March 2018 Bar Bulletin
By Andrew Prazuch
Recent years have seen some well-known speakers join us for the King County Bar Foundation’s annual Breakfast with Champions event: Morris Dees, Jeffrey Toobin, Ari Shapiro, Mara Liasson.
This year’s speaker may not have as much name recognition, but I predict that if you join us for the March 20 Breakfast with Champions, you are going to count Dahlia Lithwick as one of the best speakers we’ve ever had — and you’ll leave feeling more inspired about the legal profession as a result.
Dahlia is a prolific writer and commentator on the justice system, in particular the Supreme Court. Her work spans traditional print media such as The New York Times, cable television such as MSNBC, and new media formats via Slate.com that include her widely praised podcast “Amicus.” I’ve spent the last few days reviewing some of her writings from the last year or two, and find myself genuinely enjoying Dahlia’s voice and feeling like she is speaking out about many things I’m interested in.
Here’s what she said about the recent scandal involving White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter: “[T]he tone from the top of the Trump Administration has unerringly been that women are to be cherished and protected right up until the moment they stop being docile and decorative, and then they are to be dismissed and humiliated.” On the recent kerfuffle about the dueling heads for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Dahlia pointed out that “progressives are in danger of confusing a lawful but noxious political attack of the CFPB with an illegitimate siege of the agency. They aren’t the same thing.”
She’s also been very thoughtful in her analysis of policy actions by President Trump. For example, when he pardoned controversial, former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, she observed:
"[T]he predicate belief of the judicial system is that nothing should be resolved in any but the narrowest possible ways. Drama and grand gestures are anathema. The predicate belief of the Trump administration is that fomenting disruption and chaos be done on the grandest scale. Because who’s going to stop you? No courtroom wants to be the courtroom in which Trump’s upside-down legal worldview is adjudicated. But unless it’s assessed and evaluated someplace, the courts themselves will continue to be a casualty of his actions."
Dahlia is a champion of the justice system and believes in speaking out about how it is used. After the horrific events last year in Charlottesville, she observed “the alt-right cowards who sneak in with tiki torches by night, but not before alerting the press and fixing their hair, may not be quite as immune from litigation, discovery, and legal accountability as they believe. Litigation is slow, and discovery will take time, but the arc of the moral universe is built on more than just preening and tweets. The president utterly failed Charlottesville this summer, as did much of the press. The law should not.”
And did I mention she’s funny, too? Consider her response to critics who say Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is too old and frail to continue on the Court: “Look, it’s easy to say she weighs 100 pounds and looks like a tiny little chicken with a white lace ruffle, but she’s weighed 100 pounds and looked like a tiny little chicken for decades. Also, she can do more pushups than most of us that read footnotes for a living.”
I think you are going to like hearing what more Dahlia has to say about our U.S. Supreme Court and much more on March 20 at the Breakfast with Champions. There’s still time to sign up at www.kcbf.org/bwc.
Andrew Prazuch is KCBA’s executive director. He can be reached by email (email@example.com) or phone (206-267-7061).