Friday, March 23, 2007

Mrs. Manners

Equal Justice Conference, Day 2. Today has been one heck of a day. Madhubby and I left home quite early (again) since he had to be at work before my workshops started. We stopped for Starbucks and gas, then promptly locked our keys in the car. Thank goodness for roadside assistance which got us rolling again a mere hour-and-a-half later. I showed up late to the conference but managed to squeeze in two workshops and a savory lunch of Salmon fillet with Bazmati Rice and Mixed Vegetables.

  • New Orleans Now: Another very poignant workshop that illuminated the legal issues Hurricane Katrina evacuees faced in the weeks and months after the storm. FEMA agents who refused to provide service to evacuees or who made it impossible for people to get benefits. Did you know there is a FEMA policy that mandates that money provided to someone whose home has been destroyed by a natural disaster can only use that money for capital expenditures?

    Essentially, that money can be spent on silverware, furniture, new appliances, even a new plasma tv (if you lost that in the disaster), yet it is illegal to spend that money on things like food or gas. So, there were all these people who depended on federal benefits like Food Stamps, who suddenly had too many assets to qualify for federal social service programs, yet those same people were barred from spending FEMA money to buy food! I need to go to Louisiana. You do, too! They need lawyers, paralegals, and law students to speak to the victims and help them get the assistance they desperately need.

  • Towards A Civil Right To Counsel: A criminal right to counsel exists for defendants who are accused of a capital crime. Currently, there is a movement to provide a civil right to counsel but the cost is going to be in the billions. I am penning an article about the civil gideon movement and there are advocates on both sides of the issue. Ultimately, it comes down to the states to grant a state, constitutional right. Many states have been hesitant to do so, but some states are making progress.
Tomorrow is another long day but I LOVE this conference! The one black spot of today was the woman at our table whose manners were abhorrent. I am a stickler about rules and I was seriously bothered when she picked food from her teeth with her fingernail. She was also a stranger to the "waiting until everyone is served before you begin eating" table rule. She was done with her entree and on to her dessert while the rest of us were waiting to be served.

I know it's picky and a bit petty but professionals should act - well - professional. Especially when representing your organization at a national conference or even a local luncheon. To that end, I will make it my personal "mom" goal to ensure that my children know proper table etiquette by the time they are in high school. It can't hurt.

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