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Newsletter

You just got to turn some people off

Chapel Hill is a bit of an island in our state. Commonly accepted views here may not be so commonly accepted in other parts of the state. In fact, I am pretty confident that some of the commonly accepted views in my home of over thirty-five years have not made it to New Bern, my […]

Sometimes being kind beats being right

A mentor of sorts told me the story of his relationship with his brother. They were close in age and fierce rivals while growing up. They competed at everything. They were not violent, but argued every point. Neither gave ground to the other in making their cases. It continued throughout their childhoods until my mentor […]

Maybe it just makes the story better

Richard Riggsbee was a lawyer in Durham, and a character. For many years, he practiced with Bill Cotter, who is still a character. Bill is from Boston, a Vietnam Veteran, and a graduate of Duke Law School. Richard was from Hillsborough, a graduate of Hillsborough High School, and a former assistant clerk of court. In […]

Can I keep the Booker Prize?

My friend Steve Freedman is a wonderful lawyer. For more than forty years, he worked as a public defender. Steve retired recently from working as an assistant capital defender in North Carolina. As a young lawyer, Steve was assigned a felony marijuana case. His client was a well-dressed, nice looking young man. Like most people, […]

Will we learn everything from the Tweet?

About twenty years ago, a local Sheriff’s department intercepted a large load of marijuana. Originally, the Sheriff’s deputies got great publicity for their good work: photos before bales of marijuana and reports of the street value redirected. Eventually, everyone wondered what would happen to the marijuana. Well, about 4000 pounds went missing from an Army […]

Suggested amendments to Principle 1

Several years ago, a famous, extraordinarily successful trial lawyer sent me a book called How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Over the years, I taught trial advocacy at courses the lawyer organized. He drew the students; ordinary lawyers like me helped teach them. In his letter accompanying the book, the lawyer’s […]

Maybe something remarkable will happen

In July, I wrote about the Tour de France. More accurately, I lamented the Tour’s postponement from the traditional schedule. The twenty-one stages of the Tour have run primarily in July since 1903 with the exception of several years over two world wars. I’ve watched most stages over the last two decades. The pandemic put […]

Three Steps to Speaking Out

Years ago, I worked for a lawyer who had a tremendous influence over my career. He was kind, affable, and gregarious. These qualities were foundations of his personality. My boss was also smart, tenacious, and savvy, although these qualities were buried deep within a pleasant veneer that may have come off as weakness to some […]

Sitting out the action

As a criminal defense lawyer, I spend a lot of time with prosecutors. Without a doubt, they see the world differently than I do. They say “guilty,” I say “not guilty.” They focus on the illegality, selfishness, and, sometimes, brutality of a person’s conduct while I highlight the potential for redemption. We are just wired […]

Should we try it under the trees?

We just passed the 95th anniversary of one of the most famous trials in history. In March 1925, the Tennessee state legislature passed the Butler Act prohibiting teaching evolution in Tennessee schools. A science teacher named John Scopes challenged the law and was charged with violating the Act. The trial, known as the Scopes Monkey […]