The U.S. legal system is complicated. Even if you were born and raised in the United States, you likely didn’t get a thorough overview of our legal principles in your schooling unless you went to law school. With legal topics frequently in the news, you may be left wondering about aspects of American law. Why do courts decide cases the way they do? Why don’t legal rulings always comport with what seems like common sense?
As long-time readers know, I like to listen to podcasts, particularly educational ones. In this post, I thought I’d round up some of my favorite law-related podcasts that can help you gain a better understanding of the legal concepts that shape current events and daily life in the United States. Readers, what are your favorite legal podcasts? Please tell us in the comments.
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is an umbrella term that encompasses both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It’s the disease that led to my father’s death this summer and that made him struggle to breathe for years. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 135,000 Americans each year. More than 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, and many more are likely unaware that they have the disease.
Last Saturday morning, my husband asked if I wanted to drive to a nearby town and have breakfast. I glanced at my to-do list and replied that I had too much on my plate for the weekend and would rather just stay home and start on my chores.
One of those tasks was to replace a perpetually leaking tire on my car, so at about 11:00 AM, we drove together to the tire shop. By the time we left, I needed to eat something (pregnancy hunger can be sudden and intense). Rather than swinging through a fast food drive through lane, we decided to stop by a downtown coffee shop that we rarely visit. Though they had healthier options, I indulged in a delicious cinnamon roll and a chai latte.
In light of this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, I find it necessary to revisit the topic I addressed last weekend. Like many Americans, I am horrified by the recent rise in white supremacist, neo-Nazi activity in the US. Many people smarter than me have written eloquent pieces about what happened this weekend, and I do not pretend to have anything new or particularly insightful to say. In case there is any doubt, let me be clear where I stand: Hating, discriminating against, or threatening anyone on account of their race, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, or gender is despicable and unacceptable. Human is human, period.
As you’ve probably realized, this is not a law blog. I’ve previously written about why I can’t comment on controversial legal and political issues. As a judicial staff member, I’m governed by ethics rules that prohibit me from opining on legal issues that may come before my court. The ethics folks take these restrictions seriously. I once attended a training in which the speaker said it would be unethical to post a recent Supreme Court decision on social media with nothing more than the comment “interesting case.”
I’ve become convinced that curiosity is the solution to most of our problems, individually and globally. How can that be, you ask? How could centuries-old conflicts, climate change, interpersonal strife, and disease epidemics be cured by mere curiosity? Well, you’re on the path to finding answers simply because you’ve begun by asking questions.
The public radio program On Being, as part of its Civil Conversations Project, recently aired an interview called “Repairing the Breach” (transcript). The show featured a white male Libertarian leader of the Tea Party movement, Matt Kibbe, and a black female millennial progressive leader, Heather McGhee, discussing how we can engage difference and better understand each other.
Near the end of the show (at 44:30), Heather brought up a conversation she had with Gary from North Carolina on a C-SPAN call-in show last year. Gary called into the show, admitted to being prejudiced, and explained why he thought he held certain attitudes. Then he asked Ms. McGhee how he could change, “to become a better American.” McGhee thanked him for his honesty and offered suggestions such as getting to know black families, reading books about the history of African-Americans in the U.S., or attending a black church. The video clip went viral.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I’ve cut back on the amount of time I spend scrolling through social media feeds and reading articles online in order to free up more time for writing in the mornings and evenings. I’m also attempting to replace mindless phone-checking throughout the day with other more meaningful tasks — things like mindful breathing, short bursts of physical activity, and reading books. My overarching goal is to use my time more deliberately instead of impulsively reacting to whatever is aiming to capture my attention. Time, after all, is a scarce and non-renewable resource. To riff off Annie Dillard, how we spend our minutes is how we spend our hours, how we spend our hours is how we spend our days, and how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
When I mention Alexigraph to people who haven’t read it, they often ask, “What’s it about?” When I decided to start blogging, I had a general idea of the topics that I would cover, but I hadn’t fully crystallized my vision for the site. Now that I’ve been posting for about a month and a half, I can offer a clearer image.
This post is not intended as legal advice. Please read the Disclaimer posted above.
Lawyers get a bad rap. I’ve had the “lawyers and liars are the same thing” jab thrown at me before, and there’s no short supply of jokes painting lawyers as bad guys. Are there less-than-honest lawyers in the world? Sure–there are bad apples in any bunch. But day in and day out, I see dedicated, hardworking attorneys counseling clients to do the right thing and fighting for their clients’ rights in court.
Non-lawyers might be surprised to know that attorneys are governed by strict ethical rules, and violations of the rules are taken seriously. Attorneys and judges are encouraged to report violations to disciplinary boards, and investigations often lead to suspension of lawyers’ licenses to practice or disbarment.