My First Ten Years of Retirement

It is hard to believe that the 10th anniversary of my retirement from the practice of law is nearly here. I have no regrets. I made the correct decision. Here is my own grading of how I have met my retirement goals that I set 10 years ago.[1]

Being a good Grandfather. I now have four grandchildren, two in Minnesota and two in Ecuador. My wife and I obviously spend more time with the Minnesota kids, and our Ecuadorian grandson spent last Fall in Minnesota going to school with his cousins. We also frequently have traveled to Ecuador to see our family there although we have decided not to spend significant amounts of time there. I recently took my 10-year old Minnesota grandson to visit two federal judges and some friends at my former law firm and to observe parts of a trial and a court hearing.[2] I leave it to the grandkids to judge me on this goal, but I think I have done a pretty good job. I know I enjoy being a grandfather.

Being a good Father and Husband. I also have been making an effort to be a good father and husband. I am still working at it.

Learning Spanish. I have not taken the time to improve my very limited Spanish ability. I still wish that I were fluent in that language, but do not see myself taking the time to do this. Sorry.

Law Teaching. I had a goal of teaching law in Ecuador. I was interviewed by a university in Quito about teaching law in the English language, but I was not offered a position. My son who lives there went to the interview with me in case I needed an interpreter, and afterwards he said he thought that my positive comments about liberation theology may not have been appreciated by the university officials. In retrospect, I am not unhappy with this result. I would have had to work very hard to organize and teach one or more courses in this foreign country.

Moreover, this development opened the door for my having the opportunity to co-teach one course (international human rights law) at the University of Minnesota Law School for nine years (2002-10). This built on my experience as a federal court litigator and as a pro bono asylum lawyer. It also allowed me to work with, and become friends of, other professors at the Law School and many U.S. and foreign students. One of the foreign students was a Hubert Humphrey Fellow from Brazil who was a Professor of Law and Criminology at the Catholic university in Rio de Janeiro, and at her subsequent invitation, I presented a paper on the Truth Commission for El Salvador at a conference in Rio in 2009. In addition, through my work at the University of Minnesota I developed a strong interest in, and some expertise about, the International Criminal Court, and I have made many presentations about the ICC and have served as the Provisional Organizer for the Minnesota Alliance for the ICC.[3]

I recently decided that I would retire from this teaching job even though I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to have more time for writing as discussed below.

Human rights legal work. Without the support of a law firm, including its professional liability insurance, I decided I was not able to do pro bono legal work in retirement. But as mentioned above, I have been able to teach human rights and learn more about the subject myself. I also have developed an interest in the ICC and found a way to make use of that interest.

News “distributor.” Although not one of my goals from 2001, I have developed a practice in retirement of regularly reading many news sources online (New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post (Politics page), Wall Street Journal, Guardian (from the U.K.) and Granma (English translation of Cuba’s major national newspaper) and occasionally others (New York Review of Books, Atlantic and Harpers). After doing this for a while, I started sending by email interesting articles on human rights, the ICC, immigration, Cuba and Africa to friends who were interested in these subjects.

Arbitrator. Another retirement activity I had not anticipated in 2001 was being an arbitrator. But I have done so for disputes between investors and financial firms through the Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (FINRA; f/k/a National Association of Securities Dealers), usually as chair of a panel of three arbitrators, and I have enjoyed this challenge. I try to act like the arbitrators and judges I respected in my practice: fair, impartial, respectful of the law, organized, decisive and clear (unlike some of the judges on the TV show “The Good Wife”).

Recently, however, I decided that I no longer wanted to spend my time working on other people’s problems and will not take any more cases. Sounds like my 2001 decision to retire from practicing law.

Obituary writer. Yet another surprising development over the last half-year has been being an obituary writer. As a member of my Grinnell College class’ 50th reunion committee, I have been responsible for writing or commissioning obituaries for our 53 deceased classmates. This used my factual research and writing skills from lawyering. I also came to see this activity in some cases as one of pastoral care for the families of the departed.

International travel. In addition to many trips to Ecuador and my trip to Brazil, my wife and I have been on many other fascinating international trips in the last 10 years. They include an Elder Hostel trip about Mozart to the Czech Republic and Austria, Turkey, Spain, England and Scotland, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Canada, Mexico, El Salvador and Peru plus my church mission trips to Cuba and Cameroon. These were great, educational experiences.  I was really glad that I was in good health to be able to take these trips. I also have been able to chair a committee that supervises the global partnerships of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Historical research and writing. I wanted to conclude my research about Joseph Welch and Edward Burling and write articles about them. I have done so, as was mentioned in a prior post.[4] I will share some of the key points of that research in future posts. On the other hand, I have not yet been able to do additional research on two of my ancestors, but it is still a goal.

Personal journal and memoirs. I have not been able to make much progress on the goal of writing a personal journal and memoirs. I was hung up on the issue of how do I organize or structure such a writing project. Recently, however, I started this blog and have found it a great way to do the writing that I wanted to do. I do not have to worry about how I might organize all of these thoughts. It is really exciting to be able to write this blog.

Physical exercise. I have been more diligent in my personal exercise program although I should be doing more.

Financial planning and management. With the assistance of an able investment professional, I have developed appropriate methods for financial planning and management for retirement. Like nearly everyone else, we suffered financially in the recent deep recession, but we have made progress since then. I know that I am fortunate when I read articles about the many people who have not saved enough for retirement or who lost their pensions or retirement savings in the recent deep recession or through collapse of their former employers or financial fraud or who struggle to survive with investments in bank CD’s or federal securities that now pay virtually nothing in interest.

In short, I am happy with my efforts to meet my retirement goals over the last 10 years. Now I need to continue my pursuit of these now modified goals during the next phase of my life.

[1] Post: Retiring from Lawyering (4/22/11).

[2] This trip to the federal courthouse and my former law firm was inspired, in part, by recent comments of Mary Robinson, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Post: Tip for Grandparents (4/11/11).

[3] The Minnesota Alliance is part of the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court or AMICC,

[4] Post: Adventures of a History Detective (4/5/11).


Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church

Growing up in the small Iowa town of Perry, I was an active member of the local Methodist Church. I was president of MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship), and our pastor, whom I respected, encouraged me to go into the ministry.

Once I went to college, however, I soon convinced myself that all religions were antiquated superstitions that were of no use to an intelligent, hard-working person like myself. This not uncommon sophomoric rebellion lasted for the next 24 years.

Westminster Presbyterian Church Sanctuary

In 1981 I could admit to others and myself that I did not have all the answers and that there was an inner emptiness in my life. I started attending and then joined Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church ( A friend was a member there. I worked downtown, and the church was open to the downtown community, especially through its Westminster Town Hall Forum, which brought notable people to speak on key issues in ethical perspective. This was a church, I came to understand, that respected intellect as an important aspect of religious faith and life. Its mission statement provides that “In response to the grace of God through Jesus Christ, [its mission] is:

• to proclaim and celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ;
• to gather as an open community to worship God with dignity and joy, warmth and beauty;
• to nourish personal faith through study, prayer, and fellowship;
• to work for love, peace and justice;
• to be a welcoming and caring Christian community, witnessing to God’s love day by day;
• to work locally and beyond with our denomination and the larger Christian Church; and
• to be a telling presence in the city.”

I have been and continue to be an active member of Westminster, serving as an elder and member of various committees. Most recently I have been chairing its Global Partnerships Committee that supervises our partnerships with churches and other organizations in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, and Bethlehem. This is one way we endeavor to fulfill the Biblical injunction from Apostle Paul: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of [us] are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26, 28)[1] In other words, we are all brothers and sisters without the artificial distinctions that so often divide us from one another.

Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence’s “Preaching as Testimony”

Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s former Associate Pastor for Youth and Young Adults (1988-93), Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence, has published Preaching as Testimony (Westminster John Knox Press 2007). (See

Current and prospective ministers are the primary audience for this book. After all, it is about preaching and creating better sermons.

But it is also addressed to lay Christians because we all are called to testify as to our religious faith and our faith in God and Jesus Christ. As Florence says, “the distinctive witness of Christianity is that God is manifest in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God shows us and calls us to share the news with others. God shows us and calls us to claim the freedom we would like to be. God calls us to testify.” (p. 64 (emphasis added).) To the same point, “Everyone in the faith community is included in the call to preach whenever and wherever there is hunger for freedom. Everyone in the faith community is capable of proclaiming jubilee, either in the pulpit or out in the world. Our stories of encountering God are meant to be shared and must be shared.” (P. 108 (emphasis in original in italics; emphasis added in bold).) For this purpose, she defines “testimony” as “a narration of events and a confession of belief: we tell what we have seen and heard, and we confess what we believe about it.” (p. xiii)

Sermons in this approach begin with what she calls “living in the [lectionary’s Biblical] text” and then testifying about that encounter with God’s Word. Such preachers “go to the text to live in it, to encounter it, to get inside the passage itself and experience what the text is saying to them. The sermon is the aftermath of that encounter: we tell what we have seen and heard in the text, and what we believe. We offer our testimony.” (p. 133)

For “living in the text” or “attending to the text,” Florence provides practical exercises. During all of these exercises, the person should listen for ideas of what the text means.  1. Write the text in hand in a journal. 2. Write a small copy of the text to fit in your pocket. 3. Memorize the text.  4. Underline words and phrases in the text that stand out for you. 5. Read the pocket-sized text when you have spare time and share it with friends or strangers for their reactions. 6. Read the pocket-sized text somewhere you do not usually frequent, “dislocate” the text. 7. Imagine possible or impossible subtexts for the texts; what were the actors in the text saying to themselves. 8. “Block” the text as a play; how the actors in the text (and bystanders) locate and move themselves; have a dress rehearsal of this drama with volunteers. 9. Throw your whole body into the text. 10. “Push” the text with a partner; explore different interpretations and react to the other’s interpretations. 11. Read the text with someone with different characteristics (gender, age, race, sexual orientation, etc.). 12. Search for other Biblical texts that appear to be contrary to the text at hand. 13. Draw images that are prompted by the text. 14. Study the commentaries on the text. (pp. 135-43)

The next step for the preacher, according to Florence, is describing this encounter with the Word of God. Again she offers exercises. 1. Make a list of images in the text and see what words or pictures they evoke and write them down.     2. Rewrite the text in your own words. 3. Rewrite the words in the slang of young people. 4. Write a character sketch of someone in the text; imagine what that character is thinking. 5. Put yourself into the shoes of one of the characters in the text and imagine that person’s monologue about what is happening. 6. Create a dialogue for two of the characters in the text and have two people read it aloud. 7. Write a short dramatic scene from the text and stage it or “text-jam” it. 8. Write a series of short letters based on the text. 9. Read the text and pray in its words and images before you go to sleep and in the morning write down any dreams you had about it.  10. Write journal entries about the text. 11. Rewrite the text as you wish it were. 12. Ask yourself what you would say about the text “if only you could.” (Pp. 143-50)

Florence also argues that long before women were “authorized” to preach, they testified as to their encounters with God and were really preaching, and three such women in America are discussed. (Pp. 1-58) In addition, Florence summarizes theories of Biblical testimony that have been offered by contemporary theologians. (Pp. 59-108)

Anna received a B.A. in 1984 (History with Theatre Studies) from Yale University and M. Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1988 and 2000. After leaving Westminster, she was a Teaching Fellow and Instructor at Princeton Seminary until 1998 when she joined the faculty of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. She is now its tenured Peter Marshall Associate Professor of Preaching. (

Getting Started

In my 70-plus years I have developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics, economics and history.

This is due to an excellent education at Grinnell College and the Universities of Oxford and Chicago, 35 years of practicing law in New York City and Minneapolis, being a pro bono lawyer for asylum seekers, teaching international human rights law, international travel and wide reading. These activities by themselves provide additional subjects for commentaries.

These interests also have been furthered by a renewed Christian faith and an active membership in Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. This faith and learning about other religious traditions are other major interests of mine.

As will become apparent in subsequent postings, I have particular interests in certain legal topics–refugee and asylum law; litigation in U.S. federal courts under the Alien Tort Statute that covers lawsuits by foreigners for human rights abuses; U.S. constitutional law; and alternative dispute resolution– and in certain countries–Great Britain, El Salvador, Ecuador, Cuba, Brazil and Cameroon.

I already have written a lot on these subjects and have decided to share these writings on this blog. I also will comment on other issues as they arise. Many of these writings will be longer than a typical blog. In subsequent postings I will describe my political philosophy and Christian faith that I hope is evident in my writings.