Minnesota Attorney General Appoints Special Assistant Attorney Generals for George Floyd Cases     

On July 13, Minnesota  Attorney General appointed four pro bono Special Assistant Attorney Generals. His statement said, “Out of respect for Judge Cahill’s gag order, I will say simply that I’ve put together an exceptional team with experience and expertise across many disciplines.” They are Neal Katyal, Lola Velázquez-Aguilu, Jerry Blackwell and Steven L. Schleicher.[1]

Neal Katyal is a partner in the law firm of Hogan Lovells, an U.S.-British law firm headquartered in  Washington, D.C. and London with around 2,800 lawyers in more than 40 offices in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.  There he specializes in appellate and complex litigation. He also is the Paul and Patricia Saunders Professor of National Security Law at Georgetown University Law Center. In the Obama Administration he was Principal Deputy Solicitor General and Acting Solicitor General of the United States (2009-11), which is the office responsible for representing the U.S. before the U.S. Supreme Court. He has degrees from Dartmouth College and Yale Law School and clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and then Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Katyal also frequently appears as a commentator on legal and political issues on MSNBC.[2]

Lola Velázquez-Aguilu is a litigation and investigation attorney at Medtronic Corporation and Chair of the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection. She also is a former Assistant United States Attorney in Minnesota for nearly nine years, where  she worked in the white-collar and public corruption section of the criminal division and before that an associate attorney at the Minneapolis office of the Dorsey and Whitney law firm, where she represented civil litigants and criminal defendants. She also clerked for retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan C. Page and U.S. District Court Judge Ann D. Montgomery. She has served in various organizations such as the Infinity Project, Minnesota Federal Bar Association, Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association. Her B.A. and J.D. degrees are from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.[3]

Jerry Blackwell is the founding partner, CEO and chairman of the Minneapolis law firm of Blackwell Burke P.A. He is an experienced trial lawyer in federal and states courts in 47 states and other countries. He also is the founder of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. His B.S. and J.D. degrees are from the University of North Carolina. Earlier this year he won the state’s first posthumous pardon for Max Mason, a Black man wrongly convicted of rape 100 years ago in Duluth. [4]

Steven L. Schleicher is a partner at the Minneapolis law firm of  Maslon and the co-Chair of its Government & Internal Investigations Group. He is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer concentrating on criminal defense, government and internal investigations and high stakes civil litigation. Previously he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Assistant Minnesota Attorney General, an attorney in the Winona County Attorney’s Office and a JAG Corps Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. His B.A. degree, cum laude is from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and his J.D. degree, cum laude, from William Mitchell College of Law. Schleicher led the successful prosecution of Jacob Wetterling’s kidnapper and killer.[5]

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[1] Xiong, Attorneys for ex-Minneapolis officers object to judge’s gag order in George Floyd death, StarTribune (July 13, 2020); Minnesota Attorney General, Seasoned attorneys join AG Ellison’s team pro bono in George Floyd case (July 13, 2020).

[2] Neal Katyal, Wikipedia; Neal Katyal, Hogan Lovells; Neal K. Katyal, Georgetown University Law Center, Hogan Lovells;  Hogan Lovells, Wikipedia.

[3] Lola Velázquez-Aguilu, Linkedin, Lola Velázquez-Aguilu, Members of the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection.

[4] Jerry W. Blackwell, Blackwell Burke P.A. 

[5] Steven L. Schleicher, Maslon.

More Thoughts on Commission on Unalienable Rights

Carol Giacomo, a member of the New York Times Editorial Board and a former diplomatic correspondent for Reuters, has expressed her concern over the State Department’s creation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights,[1] which was discussed in prior posts.[2]

She says the Department’s Human Rights Bureau and Congress were not included in the decision to establish this Commission. Instead it was a personal project of Secretary Pompeo and that next month the Department plans to say more about it. This underscores the concern that this commission is motivated by conservative political and religious beliefs and organizations.

This concern, she claims, also is illustrated by Vice President Pence’s promotion of religious freedom as “our first freedom” and arguing that human rights are becoming politicized and conflated with economic and social goals.

Another is a statement by a conservative religion commentator, R.R. Reno, that he is “increasingly against human rights” which “as the epitome of social responsibility short-circuits collective judgment and stymies action for the sake of the common good.” Reno is the Editor of First Things, a publication of the Institute on Religion and Public Life that “keeps its eyes on first things: our religious faith, love of family and neighbor, the sanctity of life, the achievements of Western civilization, and the dignity of the human person.”

Giacomo also reports that the House of Representatives is considering a proposal to restrict funding for this new entity while several Democratic senators have sent a letter to Secretary Pompeo expressing “deep concern” with the process and intent of this decision.

Harold Hongju Koh, a Yale law professor who was assistant secretary of state for human rights in the Clinton administration, said that a shift to “natural law” would conflict with the view that “modern human rights are based on the dignity inherent in all human beings, not on God-given rights.”

Conclusion

This blogger strives to follow Jesus as a member of a Presbyterian church and believes that religious freedom is a basic human right for all people in the world. But he worries that this Commission and related actions might be surreptitious ways to advance a conservative political and religious agenda and to promote the re-election of Donald Trump. Therefore, this blogger thinks that attention should be paid to this Commission and related activities of this Administration.

For example, for his year’s celebration of the Fourth of July, President Trump reportedly will deliver a speech at the Lincoln Memorial. [3]  Perhaps he will use that occasion to proclaim about unalienable rights.

Not mentioned by Giacomo, but probably related to the new Commission, was last July’s first ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom that was hosted by the State Department and that will be discussed in a future post.

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[1] Giacomo, A New Trump Battleground: Defining Human Rights, N.Y. Times (June 17, 2019.

[2] Is The Trump Administration Attempting To Redefine International Human Rights, dwkcommentaries.com(June 15, 2019); Other Reactions to State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, dwkcommentaries.com (June 17, 2019).

[3] Nirappil, Hermann & Jamison, Officials: Trump to speak at Lincoln Memorial during July Fourth celebration, Wash. Post (June 5,, 2019).

What Are the Determinants of Individual Success?

A recent New York Times article debunks the notion that the current success in the U.S. of some groups with respect to income, test scores, etc. is due to any innate, biological or racial differences. Instead, the article says that such success is due to a “Triple Package” of traits. They are a superiority complex (a deep-seated belief in one’s own exceptionality), insecurity (a belief that what you have done is not good enough) and impulse control.

Although these traits are available to any individual from any background, the article states that “some groups are instilling them more frequently than others, and that they are enjoying greater success.” On the other hand, members of the  third generation of such groups do not enjoy the same degree of success.

The article admits that these three traits have disadvantages. A sense of superiority can foment intolerance and even worse.  An insecurity sense can produce a belief that the individual is never good enough. Impulse control can dampen or squash the ability to experience beauty, tranquility and spontaneous joy.

Nevertheless, according to the article, the Triple Package of traits should be instilled in children, contrary to U.S. beliefs and practices that focus on building social skills and self esteem and that emphasize living in the here and now.

The article’s authors, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, who are wife and husband and both Yale Law School professors, [1] will be elaborating on these ideas in their forthcoming book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.

Amy Chua is not new to criticizing common American parenting practices. Her controversial 2011 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, did the same.

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, disagreed with that earlier book. He said,  “a sleepover with 14-year old girls” is more “cognitively demanding” than practicing music. “Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group —and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale.”

Brooks continued, “[M]astering these arduous skills is at the very essence of achievement. Most people work in groups. We do this because groups are much more efficient at solving problems than individuals . . . . Moreover, the performance of a group does not correlate well with the average I.Q. of the group or even with the I.Q.’s of the smartest members. . . . [Instead] groups have a high collective intelligence when members of a group are good at reading each others’ emotions — when they take turns speaking, when the inputs from each member are managed fluidly, when they detect each others’ inclinations and strengths.”

Brooks, in my opinion, provides a good counterbalance to the earlier book and to this article although I think he overstates the cognitive demands of a sleepover.

Moreover, based upon personal experience, I agree with Chua and Rubenfeld that success requires “the ability to work hard, to persevere and to overcome adversity” and that “perseverance and motivation can be taught, especially to young children” and that perseverance requires controlling impulses for instant gratification. These, in my opinion, are the important traits, not senses of superiority and insecurity.

What, dear readers, do you think?


[1] Chua is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law and specializes in the law of international business transactions and development, ethnic conflict and globalization and the law. Rubenfeld is the Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law and specializes in constitutional law, privacy, First Amendment and criminal law.