Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 27, 2015 in Unsolicited Commentary
QuietStorm and I worked with this guy when we were all in the Student Senate at NC State. And now he’s in the New York Times:
How to Prosecute Abusive Prosecutors
By BRANDON BUSKEY | NOV. 27, 2015
WHEN it comes to poor people arrested for felonies in Scott County, Miss., Judge Marcus D. Gordon doesn’t bother with the Constitution. He refuses to appoint counsel until arrestees have been formally charged by an indictment, which means they must languish in jail without legal representation for as long as a year.
Judge Gordon has robbed countless individuals of their freedom, locking them away from their loved ones and livelihoods for months on end. (I am the lead lawyer in a class-action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against Scott County and Judge Gordon.) In a recent interview, the judge, who sits on the Mississippi State Circuit Court, was unapologetic about his regime of indefinite detention: “The criminal system is a system of criminals. Sure, their rights are violated.” But, he added, “That’s the hardship of the criminal system.”
There are many words to describe the judge’s blunt disregard of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Callous. Appalling. Cruel. Here’s another possibility: criminal — liable to prosecution and, if found guilty, prison time.
Right on, sir.
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 26, 2015 in Randomness
Greetings from Virginia Beach! 😃
It’s been 6 years (!) since I posted a Thanksgiving entry, reflecting on the things I’m thankful for and where I was in life 1 / 5 / 10 years ago. Taking the time to reflect is something I started doing back when I had dropped out of college, trying to keep my spirits up when it felt like I was never going to amount to anything.
Whether I’ve actually amounted to anything is up for debate — but at least now my spirit is doing OK 😊
A year ago today, I was here in Virginia Beach with my family. Survived my second full year as a solo practitioner. Excited about an uptick in the practice and recently joining the speakers circuit with a quasi-CLE on starting your own law firm.
I sacrificed Thanksgiving cooking for that 3.333
Five years ago, I learned that I was actually capable of cooking my own Thanksgiving dinner 😂
It was my 2L year at NCCU Law and I decided to stay home for the holiday so I could study for final exams — even though I stood by my belief that grades don’t matter (reaffirmed in this Mailbag entry), I was close enough to a 3.0 that I’d regret not trying to make it.
So I cooked my own turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and croissant rolls… and a few weeks later made the Dean’s List for the first time since 2005.
And ten years ago, to be honest I don’t remember where I was 😶 I’d just returned to NC State, terrified by Calculus III, and focused on not bombing academically. That was the semester I made Dean’s List. 😄
I’d go through and give you the full list of the things I’m grateful for like I did back in 2009, but the main one is my grandparents. The Thanksgiving meal this year was so different from everything I had growing up — Nan can’t physically cook, so Pops and my Aunt Diane prepared a few things while I handled getting the table prepared (and I’m on deck to mow the lawn and rake the leaves before I leave). It was just the 4 of us. A smaller meal, smaller group of family members. Everything just felt… off. Smaller. Like twilight. It’s tough to accept.
I’m grateful to have the ability to travel up here to be with them. Grateful for a team at TGD Law willing to put up with my idiosyncrasies and family drama. Grateful for friends who’ve texted throughout the day to wish me a happy Thanksgiving.
And grateful for each of you, still stopping by even though I’ve done a terrible job of keeping things up to date.
Thank you. And I hope you’ve had a happy Thanksgiving! ❤️
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 12, 2015 in Randomness
“I hate everybody.”
That’s been a running theme on Facebook as I see things like a GOP-run legislature I helped elect allowing clowns to pay the UNC President nearly a million dollars annually, while so far as I know my own legislators have accomplished nothing beyond ranting about how evil Republicans are — even assuming arguendo it were true, it’s not solving or improving or fixing anything, especially when Democrats will be in the minority through at least 2022 with how the districts are drawn.
So I decided to run for office. Talked to the bank at 4:55pm on Tuesday about setting up an account. Wednesday was Veterans’ Day. Then at 9am today I’ve got a voicemail from the media.
This will be an experience…
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 23, 2015 in Unsolicited Commentary
From the News & Observer:
Spellings’ salary near the top for public university leaders
By Lynn Bonner | email@example.com
Margaret Spellings will be one of the highest paid public university administrators in the nation when she takes over the UNC system in March.
With a starting base salary of $775,000, she will make more than outgoing UNC System President Tom Ross, who earns $600,000 a year.
Spellings will have the opportunity to earn money on top of her salary by meeting performance goals she and the Board of Governors agree to. She will also be eligible for salary increases with each annual job evaluation.
When Molly Broad retired as President of the UNC system in 2006 she was making $312K.
The Board of Governors then hired Erskine Bowles at $425K, but he donated $125K of it to a scholarship fund (since the guy was already wealthy).
After Erskine retired in 2010, despite the intervening recession, Tom Ross was brought in at $500K — then given a 1-year boost to $600K when the BOG decided to fire him last year.
And now we have Spellings at $775K.
From a nearly-all-Republican, ostensibly “conservative” Board.
Appointed by a Republican-controlled, ostensibly “conservative” General Assembly.
Now I’m not that great at math, but by my count that’s a 148% increase in less than a decade. In-state tuition at NC State has gone up 72% in that same time frame ($4,783 to $8,206.16).
Meanwhile, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Carolina families’ average annual wages have only gone up just 20% over that same period: from $37,439 to $44,973. And that’s not adjusted for inflation or increases in the cost of living.
Something is seriously wrong here y’all…
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 22, 2015 in The After-3L Life
Surprise! It’s a blog post!
I’ve given up trying to preserve the smilies here at law:/dev/null. Not sure when I’ll have the time to go into the archives and replace them in old entries, but from hence forward I’ll do my best to embrace the emojis that are now built-in to WordPress. 😱
Fees earned are still trending up
TGD Law officially finished three years back on September 20th. I still owe y’all a breakdown of how things turned out from Year 2, so add the Year 3 breakdown to that list. Suffice to say fees are still trending upward but the struggle with costs remains… well… a struggle.
On that same note, we opened an office in Charlotte!
Kinda cuts against the whole “Hey we really should contain costs!” narrative from that last paragraph, but I figure I’ve learned enough about how not to run the Durham branch that I think we can make a second office work. 😂
“Wait, did you say ‘we’?”
I did — I’ve actually got two associates who are still able to put up with me! 😮
At some point I’ll have to come up with blog-suitable nicknames for both of them, but one has been my paralegal since March who recently passed the bar exam; I’m hoping she’ll be my #2, once we get her over the whole fear of having never been a lawyer before.
The other has actually been a friend on Twitter (true story!), who I met for the first time during one of my Startup 101 presentations in Charlotte. We had drinks in Raleigh the following Friday, and her skillset was uniquely suited for a multinational corporate fraud case I was working on; she started work sitting in on a deposition I had the next Monday. Hence the impetus for the Charlotte office.
Finances and associates aside, we had what I consider one of our marquee wins since the firm opened — torpedoing a baseless defamation case on summary judgment, after systematically dismantling an opposing counsel who was needlessly confrontational the entire time.
The Patton reference made me smile
We’d represented a nudist group whose board members were sued after they removed another board member for inappropriately touching somebody; the ex-member actually found a lawyer willing to file suit, arguing that he was “defamed” by the removal. Lots of First Amendment issues, and then us discovering he actually had a pattern of groping multiple women over a number of years.
At the onset of the case I got some guidance from Ken White over at Popehat — I’ve been a shameless fanboy of both him and Patrick at the same site since just before I took the bar exam — and gave them a shout-out when the judgment order arrived in my inbox 😊
Of all the motion hearings and trials I’ve had since I started practicing law back in 2012, that one was my most-crisp and thorough. And the case helped me continue develop my knowledge of First Amendment law that I’d started building from representing the Moral Monday protestors in Raleigh (37 of 39 dismissed) and one of the Black Lives Matters protesters here in Durham (also dismissed).
In my personal world, Nan is doing worse 😞 She finally had the operation to take her thyroid out a week or so ago. Apparently at some point during that operation the doctor nicked her parathyroid which (news to me) regulates the body’s store of calcium — while she’s also on medication that hinders calcium absorption. So long story short I’m sitting at my desk yesterday and see my Aunt Diane calling, which I just knew meant Nan was in the hospital. She was taken to the ER where they discovered she had almost no calcium left in her system. She’ll be there for at least 4-5 days until there’s some improvement. I’m crossing my fingers that things will turn around but I’m not optimistic.
Samson is still a pain in the butt. We’ve reached a détente of sorts with him destroying the apartment, but he’s taken to scratching at the doors to the bathroom and my bedroom, and (when that didn’t do the job) chewing at the wood paneling around them. Needless to say I won’t be getting my security deposit back.
There’s been more since then — asked by MDG to volunteer with the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, creating a new endowment at the NCSU Libraries to focus on collections on student leadership, my frustration with both parties in the General Assembly when it comes to the economy and our court system, etc etc etc — but hopefully I’ll do a better job of updating things here and will have those as future topics.
Hope all of you are doing well!
From the law:/dev/null archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 17, 2015 in The After-3L Life
It’s probably fitting that a series of blog posts on how life has gotten in the way of me blogging (Part I, Part II, Part III) would get interrupted for 2.5 months because of life getting in the way of me blogging
I’m still here. Samson is still here. TGD Law is still here.
Even law:/dev/null is still here somehow, after 6 years last week. WordPress has advanced so much that I desperately need to find a new theme — and will have to go back and remove the smilies, since they’re now getting replaced with standardized emoji — so keep an eye out for that.
I’d update y’all on more, but it’s late and I’m beat. More stuff to come soon though (seriously!)…
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 28, 2015 in The After-3L Life
One of the other factors in my lengthy hiatus was seasonal: the annual ritual of trial advocacy competitions!
Some of you might remember back in February of last year I penned this bittersweet entry celebrating the accomplishments of some students I coached in the TYLA National Trial Competition, but sharing my disappointment that my talents were being used to benefit UNCCH Law rather than my own alma mater.
Well this year was… interesting.
The folks at UNCCH Law plan ahead, and had contacted me at the beginning of last August to ask if I’d come back for the 2015 competition. And me, being the naïve person I am, told them to give me some time so I could check with NCCU Law — just in case the whole “us kicking NCCU’s rears” would prompt them to let me come home.
(cue the “LOL!”s)
I hit up my old coach to ask for his advice. We met over lunch to talk that week, and he told me to hold off with the acceptance; he was going to step down as coach, and wanted to recommend me as his replacement. All I’d need to do is contact the advisor for the Trial Advocacy Board and let her know.
So I do. And get her voicemail.
A week goes by without a response. I call again. Voicemail.
A few more days go by, and I stop by the school in person. She’s teaching a class so I leave a note.
Another week goes by without a response.
It was around the third week in August when I learn that Prof CrimLaw had now been made the new Dean of our clinical programs (which also has responsibility for our competition teams), so I reached out to him. He suggested I contact a different professor who is now in charge of overseeing competition programs for everybody across both the Trial Advocacy Board and the Moot Court Board — and that, whatever she says, not to feel any shame or regret for working for a different law school. “That’s what we do as lawyers.”
So I call the other professor. She actually answers the phone ( ) and asks me to give her until that Friday. Then actually calls me back when she said she would!
Just to tell me that the first professor told her my old coach was coming back for another year…
(cue the “#dafuq?”s)
Now this call to me happened around 3pm-ish. Keep that in mind.
I email UNCCH my acceptance that afternoon and resign myself to going another year without helping my own alma mater.
The following Monday I text my old coach and say “Guess I’ll be seeing y’all in Charleston” — and almost immediately get a text back, even though it’s during work hours and he’s rarely that quick with a response. “Call me after lunch.”
We connect later that afternoon, and he’s just as confused as I am. Turns out no one from NCCU Law had contacted him until after they had told me he was coming back. But he hadn’t changed his mind: he still wasn’t coming back, so he asked if I still wanted to coach NCCU (duh). I’d already emailed my acceptance to UNCCH though and couldn’t break my commitment to them.
(cue the sad trombones)
Well fast forward to the end of January. I survive the car drama and make it down to Charleston. Both TYLA teams do admirably well under the circumstances but neither advance. I drive back feeling like I failed.
Then about two weeks later I get a call from NCCU.
Turns out the AAJ coaches had quit unexpectedly, and no one seemed to notice until a month after the problem packet had been released. The second professor asked if I’d be willing to step in (duh again). Given the short timing I bring in EIC as a co-coach, we get started about a month after everyone else…
NCCU Law’s 2015 AAJ trial team. From left: me, Petal Munroe, Shelvia Dancy, Joshua Palmer, Jaimee Bullock, and EIC
…and make it to the Regional Finals for the first time since 1998.
(cue the victory trumpets)
At various points during the month of February, EIC and I both had our doubts. Really right up until competition (the last practice did not go well at all).
But then when the first round happened, she and I were both totally blown away. So much so that we both did a look at each other like “Where did this come from??”
And then did it again in the 2nd round. And again in the 3rd. And again in the semifinals. When it was all said and done, a new plaque was getting added to the trophy case at the law school.
There’s a lot getting glossed over here simply because this entry is pushing 1,000 words and I realize many of you won’t actually read that far. But trust me when I say it was a busy-but-interesting Spring semester
So after two years of coaching, of two law schools, in two different competitions, I’ve had the privilege of helping a batch of proto-lawyers make the regional finals both years. I’m going to count that as a 100% success rate.
Now we’ll just see if NCCU Law finally lets me come back for 2016…
Good night y’all!
From the law:/dev/null competition-related archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 25, 2015 in The After-3L Life
You could probably guess from the “(Part I)” atop the last entry that the financial consequences of driving a 13-year-old car aren’t the only source of life-related drama over the past however-many months.
My family is also a mess.
Sister of TDot is back in a mental institution. She apparently went voluntarily this time around, which is a switch from her past visits. I’m told schizoaffective disorder is the official diagnosis — basically a combination of schizophrenia and bipolarism — but the particular reasons for her commitment don’t really matter; she gets committed, gets medicated, convinces doctors to release her, immediately stops taking meds, and the cycle of violence and craziness repeats until she’s committed again.
I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know something needs to change or she needs to be cut loose from the rest of the family. Just because she’s not responsible for her mental illness doesn’t mean she’s not responsible for going off her meds knowing what the end result will be. But my family tolerates it because (this is the actual response I get) “what are we supposed to do, let her die?” Like the thousands upon thousands of Americans living reasonably normal lives despite mental health issues are incapable of surviving…
My mom is (theoretically at least) finally waking up. I’ve obliquely hinted in past entries that I’d had some personal experiences growing up when it came to domestic violence. Evidently things have gotten totally out of control as the situation with my sister has deteriorated.
Mom has been talking about leaving since before I left for NC State — the first time — and I missed several events my 3L year while pacing the hallway listening to her on the phone as she gave me every excuse under the sun for why she just couldn’t get up and start over. And it’s been a once-every-couple-months conversation in the years since I graduated. But she started a GoFundMe page seeking help, which at least means she’s more-seriously thinking about dealing with things than before.
I love both of my parents, but their current environment is toxic as f*ck and they both need to start acting like adults. For better or worse, that likely means splitting up.
Nan is not doing well As callous as it probably sounds as you read it on screen, my heart hurts moreso from that than all the (avoidable) drama with my parents and sister. There have been various hints here and there over the years — her handwriting had gotten steadily worse when she sent birthday cards, for a brief period of time she’d lost a lot of her hair — but it didn’t really sink in until I went home to see Nan and Pops for Easter.
Some of the handrails added to Nan’s & Pops’s house
I usually try to go up 3-4x a year and had just been there for Christmas a few months prior, but when I arrived this most-recent trip I noticed there was a handrail added to the step up from the garage. And another running the length of the hallway. And a quartet of them in the bathroom. Turns out she’s had progressive trouble walking without assistance, had fallen at least once, and needs these to make sure she can move around on her own. Pops also bought a pair of short-wave walkie talkies in case she needed him while he was out in the garage.
The doctors say she needs her thyroid taken out. And then they had to scuttle the operation because of an anomaly in the pre-operation angiogram. A trip to the cardiologist revealed total blockage in one coronary artery and 60% blockage in another. So meds were prescribed for that and now we wait at some point for another trip to the original people to work on the thyroid. It’s a mess.
Now trust me y’all, I do realize I have little real reason to be upset. Nan’s mentally still in good spirits. I think even she would agree that she’s lived a long life. Her mentality towards old age and death is where I largely picked up mine (e.g. she refuses to take the aforementioned medications because they make her feel “yucky” afterwards. “What’s the point of getting older if I’m going to be miserable?” and all). And plenty of friends at younger ages than me don’t have grandparents around anymore — while mine have seen me graduate high school, college, law school, and become more-or-less financially self-sufficient.
But it still sucks. A lot.
The advantage to moving to North Carolina way back in 1998 — being able to escape my family — cuts the other direction when I’m reminded there’s inevitably going to come a day when I’m the only one here. I’m hoping that day is still many years off of course. And I try to deal with it by not thinking about it and pouring myself into my work. It’s just one of those things that weighs on you sometimes, you know?
Anyhow, Part III later this week. Good night y’all!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 22, 2015 in The After-3L Life
Soooo it’s been not-quite-half-a-year since my last entry back in December. And the frequency of these disappearances is sufficiently frequent that it’s actually a preface to almost every single entry in the past year
I’d pretend that I’m going to be more consistent with the updates, but at this point y’all know better
That’s not to say I haven’t wanted to post stuff; I wasn’t kidding when I said back in my very first post of 1L year that writing here is cathartic for me. But a couple things have contributed to my absence: (i) I utterly fail at trying to set a work-life balance, and by the time I get home I just want to watch TV or sleep; and (ii) I’ve gotten hooked on a lot of different TV shows, so the whole “watch TV” side of the “watch TV or sleep” equation wins out a lot.
In any event, here I am! First post in five months is starting somewhere right?
As you can probably imagine, there’s been quite a bit of life upheaval since December. But the most expensive one has been my car.
Yes, my car finally died. After so much maintenance it merited not just one but two separate blog posts, along with asides in other entries here and here and here, the damn thing finally croaked in January.
I had just gotten brand new tires put on about a week prior, was heading down to Charlotte, and made it to Kannapolis before the engine started revving to 6K-7Krpms before catching and lurching forward, over and over again. Turns out the transmission had died — but of course I didn’t know that at the time. So I made it to a parking spot, called a friend at Charlotte School of Law to take me to get a rental (since I’d have to be back in Durham to take out Samson), forgot to leave the car key so overnighted that to a different friend who in turn got the car to a supposedly reputable repair shop… who couldn’t recreate the problem
So instead I spent about $600 in deferred maintenance thinking that would fix it. I take the rental back to Charlotte on Friday, pick up my car, head back to Durham… and make it about 2/3 of the way before the same @#$%ing problem starts happening again
I finally get back to Durham going about 20mph on I-40 for an hour, drive the car straight to a transmission shop without even making it to the apartment, and get told they’ll take a look at it that afternoon. So I call yet another friend to hitch a ride to a CLE happening while the car’s in the shop. I get out of the CLE around 4:30pm, call the repair shop… and find out they can’t recreate the problem either.
And they’re gonna close before I can get there.
And they’re not open on weekends.
Cashing in friend favors faster than is appropriate for anyone, I call EIC and beg her to borrow her car for the weekend — I was coaching the UNCCH TYLA team again (a topic for a whole separate entry), and that particular weekend was dress rehearsals before we’d be heading to Charleston SC for the competition at the end of the week. She thankfully agrees so I’m at least mobile for the weekend.
Well fast forward to the following Monday. The repair shop has finally recreated the problem and confirmed the transmission is toast. And it’ll take at least $2K to repair. Oh and they don’t have the parts to fix it in a timely fashion, so I’m looking at several weeks before I get my car back.
I borrow the third friend to take me to get another rental so I can do what needs to be done before competition. And for better or worse that includes buying a new car.
The law firm limo is dead. Long live the law firm limo.
Sooo yeah. Dropped $$$$$ on an old car that turned out to not be drivable.
By the grace of sweet cherubic baby Jesus I was able to qualify for a no-money-down loan through Navy Federal Credit Union in the middle of the car drama, and started negotiating with some different places at the same time I was holding out hope the Focus could be salvaged.
But instead I’m now enjoying a new Hyundai Elantra
The car payment is terrifying, especially after not having one for the better part of a decade. The advances in technology make it feel like I was driving a dinosaur though — and frankly I appreciate knowing the car’s not going to break down any time soon.
I drove it to Charleston for TYLA, Washington DC, Virginia Beach, and a ton of places in between since I got it. Putting about 12,000 miles on it already despite only having it for four months this week
Anyhow, I’m back! The WordPress Word Counter says I’ve already blown past the 800+ word mark so I’ll cut things here. Hope all of you are still doing well, thanks to the few of you who still read law:/dev/null, and look for another entry sooner rather than later!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 6, 2014 in Unsolicited Commentary
One of the things I’ve been dabbling with during my most-recent extended absence from law:/dev/null has been the near-daily stream of news stories about police going totally bonkers while carrying out their once-upon-a-time mission to “serve and protect.”
It started out with a one-off rant on Facebook two Septembers ago, about Jonathan Farrell getting gunned down by Charlotte Police while going to them for help after a car accident.
Then, before the day was even out, there was a different news story about the NYPD shooting innocent bystanders while trying to take down a mentally ill man. I added as a joke (because a number of my FB friends are flaming liberals) that we needed cop control more than gun control.
That was it. Two news stories that happened to be on the same day, followed by some banter about whether or not I should be allowed to own my Smith & Wesson M&P9 with three fully loaded 17-round clips.
But then there was a toddler in Georgia.
And a professor in Arizona.
And a photographer in Texas.
Before I really noticed it I’d posted 72 of these stories, adopting a “Warrior Cops Gone Wild!” motif similar to the late-night ads for the college girl videos. Somehow on top of those 72 posts I’d still amassed a queue of 69 unposted entries, and kept getting new material all. the. time.
(See, e.g., the non-indictment of Mike Brown’s killer in Missouri, the non-indictment of Eric Garner’s killer in New York, or the LAPD gunning down a man last night amid dozens of tourists just two days after their own police chief admitted they like to use excessive force.)
It’s some disturbing sh*t that just gets more disturbing as time goes on.
And I’m not really sure what to do about it. I’m certainly not the first person to document that police brutality exists. I don’t have any special influence with any decision-makers who could change anything. I’m also not really the protest type.
But I am an attorney, and a constitutionalist, and a small government conservative who isn’t that big a fan of the police state we’re becoming — and damn sure not a fan of a police state freed of the shackles of due process.
I feel like I need to do something.
I’m open to suggestions. Because something has to change.