One year ago tonight, I launched my newest professional adventure, Persyn Law & Policy. My office was born of professional ambition and a wish to carve my own niche. It was also born of love and anger. In the course of this first year, PLP was buoyed by all these things.
The first two are easy to explain. Being a solo carries the immediate imprimatur of being founder and principal of your own firm. It's true that the solo is suddenly responsible for everything from firm software to liability insurance and business development. But there is a delicious freedom in choosing your own path--in deciding, for yourself, which issues to work on, whom to cold-call, how to shape arguments. Most of the time, I've collaborated with other lawyers in my work, and that's as I prefer. Nevertheless, the autonomy that came with my own marquee looms large.
The love and anger are more complicated, rooted as they are in the long history of our republic. I love America as it can be. That love is palpable, though the ideal is constantly aspirational. The anger boils up when we fall too far away from equal justice under law--when we take steps backward on a path that should travel always onward.
In my experience, Michael Brown's death in particular marked such a regression. For me, in Brown's case and so many others, the fine details of who did what and which actions were legally defensible were critically important, but not the foremost concern. What chilled me most was the dismissal of Brown's value as a person: the rhetoric used to describe who he actually was. The denial of dignity and respect to Black people in this nation has become particularly acute in recent years. And this is what Black Lives Matter and, more recently, the Movement for Black Lives are about. My anger comes from the refusal to acknowledge these realities. Over and over, I've read phrases like "All Lives Matter," "what about black-on-black crime?", "Blue Lives Matter," widespread use of the word "thug," and all the rest. Enough.
Here is a sample of the matters I've had the privilege to work on during this first year:
- PLP was one of eight law firms that served as counsel to San Francisco's Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement. We spent a year investigating the SFPD. The report was published July 11. You can read the report here. I collected press coverage here.
- On behalf of client American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, PLP filed a brief in support of Petitioner Joseph H. on petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in Joseph H. v. California. Joseph, abused since birth, fatally shot his father when he was ten years old. California argued, successfully thus far, that Joseph validly waived his Miranda rights. PLP filed an amicus brief for APSAC on the impact of child trauma. More here.
- PLP represents Tucson school district students challenging the Arizona statute eliminating ethnic studies. The statute was enforced solely against Mexican American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District. After a trip to the Ninth Circuit (after which the case was remanded for trial), PLP and co-counsel will take the case to trial in the District of Arizona in 2017. More here and here.
It's truly been my privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with my clients in the name of equity and justice. The heart of a democratic republic is equal justice under law for all, whatever their station, origin, racial and ethnic identity, or anything else. This is the greatness of our nation. But it doesn't come free. We have to fight for it, for the love of our republic, for the love of those we hold closest, and for the love of those whom we find hard to love. That is the heart of Persyn Law & Policy.
Ground your practice in love.