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Squarking with Delight

first_imgIt’s probably a safe bet that most British readers won’t have encountered contemporary Native Americans in their leisure literature. With the recent publication of Sherman Alexie’s Ten Little Indians, this may well cease to be the case. Teeming with memorable characters and one-liners, Alexie’s sketches of Spokane Indians making their way through a white man’s world (or the Seattle part of it, at any rate) are by turns funny, sad and inspirational.The quality of what is on offer is unquestionably uneven. Perhaps the finest story – What You Pawn I Will Redeem — recounts the story of a homeless Native American on a mission to rescue a dance outfit stolen from his grandmother half a century earlier. Charting the character’s hourby- hour attempt to raise the required thousand dollars, Alexie manages both to defy stereotype and avoid the implausible. “I’m not going to tell you my particular reasons for being homeless,” we are told, “because it’s my secret story, and Indians have to work hard to keep secrets from hungry white folks.” Accordingly, much remains a mystery in this poignant but satisfying tale.Others are less rewarding. Do Not Go Gentle touches on issues of bereavement and parenthood but is ruined by a crass conclusion. The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above also grates, despite its inventive structure and iconoclastic bent. Throughout the book, the humour, on occasion, seems contrived.But if one can look past these weaknesses, Ten Little Indiansproves itself to be a daring group. Alexie’s willingness to gore sacred cows is attractive, particularly when he gently mocks liberal Western attitudes to those of his race, and much of the comic writing is first-rate. The collection also contains a thought-provoking piece dealing with the effect of September 11th on Native Americans, inspired by Alexie’s reallife experience of being told to “go back to your own country.” If this kind of irony appeals to you, there is much in this slim volume to enjoy.Secker and Warburg,1st January 2004,Hardback, £11.99Archive: 0th week HT 2004last_img read more


House panel hears Art. V bill

first_imgHouse panel hears Art. V bill House panel hears Art. V bill Associate Editor Fending off legislation that would dramatically politicize the judiciary and gut The Florida Bar, President Herman Russomanno came to the House Committee on Judicial Oversight armed with the firepower of legal luminaries with the combined experience of 462 years. Former Florida Supreme Court Justices Alan Sundberg and Stephen Grimes stepped up to the podium March 14 to register grave concerns about several bills that would dramatically change the way courts are run and how justices get their jobs, as well as strip the Bar of its unified role in fully regulating lawyers and eliminate its role in the judicial nominating commission process. They were joined by former Bar presidents Ben Hill III and John Frost, Florida Bar Board of Governors lay members Dr. Alvin Smith and Vivian Hobbs, Eighth Circuit Judge Stan Morris,Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association President Craig Gibbs, Cuban American Bar Association President Michael Diaz, Kelly O’Keefe of Florida Association for Women Lawyers, and lawyers Barry Richard and Thom Rumberger. (see story, page 9) All echoed the sentiments of Russomanno, who said: “Simply stated, The Florida Bar takes the position that this bill, as written, is an assault on the independence of the Bar and an assault on the independence of the court. It would politicize the process and set back our system of justice well over 100 years.. . . We want to bring our case to the people, because if you understand the role of the Bar and the role of the court and the separation of powers, you will see the flaws, the fatal flaws, in this legislation.” Drastic changes to the courts and Bar, as proposed in joint resolution HJR 627 by Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, would strip the Bar of its authority to comprehensively regulate Florida’s 68,000 lawyers; create by statute “Super District Courts of Appeal” with exclusive statewide jurisdiction on any issue; require a two-thirds vote, rather than the current majority, to retain appellate judges; and would eliminate judicial nominating commissions, giving the governor the sole authority to nominate and appoint judges, with advice and consent of the Senate. Other aspects of Brummer’s bill eliminate the distinction between substantive law and procedural rules, require that all court rules conform to statutes, and authorize the legislature to repeal rules by a simple majority, rather than the current two-thirds vote. Members of the Judiciary Oversight Committee also heard briefly from Rep. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, on HJR 655 that would require lawyers to run for statewide election to serve as justices of the Supreme Court and would limit their terms to eight years, as well as Rep. Randy Johnson, R-Winter Garden, on HJR 783 regarding electing justices and district court of appeal judges, with eight-year term limits. And Rep. Jerry Melvin, R-Ft. Walton Beach, promised he would once again file a bill to put the regulation of lawyers under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Rep. Brummer said he is just trying to level the playing field between lawyers and other professions. He said he wants to end the special privilege he views lawyers are enjoying because the Bar is interlocked with the Florida Supreme Court. “Attorneys practicing law have special treatment under the Florida Constitution that no other profession has, where the integration of the Bar and the courts permits a relationship nowhere else seen,” said Brummer, a certified public accountant. “Back in the ’60s and ’70s, CPAs used to regulate CPAs. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, the real estate association used to regulate Realtors. Those practices were set aside and were replaced by regulation by the legislature through the executive branch. So retaining the Bar interlocked with the courts, I think, establishes an elitist situation for attorneys.” Speaking in support of portions of the proposed legislation dealing with revamping the JNCs was attorney George Meros, Jr., who represents the complainant in the recent First District Court of Appeal JNC inquiry. Meros also represents 300 businesses, individuals, and associations in a coalition to change tort laws. Also voicing his approval of the proposed legislation was Ted Hires, the complainant in that JNC controversy who is also the founder of the Justice Coalition, a Jacksonville victims’ advocacy group, who wants judges elected, and Terry Kemble, executive director of the Florida Christian Coalition, who wants candidates for judge or sitting judges to be free to give their views on positions. “To think a judge can sit on the bench and make decisions on important cases without taking into account that judge’s upbringing, philosophical beliefs, religious belief, it’s ludicrous to think that that can happen,” Kemble said. “So if judges are going to make decisions based on those beliefs, it seems to me that we ought to be able to know before we vote for them what those beliefs are.” But Grimes warned: “If judges go very far in expressing their views, then how will a litigant feel coming before the judge on the opposing side? It’s a dangerous area to open up too far.” At the end of the four-hour workshop in which no vote was taken, Brummer said more time was needed to hear from more supporters of his bill, and he requested another workshop. The committee must set a date for another meeting at which it will vote on whether to send Brummer’s proposed amendment to the constitution to the House floor for a vote. To succeed, Brummer’s resolution requires a three-fifths vote from both the House and Senate, which in turn would authorize an amendment to the state constitution for a vote in the November 2002 election. Most of the workshop was filled with the voices of those who think the Bar is doing a good job regulating lawyers and rose to defend the current system of how appellate judges are chosen and the way the courts are run. Some of those voices came from the lawyer members serving on the Judicial Oversight Committee, in the form of questions they asked: • Rep. Dudley Goodlette, R-Naples: “I formerly served proudly on the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar. I think the Bar does an outstanding job of regulating lawyers, and so I have a very significant problem with this portion of the bill, as well as other portions.. . . I’m troubled by this notion, Rep. Brummer, and I have to be careful, because I don’t mean for this comment to be a criticism of the DBPR in the role they serve in regulating cosmetologists and engineers and CPAs and others. But I’m quite proud of the fact that I know that when a colleague of mine happens to go astray and steals money from their clients’ trust account, they don’t have a license to practice law two days later. I am concerned that public policy would be most well-served to preserve that kind of system, rather than to destroy that kind of system.” • Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Dania Beach (regarding proposed legislation that would allow the judge in a civil case to assess the full cost of services on the nonprevailing party): “You are a certified public accountant, Rep. Brummer, and that’s why I think it’s fair to pose this question to you. In your own mind, what costs have you anticipated being taxed against the nonprevailing party in a civil action? And how do you reconcile this provision on assessment of costs with Article 1, Section 21 of our constitution, which says the courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury and justice shall be administered without sale?” Brummer answered: “Keep in mind that the way we structured this is that it does not apply if the judge so decides.” • Rep. Larry Crow, R-Dunedin: “You’re talking about the two-thirds vote for the retention of judges. That basically amounts to a one-third veto of a judge. Correct? Doesn’t that fly in the face of a theory of a republican democracy and the rule of the majority?” Brummer answered: “We’re talking about running against no one. And if you are running against no one, and you’re only pulling 40 percent of the vote, you’ve got serious, serious problems regarding accountability.. . . That two-thirds number comes from this House. If you want to roll over our bills without a third reading, for instance.. . There’s so many things that we do based on two-thirds of the vote. In order to modify, for instance, our Death Penalty Reform Act, we had to get two-thirds of the vote. That’s as simple as it comes.. . . Two-thirds is a real benchmark that we have to reach. So I don’t see when you’re running against no one, I don’t see that it’s unreachable at all.” • Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Ft. Lauderdale, (directed to Meros, who criticized the way the Bar handled the First DCA JNC complaint and inquiry): “You say you are trying to improve the Bar. This bill guts the Bar. This doesn’t improve anything. This clearly, plainly, and simply guts The Florida Bar. And I feel it infringes on the separation of powers. I don’t know how that can be deemed as improving the system.” Meros answered: “First of all, obviously, it takes away the integrated Bar. I would respectfully disagree with you that that is a separation of powers issue.. . . The JNC issue is very symptomatic of the fact that the Bar is showing that it is not willing to evaluate itself. And if it is not willing to evaluate itself, without it appearing to be an attack, then perhaps that arrogance means that it is becoming destructive.” • Rep. Jeff Kottkamp, R-Cape Coral, (directed to Meros): “I recognize that in the zealous advocacy of your client, you are very concerned about this one instance [1st DCA]. But there are thousands of instances where this [JNC] process has worked very well. I want to ask you about changing this process of how we regulate the Bar. There has been a movement in our state to deregulate. It’s been downsizing government and reducing the size of government. Do you really believe in your heart of hearts that government is better to regulate the legal profession than The Florida Bar?” Meros answered: “I will be absolutely honest with you. I don’t know. I know that what has happened, to some extent, is that The Florida Bar has become a government. It is an entity with its own life. I think The Florida Bar has done fantastic things in some disciplinary areas. With regard to trust accounts, they have done a fantastic job. I think with regard to solicitation rules and advertising, they have done a horrible job.” • Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka (directed to Sundberg): “Can you tell me the standard the judge would apply if he knew what the costs were in determining whether a nonprevailing party would be assessed costs, which is discretionary? How do I tell my client in assessing the case what the prospects of their being assessed costs are if they are a nonprevailaing party, if I can’t see the standard which the judge will be applying in any particular case?” Sundberg answered: “What guidelines? What signposts do they use? I have no earthly idea, and I don’t think most trial judges would either. But you know, there is a more important issue here, and that has to do with due process. Under our system, except for fee-shifting statutes in particular instances, people don’t run the risk, in order to try to vindicate their rights, they don’t run the risk that if they lose they have to bear the cost of the proceeding. That is perceived to be a cost of government and that we afford our citizens to come into court. That’s what Article 1, Section 21 is all about.” • Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, (directed to Grimes): “Is there any part of this bill, any provision being proposed, that you may find favorable?” And Grimes answered there was only one portion worth keeping: doing away with the requirement that justices on the Supreme Court come from each judicial district. “But it’s not important enough to have a constitutional amendment about,” Grimes concluded. In his remarks to the committee, Russomanno said: “Yesterday, [in the House Council for Smarter Government] some of us had the opportunity to talk to Rep. Brummer on House Bill 627, and he made a quote when he closed on that piece of legislation that he salutes The Florida Bar for doing a fine job in serving the public. He went on to compliment the leadership of the Bar in the strides that have been taken. On behalf of the 68,000 lawyers in this state, I thank Rep. Brummer for those kind words, because I take his sincerity to heart. The Bar does an excellent job. So let there not be any misunderstanding: The Bar regulates itself well. We want this committee to know that The Florida Bar works fine. It’s a model for other states. We have people who serve on the Board of Governors of the ABA that look toward this state as a model. It’s one of the leading bars — if not the leading bar — in this country on attorney regulation. And there are no facts to controvert that.” April 1, 2001 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular Newslast_img read more


Forget politics and do what’s right for town

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionRe Nov. 15 letter, “Parties must work together in Nisky”: After reading Chief Louis Moskowitz’s comments regarding the Niskayuna election, I just had to write in. I agree with him 100 percent. I, too, felt that the two Democratic Councilwomen (Denise Murphy-McGraw and Lisa Weber) had no intention of working with the new Republican supervisor. It’s “us” against “her,” and we have the majority. Why not give this young woman (Ms. Syed) a chance? Although I don’t live in Niskayuna, I read about Supervisor Joe Landry’s retaliation against court employees wanting to use a back entrance. I think that’s why he didn’t get elected. He got a little too big for his boots.Try keeping an open mind and focus on doing what’s best for the people of Niskayuna.Lorraine VanDerWerkenRotterdamMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesCar hits garage in Rotterdam Sunday morning; Garage, car burnlast_img read more