hearing on LD 1020


As you know from a previous entry (or if you read Bill Nemitz's column in the Portland Press Herald today), I testified at the Augusta Civic Center yesterday in favor of LD 1020, the bill to recognize same-sex marriage.  

If you are interested, here's a link to the longer version of the written materials I submitted to the Judiciary Committee.  (Testimony)  (It's hard to explain the scope of the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment and existing Maine anti-discrimination laws in three minutes, so the oral version was slightly shorter.)  Thanks very much to all the Pierce Atwood associates who volunteered to do all the research to help me sound intelligent (the role of associates for partners, yes?) – Kolo, Lucus, Katy, Frank and John.  They and lots of others here have done lots of work for GLAD and equal rights and I can't thank them enough.  

But while I would love to blog away about the bill, the event and the subject of Nemitz's column, as we all know this is a blog about Maine appellate law, and how everything relates to that subject.  So here are a few musings on that narrower point:

– get there early.  I always make sure I have plenty of time before I have to be in court for any unforeseen mishaps.  So I was there yesterday early enough to find a parking space and see the set up for speaking.  There was a big traffic jam that delayed the start of the hearing 30 minutes.  The appellate courts usually aren't that accommodating.

– less is more.  Everyone got to speak for 3 minutes.  So this was a little like the protected opening period you can ask for from the Maine SJC (up to 5 minutes).  Sure, there are lots of differences between this context and a legal appeal, but it's still a useful lesson to listen to lots of 3 minute presentations attempting to persuade a panel of a position.  It struck me (a) how much you can cram into 3 minutes; and (b) how the most effective use of the time is not to try to cram in too much.  Make a simple point in a concrete way.  For example, one of the most effective presentations was from an 87 year old WWII vet who said he had 4 sons, one of whom was gay, and he fought for the right for that 4th son to have equal rights.  You can make that point in a sentence.  It doesn't get more effective than that.  And when you've made your point in an effective way, you can sit down.  It's hard to do, but he slower you speak and the calmer you are, the easier it is for the listener to absorb what you are saying.  As I sat there all morning, I thought how well so many "lay" people (so to speak, at least as to some) were at making theirs point in such a short time — better than lots of lawyers who get bogged down in complexities and trying to smoosh in everything they want to say. 

– watch the sausages getting made.  Appeals are about the application of the law.  So once in a while it's helpful to see that law-making process.  See how much people care, and how much it affects them.  Our job comes with the responsibility to engage in pro bono work and defend the Constitution, so watching a lot of people get involved in the lawmaking process can help remind you how important this job is.