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Certifiably Young

December 7, 2017 by pgd1

It has been said that we live in a culture that exalts youth and minimizes older people. While this is true, it is inconsistent with the way I look at aging.  It has been my pleasure and privilege to get to know some older people who are truly remarkable.

I was interested to hear about Donald Spero.1  Born in 1931, he received his J.D. in 1962 and practiced in Chicago for 33 years.  In 1995, Mr. Spero came to Florida and passed the Florida Bar Exam.  He was 64.  He wrote an article for The Florida Bar Journal in 2014 when he was 83.

A prolific author, he has authored over 40 articles and more than one book, all while practicing as a mediator with the Florida Mediation Group.  He became Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law in 2001.  This a process whereby the applicant must pass a test and be recommended by lawyers and judges.  To maintain his certification, Mr. Spero obtained 75hours of CLE credit in Labor and Employment Law.  He was recertified in 2016.

“I enjoy writing.”  Spero explains. “I love the law.”  He remarked that he admires Justice Ginsburg, and the vigorous schedule she keeps.  “She’s very impressive,” he quipped, “but she’s also two years younger than me.”

At age 86, Donald Spero has been married to Patricia for 53 years.  They live in North Palm Beach where Mr. Spero continues to practice, write, arbitrate labor and employment matters and work on his recertification application.  “When I recertify in 2021, I will be 90 years old.”

In the time he has been given, Mr. Spero has accomplished much.  He provides a model for those who wish to remain professionally active as they grow older.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 Parts of this blog were taken from:  The Capstone, News and resources for board certified attorneys and those seeking certification, Volume 1, No. 1, Fall 2017

Lawyer Well-Being

September 7, 2017 by pgd1

If you really want to be a good lawyer, you must be a healthy lawyer – and that includes mental health.  An already struggling legal profession is at a tipping point, and steps need to be taken now to address lawyers’ well-being.

A 72-page report released August 14 – initiated by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, the National Organization of Bar Counsel, and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers – outlines recommendations for taking action.1

Using data from 2016 research, here’s a snapshot of the lives of too many lawyers:

  • Between 21 and 36 percent of practicing lawyers qualify as problem drinkers.
  • Approximately 28 percent, 19 percent, and 23 percent are struggling with some level of depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively.
  • Difficulties for lawyers include suicide, social alienation, work addiction, sleep deprivation, job dissatisfaction, complaints of work-life conflict, and incivility.
  • There’s a documented “narrowing of values so that profit predominates,” accompanied   by a negative public perception.

The studies reflect that the majority of lawyers and law students do not have a mental health or substance use disorder.  But that does not mean that they’re thriving.  Many lawyers experience a ‘profound ambivalence’ about their work, and different sectors of the profession vary in their levels of satisfaction and well-being.

Acting for the benefit of lawyers who are functioning below their ability and for those suffering due to substance use and mental-health disorders, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being urges our profession’s leaders to act.

It is a great privilege to practice law.  However, problems in the profession exist.  I see the issuance of this report as a move in the right direction.  Awareness of the problems lawyers encounter will lead to solutions.  As in most of life, transparency assists the process of problem solving.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 This blog was taken from:  Pudlow, Jan.  “Report:  Lawyer’s wellness falls short.”  The Florida Bar News.  September 1, 2017.  Retrieved from:  https://www.floridabar.org/news/tfb-news/?durl=%2Fdivcom%2Fjn%2Fjnnews01.nsf%2F8c9f13012b96736985256aa900624829%2F154b2861a7fb7e8185258183004439a9

Alone in the Desert

July 27, 2017 by pgd1

James Cowan (born 1942) is an Australian author.  Cowan’s work lies at the intersection between modernism and ancient cultural perspectives.  Many of his books explore the beliefs and practices of indigenous peoples as they attempt to come to terms with the modern world.

He discovered that the impulse “to forsake the world with all its opportunities and pleasures in order to pursue a life of self-abnegation” is found in Zen monasteries, Sufi orders, and Christian monasteries.

Although the fourth century desert hermit Saint Anthony wrote no books and never addressed devoted followers, he managed to pass on a system of ascetical behavior that is relevant to the present day where many seekers are trying to access the inner stillness through silence and prayer.

Cowan describes the importance of Saint Anthony as a pioneer of spirit:

. . . No man before him had so deliberately chosen to turn aridity into a positive value. The desert became his metaphor for being, his ageless encounter with lifelessness as a principle of rectitude.  No wonder he was such a threat to Rome. This lonely man living in the desert imposed a new valuation on human endeavor: that people had the right to an inner life over and above their responsibilities as social beings.  Such a premise went far beyond any that Socrates had proposed, even at his death.  A new force had entered the world. By his retreat into the desert Anthony paved the way for others to take their first step on the road to selflessness.

St. Anthony was a renegade spirit, even in his own time.  His goal was to change – no, to transform himself.  Not ethically, not morally, but spiritually, mystically.  All great spiritual disciplines are timeless.  Stilling the mind, developing inwardness, cultivating detachment, these are all aspects of a genuine renovation of the spirit.1

Although we are all social beings, there is something to be said for taking time to develop mindfulness, and to some extent, withdrawing from the world.  The point is to be recollected, to not be bounced around by the stress in our lives.  Anthony of Egypt has an important lesson to teach on this score.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 Portions of this blog was retrieved from:  http://citydesert.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/desert-father-lessons-in-the-desert/ and http://www.innerexplorations.com/chtheomortext/cowan.htm.

Why We Need Sleep

July 20, 2017 by pgd1

“Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber.”
Shakespeare,   Julius Caesar.

Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist:  He studies the sleep cycles of the brain.  And he asks: What do we know about sleep?

According to Foster, some areas of the brain are actually more active during the sleep state than during the wake state.  There are dozens of different ideas about why we sleep. Here are three of them.

The first is sort of the restoration idea, and it’s somewhat intuitive. Essentially, all the stuff we’ve burned up during the day, we restore, we replace, we rebuild during the night.

The second idea addresses the concept of energy conservation. You essentially sleep to save calories.

The third idea concerns brain processing and memory consolidation. Our ability to come up with novel solutions to complex problems is hugely enhanced by a night of sleep.  Sleeping at night enhances our creativity.

In the 1950s, good data suggests that most of us were getting around eight hours of sleep a night. Nowadays, we sleep one and a half to two hours less every night, so we’re in the six-and-a-half-hours every-night league. For teenagers, it’s worse. They need nine hours for full brain performance, and many of them, on a school night, are only getting five hours of sleep.  It’s simply not enough.

Another aspect of loss of sleep is weight gain. If you sleep around about five hours or less every night, then you have a 50 percent likelihood of being obese.  What’s the connection here?  Well, sleep loss seems to give rise to the release of the hormone ghrelin, the hunger hormone.

How do you get more sleep?  Foster recommends the following:  Make your bedroom a haven for sleep. The first critical thing is make it as dark as you possibly can, and also make it slightly cool.  Turn off mobile phones.  Turn off computers.  Turn off all of those things that are also going to excite the brain.  Try not to drink caffeine too late in the day, ideally not after lunch.1

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 The content of this blog was taken from:  Foster, Russell.  “Why Do We Sleep?”  Retrieved from:  www.Ted.com.

Poetic Justice

July 13, 2017 by pgd1

Bob Dylan’s pointed and versatile lyrics are cited in judicial opinions and have earned him a Nobel Prize for literature.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia loved opera, but he also had a soft spot for Bob Dylan.  In a 2010 dissent, for instance, he chastised the majority for refusing to answer key questions in a case about sexually explicit text messages because technology was evolving so fast.

“‘The-times-they-are-a-changin’ is a feeble excuse for disregard of duty,” he wrote.

Justice Scalia was in good company.  Mr. Dylan has long been the most cited songwriter in judicial opinions, says Alex B. Long, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and the author of a 2012 study, “The Freewheelin’ Judiciary: A Bob Dylan Anthology,” published in the Fordham Urban Law Journal.1

It was a 2008 dissent from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., that really opened the floodgates, Professor Long says. “Judges’ inclination to go to Dylan has actually increased in the past few years, probably as a result of Roberts’ dissent in that case,” he said.

In the dissenting opinion, Justice Roberts quoted Dylan as follows:  “When you got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.”

In an interview of the Chief Justice on Feb. 3 2016, Dean John F. O’Brien of New England Law, Boston, probed the matter, starting with a general question. “What was your objective in quoting Bob Dylan?” Chief Justice Roberts, a little defensively, said there was a place for a bit of levity and license in legal writing. “An intelligent layperson appreciates Bob Dylan’s poetry, if not his music,” he said. “It was, after all, in a dissent, so you have a little bit more leeway there.”

“Bob Dylan captured the whole notion behind standing,” he added. “In that case, the party didn’t have anything at stake in the case and had nothing to lose, and the case should have been thrown out on that basis.”

Legal writing forms a unique aspect of literature that is enriched by the lyrics of Bob Dylan.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 This blog was taken, in part, from the writings of Adam Liptak, including “How Does It Feel, Chief Justice Roberts, to Hone a Dylan Quote?”  The New York Times.  February 22, 2016.

The Many Sides of Harry Lee Coe

June 23, 2017 by pgd1

Judge Morison Buck wrote the “Chips Off the Old Bench” column in the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s publication, Lawyer.  Judge Buck passed away in 2014; however his biographies of 58 Hillsborough County judges are preserved.  They make fascinating reading.1

Perhaps the most interesting is the biography of Harry Lee Coe.  The local daily newspapers, The Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times, the morning of July 14, 2000 reported:  Hillsborough County State Attorney Harry Lee Coe III was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the left temple.  The life of a well-known, successful, and popular (with most people) figure whose public life spanned three decades was over; but questions remained: Why would a man in seemingly robust health at 68 whose political future appeared secure sacrifice his life?

Judge Coe attended High School in Lakeland, FL.  Recognition beyond Lakeland of his talent as a gifted athlete came when he received a combination baseball/basketball scholarship to the University of Florida.  His pitching record at University of Florida stood for many years, and he was the first pitcher to be inducted into the UF Sports Hall of Fame.  He signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers—the first individual from Lakeland to sign a major league contract; Boog Powell became the second Lakelander to be picked when he signed with the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched in the Detroit Tigers farm system for three years during the spring and summer seasons during the windup of his schooling at Gainesville.

In the late 1950s, while still attending law school at Stetson University, Harry Coe helped pay his way through that program by pitching baseball for the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League.

Judge Coe ran the court over which he presided with firm determination to do what he felt was right and just.  Contrary to the tag “Hanging Harry” seized upon and played up by the press, he was considered to be fair, particularly dealing with young persons having no significant criminal history.  He believed in the familiar doctrine of “a second chance.”

Only Harry knew what prompted him to give up the prestige and security of his judgeship.  But he did that in 1992 when, as a Democrat, he challenged the incumbent, widely respected Republican, Bill James.  Harry Lee Coe was elected State Attorney.

Harry personally tried the case against Christopher Wilson.  After the verdict of guilty in the case, one of the news services released a photo of State Attorney Coe embracing the victim of the crime and his mother.  This was one of the most sensational criminal trials in Tampa’s history.  Harry made a masterful closing argument, and both defendants were convicted of all charges.  Shortly afterward, Judge Coe received a cherished letter from Gregory Peck.   In the letter, Peck compares Harry to the famous lawyer from To Kill A Mockingbird:

When I saw this photo in the N.Y. Times, I could not help identifying with you, and thinking that in this case, you have played the role of Atticus Finch in real life, taken on the challenge, and won an important victory for all of us.

Harry Coe’s obsession with gambling in greyhound racing became such a dominate force in his life that in his waning years it is undisputed that he caged money from his subordinate associates to support his pathological problem.

The National Council on Problem Gambling based in Washington, D.C., which maintains a 24-hour toll-free helpline for those needing help or information, reports there is a strong link between suicide and pathological gambling.  Las Vegas’ suicide rate is one of the highest in the world.

We will never understand fully why Harry Lee Coe took his life, but we can be grateful that such a fascinating and talented man walked this earth among us.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 This blog, with some editorial changes, was taken from:  Buck, Morrison. “Harry Lee Coe 1932-2000.”  Retrieved from:  http://digital.lib.usf.edu.

Who Can You Trust?

June 15, 2017 by pgd1

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
– Leo Tolstoy, Ann Karenina (1878)

Although technology allows people to stay connected over long distances, it can interfere with family bonding.

The pressure to stay connected online is intense, with the workday encroaching on downtime.  The social pressure and FOMO (fear of missing out) drive people to check Facebook and other social media throughout the day.  It is inevitable that the demands of staying connected to the outside world affects what goes on inside the family home.

Research shows that adults spend over 12 hours a day staying connected via various media.  The tech-addicted family is a real phenomenon.  And the fact is the human brain is only equipped to focus on one thing at a time, even with technology forcing us to multi-task.1

With focus being divided, the result is increased isolation and disconnection.  Social media at best results in a superficial connection to a large number of people.  As human beings, this type of social interaction is not sufficient.  We have a need for deep social connections to people we trust and with whom we form a community.  To be healthy, the emphasis should not be on the number of “friends” we have, but on the quality of our relationships.

Facebook can never provide what we truly need.  In certain instances it fosters families and friends that are superficial, lacking the trust and connectedness that such relationships have traditionally entailed.

There is no problem with having superficial relationships.  After all, there are only so many meaningful relationships that we can handle.  Therefore, there is a place for Facebook.  The point is to be aware of the difference between Facebook family and friends and true family and friends.

One will be there for you when you need them, and you will be there for them; the other will only be there when you turn on the computer or phone.  It serves our best interests to know the difference between the two, and to never confuse them.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 The first portion of this blog is taken from: “Netsanity: Are Connected Families Becoming Disconnected?”.  Retrieved from: https://netsanity.net/are-connected-families-becoming-disconnected  The remainder of the blog contains my personal reflections.  The drawing that accompanies this blog is my interpretation of a work by Rupert Bathurst.

Removing Prison Tattoos: An Investment in Change

June 8, 2017 by pgd1

For all 100,000 prisoners in their system, Florida has published data including their age, race, sex, what crimes they’ve committed, and — most intriguingly — what tattoos they have.  The most obvious thing this data shows is just how common tattoos are.

Kevin Waters, a criminologist at Northern Michigan University and former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, notes that understanding which tattoos are purely aesthetic and which are signals can be a lot of help to law enforcement, distinguishing truly hardened criminals from posers—gang members do not take kindly to outsiders adopting their imagery.

A study by Kaitlyn Harger, now of Florida Gulf Coast University, found that upon release, ex-cons with tattoos could be expected to last just 2.4 years outside prison before being re-incarcerated, compared with 5.8 years for those without.  The effect was especially pronounced for those with tattoos on the hands and face.

In the mid 1990’s, Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles, set up a bakery to provide jobs to people trying to go straight.  The bakery was the first business in what is now Homeboy Industries, a non-profit which has since grown to be America’s largest gang-rehabilitation center, offering employment and other services to hundreds of former gang members.  Its free tattoo-removal service has become the organization’s biggest claim to fame.

Such programs are spreading all across America.  Half a mile from Homeboy, at the Twin Towers correctional facility, a Los Angeles County jail, inmates on good behavior are eligible to have their tattoos removed free of charge while still incarcerated.

Tattoo removal can change how others see a person.  When those others are judges, or prospective employers, that can be good; when they are gang-mates, it can carry risks.  Perhaps most important, removing tattoos can also change how someone sees them self.

Predictive as they may be, it would be hard and probably foolish to argue that the tattoos cause recidivism.  Similarly, tattoo-removal programs seem unlikely in and of themselves to make anyone an intrinsically better person.  But they can reflect a genuine investment in change and they may also help reduce the amount of discrimination reformed ex-cons face.1

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 This blog contains excerpts from “Crime, ink an analysis of the art on Convicts’ bodies.  The Economist.  December 24th, 2016.  Retrieved from:  www.economist.com.

The Truth About Lies

June 1, 2017 by pgd1

Lying, it turns out, is something that most of us are very adept at. We lie with ease, in ways big and small, to strangers, co-workers, friends, and loved ones. Our capacity for dishonesty is as fundamental to us as our need to trust others, which ironically makes us terrible at detecting lies. Being deceitful is woven into our very fabric, so much so that it would be truthful to say that to lie is human.

The ubiquity of lying was first documented systematically by Bella DePaulo, a social psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The researchers found that the subjects lied on average one or two times a day.

“Lying is so easy compared to other ways of gaining power,” notes Sissela Bok, an ethicist at Harvard University who’s one of the most prominent thinkers on the subject. “It’s much easier to lie in order to get somebody’s money or wealth than to hit them over the head or rob a bank.”

There appears to be no agreement among psychiatrists about the relationship between mental health and lying, even though people with certain psychiatric disorders seem to exhibit specific lying behaviors. Sociopathic individuals—those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder—tend to tell manipulative lies, while narcissists may tell falsehoods to boost their image.

Researchers have shown that we are especially prone to accepting lies that affirm our worldview. Debunking them does not demolish their power, because people assess the evidence presented to them through a framework of preexisting beliefs and prejudices, says George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at the University of California, Berkeley. “If a fact comes in that doesn’t fit into your frame, you’ll either not notice it, or ignore it, or ridicule it, or be puzzled by it—or attack it if it’s threatening.”

Technology has opened up a new frontier for deceit, adding a 21st-century twist to the age-old conflict between our lying and trusting selves.1

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1This blog contains excerpts from Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit,  Why We Lie: The Science Behind Our Deceptive Ways, June 2017 National Geographic  retrieved from www.nationalgeographic.com

Dual Diagnosis

May 25, 2017 by pgd1

Dual diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem simultaneously.  A person experiencing a mental health condition may turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to improve the troubling mental health symptoms they experience.  Research shows though that drugs and alcohol only make the symptoms of mental health conditions worse.

About a third of all people experiencing mental illnesses and about half of people living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse.  These statistics are mirrored in the substance abuse community, where about a third of all alcohol abusers and more than half of all drug abusers report experiencing a mental illness.

The most common method of treatment for dual diagnosis today is integrated intervention, where a person receives care for both a specific mental illness and substance abuse.

A person experiencing a serious mental illness and dangerous or dependent patterns of abuse may benefit most from an inpatient rehabilitation center where he/she can receive concentrated medical and mental health care 24/7. Supportive housing, like group homes or sober houses, is another type of residential treatment center that is most helpful for people who are newly sober or trying to avoid relapse. These treatment centers allow for more freedom while still providing round-the-clock care.

Medication is a useful tool for treating a variety of mental illnesses.

Psychotherapy is almost always a large part of an effective dual diagnosis treatment plan. Education on a person’s illness and how their beliefs and behaviors influence their thoughts has been shown in countless studies to improve the symptoms of both mental illness and substance abuse.  Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular is effective in helping people with dual diagnosis learn how to cope and to change ineffective patterns of thinking.

In over thirty years of practicing law, I have encountered many individuals who suffer from a dual diagnosis.  It is not unusual to see these people when they are off their medications and not functioning well.  The point I make here is that there is help and hope for them.1

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 This blog contains excerpts from “Dual Diagnosis”. Retrieved from:  https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Dual-Diagnosis#sthash.LmQx3HHd.dpuf

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