Setting: We are in a downtown Seattle conference room. The sky is deep blue. The sun is shining. Its rays bounce like mirrors off the skyscrapers and rippling waterways below us. Eric the videographer is at the far end of the table. Jane the court reporter is her usual excellent self. Cheryl our medical negligence paralegal is by my side. Across the table are the defense lawyers. In front of a gray screen sits the witness. The defense side is somber. I am feisty. We are about an hour an a half into the deposition.
Q. And similarly endocarditis, if not properly diagnosed and treated will be fatal; correct?
Mr. King: Objection. Asked and answered. You may respond.
A. Endocarditis like other things, if not treated, could certainly be fatal, yes.
Q. By Ms. Koehler: All right. In this case it was fatal; am I correct?
Mr. King: Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence. You have a position that he had endocarditis at the time. We don’t have to agree with that. That’s your position. We have a contrary position. So you shouldn’t ask him as if it’s an established fact. (Mr. King is not yelling or even shouting. He’s very seasoned and just trying to put me in my place).
Ms. Koehler: (Becoming theatrical in a totally Elle Woods kind of way) Okay. You’re like making horrible objections, terrible, some of the worst I’ve ever heard. But I’m not going to get mad about it.
Mr. King: I don’t think you should.
Ms. Koehler: I should get mad about it. But I like you. I’m not going to get mad about it. But it’s not proper.
Mr. King: Well, I don’t think your question’s proper for the reasons stated.
Ms. Koehler: Well, my question is not coaching the witness. It’s just a bad question then.
Mr. King: The question isn’t complying with courtroom standard. That’s my problem with the question.
Ms. Koehler: My intent, though misguided, is honorable. Yours —
Mr. King: (He sees where this is going and tries to head me off by interjecting) So is mine.
Ms. Koehler: Your intent is not. You’re trying to interfere with my deposition. Don’t do it.
Mr. King: I’m not trying to interfere. And unless you can read my mind, I don’t know what the basis is for presuming I have a maligned intent. (Props to Mr. King – he can definitely think on his feet. Quite fun to spar with actually)
Ms. Koehler: Coaching the witness. All right. Back to my question which I completely forgot.
Photo: Me with an Italian Emperor
Last evening a senior defense attorney, sent out an email to a large group of about 50 or so attorneys (all on the same case) that announced I was “a forceful and vociferous advocate” for my clients.
She didn’t mean this as a compliment.
Merriam Webster defines vociferous as: expressing feelings or opinions in a very loud or forceful way. Dictionary.com adds the characterization of being: clamorous.
Certainly I have never raised my voice at her or anyone on this case. Indeed I am a fairly soft spoken person in terms of volume. I rarely raised my voice to my kids when they were small. Nor to my pup when she was learning some of my many house rules.
Am I a fighter – yes. But I am no yeller.
This has been a considered decision that involves role modelling after my oh so quiet yet rock solid dad the professor. From what I have seen in life, yelling begets more yelling. If you yell then the recipient will yell back and so on and so on.
So why did she call me vociferous when I am not.
I think it was an attempt to denigrate me. To label me as a termagant before my peers in this litigation. To marginalize my role in the litigation.
I think she and her client are very tired of me. And yet we have only just begun.
Photo: At Portage Bay for brunch – snapchatted by Alysha
I have a job that is part of my soul. This means I fight for my clients with every ounce of my being. Sometimes people (typically those I sue) don’t like that.
The owner of Ride the Ducks Seattle is Brian Tracey. He has been investigating me by reading my Twitter feed, watching tv and reading the news. After completing his studies he filed a declaration to support a motion to prevent dissemination of discovery materials in the 20 cases we have filed against his business for the death and injury of victims of the Ride the Duck Aurora Bridge crash.
Mr. Tracey says that my Twitter feed is: “intentionally inflammatory, inaccurate and to my mind designed to mislead the public about the facts of her case. I also believe these inaccurate posts are part of a broader campaign to manipulate the media to publish stories that amplify these inaccuracies while helping market her law firm’s practice.”
He accuses me of “publishing falsehoods,” engaging in a “campaign to discredit RTDS’ safety worthiness,” casting RTDS in a negative light” by claiming the defense was “citing a federal law that was discriminatory and harbored anti-Asian sentiments.”
To top it off he cites to John Henry Browne’s defamation lawsuit against me on behalf of Tracy Nessl making the insinuation that I must be a habitual defamer.
You can read his entire declaration below.
I was pretty ticked off when I read his accusations. I hurt my knee a month ago and can’t run off steam. So I wrote an opus that went on for about 15 pages. Then slept on it and cut it in half. Ultimately I decided not to defend myself. Instead I pointed out the real reason why the case has been in the news and listed the headlines:
- When the fifth victim died
- When the NTSB preliminarily reported that the left axle housing (on Duck 6) had likely failed.
- When the NTSB preliminarily reported that a recommended fix to the left axle housing had not been performed.
- When the WUTC suspending the RTD operation
- When Brian Tracey testified in front of the WUTC
- When the WUTC announced 463 public safety violations
- When the WUTC fined RTD $222,000 for the violations
- When the WUTC fine was rejected by its three member panel and increased to $308,000
- When the Mayor opposed RTD resuming operations until its unsatisfactory safety rating was resolved
- When a new route was agreed to by the City of Seattle over the Fremont and Ballard Bridges
- When after the suspension RTD began limited operations of its modern duck fleet. “We’re thrilled” said Brian Tracey
- When another duck ran into a car in lower Queen Anne March 31, 2016
- When another duck ran into a car in lower Queen Anne April 5, 2016
- When another duck ran into a car in downtown Seattle June 23, 2016
The Court heard the motion. Judge Shaffer granted the protective order that all photos, documents or other materials collecting in discovery including discovery inspections are to be used for litigation purposes only (and not disseminated to the media). And she added in this language: Nothing about this order limits counsel from, within the constraints of Rule of Professional Conduct 3.6, communicating with the media or from making social media posts or sharing information in public records.
Photo: This is the nefarious tweeted photo of Andrew at the Duck Inspection that resulted in Ride the Duck’s protective order motion
Do you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Poem excerpt: Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou
Photo: In Roma with my crew.
I leave Nala at home. Today is a half day mediation. At my office. We will be done by 1:00. I can then come home and let her out. She will be fine for four hours.
The mediation drags a bit. Colleen Barrett is the mediator. First time I’ve used her. She was a defense attorney. Had several cases against her. Always liked her.
Slow going. How will we be done by 1.
I have another meeting that starts at 1. What was I thinking. Push it forward to 1:30. This will give me time to run home and let Nala out.
12:15. We are still dragging along.
12:20. Email Anne. Can you let Nala out of the house. This mediation is going to go over and then I have another meeting and Nala needs to go. Give me 10 more minutes just in case we start moving faster.
12:25. We are still dragging.
12:30. Anne comes in. I give her my house key. Write the alarm code down on a piece of paper. One slight problem – I transpose the numbers.
12:45 Miraculously Colleen doesn’t just break the log jam. She pulls a super slick move and settles the case in one fell swoop. Boom just like that.
12:50 We do a few more things
12:55 Colleen has the CR 2A agreement prepared and we are all signing it.
12:56 The alarm company calls to say the alarm has been set off. I tell them no problem. Anne must have tripped it. Put it all out of my mind
12:57 I go to another conference room down the hall. Shake hands with Greg Wallace the defense lawyers. We are chatting.
12:58 Mike rushes into the room and says: Anne is on the phone and says it’s an emergency.
12:58.5 I run to my office, pick up the phone. All I hear is heavy breathing. huh huh huh huh. I call out her name. Can you hear me. Are you okay. huh huh huh huh. She is either having a medical emergency or she’s running.
12:59 Slam down the receiver grab purse, keys and run out the door.
1:03 Arrive at house. Yes that’s right. I live 2 miles away. Park and see Anne kneeling on the front step next to Nala. Nala is wet and covered in mud.
Anne: She’s okay. She came back.
She (Anne not Nala) is still panting. Nala is actually smiling
I come in. Close the gate. Hug Anne and tell her how sorry I am that I asked her to get Nala. The mediation was done on time after all. Anne is still shaking.
The alarm is going off. She shows me the code I gave her. It is of course the wrong code.
I punch the right numbers in. This stops the main alarm. But the alarms on the other two levels of the house are still going off.
I relieve Anne of Nala. Take her over to the side gated area. Enter. Pull out soap. Anne tells me what happened as I wash off the mud. Here’s her story:
Everything was going well until she punched in the (wrong) code. The alarm was going crazy. Nala looked like she was scared (guarantee you she wasn’t scared – you can let a firework off right next to her and she won’t blink if she’s focused on a bird). Anne kept punching in the (wrong) code and it wouldn’t stop. So she decided to put poor delicate Nala in her car away from the noise. She scooped her up in her arms and walked out the door. Made it past the gate. When suddenly Nala started flailing and wiggling until she basically lunged right out of Anne’s arms. The bad girl of course landed cat like on her feet and without so much as a bye see ya, took off like a rocket. Anne started to run after her. This was a useless exercise. Particularly since Anne was wearing slip on wedge sandals. Anne called her name. At least once Nala looked back at her and winked. Or at least that’s what it seemed like. Anne ran back to her car and had just fired it up when Nala came running back.
I finish hosing off Nala. Bring her back to the front. Dry her. Put on booties.
Apologize again to Anne. Try to comfort her. The alarm is still blaring. She shakily leaves for the office.
Call the alarm company which is easy because they just called me. So I hit the call back button. Tell them the alarm won’t go off. They can hear it. Sounds like a smoke detector when the battery needs to be replaced but ten times louder. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Explain what happened.
Alarm company tells me we will need to turn it off. Run downstairs. First need to unscrew the breaker. The breaker is in the ceiling. Get a step stool. Mount it with screwdriver in hand. Try to unscrew the screw. Strip the screw. Partly this is because of technique. And because I can’t see it. The aging process strikes again. Hold on I tell him. Descend ladder. Run up stairs. Find reading glasses. Run back downstairs. Back up on ladder. Yep. I stripped it. Back down ladder. Dig around in box. Find $9.99 black and decker electric screw driver. Battery is dead. Connect charger to outlet and look for corresponding hole on screw driver. Can’t find it. The guy thinks I’m an idiot. Finally find it. Wrong hole. Finally find it. Back up on ladder. The screw driver turns the wrong way. Figure out how to reverse. Jam into stripped screw. It comes out half way. Rip it out the rest of the way and unplug it. The beeps stop.
It is 1:35. Am late for the next meeting.
Speak in Sun Valley at Idaho Trial Lawyer Convention in the morning. Then on a panel in the afternoon. Leave at 3:30. This means I cannot fly direct to LAX because that plane is gone. Instead have to fly back to Seattle to then fly to LAX. Arrive at 10:45 p.m. Taxi to The Line Hotel. Arrive at 11:30 p.m.
There’s a reason for the name of this hotel. There is a line wrapped around it. Slide through crowd of young people. Hotel lobby is pitch dark and throbbing with people and music. I don’t mean the club area to the side of the building. Or the bar past the front desk. I mean the actual lobby. As soon as I walk inside am surround by clubbers. Which if I hadn’t gotten off an airplane I might have been more pleased with. But I am a grump.
Wait for front desk to check a woman’s purse so she can dance unencumbered. They give her a bag tag. My turn finally. Pretend smile. Check in process occurs via sign language and reading each other’s lips. It is too loud to speak. Go up to 5th floor. Open door. Very hip. Stripped to concrete walls. Lots of outlets for electronics. Low slung furniture. Bathroom vanity hits me mid thigh. Really tall people would have to bend over double to turn on the faucet. I am 20 years too old for this hotel. Okay. Maybe 30. Ceiling to floor window fronts Wilshire Blvd. The main street. Look outside. Can see and hear everyone in the line and every car cruising the strip. There is also a joint in the road that makes an extra special crunch sound every time a car passes over.
Consider going downstairs to change rooms. But am too irritated. The cacophony of sound bounces off the unforgiving gray cell walls. I look up the white noise station on Pandora. Waterfall. No. Rainforest. No. Settle on Springtime showers. Turn it on via little portable speaker. It can’t drown anything out. Pull out iPhone ear buds. That doesn’t work. Pull out running ear buds that fit a little tighter. That doesn’t work. Turn up the white noise. Hello. Loud white noise is not white noise – it is just noise. This means that I stay up the entire night. The party road does tone down around 4 or so in the morning. But by then I’ve given up. They are going to get a bad review on Trip Advisor.
Next morning walk from the hotel to Southwestern Law School. 7 blocks away. It is already 75 degrees. The school is in a magnificent art deco building. Take the elevator up. Am speaking to the National Police Accountability Project. Spend a delightful three hour morning presenting on voir dire, opening and case themes. Afterwards one of the attendees asks for a sample complaint. I write complaints like opening statements. Filled with details and structured the way that makes the most sense to me. So here it is. Complaint FINAL
Photo: At Southwestern Law School getting ready to speak to NPAP
June 1, 2016 3:31 PM
Hi Karen, I recently came across your post on “The Velvet Hammer” blog describing purported excerpts from John Henry Browne’s emails to you during communications over the lawsuit involving Tracy McNamara. I am interested in speaking with you about this when you have some free time. Please give me a call. Thanks,
Lewis Kamb, Reporter The Seattle Times
June 1, 2016 7:00 PM JHB to VH
So honored you included my in your Blog, so sad you need to promote yourself. The press big time local really wanted to know if you had trademarked your self appointed moniker !!! I gave them the full sad story about you creating your life rather than just living it. They will do a story, expect a call. Reminder you started this. Velvet “Clamor” was not a typo. Best. John.
June 1, 2016 10:01 PM VH to JHB
That blog entry was written because I decline to bear your continued threats and insults in silence.
June 2, 2016 12:21 PM JHB to VH
I hope you take this seriously. It is very sad you need to broadcast your personal angst via a blog. I suggest a journal. This blog makes you look like a fool, and was taken that way by the reporter. I am truly sorry about your Mom we only have one of those. I have a pleading I will send to your registered agent… I don’t want to be accused of extorting your firm again. In trial now. Will get pleading to (you) next week. Your blog just makes me look good, thanks John.
June 2, 2016 1:02 PM VH to JHB
You can stop writing insulting emails to me any time now.
June 2, 2016 1:08 PM JHB to VH
No problem, but if you include me in your pathetic blogs, then you start it, get it? Have a nice day. John
June 2, 2016 1:32 PM VH to JHB
You can stop writing insulting emails to me any time now.
And that is how Lewis Kamb’s article came to pass.
Further you affiant sayeth not.
Photo: The front page of Tuesday’s paper taken by Catherine Fleming
On Monday I called an attorney an A_S.
Now you may be thinking Karen Karen Karen. But I didn’t lose my temper. I stated a fact.
One day when I came home from work many years ago, the nanny smiled and said – your daughters told me that yesterday you said the S word. Cristina, Alysha and Noelle started giggling. Raised their little eyebrows. Waited for Marlenee Beenee (actual name Marlene) to scold me. Or better yet – as she had done to Alysha – wash my mouth out with soap.
Now I had been a prolific cusser as a young adult, but had stopped cold turkey way before the kids were born. I looked at Marlene, smiled and said to the girls – tell her what the S word was. They hesitated, not wanting to get into trouble for saying it, realized they had permission and yelled in chorus: Stupid! She said Stupid!!
I suppose the A_S word is not exactly a cuss word. But it was mom’s primary expletive. And one that usually ended with the modifier – hole.
But let’s start at the beginning.
I am in a case where the opposing counsel is a very well known criminal defense lawyer initials starting in J and ending in B. Middle initial H. Here are some of the things JHB has written to me over the past six months. Typos and all.
- Karen. Some whack job is sending out emails in your name.
- …who was Karen’s writing instructor James Joyce.
- …just struck by Karen”s late night STRANGE email
- …when you asked if T had “cosmetic surgery” I was going to object but thought you might be looking for a referral.
- Do you have a mirror.
- But I look so much younger than you!!!
- I will take the high road on your sophomoric comments
- I can always take advice even if condescending
- [comparing me to Margaret Thatcher] …the fact she died friendless and they took her portrait off the wall at Oxford, at her University (I went there) is also something you can relate to, sad.
- Face book is for insecure, narcissistic fools. I don’t need to attract attention, I just do.
- You may think this all good fun but twice now you have invoked my age. That will be part of the Bar complaint 🙂 maybe you should think before you write!!!
- You must be living a very sad life needing virtual friends. I just hope and pray you are better prepared for the next deposition, your last performance was embarrassing.
- Stop trying to be funny, you are not just TRY and be professional
- Get some help
- I am drafting complaint against you and your firm….
- Don’t you get it I am done with you. Please leave me alone.
- I assume by your snarky remark we will have to do this without cooperation and we will.
- I said as a “courtesy” not surprised that word escapes you.
- get a life, a real one not a virtual one, you know real, not pretend. try to earn your reputation not create one “velvet clamor” and all, it is quite sad.
And so, in honor of mom, and because it was the appropriate response to JHB’s last insulting email written three weeks after her death while I was (and am) still grieving, I wrote:
John – you are an ass.
Photos: The flowers Ann Rosato gave me in honor of my mom’s death and the cards.
A week after writing the post, JHB read the blog and sent this email:
So honored you included my (sic) in your Blog, so sad you need to promote yourself. The press big time local really wanted to know if you had trademarked your self appointed moniker!!! I gave them the full sad story about you creating your life rather than just living it. They will do a story, expect a call. Reminder you started this. Velvet “Clamor” was not a typo. Best John.
That blog entry was written because I decline to bear your continued threats and insults in silence.
December 26, 1933 – April 26, 2016
I haven’t answered phone calls. Or returned emails or texts. I’ve just stayed in the cocoon of our close family. My sisters and brother, our children and in laws have been grieving together and working together in preparation for mom’s celebration of life this weekend. It has all been quite hideous and wonderful all at the same time.
Mom’s obituary details an amazing life. Chinese immigrant parents. The seventh of eleven children. Third woman to graduate in chemical engineering from the U of Illinois. Going to UW Law school with two babies and graduating three years later with two more plus being 7 months pregnant with the fifth.
This is mom’s law school class. She received an offer from a big downtown firm upon graduation, but wanted to be closer to her family. She first worked for a grumpy old man lawyer who pretty much terrified me. After a few years she left him and opened her own general practice a few miles from our house. She was very high energy and slept 3 to 4 hours a night. Her favorite time to do laundry was at 2:00 a.m.
Mom was the most untraditional person I’ve ever known. The phrase: she walked to the beat of her own drum – is an understatement. She was a true Maverick in every sense of the word. She always believed she was right. She never gave up. And she fought like heck for everything. I once watched her sock a lawyer in court because he pushed her. The judge heard about it and after emerging from recess scolded the two of them.
In the 60s through the 80s when mom practiced law, she experienced racism and sexism. She could care less unless it was from a judge. This is because the judge was supposed to be fair and impartial. And because he had the final say like it or not. Otherwise if it was from opposing counsel or their clients she either ignored it or went into attack mode.
She loved people and would not give a second thought to starting up a conversation with a total stranger. To the contrary, she would attend any public meeting or function where she could go meet even more people. When we were children this embarrassed us to no end. As we grew into adults it still did periodically. She felt completely connected to people and did not need time to warm up to them. She had no boundaries whatsoever and would talk about whatever was on her immediate agenda. Whether the recipients liked it or not.
As she grew older mom became more unique. She introduced a bit of magical thinking into the equation. Being such a brilliant person, it was interesting to watch people trying to follow her train of thought. She felt she was on another sphere of intellectual and spiritual being and she was right.
Three lessons I learned from mom were: 1) tell the truth even if bluntly; 2) be strong enough to fight for what is right; and 3) always be there for your family.
Mom had many other sayings and pieces of advice. This collection comes from memories of my childhood:
- sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never harm me
- to be Eurasian means you are the best of both worlds
- ignore them – they don’t know what they’re talking about
- eat everything on your plate – there are children starving in (fill in the blank)
- your hair needs to be cut
- what is that stuff (makeup) on your face – you don’t need anything
- beauty is skin deep
- women can do anything men can do and usually better
- stand up straight
- don’t slouch or you’ll grow a hump
- you have your grandmother’s hands
- tell them you can see better with your four eyes than they can with their two eyes
- next time he socks you, sock him back as hard as you can
- it’s a natural bodily function
Perhaps the most wonderful quality of mom was her brightness. I cannot remember seeing her depressed. If she felt down she didn’t show it. If she was unhappy or upset she did not cry or mope. Instead she came out swinging as hard as she could. Granted if you were a victim of her wrath, it was no fun. But mainly mom was elated with life. Whether it was beating someone in a game, winning a motion, playing with her grandkids, getting a great deal during her bargain hunting, predicting something correctly or eating an ice cream cone – she laughed and crowed and whooped in utter delight.
We will miss her forever.
Photos: (1) our family archives; (2) my partner Paul Whelan dug this up for me the day after she died; (3) mom and the five kids.
This week we celebrated Clare’s 30 years of service to the Washington State Association for Justice. I met Clare when it was named WSTLA – the trial lawyer’s association. The entire time I’ve known her she’s run the legal education department.
Of all the committees I’ve worked on over the years, WSTLA/WSAJ CLE was my favorite.
One of the side effects of being a critical analytical trial lawyer, is that we are willing to turn the lens on ourselves. We are like professional athletes in that we are only as good as the last trial or arbitration or mediation or whatever. We can have a superb result. Feel the glow. And abruptly lose the next case and consider ourselves to be crap. So we are hungry to learn how to be better. Clare has worked with all of us to put on some of the best programs in the country. This included the first How to Hammer Allstate program (brainchild of Pat LePley). I can still remember the Colossus program where we had with over 300 people attending. We were one of the first to have a full day with Paul Luvera, Rick Friedman, and Paul Stritmatter. And then of course there were the conventions.
Gerhard figured out that Clare has put on over 500 seminars. And she isn’t done yet.
What always has impressed me about Clare – is that she never loses her temper. Us lawyers are terrible at turning in our assignments on time. She would fib to us about deadlines knowing we’d be late. And even that wouldn’t work. People would forget when they were speaking. Or where. Or in probably the worst case – the keynote speaker at one of our conventions showed up and left after an hour and a half when she had been scheduled for four hours. Through it all, Clare just smiles and gets it done.
Here’s to you Clare – thank you for 30 wonderful years and many more to come.
Photo: Clare at her surprise 30th work anniversary luncheon next to Gerhard.