Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Lost World

There was this guy I knew when I was a kid.

Pillar of the community – the only lawyer in town, actually. Always in a suit, even hanging around in his own house. Real straight up guy – MC’d everything from the Holy Rosary athletic banquet to the Kiwanis Club Christmas night. Nixon Republican, Vietnam War supporter, fiscal conservative. He was pretty cool, though. Coolest guy I ever knew.

When I stride into the courthouse every morning, I think about him. He was gracious to everyone, friend and foe. He stood tall in that conservative suit. I can’t say I ever saw him actually practicing law, although I knew that’s what he did. But he brought his kind bearing with him everywhere he went. People may have disagreed with him, but nobody didn’t like him.

The Vietnam era was ugly and, with me as a teenaged know-it-all, we had some very intense conversations about the war and all of the other extraordinary issues of the day. He was a WWII veteran, serving in a boat on the Pacific for some very long years. He respected authority and often seemed bewildered by the freedom my generation felt and exercised. We talked and yelled and vented – understanding each other more than we could admit at the time.

I learned from him the bearing of a true professional man, the respect for opposing views, the value of informed argument and fair play. It was he who first got me interested in the law and the interplay of facts and precedent, even though we didn’t talk much about the details of his work and I never saw him appear in court.

The only case we ever discussed was a client of his who was charged with littering, raising the following issue: if you pick up a can on the side of the road and throw it into a nearby river, can you yourself be charged with littering for simply moving something that had already been littered? 40 years later – 22 as a lawyer – and I still don’t know the answer to that one.

He died in 1971, when I was 16.

I think he would have been surprised and saddened by the nasty partisan tone that politics and, now, the law has taken. He certainly did the best for his clients and his friends, but he was not a win-at-all-costs kind of guy. He would have expected better than Republicans and self-appointed conservatives have behaved in recent years. If Nixon’s crimes didn’t do it, the machinations of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove may have well turned him into a Democrat.

But, I like to think that he would be saddest about the state of the legal profession – the crumbling of impartiality, the selling of the state Supreme Court to monied interests. He would want to have his arguments rise and fall on their own merits, not because any court had been stacked for or against him. He would have been outraged by the racism used against the first African-American on the Supreme Court. He would have been sickened by an electorate that bought the lies of an out-of-state band of profiteers who propped up a disgraceful empty suit to carry their water.

I would have liked to have introduced him to my friend, Louis Butler. I know they both would have enjoyed each other’s company; the banter of engaged, open minds; the laughter of recognition of experiences somehow shared in dramatically different lives. Both would have met gladly on the field of intellectual debate. Louis probably would have "won" on points, but both would have reveled in the lost art of respectful disagreement and the meeting of the minds.

That guy was my dad. His memory is just one of the thousands of reasons that I'm sorry Louis Butler lost tonight.

16 comments:

AnotherTosaVoter said...

I think he would have been surprised and saddened by the nasty partisan tone that politics and, now, the law has taken

As he should be. But I wonder, do you point that criticism at your own obvious, uncompromising, and often juvenile partisanship that constantly fills this blog?

Because to be honest you complaining about partisanship is like the Pope complaining about religion.

tommcmahon said...

Mike, all politics side, that's a very nice tribute to your Dad. I'm sorry he didn't get to live longer.

Dad29 said...

I'll go with Tom McM on that one.

The kind of guy ALL of us should be, no?

Mike Plaisted said...

Thanks, Tom and, er, "Dad". And, "Dad", you don't know the half of it as far as the kind of person he was. And my main point here is that Louis Butler is cut from the same cloth.

As for ATV, I have an answer for you. The short version is that my most vehement comments are reactive call-outs on those who manipulate voters that they secretly hold in contempt, to advance an agenda often having nothing to do with what they use to rile people up. Example: WMC/Gableman using racist criminal imagery to achieve their pro-business court-stacking that has nothing to do with race or crime. I see no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt or assume the good-faith that my father did in all his adversary transactions.

They are what they are, they do what they do, and they can't stand the bright light of day. So, they call me partisan and juvenile for exposing their games and lies. As I've said before, I wear their contempt like a badge of honor.

Anonymous said...

What you'll likely never understand is that Michael Gableman is not the monster your pals at OWN, PMW, and the rest of the leftosphere painted him to be.

He is likely cut from the same cloth as your Dad.

As to the "the selling of the state Supreme Court to monied interests.". What exactly do you call the trial lawyers?

Step back, take off your partisan glasses and understand that special interests on both sides played this one the same way.

Your side just lost.

Anonymous said...

The left never admits defeat. They stand there like crying children stomping their feet saying that it was "stolen" from them. They still think that the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were stolen so it's no surprise that they think this election was stolen as well.

Terrence Berres said...

To rephrase it a bit more neutrally, you say the "other side" emphasizes the most persuasive argument even though it's not the one they consider most important.

I assume your Dad, or mine though he wasn't a lawyer, would respond "So?"

elrond hubbard said...

I'm dismayed that you would use your father's memory to get in a last few cheap shots at your political opponents. If politics and the law have become nasty and partisan, you're part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

I find it hilarious that Counselor Mike is complaining about the nastiness of the Gableman/Butler race. Has the counselor not read his own words on his own political blog? My God, talk about moments of out and out hate speech directed at conservatives and republicans.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, it's kind of embarrassing for you to employ your dad's memory like that.

Mike Plaisted said...

Thanks for the concern about using my dad's memory for political purposes. This post was more personal than political. I'll take care of the political stuff tomorrow, and I promise to leave Dad out of it.

Terrence Berres said...

"I'll take care of the political stuff tomorrow, and I promise to leave Dad out of it."

Feel free to bring him in. Tell us how he used to approach things, tell us how you want to be like him, then tell us that you can't, and tell us how that's other people's fault.

Other Side said...

It's obvious from Mike's post that his father loved him very much. Your comment, Mr. Berres, is mean and thoughtless.

You are a twit, sir.

John Foust said...

Yes, charge him with littering. He made the choice to pick up the can, he made the choice to toss it in the river. They don't charge you with a crime if you walk past the litter, or if you pick up the litter and put it in the trash can.

Terrence Berres said...

Other Side moved to reconsider.

I suppose to question the good faith of an allegation of bad faith could lead to a counter allegation of a bad faith allegation of a bad faith allegation of bad faith.

And to claim the votes of the dead is a common enough rhetorical technique, and the son has a good claim on his father's proxy. (Perhaps to his share of any brownies, as well.)

Roland Melnick said...

I respect the bond you felt and the dear memories you hold for your father, Mike. Having lost mine to a rapid onset of cancer a few years ago, I can empathize with your story.

But I must admit I am confused as to the point you were trying to make here. Was the story, as some have suggested, a mere vehicle used to convey your distaste for conservatives?

Or were you exercising a form of secular e-confessional in which you admit to feeling as though you have yet to achieve the ideals you credit your father for possessing?

It's natural to reminisce about those we've lost and do so while remembering the best in them. Anyone lucky enough to have known such love does that. I just don't understand how you go from championing your father's sense of respect and fairness, then segue into another "conservatives represent all that's wrong in the world" rant in the same post.