MD Lt. Gov. Rutherford Under Fire for Remarks about Hate Speech

Baltimore Sun, December 2, 2016:

Amid an uptick in hate speech following the divisive presidential election, Republican Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford said this week that he’d rather people “show their real colors than hide.”

Rutherford was tweeting in response to state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, who had tweeted that she was “shocked” by Rutherford’s lack of awareness about the root of recent anti-Semitic vandalism.

“You act as though hate is new,” Rutherford tweeted at the state senator. “It was always there. I’d rather people show their real colors than hide.”

The article goes on to discuss how Sen. Kagan characterized the Jewish community in and near her Montgomery County district as “mystified” by Lt. Gov. Rutherford’s remarks.

The divergence in perspective between the Lieutenant Governor, who is African-American, and Senator Cheryl Kagan, long a community pillar in greater Washington’s Jewish community both in office and out of office over the decades, should surprise no one.

It is quite common (though not universal) for African-Americans to prefer sunlight and openness regarding racism and for American Jews (and perhaps Jewish citizens of other nations) to find the same sunlight and openness more alarming.  More social commentators have noted this.  I will defer to others more learned than I as to the possible sociological and historical sources of this frequent divergence in response/coping strategy.

As for me, neither Jewish nor African-American and lacking actual chips on the table in dealing with either problem, I would hesitate to comment, other than to hope that our society improves such that racism and anti-Semitism are in the history books and not in the newspapers.  Doubt I will live that long.

Towards a more decent 2017

Politics are not a staple of Working Scribe and any number of other sites can slake the reader’s thirst for yet one more red Solo cup of politics from 2016’s skunked keg. Some things are more important in valence and precedence than politics – many things, in fact, but to talk about these things, we have to talk (a little, sorry) about “that thing.”

I don’t know whether the world I thought I once knew disappeared, or was never there, or was the mere reflection of a happy childhood, replete with Big Bird and 2nd grade teachers and Goofus and Gallant in every monthly issue of Highlights magazine. Our culture seems so brutal, so indecent, with no monopoly anywhere on indecency.

Could one have imagined a presidential candidate dismissing a majority of his opponent’s supporters – roughly a quarter of the republic’s electorate – as a “basket of deplorables” in 1996, or 1984 or 1960? Can one imagine living through the demeaning behavior and language that characterized a major candidate’s campaign persona? The mere language necessary to discuss the current events of politics, the lexicon, is not suitable for a 4th grade civics class. Politics isn’t just nasty, it’s too nasty even to discuss in social studies. This wasn’t true when I was in the 6th grade in 1980, when we held class mock elections in my Catholic elementary school. (The Republican won, and I backed the third-placed candidate – familiar pattern.)

Most people aren’t saints, but most are decent most of the time. Yet we have this indecency in our politics. It seems as if politicians had forgotten how to appeal optimistically and positively to the common (okay, not universal, but common) decency of most people.

After the election, I saw posts from advocates for a losing presidential candidate urge their comrades not to go for Thanksgiving to the parts of the country where the winner’s supporters predominated, urging instead that they host dinner and teach their benighted relatives “how people should be treated.” This is, in fact, not how people should be treated.

We hear “decency” used in reference to sexuality, especially out of the mouths of preachers and politicians seeking money; public indecency, for instance, does not refer to cruel words uttered on a sidewalk but to an unauthorized exposure of human skin. There is a place for decency standards in sexual matters but we have become indecent in so many issues greater than nudity or sexuality. Most of life is about other matters; even pornographic actors spend most of their lives NOT having sex. Christian friends of mine have noted that their Bible talks a lot more about money, especially helping the poor, than about sex. They and many others of similar sensible priorities have a point.

It is far easier to be indecent to strangers and outsiders, what some sociologists and social activists call, awkwardly, “the other.” I fear that we have become a society where there is no “society”, rather a basket not of “deplorables” but of isolated and mutually indifferent (or worse) gel capsules. In 1980, MTV did not exist except as a ambitious idea and cable was barely in existence; national television including respected television news had three major networks and pretty much that was it. I recall saying the word “indivisible” in the Pledge thousands of times; yet that word tells a lie. We are extremely divisible and have been micro-divided, as it turns out.

May 2017 give us a greater sense of being in “one nation”, ideally without the unifying force of a horrible tragedy. As for me and mine, we will eat dinner tonight in peace and health in the Red State part of Maryland, and play cards. and be decent and loving to one another, remembering a more unified and decent time, our different politics notwithstanding. May you enjoy a very decent and Happy Thanksgiving with you and yours, and may the end of this year soon start a more decent one for us all.

Baltimore City Terminates Contract with Neo-Nazi Attorney Consultant

Baltimore Sun, August 18, 2016:

The Rawlings-Blake administration said it had fired Glen Keith Allen, 65, a contract employee who had worked on complex litigation for the city since February. The city began investigating Allen’s background after the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that he had a history of supporting the neo-Nazi National Alliance.

The real story – underreported – behind this is that Glen Keith Allen and his City-side boss George Nilson had both worked at mega-firm DLA Piper during different periods. Allen still (as of August 20) has a Client Protection Fund mailing address at DLA Piper’s Mount Washington office with the Maryland courts for his law license.  How a firm like DLA Piper – ironically, headquartered in its Baltimore office just over the City line at the edge of a predominantly Jewish and African-American neighborhood – had a neo-Nazi funder on its payroll is a horrifying mystery.

This well-publicized embarrassment to the city of Baltimore also cost George Nilson his job as city solicitor.

Maryland Lawyers’ Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(e) designates as misconduct the knowing manifestation:

by words or conduct when acting in a professional capacity bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status when such action is prejudicial to the administration of justice, provided, however, that legitimate advocacy is not a violation of this section.

There is a good argument that funding a group like the neo-Nazi National Alliance with one’s personal funds doesn’t constitute action in a “professional capacity.” A Southern Poverty Law Center report indicates that Glen Allen not only acted at various times as an attorney for the National Alliance but on at least one occasion donated $500.00 of his own money to the organization.

The representation of neo-Nazis or an alliance of neo-Nazis does not constitute endorsement of neo-Nazi views; MLRPC 1.2(b): An attorney’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities. However, do donating one’s own funds to neo-Nazis and then acting as their attorney in another context constitute, together, a manifestation of an 8..4(e) violation?

The following comment is offered in my personal, not professional, capacity.  I do not see how one can reconcile the Maryland Attorney’s Oath (Md. Code Ann., BO § 10-212) with personal support for the views of Nazism, white supremacy or the German Third Reich:

I do solemnly (swear) (affirm) that I will at all times demean myself fairly and honorably as an attorney and practitioner at law; that I will bear true allegiance to the State of Maryland, and support the laws and Constitution thereof, and that I will bear true allegiance to the United States, and that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution, laws and government thereof as the supreme law of the land; any law, or ordinance of this or any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Alan Hilliard Legum, R.I.P.

A very decent man died this week. Annapolis attorney Alan Hilliard Legum died this week according to a recent announcement by his law partner Shane Nikolao and reports in the Capital Gazette.

Alan was surprisingly gentle in his style for a litigation attorney, very understated in his personal demeanor but most effective in his practice – a model for young attorneys.  Among his professional focuses were large tort liability claims against large utility companies and government agencies.  His office on West Street was where I had my first post-law school clerk job..  His son Judd Legum is a nationally recognized public figure in his work in the founding of Think Progress, a liberal advocacy organization.

Alan cared a lot about fundamental justice and civil rights issues and was closely allied in civic life with controversial Annapolis alderman and civil rights activist Carl Snowden (later active in state government as well.)  The Legum family has long lived in the Annapolis area and has included several attorneys and judges.

Speaking personally, I am most grateful for something that Alan did – humanely but resolutely – to aid me in my professional development – namely, his firing me.  6 weeks after I got barred, Alan realized that his practice needed better than 6 weeks of lawyer experience from his clerk.  My drafting skills were not what they needed to be for his active practice, and he was too busy with the actual business of helping clients to train a green lawyer.  I felt disappointed in myself when this happened, but there’s no doubt he made the right decision for his clients’ needs, and he was such a decent human being about it. How he handled that situation says more about this good man than most of the accolades that you may read about him in the newspapers.

My condolences to Alan’s family and friends.  A very decent man and attorney has passed away. The Capital reports that there will be a memorial service this Sunday at 10 AM at Annapolis Roads, south of Eastport at a park facing the Severn River.