Destiny and Demographics

So we’re to have four more years of Barack Obama in the White House. Good, I say. Better him than a throwback to a 1960s sitcom. Once the election results were tallied and the loser had conceded the race, it suddenly came to me: I distrusted Mitt Romney because he reminded me of one of the black and white characters on weekly television shows I watched as a kid. The man had the look, feel, sound, and, apparently, the two-dimensional ethos, of a prime-time stock character. Call him Ward Cleaver, the great white father of the perfect family.

That was the point, wasn’t it? Decoded, this "golly gee" wizard from Bain Capital was really just a cultural cipher. Vote for Mitt and, why, we’d be safe again. There’d be a world in which good was clearly good, and evil was clearly evil. Drive off the ambiguity. Father knows best, doesn’t he? Mitt was nostalgia, pure and simple. Could the world just be white a little while longer?

In the days following the election, it became evident that Mitt was the white man’s last best hope. He did well among white male voters who bothered to cast a ballot. It was women, blacks, Hispanics who broke away from him. As the nation approaches a demographic tipping point in which Caucasians will soon be a minority – mark your calendars, 2041 is the date – the defeat of Mitt Romney was heralded by some as the death knell of the white male.

I should mourn more than I do, being, as I am, a member of that privileged cast. But white men can’t mourn such things, that would be racism, a reflection of misogyny, an atavistic refusal to embrace a world of new possibilities for people of all sorts. Working-class white voter turn out was low this year. If there’s no white in the rainbow, why vote?

Is this why there is such a great fascination with television and movie dramas about the apocalypse? The world we knew is over. Let’s tear it all down, and start from scratch. We can build with a few other folks just like us, sharing our values, our skin. What we can’t face is a world remade, different in hue, in culture, in language, yet orderly nonetheless. We can face neither the end of the American Century nor the end of white world. And if we are not to see the world re-made, then let’s ourselves become zombies, members of the walking dead.

A world is passing. White world is in mourning.

Let’s decode some of the nonsense peddled by the right.

Obama is not a citizen, and hence ineligible to be president? No proof will ever suffice to prove to a certain kind of white man that Obama should be president. Yes, blacks can vote. But can they govern themselves, much less the nation? Why look at Detroit, a third-world ghetto governed by African-Americans and reverting now to weeds. Oh, my, how sweet the world was when others were the white man’s burden; what now that we have become a burden to the world?

Let’s be sure to be bound by the intentions of Framers, shall we? All white. All men. All bound to a vision of government and the good life that benefits a few at the expense of many enslaved, or treated as something less than citizens. Originalism has become a high-brow defense of white, middle-class values. Harry Truman’s world was one Jefferson would have approved of.

Let’s keep the borders secure against the Hispanic horde flooding in from the South! Never mind that the forebears of most citizens arrived in this country when borders were open. Today, I suspect we’d strip search the Statue of Liberty before permitting her to stand in New York harbor. Immigrants threaten our way of life, right? Tell it to Native Americans.

Gays can’t marry. What would Ozzie and Harriet think? One-man, one-woman, for life wed, that’s the way, right? And out-of-wedlock children, how declasse. The nuclear family is under assault. Prepare for the collapse of civilization.

No, prepare for change. Civilizations are merely settled ways of life. They change as circumstances change and call for adaptation.

The re-election of Barack Obama is the turning of a new chapter. It will become increasingly impossible for white world to recapture the White House. Demography is destiny. Our complexion as a people is changing, and so, perhaps inevitably, will our institutions.

We white guys still enjoy enormous privilege. By accident of birth, I get a leg up in the race for life’s goodies. I get that. But I see the center slipping away. I see a new world in which my place if far from certain, and, yes, I am threatened by the prospect of all this change. I feel a sense of loss over a world that will soon be gone forever. I cannot share the enthusiasm of the newly arrived, those who suffered, labored and strove for the recognition they only now receive, the power they only now yield. I can only accept the change and strive to embrace a broader vision. But in a world of limited resources, that which I can no longer take for granted is lost to me. I would be a liar to refuse to acknowledge the loss.

I am forbidden the moral energy of identity politics. Others can assert their accidents of birth as foundations on which a new world is to be built. I am expected simply to let go of a world I inherited but did not earn. Ambivalence marks my journey; I behold the excitement of the newly arrived with envy.

I voted for Barack Obama because I thought he’d better serve in a changing world. But on reflection all this talk of changing demographics scares me. If the world is no longer mine, then whose is it?


Four Nominees For Federal Judge In Connecticut

Even if you are in mourning about the results of the presidential election, and I am not, you will agree that there is one occasion for rejoicing: With the elections safely behind us, both President Obama and the Senate can now turn their attention to fully staffing the federal judiciary. The judiciary was all but the forgotten branch in the run up to the general election, an odd occurrence, given its importance in our lives.

Nationwide, there 82 vacancies on the federal bench, according to Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts website. Only 34 candidates have been nominated to fill these positions. Some nominees, such as Michael Shea in Connecticut, were nominated early in 2012, only to be ignored. (Shea was nominated by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 2, 2012.) Why Shea, the most vanilla of nominees, has been ignored speaks poorly of the Senate as an institution.

Connecticut has two vacancies on the District Court. Shea was nominated to fill the position vacated by Christopher Droney, who was kicked upstairs to the United States Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit almost one year ago. The death of Mark Kravitz last month creates a second vacancy. How long will the president and Senate dither in filling these seats?

One reason for the seeming gridlock is that Connecticut’s Senators have made a mess of the nomination process. Now-departing Senator Joseph Lieberman and Senator Richard Blumenthal have a blue-ribbon committee evaluating potential nominees. Candidates must sign a pledges of secrecy before being screened by the committee for a job as judge. This is utter foolishness. What secret handshakes, what unseemly genuflecting, takes place in these interviews that we cannot know? I don’t want my judges selected by a committee that operates like Skull and Bones.

So let me take a risk here and indulge the hope that the departure of Senator Lieberman, a man for all parties, an Independent without portfolio, a politico with a Red heart in Blue state, will change things. I’m looking to Senator-elect Chris Murphy to breathe some life into this now secret process. Murphy may be a junior Senator – he looks all of about nine-years-old – but he should still insist that the business of selecting nominees be open to public view.

I am hoping that a trial lawyer, preferably a criminal defense lawyer, is nominated. The federal bench, especially at the appellate court and Supreme Court level, is populated by largely by brilliant theoreticians who never tried a case. I wouldn’t send a friend to a surgeon who’d only read about the operating room. I want judges who know what it’s like to stand in the well of a court armed only with contested evidence and legal doctrine. I once heard a law professor dismiss a question claiming the issue presented "a mere matter of proof." We don’t need professors on the bench.

Hope Seeley of Hartford is my top choice. She is smart, honest, and works as hard as any lawyer I know. Despite her talents, she is also modest. There’s no danger she’d fall in love with the robe. Dangle a robe in front of her eyes.

Another favorite is John Walkley of Trumbull. John is rumored to be on the short list for appointment to the state bench. He’ll be a fine jurist at either the state or federal level. He has loads of experience with complex and high-stakes cases. He is an understated workhorse of enormous goodwill.

I’ve attempted to throw Superior Court Judge Dawne Westbrook’s name into the federal hopper before. I do so again. I’ve know her forever. She is smart, capable and good humored. (Yes, I represent her husband, Dr. Tory Westbrook, who is facing criminal charges; I nominated her for a federal judgeship long before her husband needed me.)

And then there is a perennial favorite, Bill Bloss, now practicing in Bridgeport with Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. Bloss is preternaturally smart, with a savant's quirky humor. Despite his brilliance, he tolerates we lesser mortals, and is always gracious with his time and talents. I've supported him in the past, and do so now without reservation.

Not one of these candidates knows I am nominating them. All are experienced representing ordinary people in both the state and federal courts. All have the respect of the bar. All are would obtain high marks on any review of ability.

So, Senators Murphy and Blumenthal, nominate or get off the pot. And then press your colleagues to actually vote on the nominations. There’s plenty of work to do in the courts. We need you to do your part with dispatch.

Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.


About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis


Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

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