September 27, 2007

Things That are Stupendously and Inexpressibly Good

Emma and Logan were born today!
I was one of the first to bid them hello and welcome. (Ribs bursting with pride.)

September 25, 2007

Guess what I did today?

I'm writing the first prenuptial agreement of my legal career.

:) !

September 18, 2007

Of academics, privilege, and the practical world - what next?

The play "Third" is currently showing at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. We saw it last night - it was pretty accurate in its portrayal of a hackneyed, aging, liberal academic. The acting was particularly good - evocative of the real thing. It conjured for me my naive undergraduate self, and things I thought would be true about me and my year-2007-world. These things never materialized.

When I was an undergraduate I spent a lot of time pursuing comfort in the form of English Literature. I took Virginia Woolf's advice: “by hook or by crook" I found "money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.”

It sure was a good time.

I thought my life in 2007 would contain more of the same: I would become some sort of professional but my employment experience would continue to challenge my mind and give me plenty of opportunities for cerebral 'play.' The world of academia seemed to hold out the promise that if I read everything in the canon I would be a complete person, worthy of respect and a paycheck.


The reality is, well . . . not like that. I got up this morning, saw my man off to work, bathed, watered the lawn, returned some library books, went to the grocery store, put away laundry, and now I'm sitting down to work. The rest of my day will be spent like this: do some maintenance on my daytimer, make birthday brownies, make phone calls to various court clerks and clients, continue work on an article intended to equip lawyers to pursue or defend corporate veil-piercing claims, write a letter to a client's bank begging for mercy and/or attempting to restructure some (in my view) unconscionable loans, drive up to the law library in Boulder to return books on tax-exempt entities and pick up a book on criminal procedure, meet with the partner at my firm to pick up a client's file, then rush back to Denver in time to share birthday dinner with a friend. Then, if there's time before I sleep, read a bit of the very practical, non-literary, practitioner-type books that move through my life: "Getting Things Done;" "Tongue-Fu, How to Deflect, Disarm, and Defuse a Verbal Conflict;" and "The Criminal Trial from Start to Finish in Colorado."

But I want to read the letters of Jane Austen! I want to read "Gravity's Rainbow!" I want to make a cozy space in a comfortable chair and read for 14 hours straight without stopping! I want "to travel and to idle!" I want to write and paint and read and rub my hands against the textures of this amazing sparkly opera all around me! But I've chosen to do something else. Virginia Woolf's advice is great for young women who've been kept in the dark about the world: she seems to be telling them to get 'selfish' if that's what it takes to pursue the privilege of education.

But Virginia Woolf's advice isn't relevant for young professional women. Once the privilege of education has been achieved, what next?

September 15, 2007

Sugar Shock

Today was the day of the great wedding cake tasting extravaganza at Das Meyer bakery in Arvada! Between the two of us we "tasted" eight flavors of wedding cake, looked at photographs and floor samples of extravagantly decorated, delicious-looking, and surprisingly inexpensive wedding cakes, and mulled the price tags of a great variety of sizes and flavors.

We tasted:
"Berries in a Cloud,"
Chocolate Carmel . . . something,
Creme Brulee,
Orange . . . something,
Lemon . . . something,
Chocolate chip,
Carrot cake, and
"White on white."

By "tasted" I mean they gave us a single plate with a full slice of each flavor. So basically, we each ate most of about four pieces of cake this afternoon. It's 7:30 p.m. and my head still hurts. Scott, bless him, drove us there and back. Then he crashed while I played "World of Warcraft" in a decidedly slumped and zombie-like state.

We have at least three more bakeries to try out - next time I'll be armed with protein.

September 4, 2007

Of heroes, villians, and 'incessant media scrutiny.'

Remember the guy who knifed a CU student in the neck last week? He was institutionalized, not sent to jail, because . . . news flash . . . he was crazy. In fact he had tried a similar act in 2001 and been institutionalized for it, but was apparently bounced into society too soon with too little supervision, presumably because Colorado's mental health programs can't afford to do more.

The victim's family issued this press release today:

One week ago, our son, Michael Knorps, was thrust headlong into the media spotlight because he was the victim of an assault on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder. This inexplicable act of violence has, since that time, brought our close family even closer together, tested Michael's youthful character in ways he and we never imagined, and presented us with a traumatic moment in the life of our family.

[Thanks for] the outpouring of support [ . . . ]

But the time has arrived for Michael to take his rightful place in his class, within the larger student body of CU-Boulder, without the burden on himself, his classmates and indeed, the larger university, of accommodating public curiosity and incessant media scrutiny. With this in mind, we are making an urgent, personal appeal to the local and national media to let Michael do this without it becoming a story. More directly, we are asking you not to personally contact our son, or members of our family who live here in Boulder, hoping to get pictures, interviews and "the inside story" of what happened to Michael.

In truth, there is no "inside story." Michael was the victim of a violent crime that injured him and traumatized his family. There is no greater drama here, no deeper story, no larger meaning. The "news" - and it is not news to people who know Michael personally - is that this remarkable young man has recovered from this attack physically and will, with the support of his family and friends, recover emotionally and spiritually over time. But that is a private, not a public, process.

We make this appeal both as parents and as people of goodwill. We know the media have a job to do, and we are willing to accommodate your questions (on a limited basis) through the following e-mail address: We ask that all questions be submitted by September 7, 2007 and we will try to respond by September 10, 2007. We will not respond to any questions related to the legal or criminal aspects of this incident. In the meantime, we ask again that Michael be permitted to have, starting this week, the experience he was denied last week: being just another college student, ready to start a new chapter of his life. We believe he has earned that right. We ask you to respect it.

Thank you.

The George Knorps family, on behalf of Michael Knorps.
Hear, hear.* Points very well taken. Humanity's unbridled lust for blood stories is revealed by the wild success sensational media outlets enjoy.

This press release was carefully crafted by someone with a sophisticated understanding of how infotainment media works. Probably not the Knorps family. Ostensibly this document is intended merely to shift unwarranted attention away from one who was a victim of a mundane "crime" brought about by another's illness. But on reading it one can scarcely avoid the writer's deep and abiding criticisms of the news media. This document says "please don't trample on our right to privacy and then profit by the suffering of an innocent family." A prejudicial request and one that a sane media would rightly be insulted by. But I predict the media won't be insulted. Why? Because taking insult isn't profitable, and as the media well knows: 'truth is a complete defense.'

Here's what I want to know: where is the press release from the attacker's family? There is none, perhaps because "we," the viewing public, don't want to know about him even though evidence suggests we should: we love horror flicks and novels involving slashers and mentally unbalanced people. Do we like our villains to be fictional, and our heroes to be real?

* - Or is it "here here?" "Hear, here?"

September 2, 2007


How's this for bad behavior: Matter of Callaghan, 42 B.R. 821 (Bkrtcy. Mich. 1984).

Tom takes his $20,000 motor home to Bob to have the brakes fixed in time for his vacation. Bob does not fix the brakes in time and Tom ends up storing the motor home at Bob's garage while Tom is away. Vandals break in and trash the motor home. Tom's insurance company arranges repairs but asks Tom to pay a $100 deductible. Bob takes $3,000 from the insurance company and spends it on his corporation's operating expenses. But Bob never makes the repairs. He then offers to waive storage fees for the motor home if Tom agrees to hire Bob to make the repairs. Tom does so. Once again, the repairs are not accomplished in time for Tom's vacation the following year. Tom suffers a work-related injury, is bedridden, and never pays the $100 he still owes Bob for work that Bob may (or may not) have done on the motor home.

Bob threatens to sell the motor home to cover Tom's $100 indebtedness. A court issues a restraining order to prevent Bob from selling the motor home.

Bob sells the motor home the next day for $500 to satisfy the contested $100 bill. We assume he kept the other $400.

You lawyers out there know that Bob's action isn't legal: he did not engage in a commercially reasonable sale, he converted the insurance company's money, he violated a restraining order, and (as a bailee) he was probably liable for the vandalism to Tom's motor home in the first place.

Most everyone would agree that in addition, Bob's actions were just not right.

My question is this: why did Bob do it? It's like the financial version of "suicide by cop." Big surprise: Bob went bankrupt. Bob denied any personal responsibility for the motor home incident because his garage was a corporation. The bankruptcy court opined that "the entire transaction, orchestrated by [Bob], smacks of a grudge match over a $100 insurance deductible balance." Id. at 826. Miffed, the bankruptcy court imposed a $20,796 (plus) judgment on Bob, personally.*

What can we take from this little episode beyond the black-letter-law lessons? Obviously this: not everyone is a rational-self-interested-actor, John Stuart Mill / Adam Smith - style.

Business owners have a duty to act ethically, regardless of the law. Business ethics ought to involve "doing good," not merely "not doing bad." Consider the following: the story of Tom and Bob is probably more complex than can be revealed in a bankruptcy court's opinion. What seems to be a grudge match could just as easily be explained by simple inattention: poor communication between Bob and his employees brought on by any of a number of factors. Acting ethically in Bob's situation would have meant taking affirmative action - to make sure his garage was secure, to buy appropriate insurance coverage, to communicate with his employees, to monitor their actions, and to delegate authority to a manager if necessary.

We need an ethical paradigm for "doing good" that includes the merely quotidian actions that Bob should have taken, without the suspect morality associated with "the work ethic."

* - The court found that Bob's personal participation in the intentional tort of conversion justified finding him personally liable, but the court goes on to talk about applicability of the remedy of piercing the corporate veil. Bob can't win under either theory.