Letters of the Law

Howard Baker Philosophy Gets Thumbs-up

The following three letters are in response to Bill Haltom's Tennessee Bar Journal column, "But Seriously, Folks."

Bill, I am a devoted fan of your column, as well as a devoted fan of Howard Baker's, so I was especially pleased to read the column setting forth Howard's philosophy about mutual respect ("Howard Baker: 'The Other Guy May Be Right,'" November 2009 TBJ). Like you, I am alarmed by the drift toward open warfare in the courts, the Legislature and the Congress, which so sorely needs to return to the days of Baker-style statesmanship. In addition, I don't know how much of this information comes to your attention, but sad to say, our local county government can barely function for the warfare that goes on in those hallowed halls constantly. Clearly, there is zero allowance for the possibility that the opponent might be right, but who knows — your column might have a salutary influence on the dealings of lawyers. Keep the pressure on!

— E. Bruce Foster Jr. , Knoxville


How refreshing it is to hear someone else of the "old days" attitude. After over 30 years of practicing law, it has really changed. When those of us of that era started, the new rules of procedure had just been adopted. We had to learn both ways. The "Old Lawyers," which some of us are now, took us by the hand and we took them by the hand and we all proceeded forward. We were professionals and proud of it. "Dead Lines" were a phone call away. You tried a case with respect for the other side. He or she who had the experience and time in the arena was a wealth of knowledge given freely, even if you were opposing counsel. Now days, it is "cut their throat," "my client is right and yours is lying to you." After over 30 years in this business I can truly say that there is a "right side" and a "left side" with the "whole truth in the middle." Somehow or another we have become a spectator profession " which is sad. Mr. Baker was so correct. I challenge all of us to try and figure out how to put our profession "back in order." Some will disagree — some will agree. I'm proud to be an attorney. It's about the law, not the money. Think about it.

— Richard Dugger, Shelbyville

Bill: I had to let you know how much I enjoy your column in the Tennessee Bar Journal. I have long admired Howard Baker, and his observations about civility should be "force-taught" to all new attorneys and many older ones.

I also wanted to tell you that my brother and I had an electric football game of the exact variety that you recently wrote about ("It's Football Time in Tennessee! Are You Ready for Some Lawsuits?" September 2009 TBJ) and we used model airplane paint to paint blue helmets and jerseys on the yellow players so they would look like Jefferson Jr. High Eagles (in Oak Ridge), our team, and we painted red helmets and jerseys on the white players so that they would resemble the dreaded Robertsville Jr. High (also Oak Ridge) Rams. We spent countless hours playing with this game and attempting to find players who would "run" in the direction they were aimed. I am sure this is much more information than you care to read, but please keep up the great column. I am convinced as I grow older that, as a column in Reader's Digest was (maybe still is?) titled: "Laughter Is the Best Medicine." Best regards.

— Judge Robert Wedemeyer, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Nashville

Critical thinking is critical part of 'going green'

This letter is in response to Gail Vaughn Ashworth's President's Perspective, "Go Green!" in the November 2009 Tennessee Bar Journal.

As critical thinkers, I challenge those who want to be Green. Apply critical thinking to every "Green" action. If you simply follow the Green script, your incremental tactical change makes a small difference. To make a substantive change, one must think and act strategically, rethinking the entire process.

I will recycle (or re-use) Ms. Ashworth's example.

1) A Smart car seems to be a Green idea and it has some tactical advantages if one maintains their commuting and car-buying strategy (let's presume a 34-mile round trip with a five-year vehicle replacement schedule). Compared to a typical 28/mpg sedan, you can save one-third of total fuel cost. With critical thinking for a strategic solution, consider the following facts:
a) Roughly half of an automobile's energy cost is in its manufacture and delivery.
b) Reducing from a 34-mile commute to a 4-to 6-mile commute yields an 80-percent improvement and also supports bicycling and walking as options and can extend the vehicle replacement cycle to 20 years. Over that 20-year period, the energy cost of vehicle replacement is reduced by 75 percent and the energy cost of operation is reduced by 80 percent.

Just a strategic decision to live much closer to working and activity centers saves considerably more energy and money. How does it save money? Saving 10k miles of urban driving is about 300 hours of saved time annually. Your savings depend on your hourly rate.

While many factors need to be applied for a good critical analysis of our energy habits, this example is simple for the sake of demonstration. Other factors to consider are things that economists refer to as externalities. These are impacts both directly and indirectly connected to an action. For example, when you charge your electric vehicle, your externalities include: future battery disposal; more coal ash and mountaintop removal due to demand for coal-based electricity; and increased density of transmission lines and associated electric fields.

Leadership requires this type of critical analysis combined with demonstrated strategic action. Strategic (or infrastructure) changes are substantive and demonstrate a redesigned future. While you can never be certain what impact your demonstrative leadership actions may have, you can be certain that lack of leadership and action will inspire no action.

Lest you think I am preaching and not doing, I write this from what is probably the only off-the-grid law office in the state of Tennessee. In my previous forestry career, I bicycle-commuted for over a decade. My current home/office is designed to not need air conditioning (the big energy user in the south) and my heating system is radiant and convective, rather than forced air. These choices require dedicated forethought. Fortunately, we are all well-trained in the art of thinking. Now, let's act.

— Peter Trenchi, Sewanee