January 22, 1973, at about 10 AM

Memory is strange.  My son, Dan, has a savant-like ability to precisely place and describe even the most mundane events, going back to nursery school.  My recall of even important moments is foggier.  Unlike most people born before 1960, I do not remember where I was when I learned that John F. Kennedy had been shot.

However, one very distinct memory I have from my youth is where I was on January 22, 1973, at about 10 AM.

I was on a senior trip to Washington, DC, with 10 other members of my high school political science class (several of whom I remembered clearly and a few I didn’t recall being there until I looked at the newspaper photo accompanying a story on our trip).  I remember the chaperones: Greg Dean, our poli sci teacher, who was a nice guy, and guidance counselor, Dave Olson, who I will always remember as the adviser who tried to discourage me from applying to college, instead suggesting I consider vocational school.

President Richard M. Nixon delivering his inaugural address on east portico of U.S. Capitol, Januray 20, 1973The main event around which our trip was planned was Richard Nixon’s second inauguration.  In a story about our trip, the Wisconsin State Journal quoted me as saying of the inauguration: “The ceremony was very impressive, even if it was for Nixon.”  My father, who passed away last month at 88, told me that he took a lot of crap for that line, although I could tell from his crinkled eyes and poorly stifled smile that he was not the least bit displeased.

Two days after the inauguration, Lyndon Johnson died.  We were still in Washington for the funeral procession.  My most distinct memory is of Black Jack, the riderless horse with the reversed boots in the stirrups.  On January 23rd we were in the House of Representatives when Nixon announced that the Vietnam peace agreement had been reached in Paris.  That same day we met the Apollo 17 astronauts who were also visiting Congress.  It was a busy week.

Image result for supreme court of the united statesOn Monday, January 22, 1973, we visited the Supreme Court of the United States.  Little did I realize, in the moment, that I was present for what would become one of the best known and most controversial events in modern American jurisprudence.   Justice Harry Blackmun announced the decision of the Court.  I understood the decision was important, even though it only got 43 seconds on the evening news.

In 1973 I had no plans to be a lawyer.  My dreams of being a marine biologist had been dashed by my complete befuddlement in chemistry class (ironically, my son, Jeremy, has a doctorate in chemistry).  I was into wheel pottery, but I knew potter was not going to be my profession.

It was not until several years after that visit to the Court that I actually read the decision from that day.  I’d finally decided I wanted to be a lawyer, and Professor Murray Edelman assigned it in my college constitutional law class.  I read it again in law school when Professor Telford Taylor assigned it to my constitutional law class. (I wonder what Taylor, the former Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor, would think of my doing defense work at the successor war crimes tribunals in The Hague and Cambodia.)

Over the years I have watched courts and legislators chip away at that seminal 1973 decision.  Nominees to the Supreme Court have been asked about it in detail.  Recent appointments to the Supreme Court have placed the vitality of the decision in ever great doubt.

I haven’t been back into the Supreme Court (except in writing) since that day.  But this Tuesday, as on every anniversary since 1973, I will remember that I was in the Supreme Court of the United States when Justice Blackmun announced the 7-2 decision that would change the lives of so many, ignite 4 ½ decades (so far) of political battles and further fuel ever renewing efforts to interfere with the private decisions of American women.

On January 22, 1973, at about 10 AM, 17 year-old me listened in a hushed Supreme Court as the decision was announced in Roe v. Wade.

Image result for roe v wade

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On the passing of Linda Brown: Remembering Brown v. Board of Education

Image result for linda brownOn Sunday, March 25, 2018, Linda Brown of Topeka, Kansas, passed away at age 75.  Brown was an educational consultant, civil rights activist and public speaker.  But to many she was also the face of a historic decision on desegregation in public education.

In 1950, then seven year old Linda Brown asked her father, Oliver, why she had to make a long walk across train tracks and a busy street to catch a bus to an elementary school across town, when the Sumner Elementary School, attended by her friends from the integrated neighborhood in which she lived, was just four blocks from her house. Oliver Brown promised his daughter he would try to change that. Topeka’s high schools and junior high schools were already integrated, but its elementary schools remained segregated.  On the advice of the NAACP, he took her to Sumner to enroll, but they were turned away.  Oliver Brown then agreed to be a plaintiff in a suit against the Topeka Board of Education.  That suit led to a landmark decision from the United States Supreme Court outlawing so-called separate but equal discrimination in public education.  By the time of the 2004 ruling, Linda Brown was enrolled in an integrated junior high school.1 https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/26/597154953/linda-brown-who-was-at-center-of-brown-v-board-of-education-dies

On the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision, I wrote an essay for Philadelphia’s newspaper serving the legal community, The Legal Intelligencer.  On the occasion of Linda Brown’s passing, I am republishing that essay about the case her father brought to fulfill a promise to her.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

A snowy December night in The Hague

I was in The Hague for a meeting of the Association of Defense Counsel at the International Courts (ADC-ICT).  This was my last day in The Netherlands before heading home and it was snowing.

Winter Landscape with Skaters by Hendrick Avercamp

With images of Hendrick Avercamp’s impish 17th century paintings and childhood memories of Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates (book and movie) dancing in my head, I set out for the “centrum” to fill the last afternoon of my vacation.  However, that snowy, frozen canal climate is long gone from this country.  Unused to so much snow in a short period of time the Dutch city was, if not paralyzed, substantially slowed down. Continue reading “A snowy December night in The Hague”

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Insulin isn’t just a drug

Insulin isn’t just a drug.
Stand up for Affordable Insulin

Insulin isn’t just a drug. It’s the difference between life and death for millions of people with diabetes—and it’s something they will need every day for the rest of their lives.

When you or someone you love needs insulin and cannot afford it, the choices are scary. As the cost of insulin continues to rise, more of us, our family members, our friends and our neighbors are rationing their insulin or doing without other necessities to pay for this lifesaving drug.

This is unacceptable. It’s time to stand together and call for change.

The American Diabetes Association’s Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution calling for immediate action by Congress and by all of the parties involved in the insulin supply chain to ensure affordable insulin for everyone who needs this lifesaving medication.

But to make sure that call is heard by those with the power to make a difference, we need you.

Add your name to the petition and join the Association to support those struggling with access to insulin.

Once you’ve signed on, help us spread the word. Real change can only happen when we raise our voices together. Here’s how you can help:

1.  Share the petition with your social media community. Tell them why it matters and invite them to join you in this fight.

2. Email your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and classmates to tell them how important it is to keep insulin affordable, and ask them to add their voices to this call to action at stopdiabetes.com/insulin

3. Know other organizations that have a stake in making insulin affordable? Ask them to join us, and make this call for change even stronger.

Let’s send a message that the rising cost of insulin, and the lives of those who depend on it, cannot be ignored.

Alan L. Yatvin
Member, Board of Directors
American Diabetes Association

SIGN THE PETITION

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Traffic Pain in Philadelphia

The hardest part of writing something I am pleased with, is accepting when I can’t get it published. Newspaper and magazine editors only have so much space and they have to triage. When the piece is geographically specific, the available outlets are few. Or maybe what I wrote was junk and I just don’t know it. For better or worse though, because I run a blog I can always self-publish. So before you read on, be forewarned: the following Philadelphia-centric piece has received multiple rejections. I think the message is still worthwhile. But then, I would, right?


It’s 5:30 on a mid-week afternoon, and I am driving north on 16th from Locust Street to JFK Boulevard in Center City Philadelphia. The distance is about seven blocks. The trip will take more than 15 minutes. Continue reading “Traffic Pain in Philadelphia”

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Where to file a Philadelphia police misconduct suit.

Recently, a colleague queried a local criminal justice listserve for advice on filing a police unreasonable force case in Pennsylvania state court in Philadelphia. I responded with some advice and observations on the pros and cons of filing in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (the First Judicial District or “FJD”), versus seven blocks east in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This blog post collects and expands upon our email exchange.


The incident at issue involved allegations that Philadelphia police officers beat a suspect.  When their further investigation cleared him of the initial criminal allegations, they left him on the street without arresting him or transporting him for medical treatment. There were officers on the scene who did not participate in the beating, but merely stood by without intervening. The proposed plaintiff suffered bruises, contusions, abrasions and broken teeth. He took himself to the hospital, where he was treated and released. He did not have medical insurance and did not receive follow-up treatment. His injuries have resolved, other than his teeth. Continue reading “Where to file a Philadelphia police misconduct suit.”

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Teaching Trial Advocacy at Cardozo Law School in New York

As I have nearly every January since 1985, I traveled to New York City to teach at the Benajmin N. Cardozo School of Law Intensive Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP) on January 7-10.  ITAP, a cornerstone of Cardozo’s practical skills curriculum, is a two week immersion course where students learn cutting edge strategies for courtroom litigation using the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) model.  In a “master class” approach to learning, students practice direct and cross-examinations, interviewing and preparing witnesses, selecting juries, dealing with evidentiary issues, and preparing for and presenting bench and jury trials.

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Missing Milan in The Hague

Lukić, Milan Unfortunate timing has me heading home from The Hague on Monday, one day before the Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) renders its judgment on the appeal of my former client, Milan Lukic.  I was appointed to represent Lukic in April of 2006, following his arrest in Argentina and transfer to the ICTY in The Hague.

The Prosecutor sought re-transfer of Lukic and his cousin to the jurisdiction of the national courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) pursuant to Rule 11bis.  Lukic had been convicted in absentia in Serbia, and he was quite notorious in BiH, so transfer from the security of the United Nations Detention Unit to a jail in BiH might well have resulted in his death.

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Off to The Hague

Today I am off to The Hague, The Netherlands, for the Annual Training and General Assembly of the Association of Defence Counsel Practising before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ADC-ICTY) on 30 November and 1 December (using European date formats is part of the travel prep).  Topics include:  Best Practices of Defence Counsel – A View from the Bench, Ethical Considerations for Defence Counsel, The Residual Mechanism, and Review of Appeal Judgements.

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