Archives for the month of: May, 2014
Rolling hills of the Oliver ranch

Rolling Hills of the Oliver Ranch

Last Friday was a beautiful day, with the temperature in the mid 80’s. I happened to be in the Washington County Courthouse and ran into a number of U/A Law Alumni and friends. Later in the day I headed to Sach Oliver’s ranch for Oliver & Bailey’s annual Bonanza, a fun event with live music and a great turnout of the local bar (no, not tavern, lawyers). The drive up was relaxing and lovely (aside from the pollen ), on (again) a terrific spring day. From the road, it was obvious how great a turnout there was for the Bonanza. Folks were everywhere, visiting and having a good time. The band, Full House, was kickin’ it and the whole vibe was chill.

Among the folks I ran into were Eddie Walker Jr., who will soon be the first Black President of the Arkansas Bar Association. His official title right now is President-Elect Designee. Eddie is a Workers’ Compensation claimant’s attorney from Ft. Smith, Arkansas. I met him years ago when I first began teaching that the law school. At that time he was teaching Workers’ Compensation at the law school as an adjunct professor, and I was fortunate enough to sit in on his classes. One word. Masterful. Later, I taught Comp and invited Eddie and Scott Zuerker to speak to the class about cases they had litigated on opposing sides. Scott now teaches the Comp class.

[If I might digress for a moment, this has been a terrific year of firsts (though at some level, that there are so many firsts is curious).  As you may have read from earlier posts, Paulette Brown was elected as the first woman of color President-Elect Nominee of the American Bar Association.]

Eddie was there with his law partner David Harp, who was giving him a good ribbing about the responsibility Eddie has agreed to take on as bar president, and his new status as a celeb. The three of us visited for quite a while and I asked Eddie to take a picture with me because (teasing) I know that soon he will be hard to get to.

Eddie Walker, Jr.Congressman Mike Ross, who’s running for Governor of Arkansas, was at the Bonanza too, and I snapped a picture of him with Eddie and David. Eddie David & Mike RossAfter a bit more schmoozing, it was time to leave because I wanted to attend a performance sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project, and that meant getting on back down the road to Fayetteville.

The performance, Stories from the Inside Out” was  a staged reading by local actors based on the personal story exploration of 12 incarcerated women. The women are all non-violet offenders housed in the Northwest Arkansas Community Correctional Center. The Prison Story project works closely with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s Prison Ministry. Here, taken from the flyer, is more about the performance:

“Everyone has a story. When we are given an opportunity to listen to each other’s stories we are less likely to dehumanize on another with stereotypes. The goal of the NWA Prison Story Project is to create improved future stories–not only for the women who share their stories…bu for all of us…who listen and prepare ourselves for welcoming them back into our community when they are paroled.”

St. Paul’s is also working toward the goal of establishing a Magdelene House in Fayetteville. These are spaces in which women live for up to two years, unsupervised, as they transition back into the community. The Magdalene Communities are based upon living in a mutually supportive community, founded in love. You can learn more about them here.  It is a wonderful idea because typically women who finish serving their term or incarceration would have to return to the same challenges and living situations that often lead to their incarceration. Sarah Vanhooser Suiter has written a book featuring the stories of Magdalene house residents entitled, Magdalene House A Place of Mercy.

Story boards of the Prison Story Project Participants

Story board of the Prison Story Project Participants

The performance was a staged reading, by 5 local actresses. It wasn’t what I expected thought. The reading were structured together under different topics, which were projected overhead. I think I was expecting to come away with a wholistic view of each of the participants. For me, the readings were choppy and it was hard to get a sense of any one of the women. The other thing I had a hard time with was the complete darkness of the tone of the readings. Even when the topic was love, for example, the reading was, “He loved me even when he punched me in the eye.” It’s difficult for me to articulate my disappointment, but I think it was that the content focused so heavily on the terrible, violent and dysfunctional parts of the women’s lives. Perhaps that was the material they share, but from talking with friends who had attended previously, there was much more of a complete sense of the women. What made them laugh, who they were as Moms without so much “otherness” written into each segment. That, in my view makes it too easy for a middleclass (not very diverse) audience to separate themselves from these women and their struggles, which ironically was one of the purposes of the performance. I’m not sure if I’ll attend next year, as I think my interactions from going in to host with Pastor, Eucharist feels like a better way for me at least, to learn to be supportive.


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American Bar Association President James R. Silkenat has formed the ABA Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education, chaired by The Honorable Dennis Archer. You can read the official press release here, which contains the Task Force’s charge, as well as a list of its members. Here is a another article on the Task Force.

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Saturday turned out to be a free day and Marjorie and I took full advantage of it. We started out with a walk along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  The weather was terrific and lots of folks were out and about. During our walk along the harbor, we saw a fascinating parade of bikes. The riders were quite lively and were all dressed in costume. I captured a few of them as they rode by. It made our walk that much more interesting and fun. I believe (they were riding by as they explained) that it was the Kinetic Sculpture Race, a fundraising event for the American Visionary Art Museum. I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the participants:

Batimore paradeThough we ambled a bit, our walk had a destination. We were headed to Zion Lutheran Church (more about that in a minute) for a Mayfest celebration. However, as we followed the GPS on Marjorie’s phone, we walked a bit out of the way. Once we got going in the right direction again, thanks to a Harley riding officer (gratuitous Harley plug, I know), we noticed that right across the street from where we were standing was the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture! Needless to say, we made a detour to check out the museum, and were glad we did. We learned quite a bit from the exhibits, for example that John W. Greene Jr., in 1941 established the first African-American owned airport in Maryland. The museum’s permanent exhibits,which are housed primarily on the 3rd floor, are divided into three areas; Artistic and Intellectual Journeys, Family and Community Stories and Labor that Built a Nation. We spent time going through each of them and very much enjoyed the many displays. Needless to say, my favorite area deal with labor and employment, but I was fascinated with an interactive quiz for “runaway slaves.” Museum visitors are invited to respond to a series of prompts, in the role of an escaped slave. I did not do very well, and we decided based on my performance, I would have been recaptured. It made us both think. We later learned that on the third Thursday of every month there is live music (jazz I think) with food and sometimes line dancing. Reginald F. Lewis MuseumOn the way out we stopped at the restaurant on the first floor of the museum, and enjoyed a meal fit for the queens we are.  We ordered catfish (Marjorie) and fried chicken (me) both accompanied with corn bread, greens and mac& cheese. The food was absolutely scrumptious and the proprietors could not have been nicer. If you go there be sure to stop in and treat yourself to a yummy meal.

After that we were on our way at last to Mayfest at Zion Lutheran. Well, I have to tell you that it was not a great experience. It was a lovely old church with a lot of history. Services are still conducted in German. As this was the object of our walk we were excited to finally arrive. We walked in, around and through the festival and were never welcomed. In fact we didn’t even get folks to make eye contact. We tried opening our printout of the festival and pointing at the spots highlighted on it, and that didn’t help either. So, we left. Disappointing (and a tad embarrassing as a Lutheran myself). Zion Baltimore

We headed back, through a somewhat dicey area of town. At one point three rough, seemingly angry characters walked past. When I looked back, they were doing likewise. I told Marjorie about it; we got ready for a confrontation, but thankfully none occurred.

Our day ended quite pleasantly as we were able to visit, and have dinner a dear friend, Staci Walters Fujii, and her daughter (and my goddaughter) Blake Catherine. We had a great meal at (I know, like we needed to eat again, but we did). We ate at Phillip’s Seafood and our meals were all very good, and we had a terrific server named Cory (who had a great voice for radio–in fact he has been a DJ). It was the perfect way to close out a relaxing day.

Blake Catherine, Stacie, Me & Marjorie

Blake Catherine, Stacie, Me & Marjorie


Thursday was a pretty full day and included lunch with our Chancellor and Provost. From there I headed back to the law school to administer my Torts exam to my beloved first year students. Afterwards I headed immediately to the airport for a trip to Baltimore, Maryland for the Law School Admission Council Board meeting. Because the 3 hour exam started at 1:30, my flight left at 6:15, and with a connection in Chicago, arrived in Baltimore at midnight. Ugh.

The flight was uneventful except for an exchange with a fellow passenger. I had taken my seat on the flight to Baltimore when a guy who was boarding made extended eye contact–long and unflinching. It wasn’t hostile, but I couldn’t decide what the deal was so I said, “Hi, are you a rider?” He looked surprised, and for a moment didn’t respond, but then he said, “Yes I have a Street Glide that I rebuilt myself.” By that time the aisle cleared and he moved past. Before takeoff though, he came back to my row and asked,”How did you know that?” I told him that he was very direct in terms of eye contact, he had swagger and also the goatee thing typical of a lot of riders. He said, “I’ve always been that way. I think it’s amazing you knew that because no one can ever tell when I’m dressed like this (suit), but of course they know when I’m in my riding gear.” With that he headed back to his seat shaking his head. Once the flight landed, we exchanged a few pleasantries. I told him about Bikes, Blues & Barbeque and that was that.

LSAC Board MeetingThe Board meeting lasted all day, Friday. There was much business to be done including budgeting, updates on committee actions and projects, and receiving reports from sister organizations. LSAC has a number of standing committees including Diversity, Finance & Legal Affairs, Audit, Test Development & Research and Services and Programs. Sister organizations regularly attend the Board meetings. These include  the AALS, the ABA Section on Legal Education, and CLASSI, Canadian Law Admissions, Statistics Services and Innovations. One of the more interesting aspects of the CLASSI report was the reminder that in Canada, a prospective solicitor must complete a term of articling before being admitted to the bar.

In addition our President & Chair, pictured below, gave their reports. IMG_5729[1]

LSAC President Dan Bernstein (L-R), Chair Athornia Steele, General Counsel Joan VanTol & CFO Marjorie LaRue-Britt

One of the wacky, interesting, “you can’t make this up” things that happened, was that the hotel we were meeting in, was also the host hotel for an adult novelties convention. Yep, it is what you think. I felt compelled to investigate during our breaks and met some really nice, but kinda different people. One of them had a daughter who was interested in, and wanted to apply to law school. They thanked me for coming in, and gave me a departing gift. Because this is a safe for work blog, that is all I’ll say about that. But here are a couple of the convention banners.








Mom & Makenzie

There are times when I feel overwhelmed with the power and beauty of an extraordinary experience. This week there was just such an occasion with my Mom. During recent visits with her, she expressed an interest in visiting the law school. Though it seems like a small request, it requires taking care of all the logistics (transportation and access) and that she have a good day. It all came together for one amazing moment. Mom arrived, with the loving care and assistance of Kayla, her terrific caregiver. We had both prepped Mom for the day, encouraging her and sharing her enthusiasm for the visit. We hoped for the best when the day came. Kayla arrived early to fancy Mom up for her visit. and she was in a great mood when she arrived at the law school. We stopped to visit with a number of colleagues as she rolled through the building. They were all kind and welcoming, and Mom enjoyed the attention, charming all with her warmth and good humor.

The highlight of the day was for Mom to meet Makenzie Arnold-Hillard, a third year law student who holds the Eual Dean (Dad) & Fern Nance (Mom) Social Justice Scholarship. Makenzie is a first generation law student who has taken a position with Legal Service upon graduation. Photo: Mom meets Makenzie  Arnold-Hillard, the wonderful 1st generation law student/future Legal Services Lawyer who holds the scholarship named for Mom & Dad. No words for the power of this moment.

She visited with Mom, described her background, and told Mom that she was raised to help others, and was committed to doing so. Then she thanked Mom for the opportunity to meet with her and thanked her for the scholarship assistance. When Makenzie told Mom about her post-graduation plans, Mom said, “That’s really hard, to work for poor people. Thank you for doing that. Bless you. I am proud of you.” I can not tell you what an amazing moment that was. It is one I will always treasure, and which was a blessing to experience. After they visited for a while, we went upstairs, to the Hall of Deans, so Mom could see my portrait. I could describe that moment but as the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Mom in the Hall of Deans