Friday Photo (2 days late)

Friday Photo (2 days late)

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Kelly Clark the Artist

After a few days of reflection, my contribution to the public praise of this great man.

A lot has been said about Kelly as a lawyer (he was indeed one of the best of his generation), an abuse advocate (none better), and as a leader and mentor in the recovery community (dedicated to a fault). One thing that hasn’t been discussed as much was his deep love of language. You see, Kelly was an intellectual in the best sense of the word. He had been beaten up enough by life to stay connected to normal people, but his quick and curious mind never stopped looking for a more perfect way to craft words.

For 13 years, I wrote the first draft of most of Kelly Clark’s words as a lawyer. That’s not to say he just had me write something and signed his name to it—to the contrary, he fully engaged in the process, but he used my raw material to mold and sculpt truly persuasive arguments. We got to the point, rather quickly it seems in retrospect, where we knew what the other was thinking and what they meant, what we wanted to say, and how we were going to say it. He called me his “Brain in the Jar”—meaning that I sat in my office cranking out thoughts without all that messy human interface in the way. Putting the human face on things was Kelly’s job.

Kelly told me that in our vocation—and he truly believed the law was a calling—we worked with words the way a sculptor works with clay. One of my tendencies when rushed or disorganized is to retreat into complex, dense writing, yielding large blobs of unwieldy muck. Kelly taught me to see that and correct it, not by telling me to dumb down my writing (advice we both hated), or just “make it shorter” (which is not advice at all), but to hone it. To craft it more like a blacksmith would forge a sword. Remove what’s unnecessary and sharpen what works. He sent me to Colorado last fall for a seminar to do just that, saying that I was at this point an excellent legal writing technician but that I now needed to become an artist. That is how he viewed written legal advocacy, and writing in general. (Steve Hayward posted a great video on Facebook with Kelly reading from a passage on the spiritual decline in the Episcopal Church. One of the things that most impressed Kelly was not the thought itself, which he understood and shared, but the way the author conveyed it.)

But at the same time, Kelly wasn’t above having fun with writing. In one memo in an early Archdiocese case, the defense raised the concept of laches, which requires three elements. Setting aside the fact that laches does not apply to actions at law (a legal technicality that gave us an easy win anyway), all of the three necessary elements couldn’t exist in a properly pleaded child abuse case. So I used the quote on the “importance of counting” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in a footnote, shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.”  I couldn’t believe he left that in; it made me happy as a little kid. Even better, we got the headline that Kelly always wanted from that motion (even if it didn’t get printed anywhere): “Christ Rules Against Archdiocese.” Tom Christ (pronounced “Krist” though) was the pro tem judge, and he knocked down a number of the Archdiocese’s defenses in that case.

Kelly wasn’t above levity of his own. In fact, the one time Kelly got truly upset with me in my writing was when I changed one of his barbs. We had a case in which a priest had abused a boy in part by grinding on the poor kid through clothing. Gross, terrible, a massive violation; but was it “abuse”? We said “of course it is!”, and Kelly emphasized this point by writing that “… humping is sexual (just ask any dog—it will bite you).” I took out the “it will bite you” in the final draft. Apparently, he thought that was a salient point; he was not happy-fun Kelly that day. But as long as my arguments didn’t leave him “with [his] **** in his hands in front of the judge,” as he would often say, he was pleased .

Still, over the dozen-plus years together, he taught me that it was far better not to take those cheap shots at the follies of opposing—and also taught me to break that rule in the utmost deserving of circumstances. Taking the high road wasn’t just advice, it was the way he lived. “Don’t get mad, don’t get even, just get ahead.” That was something he told me on more than one occasion, and sage wisdom given my bellicose nature. His advice had the effect of changing the person, not just your actions. His little cryptic red-ink notes—“Let’s talk” (uh-oh, or maybe even nothing), “Awkward” (meaning either rephrase it, or maybe just chuck the whole concept), and “See me” (heart stops, what did I do wrong?)—triggered more introspection and self-correction than a half page of explanations.

At times, we disagreed about how to do something, and we both gave in when the other was right (or particularly animated about an issue). For the last several years, we got to the point where there was little for him to do on my work product, because he had essentially done it all years before. I knew how he wanted arguments to read, and he knew that I would make them work logically and rhetorically as best the law allowed. God willing, I will always carry that little facet of Kelly’s personality in my head, guiding me on the best way to say things. I’ve always needed an editor, and Kelly, you were the best.

Kelly made me better at writing, but like all truly great teachers, he made me a better human being. His compassion, patience, and gentleness shaped me as much as his editorial comments shaped my work. When I told him I wanted to leave the firm last March, his first reaction was, very kindly, “You can’t leave, I need you.” My response was, “It’s OK, I’ll always be around to help. It’s just a phone call away.” But then he went somewhere that words didn’t matter, and where my help, meager as it was, was useless. And when I found out he had died, I wanted to tell him in the words J.R.R. Tolkien in the Two Towers, “Don’t leave me here alone! It’s your Sam calling. Don’t go where I can’t follow!” But he had to go, and he deserves his rest.

It was a blessing to see him off to the Mayo Clinic on December 8, and the news that we wouldn’t seem him coming back has been the saddest moment in my life since my father died in 1997. Kelly was more than a boss, more than a law partner, and even more than a friend. He was an Example. An example of how to live life right, how to work and help others, how to love and cherish your family and friends. Occasionally, after doing some incredibly boneheaded, absent-minded professor-type thing, I would mention to him that perhaps the purpose of my life was to serve as a warning to others. Kelly Clark was just the opposite. His life, his teaching, his mentoring, above all his patience, serve as that shining city on the hill—a phrase he loved from Reagan—to all of us on what it means to live a truly humane life.

Kelly deeply and truly believed in a compassionate and loving God, and I for one have no doubt that this all-loving God of the universe has taken Kelly into His arms. We love you brother, and we miss you. Godspeed to your rest. We will see you again in God’s time.

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My friend, mentor, and brother, Kelly Clark — Requiescat In Pace

I can’t really say much beyond what I wrote earlier to an email to friends:

For 13 years, Kelly and I “shared a brain”: I would know what he wanted to say, and he always knew best how to say it.  Although his abuse work was central to who he was, he cared about and tried to fight for everyone who was being taken advantage of.  From fighting casinos and the lottery because of the impact on gambling addicts, to representing landowners getting shafted by the government, Kelly was always looking for a good cause and good people to dedicate his keen intellect and extremely well-honed instincts.  His thinking was always based on subtlety and understatement, and that thoughtfulness and caring came through to everyone he met.  His calm reaction was the opposite of my quick impatience, and his personality tempered my approach to everything, from litigation to family.

One thing that many folks didn’t see of Kelly was the truly selfless help he gave to people in substance abuse recovery.  He would take a call in the middle of a meeting, take an hour out of the office, whatever needed do get done to give these guys the support they needed right away so that they didn’t backslide.  He would tell me that as a “normie,” (a “normal” person—which is debatable) I couldn’t quite get the urgency of addicts feeling like they are in trouble, and that he needed to help them when they called, or they would quickly be beyond help.  Once, I remember we went to some event on the other side of town, and he was looking around the streets from the car for a friend he knew that had fallen off the wagon a few days before, because that was where the guy used to hang out when he was using.  Even from his sickbed, Kelly continued this ministry to those in recovery.

Kelly taught me more than I can say, and made me not just a better lawyer, but a better man.  Leaving his firm back in May, I told him that I would always be around to help, even if my office was somewhere else, whenever he got back from caring for his wife in her final months.  His loss now has just left me stunned, and even seeing him off to the Mayo a little over a week ago, you’d never guess he would be leaving us so soon.  Tears don’t come easily, but there are more than a few for KC right now.

Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for Kelly being in my life, and the real hole in my heart now that he is gone.  The world is indeed a smaller place without him in it.  I take comfort from his rock-solid faith in God, even though he had seen some of the worst of life.  We will see our dear brother again over the river.


Update:  I had incorrectly put “Pacem” above.  Kelly, who learned classical Latin several years back (since he wasn’t doing much else besides running a major law office and taking on the Catholic Church), would want me to use proper Latin.

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Friday Photo

Friday Photo

Upper Tumalo Falls, outside of Bend

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Private vs. Public Socialism

David Simon, a professional writer whom I do not know, laments the inability of capitalism to appreciate the mediating quality of socialism.  I’ve never been a “market red in tooth and claw” type of person, so I think I understand where he’s coming from in saying, “There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.” 

Too true.  But the answer to this moral wasteland, to Mr. Simon, appears to be New Deal, state-sponsored socialism.  As proof of point, he uses a large firm’s ability to get group insurance rates.  This is where polemic gets wrapped around a pole.

We can’t even get healthcare for our citizens on a basic level. And the argument comes down to: “Goddamn this socialist president. Does he think I’m going to pay to keep other people healthy? It’s socialism, m*********r.”


What do you think group health insurance is? You know you ask these guys, “Do you have group health insurance where you …?” “Oh yeah, I get …” you know, “my law firm …” So when you get sick you’re able to afford the treatment.


The treatment comes because you have enough people in your law firm so you’re able to get health insurance enough for them to stay healthy. So the actuarial tables work and all of you, when you do get sick, are able to have the resources there to get better because you’re relying on the idea of the group. Yeah. And they nod their heads, and you go “Brother, that’s socialism. You know it is.”

Except it’s not.   “Private socialism” is known alternatively as “cooperation,” “civil society,” and occasionally “charity.”  Government-run socialism is better known as “Treblinka,” the “Holodomor,” and the “Great Leap Forward.” 

The notion of a medieval associational society is a wonderful dream, provided we have modern technology and a transcendent, unified culture through which we all desire the same basic ends.  An atomized, Balkanized society doesn’t allow that.  Taking resources from some at the point of a gun in an atomized society is in no meaningful way like a voluntary association of individuals who pool resources.  Old Roman funerary societies would not have worked if co-opted by the State, everyone would just end up cremated after a day and with some drab bureaucratic obituary.  Shared immiseration is the result of state run “sharing” (which is the obvious result of pass-through payments under rent seeking human nature), as opposed to shared bounty going forward under private associations. 

No gun barrel can extract more than a generous spirit.

So while one should be sympathetic to the notion concerns over “income inequality” (as opposed to the true enemy, a stagnant economy due to uncertainty), and alert to the increased callousness of moneyed interests, imposing “cooperation” through the clumsy apparatus of the state is foolhardy in hope, and dangerous in practice.

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The Troubling Priorities of Cardinal Mahony

A friend emailed this link to me and advised “don’t read it unless you’re prepared to get very angry.”


He seemed almost temperamentally unable to see a problem and not do something. When a cathedral fire alarm stopped working, Mahony found a screwdriver and rewired it. When the clock was blinking the wrong time in an aide’s car, he quickly reset it.

Apparently that drive did not extend to cleaning out the child molesters in the Church.

Even after Fr. Tom Doyle’s excellent guide to dealing with the problem, and his lawyer’s advice to “Be sure that someone has reported the matter to the authorities,” Mahony still refused to deal with problem priests in any way other than shuffling them around (so more kids could get hurt).

There’s really so much there, including the great story of how the Times shamed the Church into tracking down a molester that it had helped get away.

“They lied as bad as any thug or ex-con I’ve ever come across on the street,” [Det.] Lyon recalled in an interview. “They were more interested in saving the reputation of the church than helping us find these young victims.”

Read the whole thing.

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Millstones for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis?

As a Catholic, I try to give most current Church leaders the benefit of the doubt that they’ve learned their lesson about secrecy and covering up the abuse of children by priests.  I sometimes counsel my clients that the Church has been trying to do the right thing over the last few years.

Apparently, I’m being rather naive—at least as it pertains to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  Former official: Archdiocese didn’t report priest’s pornography

The story is damning, in every sense of the word. 

When the archdiocese learned of the pornography on the computer in 2004, it asked [Rev. Jonathan] Shelley to turn over all of his remaining computers for forensic analysis.


Shelley responded by destroying one of the computers with a hammer, Haselberger said.

No, that’s not suspicious in the least. 

And then they sent Father Shelley to “treatment” to “St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., a treatment center that specializes in clergy psychological and sexual issues, for evaluation. When Shelley returned, he was placed back in ministry.”  And it was never reported to the police until one of the Archdiocese’s own lawyers got fed up with the lack of a response.  

The potentially criminal part comes from the materials turned over by the Archdiocese to the police:

Police asked church officials to turn over the evidence on March 5 of this year during a visit to the archdiocese’s main offices in St. Paul. The response of Andrew Eisenzimmer, the now-retired archdiocesan legal counsel and chancellor for civil affairs, to that request caught investigator Gillet by surprise.


“Eisenzimmer was visibly upset” and asked for the name of the priest involved, Gillet wrote in his report. “Eisenzimmer went so far as to say that he needed to know which property we were talking about. We were surprised with this, as it suggested to us the possibility that there might be more than one case of pornographic materials the church was dealing with.”


Gillet agreed to leave the archdiocese offices without the file containing the pornography and documents. He wrote in his report that he would call Eisenzimmer back with the priest’s name, then collect the evidence.

But church officials did not provide Gillet with anything until two days later when Tom Wieser, a St. Paul lawyer, called to say the sergeant could collect three computer disks from his office.

Read the entire article.  The failure to turn over evidence of a crime is itself a crime.  Moreover, how many other priests have been caught with pictures of child abuse on their personal computers?  Are these files on the Archdiocese’s servers?  What the Holy Hell, pun intended, is going on in Minneapolis???

The Savior of Mankind, our Lord Jesus Christ, was perfectly forgiving and loving.  Yet he was unequivocal about how to treat child abusers: “But whoso shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to fall, it were better for him that a millstone [about 500 pounds] were hung about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” 

The fact that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis closed ranks and possibly destroyed evidence to protect itself and a potential child abuser is horrendous.  But if they failed to report child abuse, as their own former lawyer (not some “evil” plaintiff’s lawyer) alleges, then the hierarchy has entered into criminal territory.  And if indeed Shelley had a problem with viewing pictures of children being abused (as the evidence seems to indicate), and they put Shelley back in ministry after determining he was sick enough to go to St. Luke Institute for that problem, then they are getting perilously close to that millstone.  Lake Superior—just up the road a bit—is pretty deep, after all.

God have mercy on their souls.

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