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Kim Lowe served as the 2015-2016 HCBA President. Views expressed here are her own.


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A Tribute to Harper Lee

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Tuesday, February 23, 2016

If you are a regular reader of this blog, my bent toward literature and 80's and 90's popular music will not come as a surprise.  As I contemplate how lawyers should interface with society, I often think "What would Atticus do?" Well, on Friday the death of Harper Lee was announced.  I could not let a week pass without commenting on the life of the woman who created Atticus Finch! 

Nelle Harper Lee lived a long and productive life, but it goes without saying that she will be remembered almost exclusively for her debut novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  I can go down many paths to celebrate Ms. Lee's life and contributions to not only our profession but also the lives of countless people.  Let's face facts, To Kill A Mockingbird has been a must-read for high school students since its publication in 1960.  But as I think about Harper Lee, Atticus Finch, and Scout, I feel compelled to celebrate Harper Lee's life with a multi-genre/multi-generational musical tribute to one of the best. 

As we make our way through the first few months of 2016, the British rock band Queen's 1980 hit Another One Bites the Dust might best describe our loss of "celebrities" so far this year.  But surprise, surprise Another One Bites the Dust is not actually a football anthem.  As I was growing up in Detroit, this song often played during the Detroit Lions less than successful games.  Until recently, I thought Freddie Mercury only sang songs for sports teams.  But if you look at the lyrics of this song, it is clear that Freddie and crew might have been as deep as Harper Lee.

Feeling a need to celebrate a female author with a female songstress, I struggle between Sarah McLachlan’s poignant late-90's I Will Remember You or Sinead O’Connor’s iconic rendition of our own Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U.  Each song beautifully conveys a heartfelt feeling of awe and remembrance, which I feel for Ms. Lee's characters as well as her other contributions to the literary world (think of Truman Capote). 

But Luke Bryan's 2013 Drink a Beer might just say it best, as grappling with the loss of a loved one forces one to contemplate the why and the greater meaning of death.  With Harper Lee, however, we are not mourning the death of a friend or a loved one; we are mourning (or maybe more accurately celebrating) the life of an author who, through the power of her imagination, created one of the most iconic legal-literary characters of the 20th century.  We should all raise our glasses and drink a beer (or tea) to Ms. Harper Lee. 

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Posted By Kim Lowe, Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I would be lying if I claimed I regularly read SCOTUS opinions. Even as a law student, I found Con Law to be a dreadful experience.  I'm a transactional lawyer. I read Delaware Chancery and tax court opinions. Since I started practicing in 1998 I had not read a complete SCOTUS decision until Citizen United, a decision that focused on entity theory. This being said, I have read excerpts which lead to my secret love affair with one justice: Antonin Scalia. This love affair was based on two simple facts: he wrote well and he was funny. He had a distinct voice that I will miss. 

 I pulled a couple of quotes from Scalia as I read about his life this weekend: 

 I am a textualist. I am an originalist. I am not a nut.

 Who but a smart, witty man would make a comment like this about himself? It is almost Hemingway-esque in its straightforward simplicity. While the law is serious, nothing more so than the law as noodled upon and passed down by the SCOTUS, we can all appreciate Scalia's perspective on his own position on legal theory. 

 “I don’t like scruffy, bearded, sandal-wearing people who go around burning the United States flag.” 

Ironically, in 1989 Scalia voted to strike down a law banning flag burning. This sounds like something my grandmother (God rest her soul) would mutter over Thanksgiving dinner when us kids "got to talkin about politics." When I see these words attributed to a staunch conservative whose death will lead to a battle royale on the Hill, I cannot help but smile much as Scalia was often photographed with a twinkle in his eye and a genuine smile on his face. 

In his dissent in United States vs. Windsor, Scalia critiques the majority opinion as “couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic.”

Let's just say Scalia was not afraid to state his opinion. He did not pull a punch or hide behind rhetorical niceties. He called it as he saw it in precise, unambiguous statements. It’s interesting to consider the "opinions" of Scalia embodied in a lifetime of scholarship and service and contrast them against the often hateful and ridiculous statements of candidates for President. I can only imagine what these candidates will say about Obama's ability to appoint a replacement for Scalia. 

Regardless of politics, as a profession, let's remember Scalia as an amazing legal scholar and public servant. Whether we like it or not, the next few weeks or months are going to make for amazing political theater. And this political theater will be in our branch of the government.  Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states:

He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States.

Whether we like or dislike the positions of a single justice or the party of a sitting president, we understand the important and critical role the SCOTUS plays in our system of governance and we know who appoints those justices. We are going to have an even crazier election cycle than we thought. 


Get Ready to Rumble!!!!!!    

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Dance Moms and Other Reality TV Shows about Adults Behaving Badly

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, January 25, 2016

During the winter when it is cold and we are all stuck in the house, I tend to park myself on the couch with the remote and watch hours of home improvement and cooking shows.  It’s sort of a winter tradition at my house, just me, Daisy, Betty, and the remote.  The other evening I jumped from a rerun of “House Hunters International” to a rerun of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” to a complete tour of all of my Direct TV channels between HGTV and TLC.  During this random channel surf, I stopped on yet another reality TV show, “Dance Moms” on Lifetime.  Well, it took less than 30 seconds for me to become disgusted. Really? The snippet I caught captured several moms wearing excessive amounts of makeup bad-mouthing each other, the coach, and the little girls involved in some high-pressure performance dance troop. 

Now, I know that parents are not perfect and all make mistakes while raising children.  But… really?  As we seem to grapple almost daily with mass shootings and high school students assaulting their teachers and school administrators, should we really be glamorizing the disrespectful and ridiculous antics of these grown women on broadcast TV for our children and young people to see? 

As many of you know, my legal practice involves working with nonprofit organizations. Several of my clients serve youth and involve parent volunteers.  Recently, my clients have been forced to contend with behavioral issues not involving the children, but parents of children!  And these are not the hockey moms celebrated by Sarah Palin. 

So as my intrepid assistant Nellie and I grapple with writing a blog that includes David Bowie, Glen Fry, and Natalie Cole (just to name a few), my forced winter confinement compels me to comment on the erosion of civil society as a result of reality TV.  So, as I recall the beautiful experience that is Fry and the Eagle's “Witchy Woman,” Bowie's penultimate 1983 pop anthem “Modern Love (coincidentally from the album titled “Let's Dance”), and Natalie Cole's 1975 “This Will be (an Everlasting Love) and her amazing virtual duet with her father Nate King Cole with the 1991 “Unforgettable,” I cannot help but ponder what has happened to the common sense of parents!    

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What's Going On

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, January 11, 2016

Take a look at the lyrics of Marvin Gayes 1971 Vietnam War-era anthem Whats Going On:

Mother, mother
There's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today . . .

These words bring to mind the current crisis surrounding access to justice our profession (and frankly, our country) is grappling with today. According to the American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Services:

“Easy access to affordable legal services is critical in a society based on the rule of law. Yet our courts are seriously underfunded . . .Many who need legal advice cannot afford to hire a lawyer and are forced to represent themselves.  At the same time, technology, globalization, and other forces are transforming the ways legal services are accessed and delivered. Familiar practice structures are giving way in a marketplace that continues to evolve.”

But what is really going on here? We have a whole generation of law students who have struggled to obtain paying legal jobs. We have a considerable portion of the population unable to access basic civil legal services. This problem seems to challenge the basic rules of supply and demand.  But wait! There is another factor here that strains the system: the cost of law school. Delivering services to fill basic civil legal needs does not actually pay enough when compared to the cost of law school. I think it is fair to say that something is just out of whack with the entire system. 

As a profession, we are strongly encouraged to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services to those who cannot otherwise afford to pay for them. In addition, we regularly and consistently give our charitable giving dollars to organizations like Legal Aid. And yet we still experience a persistent and growing justice gap. 

I fear that this gap will continue to expand as the legal profession and the business of law continue to be challenged by evolving market forcesforces that cause us to take a closer look at the supposed long-term superior earning power of a law degree.  As long as lawyers do well financially, the constant push to fill the justice gap by pro bono might continue to work, but for how long? 

So I come full circle to lyrics from yet another Marvin Gaye Motown classic Mercy Mercy Me: 

Woo ah, mercy mercy me
Ah things ain't what they used to be, no no
Where did all the blue skies go?

Tags:  Access to Justice  Law Schools 

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Downton Abbey Rules!

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, January 4, 2016

I took a little staycation over the holiday season. I puttered around the house and caught up on all sorts of neglected projects with my trusty canine companions, Daisy and Betty, trailing behind me, much like Lord Grantham's pooch, Isis. Twin Cities Public Television made all of this domesticity possible by airing marathon-style all previously-aired five seasons of Downton Abbey.   

Just in case you've never watched this acclaimed Masterpiece Theater production, here is some background. The most intriguing aspects of Downton Abbey are not the above stairs romances of the aristocrats or the machinations of the Iago-like Mr. Barrows.  No, the most intriguing aspects of Downton Abbey involve the characters—male, female, old or young—who face the changing social and technological world of the early 20th century. And, of course, we can relate the stories of our favorite Downton characters to the legal profession. 

As we watch Mr. Carson preside over the table downstairs, it is impossible not to recognize the similarities between the bench, the formal processes of the justice system and the people ruled over by our laws. As we watch Lady Mary grapple with the cruel impact of primogeniture, we cannot help but consider the historic and even current struggle of women to succeed in the legal profession. As we watch housemaid Ethel, Tom Branson, Lady Edith and Lady Rose deal with a whole host of socially unacceptable relationship choices and ramifications, we must acknowledge how our profession remains closed to people of color and many others who are not born into a socio-economic situation that provides an educational path to law school. As Anna, Mr. Bates and Mr. Barrow navigate love, homosexuality, crime and their own pasts, we can see how all of us must navigate our own legal careers through our professional and personal lives. And, finally, as we watch the angst and drama that surrounds the fate of the Abbey itself, we consider the fate and future of our law schools and the legal profession challenged with new client-serving competitors.  

So as I settle in to watch the final season of Downton Abbey with Daisy and Betty by my side, I am eagerly awaiting the episodes that will resolve the stories of characters that have become friends. I ponder how our profession and its stakeholders will navigate the changing times we find ourselves in, much like Downton Abbey and its inhabitants.  


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