Conflicts Check:
Conflicts Check:

This editorial somehow manages to tie together the issues of marriage equality and capital punishment. It does so in the context of the Attorney General’s willingness to defend the law. In my professional opinion, the piece is completely stupid. According to the LA Times, it’s okay to defend an unjust, unconstitutional law but ONLY if there’s a lot of popular support for said law. If you believe in your professional capacity that a law is unconstitutional, it seems like a no-brainer; you must not enforce or defend the law. But if it is not unconstitutional, and merely grossly unjust, then I think personal integrity demands what can sometimes be a tough decision.

However, I do not believe whether to categorize someone’s family as second-class, or whether to take someone’s life, to be tough decisions. I see no reason at all to be complicit in tyranny, least of all a paycheck.

The above links to my article in Insider Louisville about Kentucky’s death penalty.

On the Road to the 6th Circuit

We’re hurtling toward Cincinnati in a minivan. 3 lawyers, a paralegal, and a toddler. Rally tonight, then arguments all day tomorrow. Michigan, Ohio, then us, then Tennessee.

We’re going to try to convince a panel of three appellate judges, two George W. Bush appointees and one Clinton appointee, who are on the bench for life, that our clients should have marriage rights. Tomorrow’s one of those days that made us want to be lawyers in the first place.

I keep getting asked what I think is going to happen. My stock answer is that I don’t make predictions.

But here’s my prediction: we win.

Maybe we don’t win at the 6th circuit. Maybe we lose. Maybe we never get to the Supreme Court, or maybe we lose there too. Maybe we don’t win in a year or two years or ten. But we by-God win. Eventually.

Of all the cases we’ve pored over and tried to understand throughout the course of this litigation, there are only a few that lead me to this conclusion. Here’s a gross oversimplification:

Plessy v. Ferguson (1898), in which the “separate but equal” doctrine was endorsed by the Supreme Court.

Brown v. Board of Education (1954), in which the Supreme Court said Plessy was wrong.

Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), in which the Supreme Court said LGBT folks have no rights.

Lawrence v. Texas (2003), in which the Supreme Court said that Bowers was wrong.

Loving v. Virginia (1967), in which the Supreme Court said states could not prohibit interracial marriage, despite its bullshit reasons involving tradition, religion, procreation, and anything else a bunch of bigots could come up with.

With a minimal understanding of history and just a tad bit of insight, imagination, and tempered optimism, you can see where things are headed. We win. Our clients win. Y’all win. History always wins.

Harold McQueen, Jr.

I am writing a piece on the death penalty for Insider Louisville, but I got sidetracked by this guy’s story. Please indulge me for a minute. Rest assured, I read your hate mail.

Since 1976, only three people have been executed in Kentucky. The two most recently killed were Edward Harper in 1999 and Marco Chapman in 2008. Both of them volunteered for it.

McQueen is the only involuntary execution in the last 50 years out of 78 people sentenced to death. About a third of Kentucky’s death row inmates have been there since the 1980s. Chapman was sentenced in 1981 and executed in 1997.


I’m not kidding; I want to know why. I cannot find any reason that makes any logical sense. Why did McQueen get fried, but no one else since (unless, of course, they asked for it)? McQueen is like almost all the other death row inmates in Kentucky. He was white, he was middle-aged, and he was convicted of a drug-crazed murder. His accomplice was convicted of the same murder and paroled in 1988. 

The notoriously defendant-unfriendly, pro-capital-punishment, in its lengthy page on McQueen, quotes a prison psychologist who describes him as a “corrections success story.” It doesn’t look like he was involved in any prior violent crime (despite a lengthy criminal history, but damn near all the death row guys have that), and no one contends he was a danger to anyone in prison.  

I have looked at it and looked at it and looked at it, and I have come up with two inescapable conclusions:

1) The only reason for McQueen to have been Kentucky’s sole execution in the last 50 years is his own incredibly bad luck. 

2) A system that singles out one person out of a pool of death row inmates for execution in a 50-year time period, apparently based on nothing but that inmate’s incredibly bad luck, cannot possibly be constitutional, moral, or even sane in any way.

I am prepared to be proved wrong, but I think I’m right. 

The above links to my appearance on KET’s Kentucky Tonight, in which Chris Hartman and I debate Stan Cave and Martin Cothran about same-sex marriage. I will refrain from commentary about the process, except to say that doing a continuous hour of live TV with no commercials, no dump button, and obviously no editing of the stupid things one might say, is nerve-wracking. I’d say that it all turned out okay, but I truly don’t know because I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it. 

Onward to the Sixth Circuit!

White-Bean Hummus with Lemon and Basil

This has nothing to do with the law or music or whatever, but I made this on accident out of crap lying around and people have asked about it enough that I figured I’d post it. It’s simple, healthy, and delicious. And totally vegan, if you’re into that sort of thing.


2 cans (30 oz.) cannellini beans, drained

A roasted red pepper (optional) (do NOT stick a raw one in there)

7-8 leaves fresh basil

1 clove garlic (peeled, you fool)

Juice of 1 lemon

A generous amount of olive oil

Salt to taste, about a teaspoon ought to do it


1. Put all the ingredients except the olive oil and salt in a food processor.


2. Check your toddler to make sure that she’s out of earshot, or absorbed in something else that will keep her from absolutely freaking the fuck out over the noise the food processor makes.

3. Turn on the food processor.


4. While it’s running, add the olive oil until everything gets to be the texture of hummus, or at least a texture you like. You might have to stir it up a bit to get it all the same consistency. I highly recommend you turn the processor off before stirring. I have actually lost a wooden spoon that way. But I’m not terribly bright.

5. If you have neglected step #2, go soothe your toddler. A Disney movie should do the trick, or perhaps a solemn promise that you will never allow such a horrible noise again.

6. Salt to taste. Pulse the food processor a couple of times to make sure the salt gets through the whole batch.

7. Eat it on raw carrots, or pita bread, or whatever you fancy. Like most things, it tastes better the second day.


Most people I know

including me, are trying to do this:

when we probably ought to be working on this:

The Secret Desire of All Lawyers

This post is not nearly as sexy as the title suggests, even if you don’t think the secret desires of lawyers are all that sexy. Sorry about that. No, this post is about magic.

Buried deep in the dark heart of every lawyer is the secret, burning desire to work magic. Some of us are warriors, and some of us are thieves. Some of us are chaotic good, some lawful neutral, and some neurotic evil. But deep down, we all want to be the mage. (And that’s as far as that analogy needs to go.)

The point is: I’m an instant gratification kinda guy. The reason I went to law school in the first place was to effectuate instantaneous change. You write a brief, you argue to a couple of robes, and BAM! The death penalty is abolished. An innocent person goes free. Schools are desegregated (or resegregated, if that’s your cup of tea). Your friends can get married. Miracles happen.

But it’s almost never that simple. And even if it is, you can’t promise miracles without overpromising. And overpromising is something a lawyer must never do.

Of course, I’ve done my share of overpromising. When I first started handling my own clients it was a lot of ‘they can’t do that’ and ‘how dare they’ and ‘it’s a moral outrage’ and ‘we’re going to make them pay for it.’ But I’ve learned my lesson.

The problem is compounded by the fact that our clients want us to be magicians, too. To chant some ancient Babylonian shit and undo the wrongs that befell them. To fly around the world backwards and unmake history. And oh, how we’d like to do so.

But one of the reasons our friends’ friends don’t like to talk to us at parties is that our line of work demands a great deal of negativity. You must underpromise and hope to overdeliver. It is our job to prepare clients for the worst, even if you know you’re right, even if you know the law, the judge, and God Himself are all on your side. Indeed, the worst often happens, even when it clearly should not.

What can we do? Lawyers often speak in terms of a client being “made whole.” This concept is perhaps the greatest legal fiction in common usage today. To be truly “made whole” requires magic. We cannot give back the use of your legs, or your dignity, or your child. We can get you money. That’s about it. Nothing magical about that. Most clients find this idea deeply unsatisfying. So do most lawyers. Nonetheless, cash quickly becomes the measure of success, because what other measure is there? And so it is fetishized. Results are equated to dollars. Dollars are equated to the practice of law, and to the law itself. There’s a reason the ‘greedy trial lawyer’ meme is so popular.

This conflation of idealism with materialism, and the inherent need for pessimism, along with the simple fact that a perfect, magical solution is so unimaginably rare in the practice of law that it might only come along once in a lifetime, leads to disillusionment. Depression. Anxiety. Hopelessness. Alcoholism. Probably suicide. A whole host of nasty things. And yet we soldier on, without magical powers, in hopes that we accidentally get one incantation right. One combination of words said at the right place at the right time that changes a life, or many lives, or the state, or the country, or the world.

It almost never happens. But sometimes it does. And ‘sometimes’ makes it worth it. After all, if magic happened every day, it wouldn’t be quite so magical.

The above links to my story and interview with attorney Greg Belzley about the state of health care in Kentucky prisons. 

Today is my 13,345th day of life. I spent it writing a brief, making chilli, and playing with the baby. That was pretty good. I’ve got 5 hours left. Maybe I can do even better.

The above links to a panel discussion on the status of the marriage equality cases. This was held at Human Rights Campaign’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. on March 26, 2014. If you’re interested in hearing me, or several other smarter, better-looking attorneys discussing the origins of the marriage cases and where we’re going, check it out.


So finally, at long last, I’ve got a band that has recorded some original music. Ladies and gentlemen, The Vatican Bank presents Pork Chop Paul

You can check out a couple of free tracks at

Available on, iTunes, our Facebook page, or our website for the low low price of like 6 bucks or something. Seriously, you pay more than that for a beer on 4th Street. Or so I’m told.

Also, check out the insane album art by Ira Smith of the band Mistakes in Aviation:



Remember that people are the least lovable when they are most in need of love.
Star Trek: Because I Never Tire of Beating a Dead Horse

Here is the published version of “All I Need to Know About Being a Lawyer I Learned From Star Trek: An Open Letter to New Attorneys”. from the April/May issue of The Advocate. Posting this because the published version looks cool (even though they took out the colorful metaphors), and because I have not written anything substantial since. Well, nothing that’s fit for public consumption, anyway.