Category Archives: Personal

Looking for a room to rent in Norman or OKC

What I’m looking for: Looking for a room to rent (or an affordable studio or one bedroom apartment) in the OKC Metro area. Would prefer it be located within a couple of miles of either the OU campus area of Norman or the Paseo area of Oklahoma City.

The place must be pet-friendly as I have a very sweet 40 lb. lab mix who would be living with me. I’m pretty laid back and also will be gone a lot with work (1-2 weeks per month is pretty typical — and don’t worry, my dog either comes with me or stays at a kennel when I travel)

I’m a lower-income activist attorney so rent must be reasonable. No more than $500/month including utilities.

Read on for friends who want to know what this is about:

Life is hard.

Pretty much everyone knows this, but it’s becoming clearer to me of late. I love parts of my job a great deal, other parts leave much to be desired. The biggie though is that it is hard to maintain balance and have a normal non-working life when you are on the road all of the time.

I love my home (the farm at Pine Ridge that I talk about some on here), but it is pretty far off the beaten path. It’s close to Ft. Sill which is nice (30 minutes but 45 minutes or so due to the roads) but is 1-1/2 hours away from my church, the quaker meeting I like to attend, good law libraries, and most of the OK peace community that I need to connect with pretty often. And certainly it is a long ways from any kind of social life that I feel accepted in.

The problem is that I love the farm and want it to be a big part of my life. I love the peace and quiet of the place and I love keeping a family connection to this very dear bit of land.

The other issue though is beyond the farm. I’m gone a lot. Some recent months I’ve actually spent more of the month in motel rooms (or camping while on the road) than I have at home. I enjoy traveling but also know I can’t travel like this for ever. It is just too much.

So, after a lot of conversations with friends and whatnot, I’ve decided that I’m going to do a few things to regain some sanity in my life.

1. I’m going to refocus my law practice. With the exception of important resistance cases (and of course cases I’ve already committed to), I’m only going to be taking cases from this region: Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado.

2. I will start taking more cases from other branches (mostly Air Force) if they are close to home. And to make ends meet, I’ll take more full-price military criminal cases (mostly drug cases).

3. I’m especially going to focus my energy and attention on Fort Hood. I have a tremendous network of support there through the Under the Hood GI Coffee house, and Ft. Hood is base that is frequently deployed. (thankfully I just found a friend in the area who will rent me a room there in Killeen for the cheap!)

4. I’m going to treat the farm as a retreat (and for storage), but find a place in cool part of the OKC metro to live in. And once I get a place in OKC, I’m going to get involved with purely fun things like good music, good art, and of course good drink (maybe even start homebrewing beer, something I’ve always wanted to do)

5. Once I’m back in the OKC metro, I’m going to start seeing my counselor regularly again. I miss seeing her and I think it will help me to maintain some level of balance in my life.

Anyway that’s the plan for now. If you know of a good place in OKC or Norman to rent, please let me know.

Part 1 of case documents in the case of Johnson v. Oklahoma City University, et al

This is an update to an earlier blog post.

I have been reviewing the initial case documents in this case and I am stunned. I think the allegations are likely true, but if even 10% of the allegations are true, this is a horrible, horrible travesty that must be addressed.

The complaint includes accounts of gross sexual harassment (and I would argue even assault when a male professor uses in appropriate physical contact with a female professor) of other professors, law students and undergraduate work study students; sexual discrimination (including a practice of promoting equally qualified male professors over female professors and paying male professors more than female professors); and an atmosphere that mocks and belittles those who think that women and racial minorities have a place at the table for events like Constitution Day.

Since these documents are in the public domain (see pacer.resource.org), I am publishing them here. OCU Law apparentely has done its best to minimize these complaints and brush them under the rug. I think it is time to shine some light on this situation.

* Document 1-1 – “The Complaint”
* Document 1-2 – “Confidential Memo to William J. Conger dated October 17, 2007”
* Document 1-3 – “Grievane for Sexual and Racial Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation and Failure to Following University Policies and Procedures, dated April 16, 2008”
* Document 1-4 – “Protocol: Procedures for Faculty-Discrimination panels convened under subsection IX(A) of the Faculty Handbook”
* Document 1-5 – “OCU Whistle Blowing Policy”
* Document 1-6 – “Letter to OCU Law Faculty from William J. Conger”
* Document 1-7 – “EEOC Charge of Discrimination”
* Document 1-8 – “EEOC Dismissal”
* Document 1-9 – “Civil Cover Sheet”

I will publish later case documents as well as my finances permit (PACER charges 8 cents per page to access these documents in the public domain). Certainly it is fair to hear the responses to the complaint by Dean Hellman and OCU Law.

Time for change at OCU Law School

This post was edited to improve the grammar and to strengthen my arguments at 4:51 a.m.

NewsOK: Memo to Oklahoma City University attorney details gender issues (thanks to Workplace law prof blog for this link)

DiverseEducation.com/AP: OCU law professor alleges discrimination

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A law professor at Oklahoma City University has filed a federal lawsuit against the university and its law school dean, claiming sexual discrimination and violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.Danne L. Johnson, as associated professor of law since 2003, contends male law professors at the school make as much as 52 percent more than their female counterparts at OCU. . .

It apparently began last year when Johnson complained to law school Dean Lawrence Hellman about the lack of racial or gender diversity on a Constitution Day panel in September 2007. All five professors on the panel were white men, according to the lawsuit.Johnson and three other female professors requested a meeting with Hellman and OCU general counsel William J. Conger in October 2007.

Conger excused the lack of female or minority panelists by calling the Constitution Day event “meaningless,” the lawsuit states, while Hellman refused to distribute an e-mail encouraging the faculty to be more mindful of diversity when choosing speakers and panel members. . .

OCU Law is such a weird place. I graduated there in Dec. ’05. Some professors and administrators were committed to equality and a positive classroom environment, but others weren’t. It is the “bad apples” and the school’s refusal to get rid of those bad apples, that makes me very hesitant to recommend the school to prospective students (despite the many positive experiences I had there). I don’t understand why law students are still subjected to abusive treatment, or why such treatment is considered “par for the course.”

And the dominance of white male voices on the teaching faculty is downright wrong. (Unfortunately, OU law is even worse. I attended a graduation there a few years ago and it was the whitest event I’ve been to in a long time.)

If these allegations are found to be true, OCU Law has a lot of amends to make. And even if the courts don’t find cause for the suit, the general issues raised by the suit only help to highlight bigger looming problems. Here are my suggestions on some solutions…

1. It may be time for a change in the composition of the administration (again this is assuming that the allegations are true) — My own experiences in dealing with the OCU Law administration were mostly positive (I was a activist as a student and often had to be an advocate with the administration for causes I believed in) but the allegations raised in this suit are beyond the pale. Dismissing serious bonfide complaints about discrimination and allowing a hostile environment against women and minorities is not good leadership.

2. Implement a real non-discrimination policy with teeth. Mere platitudes won’t cut it. A good place to start would be equal pay for equal work. A pay gap of over 50% is in excusable.

3. Fire professors that refuse to treat students and colleagues with basic dignity and respect. The legal profession is supposed to be about civility and respect. Most professors model this to their students, but a few don’t. And the few that don’t, are pretty atrocious violators. Tenure should be a shield for the professionally abusive.

4. Hire more professors of color and more female professors, and then make sure that those professors are given equal opportunity.

5. Recover the school’s Methodist heritage — Make OCU Law students would never know it, but OCU law is part of OCU, a United Methodist college. I think it is high time that the larger college took seriously its commitment to the radical inclusive teachings of Christ and reigned in the current abuses of the law school. Abusive teaching styles and racial/gender discrimination is completely contrary to this identity.

6. Commit to being a law school for the people, and not just spoiled rich kids who can afford outrageous tuition prices — OCU Law has had a proud history of having a night school program and its alums have been at the forefront of fighting for basic justice. OCU must reexamine its current tuition policies and ask if they are perpetuating injustice. There may be a debate on the merits of the case brought over gender/racial discrimination, but there is no doubt that OCU Law practices class discrimination. (I barely got out without going under financially, and I will be taking college classes forever the way it looks right now to avoid paying my outrageous student loans. This isn’t right.)

I know, these are crazy demands. But as a fan of OCU and a proud alum, I think it is time to demand more than what we are seeing today from the school.

And I hope my criticisms are heard out of my concern for my alma mater and the legal profession. OCU does many things very well. I think the LR&W curriculum is top-notch and the Dean’s Public Interest Summer Fellowship is incredible. And certainly the best of the professors (such as Professor Von Creel or recently retired Professor Coulson (click here to watch his retirement lecture)) are worthy of praise.

But there has to be change too. Legal education must be at the forefront of the legal profession. Law schools should set the example for workplace equality, for civility, and especially for basic justice for the poor.

A school that charges over ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS per credit hour (when fees are included) is out of reach for not only poor Oklahomans but the middle-class, and this kind of systematic economic in justice ensure that most future graduates of OCU Law likely won’t care about the poor, because they are far removed from due to our society’s class system.

Personal Update for December 2008

For my own memory and also to keep friends and supporters in the loop, I’m going to try to write monthly updates like this in the future.

My last few rather angry blog posts have been staring at me for the last few weeks, so I thought I should post a quick update of a happier nature.

(also, over the last few weeks, I just didn’t see the point in posting about my obvious disapointments in Obama’s tilt towards the right since being elected… I have purposely not posted about it because I figure January will be soon enough to attack his pro-war policies and I just don’t want to dwell on the sadness of it all)

I had a busy but mostly good Advent season.

The first Sunday of Advent (I think the Sunday after Thankgiving, if I remember right) was a humdinger at Joy, as Moses Mast (one of my primary mentors) gave the message. He spoke to us as a prophet and really gave us a very different take on things. (I took notes on his message and may have to repost them sometime)

About that same time I got sick and started off December pretty sick with a lingering case of bronchitis that just wouldn’t go away. Thankfully, my voice did come back in time for a court-martial hearing at Ft. Carson, Colorado that went surprisingly well, in that the judge decided that there wasn’t providence (to what my client was going to otherwise plead guilty to as part of a plea deal). There’s a lot more to the story, but the short version is that the client was chaptered out (given a discharge in lieu of court-martial) instead of having to do jail time.

The way back from Colorado was enjoyable. I went a different route (through the wide open country east of Colorado Springs into Kansas and then back South) and got to see a lot of snow. Sandydog enjoyed the weather but also tried my patience in Limon, Colorado where she ran away from our hotel room. I ended up chasing her almost 2 miles through the town before I finally was able to corner her. Still though, despite the frustration, I liked Limon. A really neat town, especially as it has some pretty long walking/bicycling trails.

Then on Dec. 7th I got to preach at Joy. It was difficult due to my bad voice, but the message was a fun one (I read a letter “written” by John the Baptist to the church of today, to kick off the message)

After that, I spent a fair bit of time at my 2nd home in Lawton (I’m not really sure where my home is these days, but that is a subject for another blog post). I did have a fair number of new resistance cases come in (look for news on them in the coming weeks), but otherwise work slowed down with the holidays. There was still tons to do, but the Army was for the most part out of commission. The Army brass loves vacation days, so it has been mostly impossible to d0 much negotiating for clients the last couple of weeks or so.

After that, I ended up spending most of a week in Oklahoma City. I stayed at the Menno House (a little garage apartment at Joy where I used to live, but is now a temporary home for guests of the church) and enjoyed being in nice and warm place as winter blasted Oklahoma. It was really nice being around local and I was reminded of how much I missed the community and spirit of OKC. I like Lawton in many ways, but I do miss the liberal/progressive/antiwar community of OKC. — which reminds me of another highlight of December, the OKC Infoshop‘s benefit concert for OCC! It was a blast, with 4 bands playing and $120 raised. I came away with a strong desire to get plugged into the Infoshop and its work, and a new appreciation for the power of anarchistic collective social action.

Then last weekend, I drove an AWOL client up to Ft. Riley, KS. We ended up staying the weekend in the Junction City/Manhattan area (waiting for the legal folks at Ft. Riley to be around) which turned out ok. I got to hang out some at one of my favorite little brewpubs, the Little Apple Brewery in Manhattan, and I got to visit my friends at the Manhattan Mennonite Church. And, I got to experience some crazy bone-chilling temperatures… down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit! (also for future reference, the Budget Host motel in Junction City is quite the find… dirt cheap, clean and includes a fridge/microwave in the rooms)

Christmas with my family was fun (we celebrated it early on the 23rd). I was anxious because I was extremely broke, but thankfully my family seemed to enjoy the random gifts I gave them (mostly bought at Big Lots) And the time with the family was quite nice, as we all got along and enjoyed each other’s company. It was especially cool seeing my youngest siblings (twin brothers aged 8 and a little sister a little over one year) interact with their nieces and nephews (aged 6, 5, and 1+). It was wonderful to see all of the children get along so well together.

I stayed the night at my parent’s house on the 23rd and then headed down to the Farm. I ended up being there for the 24th and 25th. I mostly just chilled out in the country, but did spend some time housecleaning. I had planned on driving into Anadarko or Lawton to attend a Christmas eve service (I was leaning towards a Catholic Mass), but actually overslept from an early evening nap, but when I awoke near Midnight I had a really nice time. The stars were out and with Sandydog next to me, all seemed well in the world. I know there really wasn’t a Christmas truce, but that night I pretended that there was one. It seemed like that in at least my imagination there “peace on earth and good will towards men.”

So now life is semi-back to normal. I’m in Lawton today trying to get caught up on work. I’m also treating these next few days between now and New Year’s as a chance to “try on” some New Year’s resolutions, in other words I’m thinking about and even trying out some daily practices that I hope will make my life happier in 2009. Some stuff is practical (diet and exercise), some stuff is more subjective (giving thought to good spiritual practices to adopt) and some is downright critical (working on how to make my work flow better and keep up with law firm administrative tasks better-i.e. billing, staying in touch with clients on cases that are stagnant due to circumstances beyond our control, etc.).

My hope though is that by treating these things not as iron-clad resolutions (that must be kept, come hell or highwater… and invariably will be broken), that I seek to find practices that are ones that I will want to adopt as a lifestyle and that are sustainable over the longhaul. Anyway we’ll see how it works. Right now my life is off-kilter and out of balance, so I’m hoping I can find a better way.

I also want to take a moment to wish all of my regular readers, friends and clients, Happy Holidays! I didn’t get out X-mas cards this year, but do know that you all keep me going. I am so blessed to have such good folks around me.

Haunting picture from the Cherokee side of my family

I was sent this picture tonight via email. It means a great deal to me, as it gives some degree of tangible proof regarding the oral history in my family of our Cherokee roots. (my ancestors, like many, did not sign the Dawes rolls) 

 Ella England

 

(you can click on the thumbnail above to see a full-size picture) The girl on the right-hand side is Ella, my great-great-grandmother. Her grandmother is in the center. 

Thoughts while sitting in a Motel 6 in Jackson, Michigan

My trip home from Canada has been pro-longed by at least one day due to the need for more time to recover from a sprained ankle. (this post will be some personal thoughts, so if you just read the political stuff feel free to skip this post)

I initially thought I could just go full speed ahead (driving 10 hour or so a day) and get back to Oklahoma, but the ankle soreness just wears me down. It’s not so much the pain itself (which really isn’t so bad) but more that it just tires me out.

So I decided last night after a very tiring day to stay at least 2 nights in Jackson, MI (a town of 30,000 or so between Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo . . . notable for being the birthplace of the GOP). Hopefully if I can get lots of rest and do what I should have wen i first sprained the ankle (R.I.C.E. – rest, ice compression and elevation) then the swelling and pain will go down and the rest of the drive home will be more pleasant.

So the unplanned stop has really given me some time to think (I know driving should do that, but your brain is too occupied with “did I miss that turn” and “that is one crazy billboard” and “the fall leaves are so pretty” and “Oh ****! That was a close call with that 18-wheeler!” and “Sandy, calm down! I’ll take you for a walk in just a little bit!”).

Spending almost a week in Canada was one intense exerience. I came away with a mix of confusion (the contradictions of Canadian society are just as crazy as those of the US, but still very different), appreciation (for the work of the War Resisters Support campaign and others giving up so much to help AWOL US soldiers in need) and grief (that Canada, as wonderful as it is, is still infested with the same poisonous brew of patriotism, capitalism and militarism).

In other words, someday I may choose to live in Canada (or not), but it won’t be a utopia and likely will just mean I’m trading one set of moral dilemnas for another set of moral dilemnas.

But then even more strangely, I don’t feel at home in the US either. Today for lunch I hit a local buffet and ended up being there with the Sunday after-church crowd. I had on my t-shirt from the WRSC (the one that says “War resisters welcome here”) and a high school aged kid asked me about it. I explained that about 200 US soldiers had fled to Canada. He was respectful and all about it, but i could tell he was dumbstruck by the concept that “our guys” (as he put it) would do such a thing.

And as I continued to be in the restaurant I felt like a pariah. I put on my coat so people would’t see my shirt, but then I felt like a coward. And I was angry. It’s not fair for me to judge them either, but I kept wanting to jump up and scream, “how can you be in your Sunday best, just out of church and not caring about the war. Just a few hours away, folks are fighting for their lives to stay in Canada, and you don’t even know about it, and probably wouldn’t care if you did know about it.” I know, I have no right to judge, but that’s what i was feeling. — And I thought of something that a friend told me, about the sky not bearing allegiance to anybody. To think that that the same sun and stars shine in the US and Canada and Iraq, and the wind howls and blows across those imaginary lines. To know that a few hours away and that folks don’t know or care about what is happening so close to them, just broke my heart. I’m sorry, again i have no right to judge and yet I’m judging. I’m just depraved as the folks eating at the buffet. I was there too being sure to get my money’s worth. Trying to drown all of this out in food. Goodness, I’m saying more than I really should here.

I guess as you might have guessed, I’m doing a lot of soul searching and emotional sorting. I am very frustrated that my desire to quit taking Paxil (a antidepressant that may have helped me at one time, but I’m now convinced that it is a poison. It’s made it hard to trust my own emotions and it is so, so hard to get off of. The withdrawal symptons are every bit as bad as the problems that led me to start ingesting the poison in the first place) won’t be enough and that the process of quitting paxil will take a long time (6 months? a year? there is no telling — it helps to know that I’m not alone in having such difficulty quiting paxil but it still doesn’t help the frustration to go away)

I also feel spiritually out of sorts. I can talk a good talk, but I feel disconnected and uncentered. And right now the path out of this place seems obscured by fog and busyness. And that’s another thing. I don’t feel like I’m doing everything I should do for my clients. I’m really overwhelmed right now and that feeling makes it harder to act to change it (a nasty circle of despair sets in)

So anyway those are the thoughts that are on my mind. I am trying to get some work done (lots of catch up to do for client work) but am hoping I’ll have some time to reflect and write. I know i’ll have a lot more to say about Canada soon.

How you can help support the first US soldier deported from Canada in the Iraq war

Free Robin Long!

Courage to Resist: Support Robin Long, Iraq war resister deported from Canada

Support Robin Long!

On July 15, 2008 U.S. Army PFC Robin Long became the first war resister
since the Vietnam War forced to leave Canada and turned over to the U.S.
military. He has been returned to his last unit at Fort Carson, Colorado.
His military pre-trial confinement has been outsourced to the local county
jail. He will likely be court martialed for AWOL, desertion, and possibly
speech-related violations of military discipline. Support Robin Long and all
troops with the courage to resist!

1. Donate to Robin’s legal expenses
2. Send Robin letters of support
3. Send Robin commissary money
4. Send Robin a book
5. Sign the public statement of support – coming soon! . . .

I am very honored and excited to be fighting on behalf of Robin as his civilian attorney, but I won’t be alone in this fight. Already many folks have been working (both in Canada and the US) on Robin’s behalf.

Please consider doing what you can to support this work (see the link above to Courage to Resist for more information on what you can do to help).

On the road again

I’m traveling with a friend (a delightful woman I met online, who seems like a long-lost sister) right now. She and I are in one vehicle (accompanied by 2 cats and a hedgehog), and her parents are in another car, as the whole family is moving from Illinois to Oregon. (I’m only going with them as far as Boise, Idaho)

So far, we’ve gone from Central Illinois to Des Moines, Iowa on the first day, and then today from Des Moines to Sidney, NE (out in the far west, in the panhandle of Nebraska). Over the next few days we’ll go into Wyoming and Idaho, as those (along with NE) are new states for me to visit.

Blogging will be sporadic at best over the next few days, but I’ll be at the hotel in Boise on Thursday night and will plan on catching up on anything I can’t do from the road (work and blogging wise then).

Also I wanted to say for my regular readers, I’m sorry the last post was so brutally sad. Yes, the things I was writing about are worth being upset about (I’m still amazed that CNN wastes hour upon hour talking about the ridiculous Hulk Hogan family saga when the Iraq war is going on), but nobody should stay in that place all of the time. I was very, very depressed on the day I wrote that post, and it seemed like venting online was a better choice than more hurtful outlets for my negative emotions.

I am doing much better now. I am praying a lot more and realizing that I can’t get every soldier out of the Army, but that i can do my part to free as many people as I can from the machinery of death and destruction. I also am finding some time here and there to take care of myself and do little things that bring me happiness and joy. I’m taking lots of pictures and have even been painting on this trip (I think I’m finally getting the knack of watercolors!), and have enjoyed just spending time with my new friend and her family.

Anyway that’s the news from the Days Inn in Sidney, Nebraska tonight. Thanks for reading 🙂

News from the Ryan Jackson Court-Martial at Ft. Gordon, GA

Here’s the news that I emailed to supporters and friend of war resister Ryan Jackson. I was very honored to get to work on Ryan’s case and am very proud of how well he did in speaking truth to power at his court-martial today.

There will be more news soon at www.couragetoresist.org and at www.ryanjackson.info, but I thought I would give a quick report now.

At today’s court-martial hearing at Ft. Gordon, GA, Conscientious Objector Ryan Jackson was given a sentence of:

100 days in prison
a BCD (Bad Conduct Discharge)
Demotion to E-1 (private)
reduction to 2/3 pay

for multiple specifications of being AWOL (as well as a minor count of having positive drug test for marijuana).

At the hearing, we argued that Ryan’s actions were an act of civil disobedience that stemmed from his belief that all war is wrong and Ryan himself gave a moving statement in which he expressed his own views on the immorality of war and the necessity of breaking the law for the sake of conscience.

You can find pictures taken after his court-martial, pictures from a vigil/protest held in Ryan’s behalf by local Augusta residents, and the text of a statement that Ryan wrote while in prison for his supporters by clicking here

Pictures taken shortly before Ryan turned himself into military control in April 2008 can be found by clicking here.

One local press account of the pre-court-martial trial can be found at: WDRW.com: Fort Gordon Protest

While the good news is that PFC Jackson will be out of military prison soon, CPT Kenney (the JAG defense counsel who was part of the defense team) and myself are still preparing to make a post-trial relief clemency request from the Commanding General to seek to have the BCD reversed.

Thanks to everyone who helped to get the word out about the case. Also, Courage to Resist is still raising funds to cover Ryan’s legal expenses (they are still about $1000 short) so donations would be very welcome at www.couragetoresist.org.

Please also write PFC Jackson to encourage him to stand strong during his remaining weeks of unjust confinement. His address is: Ryan Jackson; 1050 Remount Rd, Bldg 3107; Charleston SC 29406-3515

Peace,
James
www.girightslawyer.com