Monday, October 31, 2005

Re: Tony D’Amato’s Letter: On Taking Things Hard

October 31, 2005

Re: Tony D’Amato’s Letter: On Taking Things Hard.
From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Dear Tony:

There is truth in what you say. For sure. Yet I do not read your email as meaning that the perceptions arising from the heartbreak are incorrect -- no one who has read your article on judges making up their own facts could read it that way in the absence of more explicit statements to such effect. Perhaps the result of our unhappy feelings is that, being academics, we write about what we think, thus putting the perceptions into the public dialogue, at least to the modest extent that people read what one has to say (or, in your case I would think, the much greater than modest extent).

Practicing lawyers who handle large numbers of cases no doubt are able to -- and in fact have no choice but to -- put a matter aside and move on to the next one on their crowded dockets. This helps emotionally, as in any profession or business (medicine would probably be an excellent example). The other side of this, of course, is that one becomes jaded (as with politics, which we observe daily?).

Yet the practicing lawyer can and often does have many of the same perceptions we do, I think, and may take defeat as hard as we do, at least at times. (This sometimes leads to burnout.) As far as I know, Peter Young, whose emailed views catalyzed your remarks I assume, is a practicing lawyer handling lots of matters. A number of my colleagues on the MSL faculty who practice extensively have the same perceptions we do, although in some instances their need to get on with the next matter does seem to help insulate them against heartbreak (or at least so I think). And although he is also a professor as well as a practitioner, Jules Lobel, the author of Success Without Victory, does quite a bit of practicing (although it may be just one or two major cases at a time), but he seems to feel quite deeply about things.

So possibly the question of heartbreak is to some extent not only a matter of the number of cases one handles, but of one’s psychological makeup as well.

You know, it must be convenient to have the psychological makeup of a George Bush: to not care about other people even as they die; to care only about one’s own advancement and success; to be willing to lie like a rug (as the old saying has it) to get whatever you want; to be willing to let henchmen spread savage, factually untrue attacks against opponents in order to defeat them; and, perhaps most importantly, to know that the body politic will not believe or at most will be very slow to accept the truth about you -- about your (fundamentally evil) nature, (lack of) talents and brains, and lack of concern for others -- because you are, after all, a President, people don’t want to think bad things about a President, they instead want to endlessly hope and say that he may change his ways, may change his policies, may become a good guy, and so forth. Yes, it must be convenient to have such a psychological makeup, but people like you, me, Peter Young, Jules Lobel (and many of my colleagues on the MSL faculty) simply don’t have that kind of makeup. We are condemned, despite knowing history (pace George Santayana), to some level of heartbreak over what we see and, often, write about.

Sincerely yours,


From: Anthony Damato
Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2005 6:43 PM
To: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

As academics, you and I tend to take one case at a time. Result is, every once in a while, heartbreak. I've never thought about it this way, but practicing lawyers who have 60 to 120 cases going on at the same time can take losses more easily.


At 01:20 PM 10/25/2005, you wrote:

From: Peter Young
Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2005 9:54 AM
To: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
Subject: More Thanks

Dear Larry,

Another thanks for the manuscript of volume 4, which I received last week and read the same day. Another page-turner I couldn't put down.

Nothing that happened in your suit against the USBA, as you call it, surprised me in the least since I've often represented the unpopular, the oppressed and the repressed.

Those who take on the establishment invariably find a new set of rules is in place. The rule of law disappears just when you need it most. Discretion is exercised one way exclusively, facts are distorted, discovery is prevented, obviously perjured testimony is accepted, legal arguments are ignored, clear error is dishonestly deemed harmless, and so on, and the entire course of shoddy treatment often ends up buried in an unpublished opinion. Once in a while justice prevails anyway, usually as a result of sheer luck--a maverick judge is assigned to the case, the case catches public attention for some reason, that kind of thing. Thanks again for a wonderful read.



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