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March 2016

Demetrius-Minor-Navigates Fractured Political Lanscape, Preservation and Purpose
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Demetrius Minor Navigates A Fractured Political Landscape

JZ Bingham: JZB | Demetrius Minor: DM

 

JZB: A year ago, Preservation and Purpose, your millennial manifesto, was published, putting your transformation from young democrat to millennial republican on full display for readers, and backing it up with numerous reasons. Between the main points you discuss in your book, namely: faith, family and politics, which of the three are the most important criteria for how you view the candidates in the 2016 presidential election?

DM: When it comes to any election, I try my very best to approach it foremost as a Christian. Even though I am adamantly conservative, my main priority is my relationship with Christ. Therefore, I want to vote for someone whose platform is the closest aligned with Scripture. While it’s obvious that America is not a theocracy, I do think it’s important that leaders with a moral conscience, and those willing to embrace biblical concepts and promote religious liberty are elected to office. If a candidate lacks morality in one area of their life, I believe it’ll trickle into other areas as well, and that plays a big factor for me at the ballot box.

JZB: You’ve met numerous candidates at conventions, many of whom have since dropped out of the race. Tell us how you navigated from one to the other during that time, and what points drew you in or repelled you?

DM: I originally started out supporting Mrs. Carly Fiorina. I was very impressed by not only her ability to contrast herself with Hillary Clinton but also her bold, courageous, confident appeal that was intertwined with wit, knowledge and clarity. I felt that her experience in business and also advising foreign leaders would serve her well as President. After she dropped out of the race, I navigated toward Sen. Marco Rubio. I felt like he was one of the few conservatives who knew how to connect with my generation and make politics personal and relatable. I also felt he had the greatest chance of defeating Hillary. Since he’s left the race, I’ve grown to appreciate Gov. John Kasich more because of his humility and willingness to promote unity. My biggest issue is I believe that if Donald Trump, who has enabled bigotry and divisiveness this entire election cycle, is the Republican nominee for President, the conservative movement will be in disarray and Hillary will easily win.

JZB: In that answer, I don’t hear any aspect of either candidate’s religious views. Many say, based on Christian values, Ted Cruz is the most passionate student of Biblical principles, to the point where he was the Evangelical favorite. Why no mention of him?

DM: While Cruz is known to have an appeal to evangelicals, it’s been an ironic fate; the evangelical vote has mostly gone to Trump in the primaries, especially in the South. And while I admire Sen. Cruz’s willingness to acknowledge his faith, sometime his “preachy” style of talking can be a major turnoff to voters, especially to those who are not conservative.

JZB: Going into 2016, the path to the presidency has been narrowed among the candidates, yet the rancor has increased. So much so, you made a major announcement about a month ago, stating you will no longer vote Republican. What was the turning point that resulted in this proclamation?

DM: I’ve been utterly saddened and disgusted with the candidacy of Donald Trump. I’ve seen many so-called conservative leaders and activists embrace his candidacy, which ultimately led me to cease my membership with the GOP. I’ve worked too hard to try to bring new members to the GOP, only to see the party embrace an individual who wants to ban a certain demographic of people from the U.S., promotes violence at his rallies, not to mention his constant wavering of policy positions over time. Mr. Trump has alienated many groups of voters and I refuse to belong to a party that went from Abraham Lincoln to a demagogue. I want to make something very clear—I’m very much still a conservative, I’m just claiming the label of an Independent.

JZB: If Trump has alienated voters, how do you explain the massive turnouts at his events, the surge in Republican voter turnout (for him), and the defection of record numbers of Democrats to the GOP? Also, perhaps the problem with the GOP is that it’s not listening to its constituents—this is the resounding cry from many in the comment areas of news posts, which could be more informative than polls at this point. Some have also argued that those who snub their noses at the people’s candidate for the GOP nomination are the ones who are aiding and abetting the Democrats—especially with a third-party threat. This hasn’t worked before, why should it work now?

DM: Trump has been very effective in gravitating audiences toward his populist message. He has the benefit of being a known celebrity and his brash talk is appealing to the fears, worries—and to be quite blunt—inner prejudices of many. One way to view the turnout in favor of him is that many Democrats believe he’s beatable in a general election. I’m convinced that many of the Democrats who are crossing over to vote for him in the primary, will cross back over to the Democrat side to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. It’s worth noting that Trump underperforms in closed primaries. Since many conservatives will either not vote or possibly vote for Hillary if Trump is the GOP nominee, I believe the GOP should embrace a third-party option, simply because the nomination of Trump also puts the GOP’s hold on the Senate and the House of Representatives in jeopardy. Their only hope, as of right now, is to nominate a conservative on a third-party ticket that will help them hold on to the Senate and House, which would be a small moral victory of sorts if Hillary were to win the presidency.

JZB: Many agree there exists a big divide, not just among the partisan faithful but also within each faction itself. At what time do people rally for one candidate, and will a fractured political system only serve to “throw the baby out with the bath water,” and lead to another period of instability?

DM: I think, right now, you’re not only seeing many conservatives refusing to vote for Trump but also calling for a potential, viable third party to arise that they feel will stay true to the Constitution and conservatism. On the other side, you’re also witnessing an anti-establishment wave that’s resulting in Sen. Bernie Sanders giving Hillary a challenge that many didn’t expect to see. Truth be told, both parties are fractured. The GOP is just more visible because they feel like their party has been hijacked by Trump, who up to this point, cannot be contained or controlled.

JZB: You’ve just reiterated the vocalized opinions of many others who disfavor Trump: the candidate’s inability to be “controlled.” Based on the negative outcry against the Establishment in government across the board, doesn’t it beg the question, “Why would you want a candidate the Party can control?” The people want control, it would seem. The more it’s revealed they don’t have control, the greater the schism may become.

DM: It’s not just the fact that Trump’s behavior and antics can’t be contained; it’s also the fear of the unknown. Many simply do not know what Trump will do or propose once he’s in office, believing that he’s very naïve or ill-informed when it comes to policy-oriented issues.

JZB: Do you think the political system in this country is broken and if so, how can it be fixed? If it can’t be fixed, are we seeing the demise of our republic?

DM: Our political system is very broken. This is due to the fact that we’ve been electing career politicians who are more concerned about their political standing than the well being of their constituents. Politics is simply a reflection of culture. The future of politics can be hopeful, but it’s contingent upon if we’re able to change the cultural paradigm, which has turned into a moral decay.

JZB: This seems to go against the very statement you said earlier about having a candidate that is “out of control.” What candidate aside from Carly Fiorina, who is no longer in the race, is an alternative outsider? If that outsider is Trump and he wins the majority of the delegates, why should that decisive victory—the voice of the people as it were—be ignored? If it is ignored, wouldn’t that make your approach part of the problem—a select group of people who want to control the narrative?

DM: Look, I’m not some elite political-party insider who is trying to salvage power by cutting some back-door deal. As of right now, Trump is not likely to accumulate the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination before the convention in July. But if for some reason he avoids a contested or brokered convention, the fact is that the party will experience a major shift and break apart; it’s hard to imagine anything positive coming from this. If Trump wins the nomination, Hillary will probably be the next President. If he doesn’t win the nomination, his supporters could revolt and the division will still favor Hillary. The party now has the option of embracing Ted Cruz or John Kasich, and I can’t predict what the outcome will be, but the GOP is skating on thin ice right now.

JZB: And this leads to the question on the minds of many these days: If socialism wins, does the country win?

DM: No, the country wouldn’t win. As Margaret Thatcher once said, the problem with socialism is that eventually you’ll run out of other people’s money to spend.

JZB: This begs another question, one that Dinesh D’Souza has been asking: to paraphrase, “What would the world do without America?” since the majority of the world is indeed socialist-leaning? What would the global landscape look like for a freedom-loving people that embraces free markets? Do you believe we’re seeing the foundation being laid for a one-world government? i.e., the destruction of regional economies and the ushering in of the NWO?

DM: It’s very possible. I still believe that America is the greatest country in the world, but as a man who believes in the prophecy of Scripture, it’s inevitable that we’ll soon reach a world that depends on one currency and the constant spread of globalism. Even so, I still happen to believe that small government and free markets benefit everyone, while socialism destroys societies.

JZB: Thank you, Demetrius Minor, and best of luck in the second year of publication for your heartfelt and thoughtful book, Preservation and Purpose.


Visit www.demetriusminor.com  Find Preservation and Purpose wherever books are sold, in print and ebook formats. Convenient Links to Popular Sites: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE
LOOK INSIDE THE BOOK ON ISSUU.COM

Author Portrait: Ashah Photography

JAG The Reporter Reviews Civil Jury Trials by Tyler Draa et al
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JAG The Reporter: Book Review, by Thomas G. Becker

W

hen my son was a defendant in personal injury litigation about 16 years ago, his lawyer—actually, the insurance company’s lawyer—prepared him for the process as follows: “Look, we’re going to do a Kabuki dance for a few months, and then we’re going to settle for sixty-K.” The lawyer’s prediction was spot on. About ten years ago, my wife was the plaintiff in a personal injury case with similar predictions from her attorney (although for a much smaller amount); he was also on target. A few years before that, we were visiting my wife’s family and I saw one of my law school classmates in a television ad promising that, if you would only hire him for your personal injury case, he would force the insurance company to cut a fat check and—I swear this is an exact quote—“You won’t have to go to court, I guarantee it!” Really? You can guarantee a good settlement without the possibility of going to court? Maybe my old buddy meant to say, “I won’t go to court, I guarantee it.”

This is a book about preparing for and conducting civil jury trials. It is not about “civil litigation.”

CIVIL LITIGATION IN AMERICA, OR THE LACK THEREOF

The reality of civil litigation in America is that the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury in civil cases has suffered an erosion of landslide proportions. Attorneys calling themselves “trial lawyers” are in visual media everywhere you look. They are in television ads, on billboards(1), and even on the sides of the Zamboni machine at pro hockey games(2). However, few of them are trying cases to juries, largely by their own choice(3). The costs of litigation, time involved, uncertainty of either winning a contingent fee (for plaintiffs’ attorneys) or avoiding a big verdict (for defense attorneys), and the proliferation of ADR options— Alternative Dispute Resolution or, as some are calling it, Appropriate Dispute Resolution—combine to remove the incentive for lawyers to go to a jury trial in civil cases. Unless, of course, a jury trial is the only way your client, plaintiff or defendant, can get a shot at achieving that elusive and highly subjective notion of “justice”(4).

For those cases, there are a dwindling number of lawyers still out there that specialize in civil jury trials. It’s our good fortune that three of them, with the help of a judicial veteran of the civil bench, have collaborated on Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials: A Strategic Guide Outlining the Anatomy of a Trial, an entertaining guide for newer lawyers who have a yen to join this evermore-exclusive club.

BRIDGING THE MENTORING GAP

This compact volume (only 177 pages without appendixes, organized into 25 short chapters) is the principal work of Tyler Draa, a retired U.S. Naval Reserve judge advocate and prominent civil defense lawyer in San Jose, California. With contributions from Doris Cheng (San Francisco plaintiff’s attorney and a regular visitor to the JAG School for advocacy teacher training programs), Maureen Harrington (one of Draa’s law partners), and The Honorable Franklin E. Bondanno of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara. Draa et al. have produced a user-friendly guide that should be required reading for any attorney contemplating dipping a toe into the civil jury trial waters. As a bonus, it’s also chock full of solid advice for any trial lawyer, even if his or her practice is limited to criminal cases whether by courts-martial or in federal or state courtrooms.

There are two things about Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials that immediately jumped out at me as different from most of the litigation treatises out there. First, this is a book about preparing for and conducting civil jury trials. It is not about “civil litigation.” There isn’t a single word about discovery or pretrial motion practice, except in the context of the trial. As the authors make clear in the book’s introduction, Draa and his colleagues intend this book to bridge the mentoring gap that has resulted from the drastic reduction in civil jury trials. Fewer trials mean fewer experienced trial lawyers to help new lawyers learn the ropes, a gap that continues to widen with each generation. The second thing about the book that stood out to me is made clear by the book’s subtitle: A Strategic Guide Outlining the Anatomy of a Trial. This is a metaphorical 30,000-foot view of the civil trial. There isn’t a lot of detailed “how to” tactics. Draa and company have chosen instead to send bigger and more important messages to the budding trial lawyer.

This strategic approach emphasizes a global understanding of the civil trial process. It is in stark contrast to other trial “manuals,” such as one on criminal trials I reviewed in an earlier edition of The Reporter(5). Such opera magna, while very thorough and detailed on everything that may come up in trials, can be unwieldy. For those ambitious manuals, I have recommended practitioners first skim the contents, familiarizing themselves with the topics and organization, and then return for more detailed reading as needed or when time permits. For Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials, I recommend the opposite—sit down and read it straight through, which may be done in just a few sittings. This is such an easy read, with so many valuable insights, you won’t want to set it aside for very long until you’ve finished.

Foremost among those insights is the authors’ emphasis on civility and ethical treatment of everyone involved in the trial. There are sharp condemnations of such venerable shyster tactics as the “speaking objection” (i.e., the objection is just an excuse to argue to the jury, or worse, give a witness clues about the preferred answer) and using rebuttal to sandbag opposing counsel with new evidence. One chapter is entitled “Opposing Counsel: Colleague First, Adversary Second.” This should go without saying, but it needs to be said and I’m glad the authors say it. A cornerstone of any trial (civil, criminal, military, or civilian) is civility among opposing counsel. If you don’t have it, the trial becomes a cacophony of tit-for-tat reprisals over trivial slights and the clients’ interests get drowned out by the noise. This emphasis on civility often separates real trial lawyers, like Draa, Cheng, and Harrington (and, no doubt, Judge Bondanno in his life before the bench) from many of the swaggering TV “litigators” that equate effectiveness with red-meat rhetoric that demeans their opponents and, as a result, the entire process.

In another chapter, “Establish Your Courtroom Footing,” the authors emphasize the importance of getting to know, and treating with courtesy and respect, all court administration personnel. I learned this in 1975 as a first-year law student and part-time clerk at a firm in Topeka, Kansas. I’m amazed at how many attorneys I’ve seen abuse the folks that run their courtroom tech support, control access to the judge or, for a lawyer running up the courthouse steps, may or may not delay a few seconds past five o’clock before locking the clerk’s office door. Civility is the trial lawyer’s safety net—if you’re a jerk, you’re working without one so you’d better be good. And no one is that good. In Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials, Draa et al. stress the importance of ethics and civility at every opportunity.

CIVIL LITIGATION AND THE AIR FORCE ATTORNEY

ISBN 9781939454423While Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials is, of course, directed at civil trial practitioners, Air Force attorneys should not dismiss it as inapplicable to our practice. Some Air Force attorneys, both military and civilian, do get to represent the United States in civil trials from time to time. Even if your practice is limited to courts-martial, this book has solid advice about presenting cases to juries, whether they’re called that or answer instead to “Members of the Court.” A few pet peeves of mine, in any trial, are overuse of PowerPoint and other complicated demonstrative aids, redirect and recross examinations as yo-yo contests that don’t add anything to an attorney’s case, and objecting or cross-examining just because you can without regard to your theory of the case. Draa and company address these, plus a lot more, giving the newly minted trial lawyer the lessons learned from decades of courtroom mistakes they’ve seen and made themselves.

The one weakness of Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials, to which the authors freely admit, is its California emphasis. All the authors practice or preside in California so the rules and case law they cite are Golden-State centric. The authors, however, are assembling appendixes (partially completed when I read this advance review copy) listing federal and state authorities on peremptory challenge of judges—I didn’t know you could do that!—use of animations and other simulations as demonstrative evidence, and other common issues in civil trials. While it’s likely the majority of purchasers of Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials will be California lawyers, the completed appendices will broaden the book’s appeal.

[Editor’s Note: The appendices encompass all fifty states and are presented in all final editions, including a heavily linked eBook to the source of each statutory authority, as well as all cases cited throughout the book. Visit www.civiljurytrials.com for more information.]

In this book, however, the specific legal issues that might come up during a trial sit second chair to common sense and sound trial fundamentals. These values aren’t limited to any single jurisdiction. Last time I checked, anyway.


Mr. Thomas G. Becker, Col (Ret), USAF (B.A., Washburn University; J.D., Washburn University School of Law; LL.M. George Washington University School of Law) is the Academic Director for The Judge Advocate General’s School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.


FOOTNOTES:

(1) At a recent lecture I gave to allied nations’ officers attending an International Officers School course, one of them asked me, “Who is this [name of personal injury lawyer prominent in Alabama and the Florida panhandle]? My God, his picture is everywhere!”
(2) I’m not making this up. I have a photo taken by my daughter at a Washington Capitals game.
(3) See, e.g., Joe Forward, The Disappearing Jury Trial: Implications for the Justice System and Lawyers, Inside Track (Wisc. State Bar, Madison, Wisc.), Mar. 19, 2014.
(4) As it says on a small plaque I have on my desk, “Too often we want justice—just for us.”
(5) Tom Becker, How to Try a Murder Case: Pretrial and Trial Guidelines for Prosecution and Defense, 38 The Reporter 61 (2d ed. 2011) (book review).

Joshua Russell KBAY Interview Little Boy Soup
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KBAY Radio San Jose Interviews Author Joshua Russell

Author Joshua Russell had his first official interview on February 15, 2015, for “Little Boy Soup” with 94.5 KBAY Radio San Jose, California, with host Sam Van Zandt, talking up illustrator Mollie Hillmann and Balcony 7 Media and Publishing.

A candid interview recounting the conceptual phase of a new children’s bath time book, inspired by a father’s nostalgia and the curiosities of his kids.

Listen to Joshua Russell explain to KBAY Radio San Jose the birth of his upcoming book “Little Boy Soup” (publication date Spring 2016), and get to know this creative mind, who also happens to be the executive vice president of Silicon Valley Creates, a nonprofit whose mission is building community through arts and creativity.