First Mondays at The Connecticut Mirror

Dear Readers,

I’m pleased to announce–three months after the fact–that I’m writing a monthly column for The Connecticut Mirror.  The column, “First Mondays,” is purely educational and is intended to enhance the general public’s understanding of the law and the legal system.  As you’ve no doubt guessed already, the column will appear on the first Monday of each month.  Topics so far have included:

I’ll post links to future columns as they appear.

My Grandfather’s Robes

My grandfather, the late Joseph Klau, was a Superior Court judge for many years before his death in 1988.  He loved being a judge.  For my entire professional life as an attorney I have aspired to follow in his footsteps.  Yesterday, that professional dream became a reality when the General Assembly voted to confirm Governor Malloy’s nomination of me to become a Superior Court judge.  (Thank you Governor Malloy!)  To top things off, I was sworn in while wearing my grandfather’s robes.  As you can imagine, I am beyond thrilled.

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The Final Judgment Rule

A few times over the past week colleagues have come by my office with questions about the final judgment rule.  Seems like it might be a good time to reblog two videos I created on this very subject!

William Howard Taft On Judicial Independence

I’ve been a great fan of President Theodore Roosevelt since I was a child.  I may have to revisit my admiration for Teddy, however, after reading law prof Jeff Rosen’s fascinating post about Teddy’s “demagogic attacks” on judicial independence–and how his successor, William Howard Taft, responded to them.  Rosen writes:

Judicial independence was the cause to which Taft was most devoted, as President and Chief Justice. Taft fought the election of 1912 as a crusade against Theodore Roosevelt’s demagogic attacks on judicial independence. In February, 1912, Roosevelt alarmed Taft by attacking individual judges by name and endorsing the right of the people to overturn state court decisions as well as recalling state court judges.

Taft responded that “the charter of democracy” Roosevelt proposed “advocated a change in our judicial system” that “would be dangerous to the body politic.” The recall of judges and their decisions, he said, “would necessarily destroy the keystone of our liberties by taking away judicial independence, and by exposing to the chance of one popular vote, questions of the continuance of our constitutional guarantees of life, liberty and property and the pursuit of happiness.” After delivering this fervent address, Taft retreated to his private railway car and expressed anguish to a journalist, “Roosevelt was my closest friend,” he declared, with his head in his hands. And then he began to weep.

Judicial independence is under attack once again.  How President, later Chief Justice, Taft responded to Roosevelt’s attacks on judicial independence is a lesson for how we should respond to similar attacks today.

Use Of Appellate Counsel In The “Bet The Firm” Case

From the shameless marketing department:

Please join former Supreme Court Justices Peter Zarella, Ian McLachlan and several noted appellate attorneys for an illuminating panel discussion on the value of including appellate counsel in your trial team.

When: April 26, 2018

Time: 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

Where: One State Street, Hartford, CT

“Go Buy Your Wedding Cake Somewhere Else.”

The country awaits the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which concerns whether a professional cake maker can refuse, on First Amendment grounds, to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. Georgetown law professor Paul Smith has this moving post on the very real personal costs that members of the LGBTQ community will suffer if the court decides the case in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop.  Money quote:

People in this country have every right to personally disapprove of my marriage.  But they should not have a right to translate those beliefs into exclusionary policies when they open a business like the Masterpiece Cakeshop.  They can choose who to associate with in their private lives.  But not when they open a business serving the public.  That is where we have always drawn the line in this country, and that shouldn’t change just because a purveyor of really excellent wedding cakes asks for the right to refuse to serve us because of who we are.

My Narcan Journey (Or How I Spent My Saturday Morning)

As the parent of a child with a serious substance abuse problem, I probably should have purchased Narcan a long time ago. Narcan, or Naloxone, is an antidote to opioid overdose. If administered soon after a person has overdosed on heroin or prescription painkillers (e.g., Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin), Narcan can save the person’s life.

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Porn Stars, Nondisclosure Agreements And The First Amendment

Yale Law School professor Jack Balkin has this interesting post on the enforceability of the nondisclosure agreement that adult film actress Stormy Daniels signed in exchange for $130,000, paid on behalf of President Trump.  Balkin notes that such agreements are generally enforceable because people can voluntarily waive their First Amendment rights.  But he argues that such agreements may, under certain circumstances, violate public policy.  Money quote:

Daniels’ strongest argument is a public policy argument within contract law– courts should refuse to enforce some (but not all) nondisclosure agreements because they are against public policy.  The public policy in this case is the public’s right to know about the private life of the President of the United States before he became President. In the alternative, there might be a public policy justifying a much narrower right of disclosure–namely, the right of the public to know whether the President and his allies violated campaign finance rules in order to keep Daniels quiet. There are plausible arguments for both of these positions, but they sound more in contract law than in First Amendment doctrine.



It’s “Sunshine Week”, So Listen To The Freedom Of Information Song!

Hey Friends,

It’s “Sunshine Week“–the week each year when we celebrate the importance of freedom of information and government transparency.  In honor of this auspicious occasion, take a moment out of your day to chuckle as you listen to The FOI!, a little song I wrote in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act!

Addiction Is A Disease, Not A Moral Failure

Most of us have been trained to use more forgiving language when talking about addiction. We call it a disease. We say that people with addiction should be helped, not blamed. But deep down, many of us still have trouble avoiding the thought that they could stop using if they just tried harder.

Brendan de Kenessey, A philosopher explains why addiction isn’t a moral failure, (March 5, 2018).

As the father of a child struggling to overcome a serious substance abuse problem, I’ve been forced to confront deeply held personal and societal beliefs about the relationship between addiction and personal responsibility. The above quote, from Brendan de Kenessey’s excellent article, captures how I long thought about the issue. But I’ve come to understand that this deeply held belief is mistaken. Addiction is not a choice.  And because it is not a choice, it is also a mistake to think of addiction as a moral failure.

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