Dec. 7, 2020
Granted, I made a big deal about my 300th column. When I brought it up in conversation, others would change the subject. I acknowledge that in the well-ordered cosmos the anniversary was less than insignificant. But what is significant is the asterisk.
Granted, I made a big deal about my 300th column. When I brought it up in conversation, others would change the subject. I acknowledge that in the well-ordered cosmos the anniversary was less than insignificant. But what is significant is the asterisk. If you missed it, it is in the title, sort of like Barry Bonds vs. Hank Aaron.
Because facts matter, and especially so in the law, I acknowledge after reflection that my November column, while technically my 300th column, should not be so designated. In fact, the 300th column is more like the 297th. For those of you who are still reading, here is the explanation.
In the past, whenever I "wrote" my 100th anniversary Daily Journal column, I penned (didn't want to repeat "wrote") a brief paragraph or two and repeated my first Daily Journal column in 1988. That column was about depublishing, and I republished the column about depublishing. Republish, a way to get even for depublish. Get it? There's a bit of irony for you. Simple arithmetic. Let's see, columns numbers 100, 200, and 300 are not full columns. That makes three columns, right? So that means my 300th column will not truly occur until March 2021... if I am still writing a column next year. Good segue into what follows: taking credit.
Taking credit, a good topic at the end of the year. Its cousin -- things are not what they seem -- will be explored in a future column. Who knows, maybe my 302nd or, if you will, my 299th.
Titles often give persons credit for sanctioning (used in the good sense of the word here) the work of others. Our presidents get credit or blame for picking an array of experts to advise them and to head agencies. Historians, academics, even columnists, acknowledge the contribution of others for the articles and books they author. (I am not crazy about turning nouns into verbs.) Darn, I just did it.
Often those who help others in their labors are called "staff." Those individuals who make up the group called "staff" seldom receive individual credit. "Staff" should not be confused with "staph," the shortened form of staphylococcus. Staff in the singular can be a rod or pole to use while hiking or beaning someone. But here we are talking about staff as a collective noun to describe a group of persons who work to make other people look good.
But as long as we are on the subject of taking credit, judges also get credit or blame for decisions they make. Yes, we all get what we deserve, but lawyers and staff make the contribution to arrive at the decision. We don't sit there and make it up... although we have been accused of that. Appellate court decisions are the final product of the work of lawyers, colleagues, and staff. My thanks to Justices Yegan, Perren and Tangeman, their staff and mine, research attorneys Lauren Nelson, Peter Cooney and Robert Miller, and judicial assistant Bonnie Edwards, for making me look good when I follow their advice. It's the end of a difficult year and I want to acknowledge my gratitude to them and to Danny Potter, clerk of the 2nd District, and Patricia Silva, assistant Clerk of Division 6, and her staff (got to stop somewhere, sorry) for their invaluable contribution. And everyone else in Division 6
Kudos to Justice Martin Jenkins and Los Angeles Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile for acknowledging credit when it is due. They endorsed and put into practice a judicial mentoring program for attorneys who wish to become judges. They also deserve praise for acknowledging that the program was the brainchild of Judge Helen Zukin. As reported in the Daily Journal, this program helps attorneys wishing to apply for judgeships to meet with a superior court judge to help them with their applications and to "demystify" the application process. This, in turn, encourages a large pool of applicants and encourages diversity.
And finally some thoughts about my dear friend and colleague Justice Paul Coffee who passed away last month. Paul was Catholic, a Navy pilot, a Republican, an insurance defense attorney, everything I am not. Paul remarked that these superficial differences were meaningless. You bet, Paul. You brought a healthy sense of practicality, common sense, and wisdom when you became our colleague in Division 6. You courageously fought a long illness after your retirement from the bench in 2012. And we had many conversations and visits during that time. How fortunate I was to have your friendship and that last visit shortly before your passing.
So, Paul, it's not goodbye. We both decided that.