Georgia Criminal Appellate Law Blog

Offering Insight and Commentary on Appellate Law and Criminal Trial Practice

Is This the Hill You Want to Die Defending?

Posted in Attorney-Client Relationship, News

There has been much ado about a controversy at Duke Divinity School. I will leave aside, for purposes of this blog the elements of race, gender and politics. Those articles and blog posts are being written. For a few paragraphs here, I want to discuss this controversy as an opportunity for a practice pointer when it comes to sentencing or any other presentation you might wish to bring to a judge that is discretionary in nature.

The controversy, in summary is this. A Duke Divinity School professor received a mass email about a two day racial sensitivity training. From what I can tell, the training was not mandatory. There was a link to click to enroll, and space was limited. The professor replied to the entire faculty that the seminar would be a waste of time to attend. I don’t know any of the actors beyond reading their emails. But it appears that the professor was more of a curmudgeon than a bigot. However, he chose to touch the third rail of campus politics — identity politics. And things quickly spiraled downhill. And he has now resigned. The controversy has occupied much faculty and student attention. along the way. And now the controversy has become fodder for conservative blogs and periodicals.

The professor’s email, the one that began the whole thing, is worth quoting in its entirety:

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I’m responding to Thea’s exhortation that we should attend the Racial Equity Institute Phase 1 Training scheduled for 4-5 March. In her message she made her ideological commitments clear. I’ll do the same, in the interests of free exchange.

I exhort you not to attend this training. Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance.

We here at Duke Divinity have a mission. Such things as this training are at best a distraction from it and at worst inimical to it. Our mission is to thnk, read, write, and teach about the triune Lord of Christian confession. This is a hard thing. Each of us should be tense with the effort of it, thrumming like a tautly triple-woven steel thread with the work of it, consumed by the fire of it, ever eager for more of it. We have neither time nor resources to waste. This training is a waste. Please, ignore it. Keep your eyes on the prize.

He may actually have a point. An argument could be made the he was right. And, giving him the benefit of the doubt, he sought to challenge his colleague to engage in a dialogue about race and gender in a more rigorous way. But surely he knew the temperature in the room. His message, in its particular form, was likely not going to move the ball down the field.

I am reminded of the task of preparing witnesses to testify at a sentencing hearing or at a motion to terminate probation. Or I am reminded of what it is like to collect letters on my client’s behalf for the parole board.

The people who will offer their testimony are deeply suspicious and (very often justifiably) distrustful of the judge, DA, law enforcement, and the judicial system as a whole. And they see their moment on stage as a time to stand up and vent that frustration or speak out about what they perceive to be right. In their mind, it is time to take a noble stand.

And in those instances, I have to remind the witness — “is this a hill that you are prepared to die to defend?” In other words, I may tell the client’s mom or wife, you could use your moments with the judge either to (1) inform him that he is biased in favor of the state and does not know how to run a courtroom fairly; or (2) persuade the judge to let my client out of prison. But the witness cannot do both.

Sometimes it may be better to role your eyes and delete an email instead of using a mass email situation to make a point. It may be better to raise the level of conversation over time than to use the medium of mass email to tell your colleagues that the training is a waste of time. Some hills are worth dying to defend (when you know that you surely will die) and others are not. Of course, if we do not get the result we wanted, the witness is often resentful that we did not take the stand. But, I always think, we chose to defend the right hill even if our efforts in that regard were futile.

The Lawyer Award Industrial Complex

Posted in News

participation.jpg~c200Awards are catnip for lawyers. We like praise. And unless you’re a prosecutor or civil defense attorney, you do not often get it from judges or appellate courts. And, even when you win the case, you can be hard pressed to receive it from clients. And yet we lawyers hold ourselves in very high regard.

So, there is an industry out there that exploits the lawyer mindset. We shall call it the Lawyer Award Industrial Complex. We must be careful in discussing the Lawyer Award Industrial Complex to our fellow lawyers, particularly after they have been named as a recipient of a lawyer award. We are often blissfully unaware of the workings of the lawyer award industry, and our egos are fragile. Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. And, yes, R. Rex Smith, III, you are, indeed, the most distinguished practitioner of real estate closings in the entire Southeast for this decade. The award proves it.

If you do not yet know what I am talking about, there are whole companies out there that exist to award lawyers. I could not possibly name them all. The industry leader is Super Lawyers. There is also Best Lawyers. Every year or so, I receive a letter in the mail notifying me that I have been named to some sort of list. I cannot remember the name of it, but it is out of Dothan, Alabama, which I was unaware served as any sort of headquarters of a lawyer hall of fame. For a Georgian, “having arrived” in Dothan has generally meant that you are getting closer to Panama City.

Once you are the recipient of a lawyer award, you wait for the other shoe to drop. Sometimes, the shoe is that you must pay the award company to have your name included in their directory. Or the shoe is that your name will go on the directory/magazine/brochure, but in tiny letters you can only see with an electron microscope. But you can pay to have your name printed bigger in that publication, all the way to a full-page ad or the cover. And there are other things you can purchase. They will sell you certificates and lacquered plaques for your waiting room or the “love me” wall of your office just behind the high backed leather chair.

I was recently in court where a judge was hearing habeas matters. And a trial lawyer was on the stand being questioned by the habeas lawyer on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The Assistant Attorney General then had the lawyer on cross. And the AAG’s first question to rehabilitate the lawyer on cross was “Isn’t it true that you’re a Super Lawyer?” I almost spit the water I was drinking out in a South Georgia courtroom as I thought “is that all you got?”

Now to my story. Yesterday I learned of a more subtle entrant to the Lawyer Award Industrial Complex. A publication that I read and respect notified me that I had received an award and would be honored at an upcoming dinner at a downtown Atlanta hotel. If you know me and have read what I regularly write here, you will know that I am often skeptical and always deeply neurotic (in a charming way). I emailed a reporter at the publication to ask if this was all legit. Some lawyers I respect were also named, but then there were mainly big Atlanta law firm names I recognized. Though I did not know the names of the individual recipients who were going to receive awards. I was re-assured in response that this was an honor for my outstanding leadership and results from 2016. I ran a marathon in 2016. But otherwise 2016 feels to me in retrospect like a fairly ordinary year. But this newspaper says that it was an extraordinary year. So, I declared it also to be so.

Then today I received an email. While my ticket to attend the event where I am to be honored is free, it will cost $650 ($650!) for any guest I would like to bring with me. I thought that a $650 plate of food also included the purchase of a political candidate.Or for a cool few thousand bucks I can purchase a whole table. And virtually everything else about the event is for sale. I can pay to give introductory remarks, to have my name on the napkins, or anything else one might imagine.

The other shoe dropped. Congratulations to me.

Artificial Intelligence is a Net Positive for Lawyers

Posted in News

140321165234-robots-replace-junior-lawyers-620xaA recent New York Times article explores whether artificial intelligence is replacing lawyers or whether it will in the future. The basic conclusion is that humans are necessary for legal work for the time being. As an attorney who does litigation, with an emphasis on appeals, habeas, sentencing, motions practice, and some limited trial work, I see this as an optimistic piece. Steve Lohr, who wrote the piece does a good bit of technology writing for the Times and has done a great job here identifying trends in A.I. and the law. So, let me take a minute to tell you why I think that this piece is ultimately optimistic.

In any law firm, or any business,, there are very few things that only a lawyer should do. And to become more profitable and efficient, lawyers should limit their work to what only the lawyers can do. What are the things that truly only I can do in my practice?

  • Only I can stand up and make an argument in court.
  • Only I can approve and sign pleadings and briefs that are submitted to the court.
  • Only I can represent a client, which essentially means that only I an give legal advice and ultimately execute on legal strategy.
  • Only I have the ability to connect with a client, opposing counsel, law enforcement officials, and judges as a human being in relationship with others as human beings. A.I. would have to surpass the Turing Test, to begin to replicate this function. And the lawyer’s stock and trade is his relationship with others in the system.

But there are things that others in my practice can do as long as I supervise. For me that might mean the gathering and scanning of all the documents in the case that were left by the lawyers and clerks that go before me (I’m seldom the first lawyer on a file). Document review can be done by others in my office as well as the preparation of internal memoranda, witnesses, and court exhibits, and some legal research. Indeed, it’s to the client’s benefit in terms of cost and efficiency if the lawyer does what only the lawyer can do. And the better news is that we live in a time where a good bit of the non-lawyer stuff can even be outsourced to contract vendors who can do an excellent job remotely, which can cut down on the amount of office space necessary to run a law firm. And ultimately, the client should be happy that the client no longer needs to fund such in infrastructure.

So, back to the article. Mr. Lohr identifies some of the areas that A.I. is improving. I’ll highlight a few.

  • Legal Research. Ross is one of the A.I. services highlighted in the article. Ross intelligently engages in legal research and generates a rudimentary legal memo. Again, this sort of thing is what lawyers often get drawn into but is not one of the things that only lawyers can do. There’s a great Ted Talk about Ross with its founder. The talk is kind of inspirational.
  • Scouting Opposing Counsel and the Judge I think that ultimately there is value in making some calls and using Listserves to scout out this information. But I’m intrigued by Lex Machina and Ravel Law. These services provide analytics of opposing counsel and judges – sort of like a Moneyball for the law. I haven’t looked deeply into these services, but I suspect that they are pretty good for civil litigation and not so great for criminal law.

I’m not concerned that these services will replace me. I think these services will allow me to be more of a lawyer and to compete with bigger firms to provide great legal services against the resources of the government.

Skillful Speech and the Law

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing

girl-shouting-into-loadhailerI recently heard a new term. It is a term of art from a certain religious discipline. That term is “skillful speech.” The person who said it was Joseph Goldstein. He was a guest on on a podcast. He explained that speech often serves no useful purpose other than to announce your presence to another person. Or it can be speaking something other than the truth. And even when we tell the truth, it can be truth spoken in a way that advances no good cause, such as gossip. Or it can be truth delivered with an ill intent. A few mornings ago, I read up on the concept of skillful speech. In a review of one of Goldstein’s books, for instance, the concept is summarized as follows:

“Right speech”—speaking honestly and eschewing lies and gossip, divisive speech and idle chatter—is a crucial part of Buddhist ethics. Joseph invented a practice for himself in order to cultivate greater mindfulness about speech: for several months he refrained from speaking to anyone about a third person. This not only taught him that a large percentage of his conversation involved other people, but helped him notice that much of what he said included comments and judgments about other people. Stopping such speech for a while made his mind less critical toward others, but interestingly also less critical toward himself. Years later that practice continues to alert him when he begins to speak mindlessly about other people.

I decided to give it a try. A few hours later, I fell short of it in a disagreement I had with someone. And this all happened outside of the work context. And I began to wonder, if it is so difficult to speak skillfully in the personal context, how much more difficult is it to use speech skillfully in the litigation context.

In the work context, as a criminal defense attorney, I have begun wondering about the relevance of skillful speech. A good portion of my work is on the page. So, I have the benefit of taking my speech through multiple drafts. And, in the oral argument context, there is opportunity to anticipate questions that might arise. More difficult is the person who, as my children would say, “started it first.” When a person is aggressively unskillful in her speech to me, it can be a challenge to remain skillful in my response. Or when a judge or an opposing counsel speaks in an unkind manner to me, even when I don’t respond in kind in the moment, the real challenge comes in how I describe the event within my office. We often speak of it in terms of “venting” or having a sense of humor. Or we may relish the fact that we are good at it. Much of your social media feeds may consist of unskillful speech.

As I have reflected on it, skillful speech is perhaps most relevant in the work arena. After all, in this arena, I am paid professional in my speech. And as much as I work at what I say in a brief or a motion, I should work just as hard in how I speak to clients, the folks who work the courthouse door, opposing counsel, and the judge. In this area, I should strive to make all speech skillful speech.

Friday Review: A Place I Haven’t Been in a While

Posted in Writing

Library with a book ladder and lampOn my way home from the office yesterday, I darkened the doors of a place I haven’t been in a while: the public library. When I was throwing some things out recently, I stumbled upon my old library card. The card sat in my car for a while. And today I used it. Anticipating upcoming travels, I thought I would allow amazon.com or Apple’s iBooks service to flounder without me for a few weeks and get a couple of library books.

How long had it been since I last visited a library? I’m not sure. But the librarian laughed when I presented my card and said that it had expired in 2009. 2009 was the year that I purchased my Kindle and began helping Amazon and Audible pay their mortgage. When I noted this to the librarian, she laughed at me again and said that I can check out ebooks and audio books through the library and put them on my Kindle. Yesterday, I picked up Sam Harris’ Waking Up.

This morning, I logged onto Georgia’s Library System. Within minutes, I was logged on to their ebook/audiobook borrowing section. And minutes after that, I was redirected to the Amazon site, where I clicked a couple of things and a library book was on my Kindle. I downloaded the biography of Elon Musk where I will hope to feel optimistic about the future of technology in America and The Garden of Beasts, where I anticipate I will find parallels to the modern American political climate.

I may be the last person to this party. If I am, don’t roll your eyes. Just take pity. If you still aren’t at the party, go and visit a public library. It turns out they’ve changed with the times.

New 11th Circuit Interpretation of a Portion of the Sentencing Guidelines

Posted in 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions and Analysis

One of the hats I wear is that of the Federal opinions editor for a caselaw update that the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers publishes monthly. It has been a slow month for Eleventh Circuit Opinions. But there is one that I will be writing up. And this blog post will pull double duty as a caselaw summary for that publication.

The case is United States v. Sheels, a January 31 published opinion. This case deals with whether it was proper to impose a four-point enhancement under 2G2.1(b)(4) of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The question turns on what is sadistic of masochistic conduct.

The Point:

For purposes of determining whether to impose a four-point enhancement for a conviction for sexual exploitation of a minor by production of sexually explicit material, it is proper to impose the enhancement even if the defendant is the recipient of sadistic or masochistic conduct was directed at him rather than from him.

The Facts:

Mr. Sheels was convicted of one count of producing and one count of receiving child pornography. He received a sentence of 600 months to serve. The sentencing added four points to his base level offense of 32 because the material contained the following as defined by 2G2.1 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines:

If the offense involved material that portrays sadistic or masochistic conduct or other depictions of violence, increase by 4 levels.

Mr. Sheels argued that the enhancement did not apply because he was the recipient of the argument. The Court affirmed, having determined that the depiction of such conduct, in any form, was sufficient to apply the enhancement.

The Reasoning:

The Court found that it was not necessary to look further than the plain language of the guidelines to answer the question. “Involved material that portrays,” applies to the conduct in any form. The Court then went to a dictionary definition of the word involve.

There were no cases directly on point. And Mr. Sheels relied on some dicta from other cases potentially to support his position:

He cites a number of cases, like United States v. Hall, 312 F.3d 1250, 1261 (11th Cir. 2002) (quotation marks omitted), which contain statements like: “[A] photograph is sadistic within the meaning of Section 2G2.2(b)(3)3 when it depicts the subjection of a young child to a sexual act that would have to be painful.” But those cases merely stand for the proposition that material depicting sadistic or masochistic conduct directed towards the child is sufficient to warrant the application of a § 2G2.1(b)(4) enhancement, not that it is necessary.

Ultimately, the Court held that even the object of sadistic or masochistic conduct is subject to the enhancement. To the extent that this point was unresolved by the language of the guidelines, it is resolved now.

 

How I Handle Email (Right Now)

Posted in Writing

Missle CommandIf I allowed it to happen, I would do nothing but read and write emails all day. I have had days where this has happened. And I have had vacations days or family events where I spent all of my time reading and writing email. And, while I have improved at it, I am pretty sure that I am still fairly bad at email. I’ve tried more email apps for the phone that you could imagine. And I’ve tried every system you can think of to try to tackle email.

I took the best general idea for what to do with email in a talk by Merlin Mann in 2007 on the topic of Inbox Zero. His general idea is that your email inbox is a terrible to do list. It is a poor texting service. And if you aren’t careful, you’ll just collect emails that number in the thousands. It’s true because I have been there. If you reply to emails, then you are just going to generate more email particularly if the email exchange is with more than two people and you are trying to make arrangements for some sort of meeting or event. For Mann, the goal every day should be to reduce emails down to zero.

Opinions differ on whether you should try to respond to every email. With that said, here is an overview of my system for dealing with email. Again, I suspect I’m not good at email. But I’m trying to build a better system to handle it.

  • I batch my email with an aim to only process it at selected point of time during the day. Email is at its most evil when you see them while you are standing in line, while you are in a conversation with someone, while you are hanging out with your family, or when you are stopped at a red light. The worst is the angry email from someone that is hard to let go of. It’s best to get all emails in a batch at pre-set times per day. Right now, my service for handling all of that is Batched Inbox. Batched inbox holds your emails and delivers them all at once at times you select. If I open up any of my mail apps, I don’t see incoming emails until they all push through at once.
  • The Scheduling Can Be The Hard Part. I’ve tried every combination imaginable. I’ve tried three times a week, once an hour, twice a day and three times a day. Before I made a recent change, I had them all come in at 11 and at 4. It turns out that this these times did not work so well. 4 is when I’m thinking about winding down the day and getting some ready for when I get home. At 11, I might be engaged in a meeting or court. Then I end up trying to process to zero as quickly as possible. Also, the emails I responded to managed to yield a response or 5 before I leave the office. There’s also a flaw in Batched Inbox. All of the emails go to a folder called “BatchedInbox” that you can actually open. And when you go there and start looking, then Batched Inbox just becomes another inbox. When I respond to something twice during the work day, I sometimes get curious about what the replies might be. Then I’m sucked in.
  • The Other Trick is To Schedule Delivery. Another part of the system is to batch the outgoing emails so that they go at a time that I schedule. Boomerang does several things. But the best thing is that it allows you to schedule when you want the email to go out. Instead of pressing send, you press another button that schedules the email to go out.
  • If Something in the Email is an Action Item, Then Take it out of Email. Email is a bad inbox. It’s a poor substitute for memory. If you need to make some issue in an email into an action item, then write it down elsewhere and archive the email. If something needs to be scheduled, then put it on the calendar. Email is a terrible calendar.

With all of that said, here is what I am now doing. All emails are scheduled to come in at 3:00 a.m. Most emails that I send in response go out at 10:00 p.m. With this system, none of my outgoing emails are reaching a recipient during the work day. Which means that they cannot reply during the work day. And all of the incoming emails come in while I am asleep. There is some conventional wisdom against checking email in the morning. But I think that this wisdom can be defied if you know that this is the one time that you will process email and what you send out will not return until this time tomorrow. Also, I am not looking at it when the rest of the world is awake. Then I leave my house knowing that I don’t have to think about email until tomorrow and knowing that I have a bunch of emails cued up to launch after I’ve gone to bed tonight.

You may read this thinking that this system is rude or that I’m not being responsive. I find that quite the opposite is true. When I do process through email, I am focused on it. I am not swatting it away or playing missle command with it. And when I answer an email, I am calm. I am not being short with people because I just read an email from an angry person.

Again, I don’t think I’m good at email because I am not so sure that it’s possible to be good at it. It’s kind of a messed up thing. But I am always trying to systematize it and make that system better.

Criminal Sentencing and the Problem of Free Will

Posted in Writing

steamsaleCriminal calendars may be handled slightly differently in every jurisdiction. But they have one thing in common. At some point in every case, the lawyers will argue about why a person did that he did. And a judge or jury will evaluate this question and make a decision about what to do in light of that decision. In some instances, this evaluation will literally amount to life or death. In most, this decision will determine whether a person goes a away to a prison, is able to continue a course of education, or has her career choices forever limited by a label. But in each of those moments, not only the choice a person made but that person himself is judged. For that reason, how we think about free will is an important subject.

For those who are represented by thorough defense counsel, this judgment is made early and in the charging stage. The sooner you can bring a person’s full humanity to the attention of “the system” the more hope you can bring to that person. From the defense attorney’s perspective, the more complex that decision is, the better. It’s easy to pass judgment on a file and difficult to pass judgment on a person. So, you do everything you can to show to the system your client’s full humanity. Ken White wrote about this very thing:

If judges confronted the defendants’ individual humanity as they caged them one after another, they’d go quite mad.  It’s impossible and inadvisable.

The trick is to light a spark that catches the judge’s eye, that transforms your client even momentarily from an abstraction or a statistic or a stereotype into a human being with whom the judge feels a connection.  Judges are people, and people connect with each other through commonalities – family, hobbies, sports, music, and so forth.  At sentencing, a good advocate helps the judge to see the defendant as someone fundamentally like the judge, with whom the judge can relate.  It’s harder to send a man into a merciless hole when you relate to him.

Ken White was writing about the Stanford swimmer whose sentence struck many around the country as exceedingly light given his conduct.

What the system is asking itself when it passes judgment is not just how we judge the person’s action or the person himself. The best among our profession challenge the moral framework that the system uses to even pass those judgments. And that moral framework inevitably turns to free will.

Free will is a touchy subject. It is perhaps the third rail of jurisprudence, politics, and religion. For those who are interested in exploring this moral framework and the role free will has to play in it, I commend to you Sam Harris on this topic.

Harris posits that free will is an illusion and that it matters that we develop a more sophisticated understanding of it. And Harris argues that (1) we are not free to make choices independently; and (2) that our choices are not even the product of our conscious mind.

And where he goes with this argument is not where you might expect.

We live in a world of cause and effect. Even within our body, we are doing things well beyond our conscious control. We are making red blood cells, but we are not in control of whether we make them. And we did not choose who our parents or where we were born. And, for Harris, our choices emerge from “a wilderness of cause and effect” that we neither see nor fully appreciate. We carry genetic information from ancestors and a lifetime of experiences with us. And that material may well be dispositive of every decision, including whether to buy coffee or cocoa on our way to work. In short, Sam Harris argues that free will is an illusion.

The Consequence for Us and For How We View the World

For one, if our free will is an illusion, then we should chill out about a couple of things. We should be more humble about our good choices. To a certain extent, we should be no more prideful about our good choices than we are about our height. At the same time, if we have managed to choose well, we should feel fortunate about this fact in the way we feel fortunate about good health. And if we have chosen badly in the past, we should perhaps go a little easier on ourselves.

More importantly, Harris’s view of free will is important for how we view others. If other people’s choices are a manifestation of their genetics and life experience, then we should feel more compassionate and less of a sense of hatred toward those who have made exceptionally bad choices.

Let me Anticipate Your Argument

If free will is an illusion, then why have a criminal justice system? Why send any defendant to jail since there is not free will. This takes us to our next point.

Free will is an illusion, but choice still matters. Says Harris,

The fact that our choices depend on prior cause does not mean that choice doesn’t matter. To sit back and see what happens is also a choice that has its own consequences. So, the choices we make in life are as important as people think, but the next choice you make will come out of a wilderness of prior causes that you cannot see and did not bring into being.

And an understanding of free will can guide future choices in a more systematic and perhaps grander way. We can shift the the ground from which our choices arise. And I hope you will pardon me for putting in another block quote:

A creative change of inputs to the system — learning new skills, forming new relationships, adopting new habits of attention — may radically transform one’s life. Becoming sensitive to the background causes of one’s thoughts and feelings can, paradoxically, allow for greater creative control over one’s life.

This understanding reveals you to be a biochemical puppet, of course, but it also allows you to grab hold of one of your strings.

A very wise friend of mine who counseled some of my clients and testified on behalf of some of theme at sentencing, would tell them that the way to recover from an addiction had less to do with the choice to “use” in the moment and more to do with avoiding the moment. She drilled clients on what she called the “PPTs” or “persons, places, and things.” Change your landscape and eventually your “free will” acts differently.

Harris provides a helpful view of the world and a paradoxically liberating escape from free will.

If We Eliminated Social Media, We Could Read 200 Books Per Year

Posted in News, Writing

I just e-filed an appellate brief. Current time is 9:38 p.m. Yes, it was one of those days. Yes, I need a shower. And, yes, it will take a while to come down from this coffee. But I want to keep a commitment I made to myself to blog every weekday. And here is what I have.

During breaks for lunch and dinner today, I listened to a little bit of the podcast, This Week in Tech. At about minute 33:00, Mike Elgan claims that if you quit social media, you would for yourself enough time to read approximately 200 books per year. I wondered where he was getting this claim, and I found the reference. The opening of the piece struck me:

Somebody once asked Warren Buffett about his secret to success. Buffett pointed to a stack of books and said,

Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will…

The average American spends 608 hours on social media and 1642 hours on television. It would take about 417 hours to knock out 200 50,000-word books. The 417 hours of book reading would likely be more valuable than spending those 417 hours on social media.

How does Mike Elgan get his news? He subscribes to a right-leaning publication and a left-leaning publication. Then he takes what he learns from reading long-form journalism and shares it to others on social media. He is a producer and not a consumer on social media. He is not at risk to get taken in by fake news.

For today, I was in my basement home office finishing up an appellate brief. So I neither watched television, consumed social media, nor read any books. I read statutes, caselaw, transcripts, and my own writing until my eyes went all blurry. Tomorrow, I have a good book waiting.

Friday Review — Michael Lewis’s The Undoing Project

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing

Happy Friday. I’m making a point to review a book or some other work on Fridays. Alas, I don’t have anything new that I’m ready to review today. But I wanted to mention a book that I’m listening to in audio form. That book is the latest by Michael Lewis, The Undoing Project. Lewis discusses the collaboration between Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. The two researched the irrationality of the human mind. Lewis’s book is practically a prequel to Moneyball. From the New York Times review:

Their work revealed previously undiscovered patterns of human irrationality: the ways that our minds consistently fool us and the steps we can take, at least some of the time, to avoid being fooled. Kahneman and Tversky used the word “heuristics” to describe the rules of thumb that often lead people astray. One such rule is the “halo effect,” in which thinking about one positive attribute of a person or thing causes observers to perceive other strengths that aren’t really there. Another is “representativeness,” which leads people to see cause and effect — to see a “narrative” — where they should instead accept uncertainty or randomness.

I’m not very far into the Audible version of the book. And so far I like what I am reading. It appears to pair nicely with Robert Chialdini’s Pre-Suasion.

I’ll keep you posted. If anyone else is reading it and wants to discuss, please drop me a line.