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BurtLaw's Legal Secretaries
-  LawAndEverythingElse.Com  - Copyright (c) 2006  Burton Randall Hanson

 Secretaries Week. It's now called Administrative Professionals Week or Staff Appreciation Week, but those are euphemisms for "Secretaries Week" (04.22-26). I suppose it's serendipitous that during Secretaries Week, we stumbled across this quote in a NYT review today (04.24.2002) of Robert Caro's third installment in his four-volume bio of Lyndon Johnson -- it's of Johnson snapping at a recently-divorced secretary: "No wonder you couldn't keep your husband. You can't even make coffee." In the oldie-but-goodie department, click here for an anecdotal glimpse of what it must have been like being a secretary to Hizzoner, Justice Felix Frankfurter.

 The judge, his secretary & her hooker friend. As a sort of Secretaries Week cautionary tale about the perils of a judge getting too close to his/her secretary, we'd like to introduce you to Judge Bruce ("Turn 'em Loose Bruce") Dobbs, his "administrative assistant," Jolene Secretary, and a friend of hers from high school, Wanda, a $150 hooker -- from the racy "criminal law and procedure" part of the July, 1999 Arkansas (where else?) bar exam.... More

 The judge's secretary becomes his bride. Sounds like a fairy-tale story from an old copy of True Romance, right? Isn't it every judicial secretary's dream to marry his/her boss (rather than being fired -- see previous entry titled "Secretaries Week")? Well, folks, secretarial dreams sometimes really do come true. Mary Fowler Brennan, who died in 2000 at age 83, worked for 25 years as Justice William Brennan's secretary, then became the chosen one, his second wife, in 1983 after his first wife died. Elizabeth Black, Justice Black's secretary and then second wife, said in 1986 that when Black proposed, "He spoke of love and the Supreme Court." That he was an extraordinarily-romantic guy can also be gleaned from two entries Elizabeth made in her diary. Entry of Tuesday, June 24, 1968: "Hugo and I had a big argument as to whether we could replace our thirty-year-old gas stove which has a semi-rusted oven and no thermostat on it. We stopped by Harris Plumbing to see if the old stove could be fixed, and Mr. Harris laughed heartily when Hugo was so insistent that our stove was perfect. Hugo said if people made stoves to last only thirty years they ought to be arrested." Entry of Thursday, June 27, 1968: "Hugo talked to me finally about the stove, reiterating his opinion that we do not need a new stove, but if it would make me happy he'd get it for me. I told him it would, and so he agreed, reluctantly." See Hugo L. Black and Elizabeth Black, Mr. Justice and Mrs. Black (New York: Random House 1986).

 Some of my best friends are... secretaries. I think they generally are underappreciated and inadequately-compensated. One of them, my good friend Marlene Kane, died in December of 2000. She was a professional and knew it. But she didn't care what she was called. She just wanted to be treated with the respect she deserved. Use the latest politically-correct job title, if you must, and take him or her out to lunch, if that is the custom; but don't assume your secretary even likes such gestures (some don't and some are ambivalent about them) and don't pat yourself on the back for making such gestures. And don't do what one prominent elected official once did after taking his secretary out for lunch during Secretaries Week. At lunch the restaurant proprietor had given this fellow's secretary and each of the other secretaries in the restaurant flowers to take back to their respective offices. As Mr. Professional, a good man, was leaving for home at the end of the day, he asked his secretary if he could take the flowers she'd received at the restaurant home to his wife. She said "yes," of course. Such a faux pas, although easily identified as such and ever remembered, is easily forgiven. What's not so easily forgiven is what I call bossy-boss conduct. I'm thinking, for example, of the hypothetical superwoman-type boss who allows herself the slack she needs to try be a good mother to her kid but doesn't give her secretary, who also has a kid, the same slack. Mr. Professional, by the way, for all his faux pas, generally was kind and considerate of his underlings on such matters. :-)

 True Confession. Recognize the woman to the right? Her name was Toby Wing. Before Betty Grable came along she was America's favorite pinup star. She was only about five feet two, a hundred fifteen pounds and small-busted (I truly confess some of us guys like our women that way)...and, as one critic put it, she had a face "like the morning sun." In 1937 in True Confession she played a secretary to a lawyer played by Fred MacMurray. When he asked her to take shorthand, she replied in smart-ass fashion, "Are you kidding?" She was the type who, years later, when asked by her lawyer boss to make coffee, would give the same smart-ass reply, "Are you kidding?" Good for her...and good for all secretaries who stand up to their bossy bosses, be they men or women. That's my message to all secretaries this week: stand up to your bossy-boss.

 The Slam and Scream. A brief but interesting review of The Slam and Scream: And Other Powerful Strategies and Career Moves for Secretaries, Assistants, and Anyone Else Who Has Had Enough by Carole S. Fungaroli (Noonday Press 1996).

 Dept. of politically-correct and -incorrect secretary humor. a) Why I fired my secretary. b) Who said you could?  c) The ascendancy of the schmaltzy.

 Loyalty a two-way street? Nah. Ever work for a boss who thought loyalty is a one-way street? If so, you should know you're not alone: "Companies have essentially told workers that loyalty down the ladder is over, a feature of the post-war corporation run for all its stakeholders not just for Wall Street. Yet the companies still expect loyalty up. That is not an ethical relationship but an exploitative one, and Enron's debauch of its employees, I'm afraid, is a grotesque instance of a trend." From Good times for the bad guys by Jack Beatty, The Atlantic Unbound.

 The legal (secretary's) mind at work. It's National Secretaries Month, so let's be honest. It's a well-known fact that every male lawyer's fantasy is to marry a legal secretary or office administrator, who then will take care of all the small stuff in his life. :-) Larry MacNabney, a Sacramento lawyer, fulfilled his fantasy when he married his last wife, who administered his office quite efficiently. She was his last wife cuz she killed him with horse tranquilizer. She administered his office efficiently by cleaning out the accounts and vamoosing before a posse could McNab her. Caught and jailed in Florida, she realized the jig was up and hung herself but not withut proving that legal secretaries and law office managers have legal imaginations: specifically, she left a suicide note suggesting to her attorney he sue her jailers for negligently failing to prevent her suicide. She specified that any money recovered be used for the support of her kids from previous relationships. For more on this, read on....

Warning to lawyers: be careful who you marry.  Contrary to our popular image, we lawyers are too trusting, always assuming the best about other people, especially in relationships. That apparently explains what happened to Sacramento attorney Larry McNabney. When he met and married an attractive woman named Elisa, he thought she was who she said she was. And he thought he was getting an office administrator, to boot. (Isn't that every male lawyer's fantasy -- to marry a legal secretary or office administrator, who then will take care of all the small stuff? Of course it is.) But then one day last September Larry "disappeared" while competing in a horse show, and the next day, it turns out, "Elisa" was giving away his show clothes. According to investigators, she also "forged client settlement checks and deposited them to her account, signed a signature on legal documents, effectively maintaining, over a period of several months, his law practice, [and] emptied out client trust funds." Investigators allege that she killed Larry using horse tranquilizers in September, then refrigerated his body for several months before burying it in a shallow grave in a vineyard, where it was discovered in early February, three to six weeks after having been buried. By the time investigators satisfied themselves what had happened, Elisa herself had "disappeared," along with an estimated $500,000. It turns out "Elisa" is one of many aliases she's used and that her real name is Laren Renee Sims, 36, of Massachusetts. A warrant has been issued for her arrest. More (KCRA 03.13.2002 and internal links to prior reports and photos). What will come of this? Undoubtedly, a TV-movie. More positively, I'd like to think our state bar associations, here and elsewhere, will establish new specialized support groups, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Who Marry Con Artists (LCLWMCA), one function of which will be to provide emotional and psychological support to lawyers who discover they've been duped by their spouses, another function of which will be to provide preventative or prophylactic protection to all the naive lawyers out there who are foolishly inclined to think their prospective spouses really love them for who they are. (03.15.2002) Update: Slain lawyer's wife hangs self in jail (Sacramento Bee, 04.01.2002); wife's suicide note: sue them for failing to prevent my suicide (Yahoo, 04.04.2002)

Announcement. We've finally gotten around to launching our new webzine/blawg: BurtLaw's The Daily Judge:

It is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, it is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert the reader to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things about "judges" that have interested us and that may interest the reader.

We don't promote our blawgs, but readers of this blog and of our affiliated political opinion blog, BurtonHanson.Com, may be interested in it. We don't think there is another blawg quite like it.