06 June 2014

A New Fishing Boat, and other stories

Just to show you how old I (and you!) are getting, I report the following anecdote that left me both tickled and depressed:

Last weekend, I was in the process of trading in the old boat for a new one--a boat that would be kinder to my aging back, and I was engaging in a friendly conversation with the 50 yr old owner-saleman of the dealership. He was a thoroughly enjoyable guy. An excellent salesman of course, and I really enjoyed talking to him. And I think he enjoyed talking to me too

So when he asked me about my law practice, he asked me to tell him of two cases he might have heard of.  First I mentioned my representation of Jacqueline Kennedy in the lawsuit against the photographer Galella. He had certainly heard of Jacky Kennedy, but as to the rest, his face was blank. Then I said I had also represented Spiro Agnew. He said, “Who?” I said, “Have you never heard of Spiro Agnew?” He said, “Is he a movie actor”? 

I told him who Agnew was and it still rang no bells with him. He knew Richard Nixon was the President at one time, and he knew that Nixon's Vice President was Gerald Ford, but he had no idea how Ford got that job. He was so astonished by the facts of the Agnew story, that he leaned over a dividing barrier where his sales manager sat and said  “Mike, Do you know who Spiro Agnew is?" Mike responded, “I don't have the faintest idea." 

Now each of these guys were between 45 and 50 years old, and clearly did not follow the case on a current basis.  On the other hand, they were both educated at least through high school, and perhaps beyond, where I am sure they took one or more courses in American history. To my astonishment they never learned, or at least didn't remember– about the first Executive Officer in the history of the country to resign his office.

Post Script:  Anthony was so taken with this story, that he called me Monday morning. He said he had gone to a huge multi-family barbecue on Sunday and he was the center of attention as he told the Agnew story.  Before he did so, he took a poll: the count of people who could correctly identify Spiro Agnew was 50-50.  I feel better already.

The second part of this blog is of a different sort, and involves another case of which I am very proud, but only in a derivative sense: My partner, Roberta Kaplan, is the lawyer who won, in the Supreme Court of the United States, Windsor v. U.S., the groundbreaking case that struck down the DOMA statute, and established the absolute right of same sex couples who are married in a jurisdiction that permits same sex marriages, to enjoy the same state and federal rights as heterosexual married couples. It is one of the most dramatic and life changing decisions the Supreme Court has rendered since Brown v Board of Education. 

As a direct result of the DOMA victory, Robbie has become a sought-after speaker, and recently she and her client Edie Windsor, were invited to introduce the President of the United States when he speaks at the LGBT Gala here in New York City on June 17. This is a huge honor for Robbie and I am thrilled for her. 

When I heard of the assignment I, of course, acted aggressively. As Robbie's friend and mentor for many years, it was my duty to do all that I could to help her out.  So I drafted her introduction speech.  When she read my piece she said she loved it so much she was going to send it to the White House for approval. I have not yet  received the White House response, but I am so sure they will be okay with it, I am willing to publish it now to this select audience, so you will all be ahead of the curve. Here is my draft:

“My name is Roberta Kaplan. I am a partner of the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and let me say a few words about the guy I am going to introduce.  As you know, he is the President of the United States, but unfortunately for him, and the rest of us, though he is a lawyer, he was not trained at Paul Weiss. If he had been, he would have learned to pay attention to details, he would have learned everything about everything in his sphere of work, and he would not have permitted Kathleen Sebelius to assuage the right wing anti-choice nuts by screwing with Plan B pill that was unanimously approved by her medical advisory board, and he would not have permitted her to fuck up the roll-out of his signature health care program. Indeed, he would never have made her his partner in the first place. 

Second, if he had been trained at Paul Weiss, he would in NEVER, have allowed General Sinsheki to ignore our veterans’ health problems. The President is a nice guy, and he is getting us out of his predecessor’s catastrophic wars, he knocked off Osama bin Laden, but he is distracted and makes poor decisions on important administrative  stuff.  Importantly, he should never have permitted his asshole Attorney General to file papers in Windsor in the District Court opposing our efforts to gain for same same sex couples the right to enjoy the same Rights and Privileges as the rest of the citizens of United States. Happily he straightened out in the end. I hope he has learned his lesson. 

In any event now that he is heard my message, I am going out on a limb, and in the expectation his decision-making skills will improve, I am tonight offering him a partnership in our firm effective January 21, 2017. Though he has grayed a bit in the last six years, he is still a young man, and we really would like to help him make a living.  He has two young daughters, and we all know how expensive that can be. And, starting in 2017, he is going to need to pay for Michelle’s clothes out of his own pocket.  Ouch.

Okay, I have helped him enough. Now he is on his own. Ladies and gentleman, it is my great honor and privilege to introduce a prospective partner in our firm, but right now still the President of United States, Barack Obama.
Cue the balloons)

A bientot.

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