Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Clowns, Jokers, and Stuck in the Middle

More on the judicial elections controversy. Minnesota Lawyer editor-in-chief Mark Cohen wrote another piece this week on the controversy I blogged and wrote about.

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The column led to quite a bit of feedback — both pro and con. (We published two of the more detailed responses as letters to the editor last week.) There is no doubt that Mr. Wersal has become a lightning rod of sorts in the legal community. Just mentioning his name these days is enough to spark a debate.

I thought Minneapolis attorney Peter Swanson sent a particularly well-written epistle questioning whether the legal community should look into its own soul in explaining Mr. Wersal’s behavior. He quite cleverly entitled the piece: Greg Wersal: Hero or clown? [Me: actually, it was "Greg Wersal: Hero or joker?" which made the Batman reference work.]

So which is Mr. Wersal? The answer, of course, depends on who is writing the history. I believe we all have elements of the heroic and the ridiculous in us, and Mr. Wersal is no exception.

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I am reminded of Elliot Rothenberg’s battle a few years ago over Minnesota’s elimination-of-bias continuing legal education requirement. Mr. Rothenberg maintained that lawyers should not be mandated to attend two hours of such training every three years and refused to attend, thereby putting his law license in jeopardy. (When the state Supreme Court found against him in his case against the requirement, the court gave him the opportunity to avoid suspension by getting the credits within a certain time period after the decision.) While you can certainly take issue with the positions of Mr. Rothenberg or Mr. Wersal — as many have — there should be no doubt that it takes a degree of fortitude to do what they did. [Me: I was involved in that CLE whale hunt, too, except that I never risked my law license.]

In any case, I was heartened from the responses I received to my retreat column that the art of metaphor is alive and well in Minnesota. A few of you played off the act that the column contained a Moby Dick reference, comparing Mr. Wersal’s latest complaint to Captain Ahab chasing his great White whale. Judge Jack Nordby switched the metaphor around and postulated: “The courts are not Mr. Wersal’s white whale. He is theirs.” [Me: When I read Judge Nordby's letter, I realized that he made the exact points that I was trying to make, only better.] Meanwhile, Mr. Swanson preferred using Batman rather than a sea-going motif to illustrate his counterpoint. While I thought the hero reference was super, I think I will stick with Herman Melville next time I am spouting off. Just call me Ishmael.

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Me: Why use a classic when a comic book will do the trick?


Blogger Aaron B. Solem said...

Swanson is like the Grinch, only in reverse: his heart is two times too big.

June 20, 2006 8:30 PM  

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