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Clinton’s “Crime Act” comments not the crime, it’s intolerance of a new party

7 Apr
2016-04-07 (1) If I needed to provide a more specific illustration of just how my old party – the party of FDR, The Kennedys, LBJ, and Clinton built on common purpose, nationalism, and populist policies meant to extend opportunity to the most people irrespective of background and region – slowly worked to abandon me over the past 6-10 years as I was left to toil as a hopeless Red Stater orphaned by national strategists and still touting the glory days of sound economic priorities and political compromise from the 1990s, then today I certainly received a glaring case-in-point. By now, you’ve been bombarded somewhere by the Bill Clinton bickering flap with more aggressive protesting from “Black Lives Matter” campaign disruptors while stumping for his wife today.

CLINTON:

“The ones that won’t let you answer are afraid of the truth,” Bill Clinton admonished protesters at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton today in Philadelphia. The protesters peppered him with questions about the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, a piece of legislation that has become wrapped up in this campaign cycle as Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders both build criminal justice promises built on dismantling parts of it. The crime bill [was] a signature accomplishment of his presidency . . . ” [Source: The Atlantic.]
But wait . . . come again? Attacking the Explainer-in-Chief? You mean Thee One and Thee Only Man from Hope?? Our Bubba?!

IN RETROSPECT: Regarding the tenor of modern Monday morning quarterbacking and political critique of a widely-heralded bi-partisan initiative enacted two decades ago.

ap9409130391_wide-570b21ff250e994b1ceda5fcedd1254d842b5988-s900-c85

Mrs. Clinton (far left) looks on as POTUS embraces then Sen. Joe Biden upon signing Crime Act into law in ’94. 

Yes, folks in today’s arena, and particularly in today’s increasingly intolerant and irrational version of Democratic progressivism, even a global icon and successful two-term POTUS turned revered ex-POTUS, the Dems’ prodigal son and favorite political rockstar who not long ago dropped that campaign-saving convention keynote for the current POTUS, can be memed away without hesitation as some self-serving closet racist who should be subject to an ex post facto party excommunication, officially stricken from the historical record and all federal/state monuments, and subject to universal shaming on every screen we find ourselves staring at the next few hours and coming days.

why_blacks_love_bill_clinton-293x307 (293x307)

Forever living in the past? Or is it still great to be grateful for Clinton Years?

It’s a really sad statement of how the “third way” principles and Clinton’s party shift away from the Great Society to the more broadly inclusive and sustainable “community, opportunity, & responsibility” agenda he pushed for with such great success — whether or not you agree with how they should be viewed in historical contexts a generation later — have been almost entirely rejected in today’s increasingly dissent-free version of the party as somehow “Republican Lite” or just not bernin’ to the Far Left like all the cool kids.

Please, political progressive peoples out there in need of some serious introspection and empathy-refresher: ENOUGH “with us or against us” and more-righteous-than-thou demands and disrespect. Personal attacks to blur meaningful debate USED to be the m.o. for the “other side”, right? That’s the line I subscribed to for a very long time, too. Those vicious and vile Repugs, am I right? Those stupid Fox News and Rush Limbaugh holy rollin’ redneck pigs are not even human enough to warrant humanity seems to be the general take to varying degrees. I mean, sure, we are created equal . . . but some are more equal than others. I think that’s how the story goes, or at least it appears to the general take here as well in terms of recent liberal crusading getting the most attention. The big-tent and diverse views nature of the party has been swept away for a modern version of the party that emphasizes uniformity of beliefs and policies and winning the news cycle with slogans and attacking opponents personally rather than the hard work of building policy consensus and public approval. In many ways, the bumper-sticker debates of complicated problems and questioning the level of American-ism of political foes, and governing in ways that view even minor dissention as treasonous and a question of character very much parallels the Karl Rove -style politics that has been so destructive to our democracy and would presumably be the opposite approach taken by those who opposed him and the GOP brand he sold to the masses.
 
It seems now that despite years of being respected for policies and moderation that brought on prosperous times economically and culturally, today’s loudest voices in the party want him revised down as something entirely different . . .

Without any meaningful consideration of context or legitimate reasoning for differing viewpoints, Clinton can find himself a viral scapegoat on Twitter and in the blogosphere as he’s disrespected and seemingly tossed aside completely in a matter of HOURS as caricatures instantaneous appear and old stories are re-fitted to “confirm” the trending narrative and pile on, almost universally by using the same ol’ trusty GOP attack bulletpoints so many Dems are anxious to get loud about or issue through showing their activist bonafides by making asinine blanket-defriending threats on Facebook if anyone dares admit they might agree (or even just not find particularly disagreeable) whatever the media has deemed newly-scorned public sentiment for that news cycle.

 
Meeting Bill Clinton (2) Lay off my Bill, y’all. Or at least give ol’ Number 42 a basic level of respect when you want to judge his policies and question his motives. Few political or social change movements in recent history have had much impact if they failed to inject civility and build a dialogue from ideas; emotional demands and shaming all others into uniform rationale is not bridging divides, building consensus, or confirming intellectual/moral high ground.
 
I suppose nothing surprises anymore except the unflinching gall and hypocrisy of political idealogues of all stripes . . . many engaging in the very behavior they decry. So much faux-outrage and public affirmation obsession out there it has really halted any chance of meaningful debates and much-needed reforms. Not sure how this changes with the way this election cycle is playing out.
billquote
 
FURTHER READING: Want more thoughtful takes on the broader Lefty Revisionists v. Bubba’s Brand for national Dems? Check out this great piece (from said Lefties, presumably) over at Salon entitled: “The era of (Bill) Clinton liberalism is over. What does that mean for Hillary and the Dems?”
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Daily Affirmation…with JBW?!

16 Apr
20130223_152038(0)

Prof. W…at your service?

The Ironic Arkie: Demandin’ Personal Choice

9 Apr

 

Go ahead…and tread on me?

Ain’t it funny how the good folks here in Arkansas think the notion of government-promoted healthcare access as a fundamental right for all of our citizens is somehow an unconstitutional overreach by this president’s administration in dealing with state guidelines, yet have never (until recently) raised much stink about their completely acquiescence to state and local kingmakers in deeming them as lacking the personal responsibility and moral fiber required to let otherwise hard workin’ and tax payin’ Arkansans make the personal choices of whether or not they want to throw down some cash on a card game, purchase Arkansas’s Diamond Bear products freely, play up their southern bonafides by making their own mash at home, or simply drink on the state’s unofficial official deity’s Sunday holidays.

Of course, the sort of “Blue Laws” like we have in Arkansas are ones which restrict certain activities or sales of goods on Sunday, to accommodate the Christian Sabbath, in this case being the sale of liquor. The first Blue Law in the American colonies was enacted in Virginia in the early 1600s, which included required church attendance. Other early Blue Laws prohibited work, travel, recreation, and activities such as cooking, shaving, cutting hair, wearing either lace or precious metals, sweeping, making beds, kissing, and engaging in sexual intercourse.

Blue Laws have operated to protect Christian business owners from competition on their day of sabbath. However, they never sought to protect from competition those Jews and Muslims whose traditions call for Saturday worship, and thus have clearly established a double-standard to promote Christianity, which seems to me, even as a follower of Jesus in my own right, to run far more afoul of the U.S. Constitution than the legislation affectionately known as “Obamacare” could ever been seen as doing.

Although Blue Laws requiring Sunday church attendance disappeared in the 19th century because they so blatantly violated citizen’ rights to 1st Amendment religious freedoms, other such Sunday restrictions have continued to exist into the modern era, including in Texas, where such laws prohibited selling common housewares and washing machines on Sunday until 1985, and car dealerships in the state continue to operate under similar outdated prohibitions. Similarly, courts in New York and Connecticut have ruled that, because blue laws were created and propagated by religious groups for religious purposes, they are unconstitutional:

Buy Alcohol on Sunday? Connecticut Now Allows It

Gary Donaldson, left, Ben Schiano and Brooks Titcomb celebrating the Sunday sale of beer, wine and liquor in Connecticut.
By ELIZABETH MAKER
Published: May 20, 2012 in The New York Times

Nevertheless, we’re all too aware that Blue Laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays continue to exist and be enforced, especially among our fellow freedom lovin’ Southern brethren residing here in Arkansas and elsewhere in Ye Ol’ Confederacy.

The fact that ours remains one of only a handful of remaining states which still prohibit selling alcohol on Sunday — even as it is now the second busiest shopping day of the week — seem to make no sense in terms of economic losses for small business, statewide revenues from sales taxes, and most importantly, the fact that our state chooses to severely limit the personal freedoms of our adult population while their peers from freedom-hatin’ Lib’rul ‘Merica do not encounter the same government “overreach” that we do here in The Natural State. Indeed, as most Christians see little conflict in going to church in the morning, then watching a football game — maybe with the family, or maybe at a sports bar — in the afternoon, what is the remaining valid rationale for this Puritan ritual anyway?

Once again, we have here a severe case of The Ironic Arkie. (Look for more of these rants in the coming weeks.)

Check out some more local flavor on these broader issues from an earlier story by Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times:

City Wire has a good report on a federal lawsuit arising from the newly opened liquor market in Benton County. A prospective retailer has challenged the Arkansas law that prevents franchising of retail liquor stores and multiple ownerships as a burden on interstate commerce.

Macadoodles liquor chain sought to expand its presence in Arkansas in lawsuit, prior to more liquor law loosening seen in other locations after last election.

The plaintiff wants to run a Macadoodles, the retail chain that had to win a legal fight to open its store in Washington County and which has long enticed huge Arkansas business just across the Arkansas line in Missouri.

The link gives you lots more of the legal ins and outs.

Key points include that 1) there’s a grandfather clause in Arkansas law for related ownerships and 2) it’s well-known that there are families with related stores that already operate in Arkansas and, it is suspected, take advantage of combined buying power not readily available to single-permit owners.

Lurking in the background, too, is behemoth Walmart, whose heirs paid for the campaign to open Benton County to retail liquor stores and which is currently restricted to a single liquor outlet, on a nominally separate premises in Fayetteville. It took a long legal battle for Walmart to get that single outlet; it thirsts to sell more booze here. The situation exists because of Arkansas’s protectionist liquor laws. They are aimed, first, at protecting profit margins of wholesalers.

The interstate commerce clause is a mighty tool against state discrimination in commerce. Hard to see the compelling state interest in protecting wholesalers’ profit at the expense of higher retail prices for consumers. But lawyers are ready to explain.

And also don’t miss this 2012 piece from David Kinkade of The Arkansas Project.

A dedicated Arkansas Project reader sends along a link to this nifty map (pasted below) from those limey toffs at the BBC offering “a snapshot of wet and dry America.” They slipped out of their powdered wigs and put on their thinking caps to generate this graphic detailing the lingering effects of alcohol prohibition here in the U.S.

With 43 dry counties in red, Arkansas looks to be a national leader (?) on this front. I don’t think I realized how much of the nation lives in open territory when it comes to alcohol sales. I mean, geez, look at that vast swatch of liberatory bluish gray once you move west out of Oklahoma and Texas, and head north from Kansas. I also like that there’s “no data” on Georgia, so it’s grayed out like a medieval dragon preserve. That actually sounds about right.

This is really just an excuse to link to this masterly 2009 piece from the estimable Michael Tilley of the City Wire in Fort Smith, wherein he explored the “convoluted concoction of rules” that govern liquor sales in the Natural State—and lived to tell the shocking tale! A taste:

We have rules as to when and how alcohol can be sold from either a convenience store, grocery story or a bonafide liquor store; rules differentiating between sales of wine fermented in Arkansas and wine fermented outside the state. There are rules that say your local Chili’s or Applebee’s is simply a restaurant that can serve beer if built in a wet county, but is a special private club with a (wink, wink) membership policy to go along with food sales if it operates in a dry county.

There are rules on specific times hooch can be sold on the weekends because we’re all mindful of and in agreement with the seminal Harvard study proving that a beer sold at 9:59 a.m. on a Sunday morning leads to immediate and terrific societal destruction, whereas the same beer sold 61 seconds later is nothing more than a standard commercial exchange between consenting adults that results in a positive economic impact for the local economy and tax proceeds for state and local governments.

Not familiar with the Harvard study? Of course you’re not, because no such study exists. Which is something to keep in mind when considering dang near all Arkansas liquor laws and wondering if there is some pragmatic reason for their formulation — No Such Study Exists.

Do go revisit the whole thing and weep for the dearth of good sense that requires you to rush out and buy your Sunday beer supply at 11 p.m. Saturday.

MAP: U.S. Alcohol Sale Restrictions (BBC, 2012)

[Editor’s Note: Wait a minute…The Arkansas Project, you say? You just quoted and wholeheartedly agreed with them?!?

Yup. I’ve come to respect the heck out of Nic Horton and how he goes about his conducting his business, building his brand, and is willing to do the dirty work of research before public diatribes via keyboard, even when I might be well on the other side of the partisan fence on any given issue…this state needs more honest & open government crusaders, believe me.]

Quapaws Hint at Savaging Arkansas…with Economic Progress?

21 Feb

John Berrey, Quapaw Tribe Chairman

Very interesting developments could be in the works as leaders from the Quapaw Indian Tribe of Oklahoma continue to hint at the group’s long-term plans to replicate their successful casino business model with “new” formalized “legal” gambling to central Arkansas, which, goin’ by what the good folks here tell me, is somehow entirely different than what they’ve been doing down at Oaklawn in Hot Springs and on east of here at the dog tracks in West Memphis . . . but I digress.

You may recall that the tribe  purchased an 80-acre tract south of the Little Rock Port Industrial Park for $775,000 late last year, leading to the original speculation about the group’s true intentions on down the road.

Hey, for the record, I am certainly no gambler, and frankly have never quite wrapped my brain around the idea that all the unnecessary anxiety that comes with risking your own cash could be fun or entertaining. That being said, you can also put me on record as being counted among the generally pro- new revenue & stuff-to-do club on these sorts of things, rather than the many hell-in-a-handbasket Chicken Littlers we often find to have the loudest political voices among us. You know who I am talking about, that Family Council crowd of misguided do-gooders who continually seem happy in letting each of our bordering-state neighbors reap the financial rewards we have more or less gifted to their respective state budgets due to our collectively misplaced moral stands, which may very well come from an altruistic viewpoint, but obviously misses the bigger picture.

Source: Tribal Government Gaming (2009)

What the people who lobby hard against the prospects of a state lottery, bizarre legal relics like Sunday alcohol restrictions, and legal gambling via tourism-friendly casinos near the state’s most populated areas, is that maybe if a few slot machines and blackjack tables directly lead to helping our state combat hunger, provide our public schools with more resources or smaller class sizes for our children, or even might mean we can finally finish that Interstate 49 project Missouri and Louisiana keep waiting on us to complete our portion of (or any of the myriad other road improvements we desperately need for a modern economy), then by all means BRING THIS ON. Am I right or am I right?

(Editor’s Note: I am right.)

Tunica certainly isn’t Mississippi’s great ethical failing, folks. Perhaps Jerry Cox and the like can secretly lobby for passage of Arkansans for Compassionate Care ballot initiative and have a way to combat all those stressful, sleepless nights sure to come when those squaws bring all that sinful abomination to town.

Source: Arkansas Blog

It’s probably worth noting to readers that John Berrey, the Quapaw Tribe’s Chairman, recently completed a four-year stint as a member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a presidentially appointed post. So when you’re left muttering to yourself “how in the heck are they able to link this one to Obamacare so everyone here hates it?!” you’ll at least know where the enormous stretch would seemingly come from.

Hubert Tate

For more background, below you will find the accompanying commentary yesterday from KARK’s Hubert Tate.

Stay tuned. Could get real testy if this push becomes a reality.

An Indian tribe, native to Arkansas, has purchased 160 acres of land in Pulaski County, hoping to reclaim a part of its history in the state. The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma is trying to figure out the next step to develop the land, including the possibility of a casino. No decision has been made, but right now the tribe’s main focus is to reclaim its history in the State. The tribe had property in Pulaski County dating back to before the 1800’s, but the United States government forced them to surrender their lands.

“We really love Arkansas and see it as part of our home. Then in 1850s, we were removed from Arkansas and brought out to Indian Territory of Oklahoma,” said business chairman John BerreyQuapaw, Oklahoma is where the majority of the tribe’s 4,500 members are now located.

Property near the Little Rock Port Authority is where Quapaws were for decades before moving northwest, which is the main reason why the tribe purchased 160 acres near Thibault Road in Little Rock recently. Berrey says the focus is now on determining what to do with the land. “We are more concerned right now about our history and reestablishing ourselves to the people and children in Arkansas. We were part of the very beginning of the state and we want to be part of the future state of Arkansas,” he said.

Berrey says the tribe has a strong business arm in Oklahoma, including a portfolio of gas stations, restaurants, hotel, spa, golf course and two casinos, all of which provide more than 2,000 jobs through its enterprises in Oklahoma. So, KARK asked him about the possibility of duplicating the business model in Little Rock. He makes it clear, the group doesn’t have any plans right now to build a casino or anything else in Pulaski County, but he doesn’t rule out the possibility.

“I would never say never. We would love to help the state out in any fiscal situation. We would love to employ a lot of people. We have a great record in doing those type of things. So if the opportunity arises, we would probably take advantage of it , but right now, we are trying to protect it and be a good steward of what we own,” said Berrey, who also does acknowledge there has been mystery surrounding the possibility. “I just think people try to put stuff together that may or may not exist. (The tribe) can game. We don’t know what the opportunities are in Arkansas, but we just want to be part of the state,” reiterating his sentiment that there is no timetable to making a decision.

“Native Americans can have casinos under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. We have two, very beautiful, very nice casinos and are very successful in the casino business. We are very efficient and we have a very nice product and we are a big economic impact on the region,” said Berrey.

Located east of downtown near the Clinton National Airport, the recently-acquired tribal property has important historic and cultural ties to the area. To better understand the tribe’s ambitions and loyalties, Arkansas Business provided a concise and contextual history in a feature around the time of the purchase:

The newly acquired tribal property is on part of a natural levee that extends northwest from the former Thibault Plantation to the Clinton National Airport. This strip of high ground was home to a string of scattered dwellings and farms that date to 1300-1500 A.D.

Graves are part of the cultural equation, too. Local denizens of the era favored burials near and even in their dwellings. The Arkansas Archeological Survey will conduct a detailed survey of the property for the tribe to identify the historical secrets it contains. “It wasn’t a big, compact village,” said Tom Green, Director of the Arkansas Archeological Survey.

Berrey, a University of Arkansas journalism graduate, also noted that in addition to its “tremendous cultural significance,” the property possessed “economic development potential.” Most of the tribe’s property along the east side of Thibault Road is devoted to farming, and more than 20 acres is wooded.

That choice of names pays homage to the tribe’s name (Ugaxpa in the native tongue, meaning downstream people) and is a reference to the tribe’s migration downstream from the Ohio River Valley to what would become Arkansas.

Oh, and as far as that little “presidential appointment” quip I wrote about — well, perhaps these guys do have their Red State Bonafides in order on a very “different front” after all:

The tribe most associated with Arkansas (including the state name) is now associated with a highly successful gaming development: Downstream Casino Resort in OklahomaOn a different business front, the Quapaw Tribal Business Committee recently bought a 51% stake in Detonics Defense Technologies LLC, a high-end handgun maker.

“This is a very exciting venture that if all goes well will position the Quapaw Tribe as a premier minority contractor in the law enforcement and handgun training space for military, state and local law enforcement,” Berrey also noted in The Quapaw Tribal News. “It’s a very exciting mix.”

Redefining “Anti-Racist” [UPDATED]

22 Dec

[ORIGINAL STORY]

Wow.

Yes, it’s Arkansaw, so I get it. But it’s also 2013, folks, so pardon me while I’m still a bit shocked and dismayed by the following display of anti-enlightenment I recently had a chance to take in directly from our friends and neighbors to the north in A Place Called Harrison:


[STORY UPDATE]

From the Harrison Daily Times, November 29, 2013:

A Harrison Police report shows that a witness saw some people vandalizing a billboard on the Bypass early Friday morning and reported it to police. Now it’s under investigation as a criminal matter. The report shows the witness called police about 12:10 a.m. Friday to report seeing several people vandalizing the sign.

The sign, which has drawn much controversy since it went up, is bright yellow with the words “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White” emblazoned on it in black letters. The vandals had painted over part of the last two word and wrote the word “Love” on it.

Assistant Police Chief Paul Woodruff said the witness saw the act in progress and was able to give police the license plate number of a vehicle seen leaving the area Friday morning. He said the incident is an open criminal mischief investigation and no formal report had been finalized by Friday afternoon.

antiwhite_harrison

Hard to consider such an upgrade “vandalism.”

As loyal TWP followers and other newsies will recall, said billboard began causing a stir with local residents and travelers passing through along the busy U.S. 62/65 highway bypass when the sign went up sometime in mid-October, despite drawing the ire and condemnation of several city leaders. Since then, the company that owns the sign has refused to identify who is paying for this absurd public proclamation, only saying it was a “young man” who had agreed to pay $200 per month for a year.

For a growing town where most are eager to turn the page on an ugly history and want to promote commerce, investment, and be a place where young folks might stick around to raise their families, this has to be a very aggravating setback.

Hopefully the voices of “Love” truly do win the day for the citizens there and throughout our beloved, yet very racially-challenged Natural State.

[STORY UPDATE: PART TWO]

“The People’s Lawyer” (Campbell) doesn’t shy away from controversy, does he?

…and now: The Litigation.

A billboard located along Highway 62-65 in Harrison garnered national attention when it first appeared in October, as reported to you here on TWP.  The sign read, “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White,” until late November, when it was altered it to read, “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Love.”  Though sign owner Claude West has refused to say who rented the space for the bargain price of $2,400 per year, suspicions abound that the renter of the sign has ties to the Ku Klux Klan.  Only days before the sign went up, Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the KKK, posted on his Facebook page, “Anti-KKK is a Code Word for Anti-White.”

The suspicions that racist motivations were behind the billboard have only grown since this past Wednesday when a local resident, Chad Watkins of Harrison, was arrested and charged with defacing the sign.  Watkins’ friends created a Facebook page and fundraising website to call attention to the matter and raise money for Watkins’ legal defense.  Almost immediately, bigoted and hateful comments began appearing on both sites.

Watkins has retained none other than Matt Campbell of Pinnacle Law Firm in Little Rock to defend him.

“It’s incredible,” says Campbell.  “The majority of the people leaving hateful comments about Mr. Watkins online tout themselves as Christians, yet, only days from Christmas, they are angry because someone changed a hateful message to one of love.  They scream about constitutional rights, but they seem ready to condemn Mr. Watkins before he ever even has a day in court.  The cognitive dissonance is staggering.”

Watkins friends have created an online fundraising campaign to cover Watkins’ legal costs, and Campbell has stated that all money raised beyond actual costs and fees will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center at the close of the case.

“I’m doing it at no charge to him. He already has a fundraiser campaign set up for legal fees.  I told him I’d bill against whatever was raised, and, when the case was over, if there was excess money donated, we’d donate it to the SPLC.”

“Evildoer” graffitist, Chad Watkins

The Facebook page started on behalf of said vandalist, Watkins, includes the following formal description:

Let’s come together and raise money to help Chad Watkins with the legal fees he acquired when he “vandalized” an incredibly racist billboard with the word “LOVE”. If you’re from Harrison, I’m sure you’ve seen that hideous, racist sign on the bypass; It reads “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White”. It attracted lots of protestors, and made our entire town look bad to those passing by. Many of us locals were disgusted with the sign, and shocked that it was even allowed.

Several weeks after the billboard was put up, it was vandilized with the word “love”. We all silently cheered for the brave sole who did this! Surprisingly, we found out that the “vandal” was someone we all know and love- Mr. Chad Watkins. Sadly, he was caught!

Donate Here: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/9fHh3/ab/a2To93

(Southern Poverty Law Center ©)

The Pro Ses Are Coming

29 Nov

[Editor’s Note: This entry originally appeared on the The Arkansas Journal of Social Change and Public Service on November 29, 2013.]

Law Libraries & Pro Se Litigants: Accessing the Information to Access Justice

One of the many effects felt downstream during the U.S. economic slump of the past several years has been the tremendous rise in pro se litigation (i.e., citizens who choose to represent themselves in court, generally due to their inability to afford an attorney) in today’s courtrooms. However, even as the need for access to professional legal services increases, officials in both federal and state government find themselves needing to cut existing services to lower budgets. Accordingly, many public law libraries find themselves taking on an ever-increasing role as the de facto “front line” for the growing demand for access to legal information, leading to increased pressure on law librarians and other legal-information professionals who provide reference services and often balance myriad other “new” duties in this transitional period of our profession.

With this new environment comes not only increased patron counts, but also the kind of expectations many of these laypersons have when they come see a “lawyer librarian.” In this role, we have a very important legal boundary when dealing with these patrons – we are not their attorneys, are not practicing law in this role, and cannot steer them into decisions by providing legal advice. It’s not only unethical; it can have negative repercussions should the person not have things go their way and feel they relied on your opinion to make a decision. With so many resources and layperson forms available now, however, and because many people are directed to law libraries by local court staff members without much direction as to what can be offered, many patrons have unrealistic expectations of what the reference librarian can do for them. That said, those in this field are librarians first – while legal boundaries must be respected, there is also a professional obligation for reference librarians of all stripes to treat all patrons equally and fairly and provide them with the tools they need to access and use the information that they seek.

Pro se patrons are a unique group of people from all sorts of different backgrounds, but almost all share a very limited background when it comes to the practice of law. Nonetheless, as persons representing themselves in court, they are required to perform at least some research to have a basic understanding of their legal issue, and they must submit documents that follow a certain basic format to be deemed acceptable in court. These patrons typically ask for assistance in choosing and drafting pleadings and forms, interpreting what something says, and in researching statutory law. Ethical conflicts arise regarding the level of reference service a librarian can give to the patron in this context, often when choosing forms, and particularly in drafting forms to be used in court. Patrons frequently inquire about the legal expertise of the person helping them, and, if that person mentions that they have a law degree, those expectations become even higher. Many library policies are vague on issues such as these, leaving librarians on their own when an insistent patron’s inquiry becomes problematic. The trick for librarians is to perform as experts on finding information, rather than as experts at analyzing all of the information gathered, in order to assist the patron in a meaningful way but also not cross into the unauthorized practice of law.

Fulfilling Ethical Duties While Avoiding Unethical Conflicts

The tools of legal reference are often very confusing to pro se patrons, and it is important that these patrons have someone to assist in the navigation of these tools, because, office water cooler stories aside, helping them remains our duty as librarians. To leave the user floundering about, unable to use available resources would be no less a disservice or wrong action than would giving out bad legal advice. The librarian’s loyalty lies with the patron and their information need. Yet fulfilling this need comes with restrictions that protect both the librarian and the patron who has taken on the task of handling the matter on their own. It is best for law librarians to help the patron as much as possible – providing basic source and term suggestions; instruction on using the tools, guides, referrals, and other pieces of assistance; and avoiding any lawyerly performance that might arguably establish a client-attorney relationship. There are certainly a broad range of approaches to this process, with some librarians acting as a source guide, and others as someone who teaches the self-litigant how to research on their own, but the bottom line is the same: if the line into “lawyerly function” is not crossed and the librarian is working inside the boundaries, they may assist their patrons without needing to fear unauthorized practice of law.

Game-planning for Law Libraries

Many library policies do not specifically address the problem of giving clear guidelines to both staff and pro se patrons about the scope of available reference service, beyond cautioning their librarians to tread carefully. Placing stated policies regarding the scope of available legal reference services in a prominent position where patrons can easily spot and read it as they wait their turn at the desk can be a great way to get everyone, staff and patrons alike, on the same page. In addition to increased awareness of policies, there should be available directories and referral lists of attorneys and local association numbers available to the patrons who need legal advice – what better way to show that librarians are here to help, but we are happy to defer to the “experts” when it comes to the actual practice of law?

Additional Reading

Randy Diamond and Martha Dragich. Professionalism in Librarianship: Shifting the Focus of Malpractice to Good Practice. 49 Library Trends 395 (2001).

Paul D. Healey. Pro Se Users, Reference Liability, and the Unauthorized Practice of Law: Twenty-Five Selected Readings. 94 Law Lib. J. 133 (2002).

Paul D. Healey. Professional Liability Issues for Librarians and Information Professionals (Neil Schuman Press, 2008).

Stephen Parks. A Lawyer/Librarian’s Efforts to Avoid the Unauthorized Practice of Law. Library Student Journal (2013).

Drew A. Swank. The Pro Se Phenomenon. 19 BYU J. Pub. L. 373 (2011).

Arthur J. Lachman. Self-help services: Reducing risk by avoiding the formation of lawyer-client relationships. NLDA Insurance Program Bulletin.

The Arkansas Journal of Social Change and Public Service is a vehicle for identifying and addressing the pressing needs of our society. It examines issues lying at the nexus of policy, public interest, and academia, and raises awareness of topics insufficiently examined in traditional scholarly publications. [UALR Bowen School of Law]

¡Viva Julián!

18 Sep

IMG_2620What a treat for me to be on hand yesterday for 2012 Democratic National Convention Keynote Speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who spoke at UALR today as part of the Winthrop Rockefeller Distinguished Lecture Series. The remarks this evening were fairly apolitical, at least in the typical partisan sense, and focused around meeting the challenges and seizing the moment resulting from the large demographic shift currently occurring in not only places like Castro’s Texas and throughout the American Southwest, but all throughout our country, including right here in Arkansas where between 2000-2010 the Hispanic population increased by nearly 115%. Having the chance to meet one of my political heroes and a future POTUS (¡Viva 2024!) following his presentation was a true honor.

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From UALR:
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro told a packed audience at UALR that the way Americans approach shifting Hispanic/Latino demographics will have “fundamental consequences” for America’s future role in the world.

Castro was delivering a talk on “The Political Implications of Shifting Demographics in the 21st Century” at UALR’s Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall Tuesday, Sept. 17.

His lecture was supported and presented through the Winthrop Rockefeller Distinguished Lectures series, one of the most popular UALR campus events.

The consequences will be felt in particular in states like Arkansas, where there has been a 114 percent growth in Hispanic and Latino communities, Castro said. The shifting demographics affect not only who is voting in America, he said, but also the electoral outcomes as well as the conversation about which issues are important.

“We have a young and growing minority population, and we have an aging, non-Hispanic, white community, both with different life experiences,” he said.

These differing experiences produce people who see issues quite differently, according to Castro, who added that the changing demographics can either be an “asset or an albatross” for the U.S.

Castro added that for the first time, other countries are producing students who can outcompete American students. It is in America’s best economic interest to address the accessibility of education to minority populations, he said.

“If we ensure our young people receive an education, we ensure another century of American prosperity and dominance,” he said.

Higher education plays a unique and compelling role in the shifting demographics of the American 21st-century, according to Castro. Not only are college campuses often among the “most diverse places” in the U.S., they are a great place for people to discover the truth that “even though they look different, people are fundamentally much like we are.”

Earlier in the day, Castro met with UALR students for a master class in which he hit on similar themes.

He spoke about ways to improve higher education accessibility, such as San Antonio’s recent addition of Café College, a one-stop center offering guidance on college admissions, financial aid, and standardized test preparation to students in the San Antonio area.

When asked by one student about his political plans, Castro said he intends to serve out the rest of his term as mayor and then run for the office again in 2015.

A San Antonio native, Castro is the youngest mayor of a top 50 American city. He won reelection last year with more than 80 percent of San Antonio’s vote and delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Underwritten by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the lectures bring nationally known speakers to the Little Rock community, including anthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey and civil rights leader Julian Bond.

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TWP at HRC Children’s Library Dedication

9 Jul

AR-AG: Four’s a Crowd? Fallout?

7 Jul

Wow, it was quite a week on the AR-AG 2014 campaign front. Let’s get caught up on this race together before I bring you the latest on another pending announcement . . .

Attorney David Sterling (Campaign Site)

With incumbent Democrat Dustin McDaniel term-limited, and that insufferable red tide blowing behind state Republicans, it was no surprise to see the them come out swingin’ in the race for attorney general, especially considering this was the one state constitutional office Doyle Webb & Co. missed the boat on in their 2012 anyone-with-“R” ballot takeover. First, we had the early-May campaign announcement from North Little Rock attorney David Sterling, presumably representing the far-right/Curtis Coleman contingent of the party.

Attorney Leslie Rutledge

With no actual movement in the race for almost two months (beyond a lot of gossip among we politicos), the presumed insiders-pick finally emerged last week as Little Rock attorney Leslie Rutledge, a former Mike Huckabee and national GOP organizer originally from Batesville, entered the race with some gusto in a multi-city state tour. (Talk Business has also reported that Arkansas Poultry Federation lobbyist Marvin Childers, a former GOP legislator from Blytheville, is considering entering the race, and several have mentioned Faulkner Country prosecutor Cody Hiland and politically-connected State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson as serious possibilities as well.)

Despite the setbacks of the last two election cycles, there has seemingly been some much-needed life breathed back into the state Democratic party of late, largely on activist-reaction to the embarrassing social issue setbacks from the last legislative session, national progress on some of those very same social issues, much-improved communication and GOP-response coordination, and a “refreshed” set of attractive young candidates coming out of the legislative and legal ranks who are considering running for office. Not to be outdone, with the emergence of the formidable Rutledge, Matt Campbell of Blue Hog Report broke news last Friday regarding the pending addition of one such Democrat to this race:

According to a couple well-placed Democrat sources, State Rep. Nate Steel will announce his candidacy for Arkansas Attorney General next week, most likely on Wednesday.

I have been a huge fan of Nate Steel’s since I broke the legislative-reimbursement story in 2011 and found that he was one of the five legislators who were not abusing the system for extra income. A native of Nashville, AR, Steel would present a serious challenger for any of the rumored Republican candidates.

Ok, so now that we’re all up to speed on what has been made official or been “seriously” speculated on, time for the latest on a would-be entry for Democrats. With sources telling me that some Democratic donors were reaching out to William “Zac” White, an attorney and recent state senate race runner-up from Heber Springs, about joining this primary race, I reached out to him to ask about the rumors. White, a colleague and friend of mine going back to our first year at the Bowen School of Law ten years ago, has since confirmed to me that he is indeed pondering such a decision and expects to make a formal announcement about his intentions by Tuesday of this week.

Attorney Zac White

Though falling short in the uphill battle he entered in 2012 against incumbent State Sen. Missy Irvin, White earned a lot of respect for the sort of press-the-flesh campaign style he ran, picking up several big endorsements and positive press along the way as he was the first candidate to formally back campaign finance reform efforts, and ran a campaign that focused on largely bi-partisan issues like government ethics, protecting natural resources, and supporting public schools. In the end, his candidacy was hurt by Missy’s name recognition, her sources of outside funding, the general red state trend, and the fact that there was another White (“independent” libertarian candidate Paul White) in the race. Within Democratic circles, White has proven to be a very reliable fundraiser as he held prominent posts in previous grassroots campaigns of Paul Suskie and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Passing the torch to Steel? Not so fast, if White enters the race.

What does this mean for the overall race? For the Democratic primary? While some may see Steel as the early front-runner and seemingly the Dems establishment candidate based on his success in the state legislature and his existing campaign organizational structure, this race could actually be quite reminiscent of the epic 2006 clash between then presumed party nominee McDaniel and his upstart challenger, the aforementioned Paul Suskie, who you all remember was the Iraq War veteran who forced an unexpected runoff that June and lost by just a couple of thousand votes. (McDaniel, of course, went on to crush Republican Gunner Delay that November.) Although I feel Steel has done a fine job as representative and would present a quality candidate up to the task of a statewide race versus the ARGOP machine, it is this blogger’s opinion that Dems would be very well-served in having a primary-tested candidate to take on Rutledge (or whoever Joan/John Q. Republican ends up being) in November.

U.S. Attorney for Arkansas’s Eastern District, Chris Thyer

Could there be a real domino effect from White entering the AG race, too? With two candidates possibly announcing formal bids for AG this week, perhaps this makes a run for AR-02 v. Timmy Griffin the more attractive course of action for State Rep. John Edwards. Such a move by White would also be one less potential challenger in AR-01, making it that much more likely that Chris Thyer, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District making big headlines in recent months (Exxon spill, Shoffner prosecution, etc.), could make a run as Roll Call first speculated. You may remember he was appointed by President Obama nearly two and half years ago after serving three terms in the Arkansas House. They also touted the pending candidacy of State Rep. Marshall Wright, however, since then a recent blog post from Michael Cook has all but ended those rumors. Admittedly, I guess I had missed the gathering storm of activist excitement behind Wright during the course of the legislative session. Or perhaps not, as it stands now.

Campaign Scuttlebutt

2 Jun

Mike Ross: Eatin’ up all the positive buzz.

AR-02

It would be appear there is indeed some truth behind these ongoing rumors that fmr. Lt. Gov. Bill Halter will opt out of another race for Gov, this time option for a congressional run in AR-02 because of Mike Rossy’s seemingly unstoppable start and growing momentum. Honestly, it’s always where here I wanted him (Halter in AR-02, that is), but what would that mean for the rest of the races down ticket? Let’s take a quick look, shall we?

Timmy G.? Pipeline issues. “Timmywatch.” Etc. More on that to come in a future post. Lets look at some of his other maneuvering, though…

Despite what some insiders have told me, that a run for Gov is still not out of the realm of possibility, his appointment to the powerful Weighs and Means Committee signaled to this writer that that was the ultimate D.C. insider deal to get the ambitious Timmy to sit out a potential U.S. Senate run versus Mark Pryor so the Weekly Standard’s Wonderkid, Rep. Tom Cotton, could skip in line on his way to greater national attention, presumably because of having the better of the two resumes to pitch (i.e. none of that pesky Bush Era voter caging and revenge-based U.S. attorney shuffling). No, instead it will seemingly be Timmy’s free reign to build his empire as U.S. Rep. for the forseeable future, IF the Dems can’t get their act together.

In the name of Congressman Vic Snyder – PLEASE get your act together.

John Adams is out. Not that his being in really mattered. He finished fifth in a five-man race last time, even losing to  this guy:

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Fmr. AR-02 Democratic candidate Patrick Kennedy

David Johnson: Toothsome. Look it up.

Warwick Sabin? Star on the rise. Probably wouldn’t want to risk a loss in this current political environment to get derailed. If Timmy holds on, look for Warwick to go to war for progressives in 2016 when Hillary tops the home ballot.

Kathy Webb? Wouldn’t do a whole lot better than Joyce Elliott did a couple of cycles ago, despite the amount of respect she has earned within the party and even from many on the other side of the aisle.

Unknown: Hell, it was Herb Rule last time. Much like that race for the student council, anyone’s free to sign up.

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Apparently John Burkhalter is in? With two heavyweights already set to duke it out, and with one of them looking to reinvent himself and do whatever it takes to win, you gotta wonder why.

Perennial Green Party candidate Rebekah Kennedy has said she will not run for this office, despite speculation.

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Missy’s name thrown around a lot lately. I still think Treasurer is most likely.

Jason Rapert. Much like the Obama effect, he could be a rallying cry for Dems on every ballot in the state. Dems can only hope for this bit of help in what looks to be another uphill battle.

And perhaps the aforementioned Burkhalter actually sees a bid for the top spot pointless now that Ross is busy raising big campaign money and opts to “ease in” with a run at #2. Might be a really smart play for the insider-turned-campaign-newcomer.

Stay tuned, my fellow political junkies…