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Archive for The Human Spirit

The Controversy of Admin Day

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Yesterday our staff were taken to lunch and then had the rest of the day off. In my mind, it was just a small way to say how much we appreciate what they do.

Somehow Administrative Professionals Day has become controversial. Originally known as Secretary’s Day that began in 1952; it was changed to recognize all office support staff. That seemed to satisfy the naysayers.

Now, there is a bit of a call to completely eliminate the day. Those in that elimination camp believe that the day is too patronizing and only serves to separate staff from other professionals. They say, “why not have National Pharmacists Day?”.

I believe that there’s nothing wrong with recognizing everyone who makes a contribution. I’m not against a National Landscaper Day either. For me, I just want to say thank you for those who work at our office. It’s a tough job and I am thankful for all that they do. I guess that  I should also be reminded to say “thank you” each day. It shouldn’t take a recognized national day for me to say that!

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Police Officer Lawsuits

Monday, April 20th, 2015

On Sunday afternoon I received an alert from my Baltimore Sun subscription that advised that Freddie Gray, injured during arrest, has died.(story) I previously didn’t know anything about this story until I read about this young man who was arrested by Baltimore police last week. According to their report, he was arrested, placed into a van and was transported to the district station.

During the arrest, the police report indicates that he suffered trauma injuries that included a broken neck and that he lapsed into a coma. Seven days later he died. The family does not yet know what happened.

Unfortunately, It seems that we are regularly seeing news stories like this. Are police officers overracting? Are they doing their job correctly and just protecting themselves. Well, we know on a few occassions that there has been questionable conduct that erodes public confidence. That includes the recent police officer in South Carolina who shot and killed an unarmed man.

This leads me to the following two news stories about lawsuits that have been recently filed against law enforcement. When I see these, I think that it would probably be difficult to empanel a jury without bias or prejudice.

From The Cinninnati Enquirer,  a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the family of a girl who was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy as she was leaving a party in Boone County, Ohio. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in federal court in Covington by the girl’s parents. It names a deputy from Boone County and a Boone County sheriff as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the 19-year-old girl was leaving a field party in her car when the deputy jumped on to the hood of her car.Without warning the Deputy jumped on her hood and demanded that she stop the car. “As she was stopping the car, the Defendant Brockman fired his weapon four times through the windshield”. He killed driver Samantha Ramsey and “terrorized her three passengers”. For this lawsuit, we now know that there are at least 3 witnesses that don’t sound favorable for the Deputy.

From the Indianapolis Star, a story of a lawsuit being brought against an Indiana police officer. This Indiana resident  claims he was harassed and threatened by police officers. The lawsuit describes events that occurred in January at a Buffalo Wild Wings.

Three officers have admitted to harrassing and threatening plaintiff  Timothy Vander Plaat after he texted the fiance of one of the officers and asked for her phone number. According to the lawsuit as well as information that has been received by the investigation of the officers’ internal affairs department, they wanted to send the message about what happens when you mess with an officer’s family.

The officer left the message for the plaintiff and on the recording , the officer states, “I’m going to (curse word) kill you. And it’s not going to be awesome. I mean, it’s going to be like little body parts in a fireplace kind of death”.

Yes…. probably not a good lawsuit ending for these officers.

We live in difficult days for law enforcement.

And for pic o’ day…. the line is testing this lady’s patience because it does not seem to be moving!

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Unusual Traffic Violation

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

KLAS (CBS Las Vegas) reports that a Las Vegas woman is complaining after receiving a $200 traffic ticket for applyingg ChapStick lip balm on her lips while driving.  State Trooper Lloyd Hixson cited her under a local ordinance categorized as Full Time Attention.

I have attached the article here because the story seemed a bit  unusual in driving safety enforcement. I thought it was like the old folklore story of the man who was supposedly  cited after he got up  from his Winnebago driver’s seat and caused a car crash. As the story goes, he put the vehicle on cruise control to go back and make a sandwich.

This is not like the old Winnebago sandwich story. It really is true.

According to the Trooper (Hixson), each ticket is issued on a case by case basis. Their intent is to stop distracted drivers and get their attention. According to Hixson, “One time I was driving down the highway and I saw a lady watching a movie on her iPad, and the iPad was attached to her steering wheel with Velcro”.

I guess that Velcro incident made him intolerant of Lip Balm and driving.

So, that’s the story of distraction and ChapStick. It seems pretty tough to lump that in with texting and driving but these national headlines may have a beneficial effect toward distracted driving.

And for pic o’ day, I can’t remember if I have posted this “Curmudgeon” before, but he makes me laugh:

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More Than Employment Cheerleader

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

The announcement came though Executive Order of the Governor. Ban the Box in all state employment applications.(Richmond Times-Dispatch)

When I saw the announcement to ban the box, I had no idea what it meant. Then I learned that state employees will no longer have to indicate on their employment applications whether or not they have been convicted of a crime.

According to the Governor, the order is supposed to remove a current barrier of employment for anyone who has not applied because of a past crime. According to the Governnor’s spokesman, Virginians who have done their time and paid their price should not be excluded from state employment. It means “forgiveness and second chances”.

I assumed that this meant that it was basically an order of encouragment. “Don’t be afraid to apply”. That Human Resources would still do a criminal backround check.

Like buying a chicken rotisserie from an infomercial… but wait, there’s more. The caveat. The order states that a background check can only be conducted after a prospective employee has been determined to be qualified and is being considered for the job. Basically, getting through the door and being considered for hiring. Maybe the perverbial phone call that says, “You are now one of three still being considered”.

One legal note on state law regarding employment for the state. This does not apply to applicatons for state jobs that involve money or the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. I almost feel like inserting a punchline there.

For positions categorized as state “sensitive” such as state troopers, child care and corrections and prison officers, background checks will still be required. A waiver will have to be signed for those to be conducted.

Does this mean that child molesters are now able to work at Medical College of Virginia hospital? That computer hackers and identify thieves will be working at DMV?  According to the Governor… No. It just means that individuals convicted of a felony are not automatically disqualified from applying for state jobs.

Does this mean that private businesses will soon be subject to this change in hiring because of a state law change? Well, such companies as Walmart, Home Depot and Target have already ”removed the box”. However, I’m guessing that Virginia still does not want to upset the apple cart of being considered as friendly for business and will not take the next step to apply this to all private businesses.

This same bill had been presented in the Virginia legislature this past session. It passed the state Senate but got defeated in the House. That’s why the Governor took the step of issuing the Executive Order.  Virginia joins 14 other states who have embraced this second chance employment opportunity in “banning the box”.

One final thought. More than 650,000 are released from prison nationwide every year according to the Department of Justice.

 

And for pic o’ day, a high five for Monday!

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April Fools on the 2nd

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

I’m not big on April Fool’s Day so I didn’t mention it yesterday for the blog. I think that it does bring out the two categories of people. Some love practical jokes and others are not as humored by them. I’m personally not big on pranks.

A newly signed Indianapolis Colts player tweeted that he had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Then he announced it was an April Fool’s joke. I received the tweet as a Colts fan. For his sake, I hope no one nationally will notice his choice of prank.

If you are a Colts Fan you might find this funny….The Indianapolis Colts uniform introduction:

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They announced that the Colts would be wearing all white next year. That’s a funny April Fool’s joke at no one’s expense!

A couple of people had asked me why I didn’t write an April Fool’s Day blog. I guess I just did!

And for pic o’ day, a bit of (missing) leadership:

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Some Caring From History

Monday, March 30th, 2015

In the Sunday church sermon, the Pastor told the following story as a challenge to care for others. I can’t write it any better than this so, I found it and pasted it below:

From Brian Cavanaugh’s The Sower’s Seeds and then told in the book  A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup.

It was a bitter, cold evening in northern Virginia many years ago.  The old man’s beard was glazed by winter’s frost while he waited for a ride across the river.  The wait seemed endless.  His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind.

He heard the faint, steady rhythm of approaching hooves galloping along the frozen path. Anxiously, he watched as several horsemen rounded the bend.  He let the first one pass by without an effort to get his attention.  Then another passed by, and another.  Finally, the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat like a snow statue.  As this one drew near, the old man caught the rider’s eye and said, “Sir, would you mind giving an old man a ride to the other side?  There doesn’t appear to be a passageway by foot.”

Reining his horse, the rider replied, “Sure thing. Hop aboard.”  Seeing the old man was unable to lift his half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped the old man onto the horse.  The horseman took the old man not just across the river, but to his destination, which was just a few miles away.

As they neared the tiny but cozy cottage, the horseman’s curiosity caused him to inquire, “Sir, I notice that you let several other riders pass by without making an effort to secure a ride.  Then I came up and you immediately asked me for a ride.  I’m curious why, on such a bitter winter night, you would wait and ask the last rider.  What if I had refused and left you there?”

The old man lowered himself slowly down from the horse, looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied, “I’ve been around these here parts for some time. I reckon I know people pretty good.”  The old-timer continued, “I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no kindness or compassion for my situation.  It would have been useless even to ask them for a ride.  But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident.  I knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need.”

Those heartwarming comments touched the horseman deeply.

I’m most grateful for what you have said,” he told the old man.  “May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.”

With that, Thomas Jefferson turned his horse around and made his way back to the White House.

And for pic o’ day, speaking of looking in the eyes:

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Oh That Glove!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

During game 1 of baseball’s 1996 American League Championship series between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees, a fan impacted the result of the game.

The Yankees were trailing the Orioles 4-3, going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter hit a high fly ball to right field. Oriole right-fielder Tony Tarasco moved back toward the fence and waited to catch the towering ball.

Just as Tarasco was about to catch the ball, a glove from the stands appeared over the fence and snatched the ball, before it came down into Tarasco’s glove and the field of play.

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The play was ruled a home run instead of fan interference. OK… I can tell that you think that I am just a bitter Orioles’ fan. Here’s another angle.

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Now do you believe me? The baseball rule that applied states that if “a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field and touches a live ball” spectator interference is to be called.

Right field umpire Rich Garcia immediately ruled the play as a home run, which tied the score at 4-4. The Yankees ended up winning the game in the 11th inning,  showing the impact of that call. The 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier had changed the game and and the series.

The umpire later admitted that there was spectator interference, but he maintained that the ball was not catchable anyway. According to the rules, had the umpire determined at the time that there was fan interference, he would have then used his own judgment to determine the likely outcome of the way… whether it be an out or awarding Jeter a hit such as a double.

Here’s the transcript of the announcer for Orioles baseball as he called it in real time:

There’s a high fly ball to right, deep…Going back is Tarasco, to the warning track, to the wall, he’s under it now…AND IT’S TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM BY A FAN, AND THEY’RE GONNA CALL IT…A HOME RUN! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! Richie Garcia is calling it a home run, and Tarasco is out to argue! A terrible call by Richie Garcia! IT’S ALL TIED UP! —Jon Miller Orioles radio.

     The next day, that umpire was shown along the Yankee sidelines as he signed autographs for the fans. That just added insult to injury for O’s fans. Umpire Garcia instantaneously became a New York celebrity. Meanwhile Jeffrey Maier also became a celebrity. A local newspaper gave him tickets behind the Yankee dugout for other playoff games and he appeared on national talk shows.
     In February of this year, the Maier glove was auctioned by Heritage Auctions. An anonymous buyer paid $22,705 for the cowhide glove that interfered.
     Going back to that 1996 game, at the time, Orioles manager Davey Johnson came racing out to argue the call. He was ultimately ejected for arguing. A Baltimore reporter for MASN recently asked him about that call and getting ejected in light of the glove’s reported sale.

     “You need breaks and that was a big one for the Yankees. And I don’t know how I could see it from about 300 feet and Richie was right next to it, looking up, and couldn’t see that. That got me thrown out,” Johnson said.

Did Johnson consider bidding on the glove?

No, I don’t want anything to do with that glove, before or now,” he said. “It cost me money, so why would I pay for it?”

     When I read about this, I was reminded of what usually transpires at the end of cases that I handle.  I will ask my client whether they want their file; or more specifically, do they want the photographs and various drawings that might have been part of the evidence. Almost always, clients will express similar sentiment as manager Davey Johnson was about that glove. They will tell me that they just want to put it behind them and want no reminders of their claim.
     Now… I just wish I could forget about that cowhide glove!

And for pic o’ day, a bit of toothbrush sampling!

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An Apple to Court

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Apple has announced that it will start delivering its Apple watch on April 24.

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I know that Apple wants us to get all excitedIMG_1467

but my initial reaction was to simply ignore it. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to watches. I consider a watch as part of the outfit.

The watch’s sellling points include the ability to send messages, update such sites as Facebook, interact with the searching information Siri, and operate all the apps that become available. Plus, you can use it to exercise and it somewhat allows us to avoid carrying the phone in the purse or pocket.

Ok, I will stop sounding like I’m selling this watch for Apple  because I still am not sure if I will ever buy one. However, it does take me back a bit to what used to be allowed in the Courtroom.

There was a crossover time of technology. For the longest time you could not bring your cell phone to court. Some courts still have that sign. Then, phones became more than just phones. Lawyers carried their calendars on them. When the Judge would try to schedule a trial, most of us would have to say that we didn’t know if we had those dates available… because we could not bring our phone to the courtroom.

Moving forward, iPads became the item of planning choice including the ability to load trial presentations and depositions instead of bring huge boxes of files. Of course, the iPad is still in use and I skipped several technology steps including the introductory Blackberry that got us all started with emails. It became irritating to watch lawyers who couldn’t help themselves and just continually checked their emails.

The point of all this is that I wonder if that device on the wrist will be replacing all that. Will a judge be leaning over to ask someone to stop viewing their Facebook or pinning on Pinterist?

Life is changing and so is technology in the court! Calendars and quick legal research might be just a click away… on the wrist.

And for pic o’ day, just asking for friendliness between rock, paper and scissors!!!!

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Just Another Wednesday

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Here’s some trivia. Who was the highest ranking Union soldier to die during the Civil War? Answer: Major General John Sedgwick. IMG_0129

Unfortunately, his death was the result of false confidence, bad planning and bad leadership. Part of the reason for his confidence was probably because he had previously been wounded in the Battle of Glendale and then shot three times during the Battle of Antietam. I’m guessing he started to believe that he was untouchable. Unfortunately, here’s how history records his death.

      Major General Sedgwick chastised his men for acting scared of nearby Confederate sharpshooters. He had directed the soldiers in placing ammunition and artillery around them in preparation for what later would be known as the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse.  It irritated him that they were acting so squeamish.

With Confederate sharpshooters only about  1,000 yards away from them, the soldiers kept running for cover every time a bullet would be fired.

History tells us that Major General Sedgwick walked right out in the open and was quoted as saying, “What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line?” Apparently, his confidence did nothing to calm the soldiers, which only incensed him more.

He then hollered, “Why are you dodging like this? They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” (From the book Who’s Who in the Civil War and historian Gordon Rhea)  Reports then say that he was shot moments later, under his left eye. There, he fell down dead from a sharpshooter’s bullet. Despite being on the opposing side, even General Robert E. Lee expressed sadness over losing his old friend.

And for pic o’ day, just taking it easy… or something like that:

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Dr. Bill

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Bill Whitehurst was dressed in his “Sunday-go-to-meeting” suit because he really was in church. At the time, he was Congressman from Virginia’s second district and I worked for him in the Norfolk district office. Just as many others, I knew him as Dr. Bill.

As a backdrop, I had come to work for him as a summer intern. He then asked me to continue on staff while I attended college during my junior year. So, everyday I would race from my classes to work half-days at the Congressional office. That meant that I usually would answer mail and phone calls. Which brings me back to that Sunday morning.

He had been invited to my church that morning to briefly speak. When I saw him come through the church door, I made a beeline toward him. That’s when he greeted me and also handed a few of letters to me. They were letters that I had prepared for his signature.

Usually, he would come back from Washington on weekends and personally sign each letter that had been prepared for him during the week. He always wanted to personally sign his mail even though most other elected officials used those signature machines. It was a lot of letter signing each weekend.

These were the days before spell check and computers. When he handed me my prepared letters, I noticed that a couple had corrections on them with an attached instruction note. He asked me to make some changes that included spelling… which I did. I couldn’t help it, it made me laugh out loud because that was his personality. He actually brought the mail to church because he wanted to get it right and get them mailed out the next morning.

When I had first come to work as an intern, the office manager, Rena Wasserman, had given me some words of advice in working there. She did so with a smile. One recommendation was to never drive him in my car. Whenever he wanted me to drive, I would just hand him my key. It was true, he was a terrible “backseat driver”.

Years later, I now have a note and a letter from him that are framed together. One is the note that was attached to those letters that he gave me on that Sunday, asking me to make changes. The letter framed beside it was the thank you that he sent me after my last day of employment.

His thank you meant a lot to me and the note of corrections reminded me to pay attention to the details.

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Dr. Bill made a lasting impression on how I work. He never felt that it was necessary to stand on the floors of Congress to make speeches. Instead, he emphasized taking care of those that he represented. That was emphasized to everyone that worked for him.

He once told me that the best part of working in Washington was seeing it in his rearview mirror each weekend, as he headed back home to Tidewater. It’s too bad that there aren’t more of our elected officials less consumed with Washington and more consumed with the detail of doing a good job and taking care of those who elected them.

I decided to write about Dr. Bill when I read Philip Walzer of PilotOnline.com , who wrote an article about Dr. Bill receiving the First Citizen Award from the Norfolk Cosmopolitan Club. And, this Thursday that he is also going to be celebrating his 90th birthday.

He attributes his long life to not smoking, “pushing away” from the dinner table and teaching, because “students energize you” according to the article. He continues to teach at Old Dominion University.

You’ll learn a great deal about Dr. Bill in this well written article from the Pilot. It brought back some great memories. A man who has influenced many including me.

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to attend a dinner that honored Dr. Bill. Following that night, he sent me another letter to tell me that he is proud of me. Yes… I have that letter framed too!

And for pic o’ day…

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