Monday, June 29, 2009

Stirring the Echoes

The Michael Jackson tributes were everywhere over the weekend. Radio stations were playing his music, there were TV specials, had something, a Team USA soccer player paid homage after scoring a goal in the FIFA Confederation Cup finals in South Africa, there were the BET Awards, and even my Church got in on the act. For close to 40 years Michael has been in the public consciousness so such outpouring was assured for the unexpected death of the King of Pop.

The death was unexpected by the public, but if the reports coming out are correct, it shouldn’t have been unexpected by the Jackson family and their inner circle considering his deteriorating health. It’s obvious that with all these tributes the fans and the media are overlooking the last fifteen years or so and are, instead, stirring the echoes of what Michael was in the 1970s and 80s. That image of Michael was how they wanted to remember him. The persistent pedophilia allegations and the self mutilation via plastic surgery (13 facial procedures in all), have been put aside. That is only natural consider how people tend to react to unpleasant things in life. How often have couples lingered in relationships because they focus on what they were in happier times? In doing so they avoid the unpleasantries of the present. We do the same with our jobs and even the sports teams or athletes were root for.

I was conflicted when I heard about his death because I had both images of Michael in my mind. It was hard not to sully the earlier by the latter. If we are to believe the reports, Michael was trapped in the circle of abuse. I hope he is freed of his inner demons. Let him rest in peace.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to my father, uncles, brothers-in-law, my friends, and all the other fathers I know as well as all the fathers I don't. Have a joyous day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

¡Viva Puerto Rico!

Today is the 52nd National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City. It honors the millions of Americans of Puerto Rican birth, decent, and heritage. The parade along Fifth Avenue regularly attracts around 2 million spectators including New York politicians, professional athletes, and celebrities. This year’s parade is dedicated to Boricua music with the king of the parade being salsa superstar Victor Manuelle who is joined by Puerto Rican music stars including Grammy winners Olga Tañón, Eddie Palmieri, and José Feliciano.

This Parade also marks an important time in the history of Puerto Rican New Yorkers: one of our own (like me, born and raised in the Bronx), Judge Sonia Sotomayor, is the first Latino U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Unfortunately, she is unable to attend the parade because she is in D.C. Hopefully she’ll be part of the Parade next year as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

I, too, won’t be attending the Parade. I’ve attended many in the past and actually marched in the Parade one year when I was in college as part of the Latino college student organizations. I had the honor of carrying the Puerto Rican flag at the head of the contingent. I’ll return to the Parade once my son gets a little bit older so he can enjoy the revelry celebrating our heritage. ¡Viva Puerto Rico!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June 6, 1944

We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.

Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”

Ronald Reagan, delivered June 6, 1984 in Pointe Du Hoc, Normandy on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day

Quoted from

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jury Duty

I satisfied my civic obligation by serving on jury duty in Kew Gardens, Queens earlier this week. It was a privilege, or that’s at least what the judge told us. Many people try to get out of it, but most simply want to get over with it. I’m in the most crowd. This was my fourth time serving on jury duty since 1996, which I thought was the norm until I met someone who said this were her first time being called for jury duty after 40 years of working in NYC.

I did serve on an actual jury once back in March 1999 when I was on Spring Break from law school. It was an enlightening experience, especially for the career I was undertaking. What surprised me the most was how my fellow jurors took their responsibilities so seriously. We poured over the evidence, strove to keep an open mind throughout, and had a healthy debate to reach a consensus. We were serving on a burglary case and agreed to acquit because the prosecution’s case had fallen apart during the trial. Yet while we were concluding our deliberations the court officer informed us that the defendant had pled guilty. Oh well.

This time there was no chance I would be selected to serve. I’ve been practicing law for about 10 years now. I’m a litigator who has appeared in the courthouses in every borough of NYC as well as appellate and federal courts. The prosecutor and defense counsel would be nuts to pick me. Yet, I had to go through the motions and was put on a jury panel.

For those that don’t know, a jury panel is about 60 to 80 prospective jurors from whom the prosecutor and defense counsel gets to chose 12 jurors and between 2 to 4 alternates to serve on a particular case. That’s how it works in a criminal trial. For a civil trial there are only 6 jurors.

In this instance, the court went through 4 rounds before picking the 16 jurors. That is, the court calls 16 people from the jury panel, the Judge and attorneys ask them questions, and then the attorneys decide who to keep. They chose 4 in the first round and then called another 16 for the second in which they chose 5. By the time they called another 16 for the third round I was feeling good because I thought there was a great chance they would get the final 7. This was Tuesday afternoon and if they filled all the slots there was a good chance I could be discharged that day. Nope, didn’t happen. To all the prospective jurors’ surprise and chagrin, the attorneys only picked 3. That left 20 of us from who 16 would fill the 4th round. I got lucky again and wasn’t picked for the round. That left 4 of us in the back of the courtroom watching for the fourth time the same set of questions. Arrrggghh. Then, someone from the 16 was let go and they had to fill another slot. The bailiff called a name and it wasn’t mine. Luckily this was it and from the final round the attorneys selected the final 4. It will be a long trial considering it is a murder and attempted murder case.

So I finished my service where it started: in the jury room at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. The waiting around is a pain, but it’s the nature of the system. We have to wait around until a panel is called or until they let us go, the latter only when there are enough replacement jurors. While there me and others debated the value of the way the system is set up with having twelve random people decide a person’s fate rather than a panel or professional jurors or even if the defendant should be there during jury selection considering our vital information is disclosed in his or her presence. We weren’t the first to debate these issues and we won’t be the last. But it’s worth discussing to pass the time as we fulfill our civic duty.