time at the Malibu Community Labor Exchange, where lots of interesting people hang out. Anyway, the idea of the tamale class emerged from that first class, but because it was anticipated that this one will be much bigger, Cindy secured the Malibu United Methodist Church as a venue for the event.

Please feel free to (a) attend yourself; (b) tell your friends about it; and/or (c) print off the flyer and post it at your work or school.


Posted: October 27, 2011 in Family and Friends, Justice, Lessons, Peace

A Better Life

Posted: October 13, 2011 in Justice, Peace


The hyperlink above is to a movie poster that I am super excited about!

Everyone is invited to a free movie screening on Thursday, October 20, at 7pm on the campus of Pepperdine University. The movie will be awesome, as will the panel discussion afterward featuring Judge Bruce Einhorn from Pepperdine Law and Oscar Mondragon from the Malibu Community Labor Exchange. Also, and importantly, everyone is invited to a reception before the movie (at 6pm) that will serve as a fundraiser for our work at the Labor Exchange. Tickets for the reception are advertised at $50 and up, but for those that can’t afford a $50 ticket, smaller donations will also be accepted.

1) Post a link to this blog post on your Facebook wall;
2) Email the movie poster by attachment to your friends;
3) Print the movie poster and post it in your school or office.

Thank you for your support!!!

Being an Advocate

Posted: July 16, 2010 in Justice

Houston has been a terrific experience so far. I can’t believe two of my six weeks here are already in the books!

Andy and Jennifer (and Murphy) are absolutely wonderful hosts. In addition to sharing their beautiful home with me, they have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable so far away from my home. They actually framed a picture of my family and put it on the chest of drawers in my room so I could see my girls first thing in the morning and last thing at night!

Houston is cool. Well, it’s steaming hot weather-wise, but the city itself is cool. My chief complaints were the thunderstorms that greeted my first couple of days of work (Malibu has me spoiled) and the fact that I don’t care for toll roads. But. On the flip side, I attended an entire three-game MLB series for the first time in my life at the very cool Minute Maid Park (where my Cards took 2 out of 3, my friend Andy caught a foul ball, and I got to see my friends, Tom and Laura!). The food choices are terrific (“59 Diner” may be my favorite so far!), the cost of living is crazy good, and the people are nice. You can count me among those that have nice things to say about Houston.

Working at the Lanier Law Firm is simply phenomenal. I may not have literally learned more in the past two weeks than I did in the past two years of law school, but it feels like it. I have sat in on client interviews, attended depositions, and traveled to federal court for an oral argument on a summary judgment motion in a billion dollar case. I have worked on interesting research projects for four different attorneys, and I have drafted a petition and discovery requests. I have had audiences with several attorneys who have shared advice on the intricacies of being a lawyer. I have had the opportunity to jump on the Westlaw Next bandwagon, which is about the coolest thing ever. I have attended a briefing on the status of the BP oil spill litigation.

Not bad for two weeks.

In addition to the work itself and all the full-time employees, I also get to work with five impressive summer associates: Johnny & Drew from Texas Tech, David from Baylor, Melissa from Harvard, and Stephanie from good old Pepperdine.

So, as you can tell, I can go on and on about all the good things going on for me in Houston. But what might be the best thing of all is that I’ve been reminded of what makes me tick, and that is being an advocate.

Being a houseparent at Children’s Homes may have been the first time I really felt it: standing up for abused, neglected, and troubled children.

Being a Habitat for Humanity junkie was probably the next instance: standing up for those living in poverty housing.

Being at ground zero in Hurricane Katrina stands as the most dramatic: standing up for a community in the midst of devastation.

Being a CASA volunteer touched me deeply: standing up for what’s best for children in need.

Being a law clerk at Public Counsel last summer was another unforgettable opportunity: standing up for the homeless in Los Angeles.

Similarly, helping head up the sack lunch program for the Malibu Labor Exchange has been an amazing experience: standing up for the modern-day Lazaruses that sit outside the rich man’s gates hoping for some crumbs.

And now, in just these two weeks, in the middle of all the coolness of lawyer life, I have already noticed these same instances that turn me on—meeting with a client who was fired for getting hurt; talking to a client whose business was screwed by liars; researching the law and constructing an argument to bring about justice for people who have been dealt injustice.

Standing up for people is fuel to me. Because I absolutely love being an advocate.

That’s who I am, and that’s what I do.

Winning, Jesus-Style

Posted: June 27, 2010 in Justice, Lessons, Peace

I like to win. Always have. Sports. Grades. Board games. Philosophical debates. Didn’t really matter what it was, I always wanted to win. In addition, true to character, I avoided things if I didn’t think I’d be good at them. Always have. You know why.

Taking Jesus seriously has always been somewhat problematic for me, what with his “turn the cheek” and “love your enemies” language, not to mention the whole “first will be last” shocker. Not really “winner” language if you ask me. Undeterred, I found comfort growing up with being told that our type of church was better than everyone else’s. That’s winner material. Further, the whole “heaven” concept was a sweet addition: “ultimate triumph” was a thought right up my alley.

But the actual language of Jesus was always there, and over time, I started facing it. And it threw me for a loop. In fact, as a young high school basketball coach, it was partially responsible for my first career change. When you begin thinking that winning is overrated, it sort of deflates one’s idea behind that particular career path. It messes with a lot of other things besides sports, too: academic accomplishment, patriotism, and yes, even religion. Maybe especially religion. The story of the Rich Young Ruler is practically inexplicable for winners.

Thankfully, for my personal sanity, my understanding of Jesus continued to evolve. A big breakthrough came when I understood that Jesus wasn’t a pushover, nor did he instruct his followers to be pushovers. (I credit Walter Wink with much of this personal breakthrough – check it out HERE.) Jesus doesn’t advocate being a loser; instead, he holds forth a very different conception of a winner.

I think I’m writing in an attempt to articulate what a “win” looks like Jesus-style. And to put it bluntly, I think it looks like this: when people learn to love and respect one another in spite of all the legitimate reasons not to.

Yeah, that’s what I think.

With that in mind, turning the other cheek and loving your enemies and the first will be last all make a heckuva lot more sense. In fact, the whole first will be last lesson is predicated on the desire to be a winner (“whomever among you wants to be great…”).

I don’t think the competitive nature of this world is wrong in and of itself. I am (at least, once again) all for non-violent competition (e.g. sports, business, politics, law, debate). It’s just that the definition of what it means to win is generally screwy in my humble opinion.

Take sports, for example. You see, I could be a basketball coach again. Now, however, while doing our very best to win the game on a scoreboard (the whole point of the sport), my ultimate (and countercultural) goal would be to learn to love and respect my team, the officiating crew, and our opponents. That’s what it really means to win.

Remember the recent story of umpire Jim Joyce and the destroyed perfect game of pitcher Armando Galarraga. Sports reporters used words like “sportsmanship” and “class” and phrases like “taking the high road” to describe what happened after the game (see HERE). I call it a win, Jesus-style.

I wish to God those of us who claim to follow Jesus would learn this lesson when we talk politics, but that’s another article for another day.

My latest challenge is to be a lawyer. I am set to enter a profession that is built on competition—winners and losers in an openly adversarial system. My challenge is to do my very best to win the case for my client, but my ultimate (and countercultural) goal will be to love and respect my client, my adversary, and everyone in between.

And I plan to do it, too.

Because you know me: I like to win.

Uganda’s Silent War

Posted: June 4, 2010 in Justice

The main point behind my work for Dean Gash this summer is to help him with a couple of torts-related articles on punitive damages, but he has become deeply involved in a young man’s life in Uganda, so I’m getting to tag into a little of that story as well. (HERE is a brief overview.) The “war in the north” of Uganda is a tragic story. If you have seen the Invisible Children stuff along the way, you know what I mean. If not, you should check it out.

And either way…

I realize the following YouTube video is thirty-six minutes long, but if you have the time to spare, you won’t even notice the time.

“The Guy You Love to Hate”

Posted: May 23, 2010 in Justice

Well, after a week off from school (including a cross-country trip), it is time to get to work on the first of my two successive summer jobs. I will spend the first half of the summer doing research for Dean Jim Gash, and I am looking forward to that very much. It will be a herky-jerky start because Dean Gash is hosting several members of the Ugandan judiciary right now, but by week’s end, I’m sure we will have found our groove.

The second half of my summer will be spent working for the Lanier Law Firm in Houston, Texas, and I am looking forward to that very much, too. Dean Starr introduced me to the famed trial attorney, Mark Lanier; in fact, Dean Starr also introduced me to the Ugandan justices after church this morning, and that I’ll be working for Lanier this summer was the first thing he told them about me. It really is a special opportunity to work for such a well-known trial attorney, but given the fact that my primary legal interest is in the plaintiff’s bar, I consider it an extra special opportunity.

And this summer just might be even more interesting than normal.

First of all, the Lanier Law Firm recently established a strong foothold in the impending Toyota litigation. Second of all, they jumped into the “oil spill” litigation, too. I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to work on either one, but regardless, business should be hopping around the office.

I wanted to share THIS LINK of a short video clip from Fox News where Stuart Varney interviews Mark Lanier about the oil spill litigation. My favorite part comes even before the interview starts when Varney describes Lanier as “the guy you love to hate.” That makes him my sort of guy from the very start.

Just recently, I was talking to someone who said that the funny thing about lawyers is that people tend to hate them until they need a good one, and then he/she is your best friend in the entire world. That’s what draws me to plaintiff’s work in particular. Who is willing to take the risk of standing up for the powerless against the powerful? You can count me in.

Sure, there are greedy, sleazy trial attorneys. In fact, I have yet to locate the profession that doesn’t have folks deserving those two adjectives somewhere in the mix. And sure, it’s easy to sit on your couch (or television news anchor chair) and criticize people for filing those lawsuits — especially easy when you are part of the powerful. But it’s not so easy to be those fishermen whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by a massive corporation that has yet to show up with a checkbook.

I love that Mark Lanier stands up and asks for justice. I would like to make it my business to do that, too.

Who knows what the future holds in terms of my legal career. This next year should prove telling as to that direction, and I am open to practically any direction in which I am pointed. But if you asked me right now how I’d prefer to earn my keep in the legal world, I’d go with anything that resembles standing up against the powerful on behalf of the powerless. Yes, that’s my choice.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” — Proverbs 31: 8-9

THIS IS A LINK to possibly my favorite article ever. It encapsulates the message I heard Randy Harris deliver last evening, and it sums up my ongoing inner struggle.

Oddly enough, I am more comfortable at the table Jesus convenes in Taylor’s article than at the protesters’ table; however, I continue to struggle with how to convene his table in our society. I am truly at a loss, in more ways than one.

I have long been convinced that the institutional church as we know it is not interested in truly convening “the Lord’s table.” It might be out there somewhere, but I no longer look for it there.

There are places (think soup kitchens) that are probably the best attempts we have to convene “the Lord’s table,” but they still doesn’t capture the full extent of Jesus’s revolutionary way of life. Read Taylor’s article closely, and I think you’ll understand. I love the Hippie Kitchen on Skid Row. And I’m honored to deliver lunches to our friends at the Malibu Labor Exchange. Everyone is welcome, but it is still a particular demographic that gathers. It is a very good thing, but it still misses an important element.

The closest experience I’ve had to experiencing the Lord’s Table came in the early days of the two Habitat for Humanity affiliates I founded. It was a beautiful thing to watch all sorts of people from all sorts of places come together across every imaginable dividing line. The “table” was often the tailgate of a pickup truck, and the emblems of the Eucharist were pepperoni pizza and a Dr. Pepper, but they were without a doubt my most memorable meals at the table of the Lord.

However, in both Habitat cases, we become a victim of our own success. We wanted to build more houses for more poor people, a noble thought to be sure. So we enlisted corporate sponsors, and sure they wanted to get rich off of us, but who cares if we attach their logo (we wink) as long as poor people are getting houses? And then the Efficiency Demon arrived to convince us that we needed to build the houses faster, so we started hiring crews to do the work for us. And somewhere along the way the Lord’s table disappeared.

I’m still looking for it. Better stated, I’m still looking for how to convene it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Rooting For Los Suns

Posted: May 5, 2010 in Justice

After reading THIS ARTICLE, I am suddenly a much bigger fan of los Phoenix Suns, the NBA in general, and Steve Nash specifically. Well played, sirs.

J.K. Rowling Op-Ed

Posted: April 29, 2010 in Justice

HERE’S A LINK to “The Single Mother’s Manifesto,” a recent op-ed by Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling.

No time for me to discuss it (finals season has arrived), but I thought I’d at least share this interesting article.