Public Law School, Once a Controversial Concept in MA, Now Well Established

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Deval Patrick, a former two-term governor of Massachusetts, must be smiling at the news out of the University of Massachusetts School of Law at Dartmouth, formerly Southern New England School of Law.

On Thursday of last week, the school announced that its incoming class of first-year students, numbering 94, is 17.5 percent larger than last year’s, which had 80.  In a press release marking the start of the academic year, the school also said:

- Its incoming class is 42% larger than the class that entered in 2016, the year the school first earned full accreditation by the American Bar Association;
- First-year students come from 25 different states;

- Average age of first-year students is 27;

- Applications for admission increased this past year by more than 20 percent, from 782 to 940;

- 57 percent of applicants were admitted this year, whereas 64 percent were the previous year; It's getting harder to get in.

- Members of the Class of 2017 passed the bar exam on their first try at a rate of 72.7 percent, which placed them fifth behind the graduates of the law schools of Harvard, Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern;  The press release was discrete in that it did not mention the four in-state law schools whose 2017 graduates were bested in this category: Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, New England School of Law and Suffolk University in Boston, and Western New England School of Law in Springfield.

- UMass Law ranked first in New England in 2017 and 11th in nation for percentage of graduates holding jobs in public service: 27 percent.

Although it was a contentious and controversial idea for years prior to becoming a reality in 2010, UMass's operation of a law school no longer provokes argument or questioning. 

UMass Law was created through a take-over of Southern New England School of Law, or what some described as a "gift" by the school of itself to the state.  Southern New England, whose properties and facilities were valued at $23.2 million, had long experienced financial difficulties.

When the UMass take-over was first formally put forth, in 2005, the UMass board of trustees said no.  There were concerns over a possible negative impact on the state budget of a big, new division of UMass, and at least three of the existing private law schools in the state lobbied against the move.
Around that same time, when Deval Patrick was making his first run for governor, he campaigned in the southeastern part of the state on the theme that UMass should absorb and rejuvenate Southern New England and that Massachusetts residents seeking a career in the law, or related to the law, needed and deserved a lower-cost route to a degree.

In February, 2010, when the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education unanimously approved the take-over, Patrick was beginning his second term.  Richard Freeland, former president of Northeastern University and then the state’s commissioner of higher education, noted that the “politics were different” in 2010 than in 2005.
“You clearly had a very supportive governor who wanted to make this happen (the second time around),” Freeland said.

To further its objective of affordability, UMass Law has entered into “3 + 3 agreements” with seven different Massachusetts colleges and universities under which students may fulfill their undergraduate course requirements in three years, enroll at UMass, and earn law degrees in three years; 3 + 3 schools are: Becker College (Worcester), Fitchburg State, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (North Adams), UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, and Worcester State.

Massachusetts was quite late to the public law school arena, becoming the 45th state to have one.  New Hampshire, then Delaware followed suit.  Only Alaska, Rhode Island and Vermont now do not have public law schools.

Tuition at UMass Law is approximately 40 percent lower than the national average.

It Seems the Stock Market Doesn't Care What Joe Curtatone Drinks

Friday, August 24, 2018

With all due respect to the mayor of Somerville, sometimes you just got to have a Sam -- a Sam Adams beer, that is.

Which is why, today, it’s looking like the recent Trump-favorable remarks by the inventor of Sam Adams are not going to hurt beer sales, calls for a boycott notwithstanding.
Let’s back up to the start of this story.

On the night of Tuesday, August 7, Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Co., which produces Sam Adams, was among 13 business leaders invited to a dinner-conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.  It was a political event designed to highlight the president’s economic agenda and record.
Following a brief speech, the president asked every business leader in the room to stand, introduce himself, and offer brief remarks.  When Koch’s turn came, he said, in part:

“I’m not quite sure why I’m here.  I’m like the smallest company by far.  I’m Jim Koch and I started making Sam Adams Beer in my kitchen 37 years ago…I guess I’m sort of speaking on behalf of what is now 7,000 small brewers in the United States.
“When I started Sam Adams, American beer was a joke, and it pissed me off…now, American brewers make the best beer in the world…the (Trump/Republican Party) tax reform was a very big deal for all of us because 85 percent of the beer made in the United States is owned by foreign companies…

“I’m the largest American-owned brewery at 2 percent market share.  We were paying 38 percent taxes…and competing against people (foreign brewers) who were paying 20…now we have a level playing field and we’re going to kick their ass.” 
The next day, I read Koch’s comments in The Boston Globe and was surprised he had stuck his neck out that far.  Maybe he’d been over-served his own product last night, I thought.  Purveyors of consumer products are famously reluctant to take outspoken positions for or against policies and elected office holders for fear of turning off their customers who might feel otherwise. When you live and die by volume sales, it’s best to steer clear of hot-button political issues.

And here we had one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the history of Massachusetts, if not the USA, throwing political caution to the wind. 
Koch is a genius-level business visionary and one of the world’s best salesmen --  a man with three Harvard degrees (BA, MBA and JD) who quit a $250,000-a-year job with the Boston Consulting Group in 1984, took his life savings and parlayed it into a company that, 34 years later, is worth more than a billion dollars.

Soon there were calls for a boycott of all Boston Beer Co. products, with the sharpest-edged one delivered by eight-term Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone.  “We need to hold these complicit profiteers of Trump’s white nationalist agenda accountable!” Curtatone tweeted, adding a few minutes later:
“I will never drink Sam Adams beer again!”

It’s been over a week since Curtatone slammed Koch for “sucking up to Trump” and floated his boycott idea.  There have been no reports so far of a negative impact on sales of Sam Adams.
One thing is clear, however. The controversy has not hurt the price of Boston Beer Co. stock.  As of this morning, company shares were trading at $307.70 apiece, only slightly below their all-time high of $314.52 in January, 2015, and miles above their low point of recent years, $163.05, which was recorded in February of this year, a mere seven months ago. 

I waver on Koch’s Bedminster escapade.  I think he was acting servilely and selfishly when he endorsed Trump’s deficits-be-damned/make-the-grandkids-pay-for-our-lifestyle approach to stoking the economy.  On the other hand, I think he deserves credit for having the guts to stand up in public and hail a widely reviled and detested president for actions that have strengthened his company and benefited his shareholders.



These Dazey Days of Summer, It Happens in Politics...

Thursday, August 23, 2018

THAT the Massachusetts Senate, during its brief informal session today, adopted a resolution congratulating David Sullivan, special counsel in the Office of the Senate President, on his retirement from state government, where he served ably for 41 years, winning countless friends and admirers along the way.  Sullivan provided counsel to former Secretary of State Mike Connolly (Bill Galvin’s predecessor), the Ethics Commission, and the Senate Ways & Means Committee.  He also served as general counsel in the budget office of former Governor Deval Patrick, now rumored to be considering a run for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in 2020.

THAT Whitman’s state representative, Geoff Diehl, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Elizabeth Warren, yesterday found a novel way of distinguishing himself from the incumbent by vowing not to write a book if he’s elected to the Senate.   Reacting to the news that Warren, in 2017, earned $430,379 in royalties from her book, “This Fight Is Our Fight,” Diehl asserted that a senator should be so busy working for his or her constituents that he/she does not have time to write books.
THAT Geoff Diehl, in my humble political view, may be overlooking the possibility that Senator Warren, while undoubtedly a capable wordsmith, may have had some help in penning “This Fight Is Our Fight.”  I had my mind on such matters permanently altered many years ago by something told to me by a gentleman who had been a manager in John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign.  This was around the time a book or article had been published, in which it was asserted that Ted Sorensen, not Kennedy, was the main author of Kennedy’s bestseller, “Profiles in Courage.”  Said I to this Kennedy hand, “That can’t be true, can it?  Kennedy was an excellent writer, right?”  Said he to me, “Kid, you have to understand, rich people would hire someone to go to the bathroom for them if they could.”

THAT Geoff Diehl and Scott Brown, a former Wrentham state representative who earned a surprise victory over former Attorney General Martha Coakley in the 2010 special election for U.S. Senate, only to lose the seat two years later to Elizabeth Warren, have much in common.  They’re both from humble backgrounds.  They’re both Republicans.  They’re both good looking and honorable. And they both perplex me out of my mind because they adore Donald Trump.  Brown’s Trump-love got him the ambassadorship to New Zealand, the best job on the planet.  I can’t help but wonder: what good deal could the cheddar-colored billionaire (thanks, Maureen Dowd) have in store for Diehl should Diehl be dealt defeat? 
THAT sometimes I can't help but conclude that Charlie Baker got the guy who’s challenging him for the gubernatorial nomination in the Republican primary, the Rev. Dr. Scott Lively, from Rent-a-Candidate.  There’s no possible way Baker can lose to a guy who, the day after Trump’s ex-personal lawyer/fixer pleads guilty to various crimes, puts out a press release with this opening paragraph: “The Fake News bloc is simply giddy over the betrayal of President Trump by his snake-in-the-grass former lawyer Michael Cohen (whose sleazy demeanor suggests he would give his own mother to cannibals to save himself from the ruthless Mueller political death squad) and the concurrent guilty verdict of former campaign manager Paul Manafort (whose years-old supposed financial crimes have absolutely nothing to do with Trump, the 2016 election, or Russian collusion).”

THAT, even though the Rev. Dr. Lively may be dwelling in an alternative political universe, I am beguiled by his verbal flair.  I wish I could come up with something as neat as Cohen would “give his own mother to cannibals to save himself from the ruthless Mueller political death squad.”  Were I so dexterous as to devise that, however, I wouldn’t waste it on the little problem, Cohen, when it applies so well to the big one, Trump.
THAT the Rev. Dr. Lively’s press releases are so much my guilty pleasure that I can’t help but quote now the last sentence of his “Fake-News-bloc-is-simply-giddy” masterpiece of the imaginative arts, which was: “In any case, whatever President Trump might have done in his past life as a New York liberal, he is today quite obviously a changed man with solid conservative principles and a deep respect for God and our constitution, and as such he deserves our full support in his role as Chief Executive of the United States.”

THAT the Mahhty Magic appears to be rubbing off on young Dan Koh, who aspires to succeed Niki Tsongas in the U.S. House of Representatives.  According to a UMass Lowell poll out today, Koh, who served as chief of staff to Boston Mayor Martin Walsh before being infected with the electoral virus, has a narrow lead in the 10-person race for the Democrat nomination in the state’s 3rd Congressional District. The poll indicates that Koh, with less than two weeks to go to the September 4 primary, has the support of 19 percent of likely voters.  Tied at second place, with the support of 13 percent of likely voters, were Rufus Gifford, a former ambassador to Denmark (second-best job on the planet) and State Senator Barbara L’Italien.  Is it just me, or does it seem to everyone like this race has been going on since the Clinton administration?  I cannot wait for September 5 to arrive. 
THAT the Massachusetts House, near the end of its brief informal session today, held a moment of silence in honor of and respect for two valiant young men from Saudi Arabia, Jaser Daham Al-Rakkah and Theeb Al-Yami, who drowned in the Chicopee River on June 29 while helping to save several children who were caught in an overpowering current.  Rep. Paul Donato of Medford, the presiding officer, said, “Both men selflessly put themselves in peril to try to save the children, and while the children were rescued, both Mr. Al-Rakah and Mr. Al-Yami perished. Mr. Al-Rakah was a student in the engineering program at Western New England University and Mr. Al-Yami was studying engineering at the University of Hartford.  Both will receive posthumous degrees from their respective universities.”  How can pessimism ever overtake optimism when there are human beings as good as Jaser and Theeb in this world?  The motion for the moment of silence/respect was made by Rep. Angelo Puppolo of Springfield. 


Political Life of MA Has Always Had a Distinct Cape Cod Flavor

Monday, August 6, 2018

One of the great things about computers and the Internet is they allow you to appear as if you are hard at work when you are not -- and when you are in fact loafing at some remote location and merely checking your emails and returning the occasional phone call to create the appearance of serious engagement. 

For example, today I am in Harwich on Cape Cod, where my wife and I are enjoying the hospitality of her sister at a house on a beautiful quiet side street, shaded by ancient pines and oaks and punctuated with birdsong during the day, while back in the urban heat island of Boston, my diligent colleagues are suffering the tortures of the damned.

But do not fear.  Our president has assured us that climate change is totally not real -- "fake news" propagated by Democrats, eco-terrorists and those horrendous "enemies of the people," the news media.  (Joe Stalin does a jig beneath the Kremlin Wall every time Trump trots out that "enemies" stuff.)

Speaking of Cape Cod, I noticed on the State House News Service that Father Rick Walsh, chaplain of the Massachusetts House, opened today's informal session of the lower branch at 11:03 a.m. with the following prayer:

"We give thanks for the seasonal heat and humidity and we pray that it does not last too long.  We pray today for those in danger of heat exhaustion and our women and men who work to bring us just and fair legislation, as well as their support staff.  Tomorrow marks the 57th anniversary of the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, the first time the federal government created a national park from land owned primarily by private entities.  We pray those who are enjoying that park today know the blessing that it is."

Note to Father Rick:  I am not on the National Seashore but I know how blessed I am to have a very kind and giving sister-in-law, Rosemary, and to have the opportunity to be on the Cape with her anytime we wish. 

Note to Father Rick's boss:  Thanks for that heavenly 76-degree ocean every day on my early-morning swim.

Speaking further of Cape Cod, I noticed on the State House News Service that the Massachusetts Senate adjourned its informal session today at 11:25 a.m. in memory of the late John Francis "Jack" Aylmer of Barnstable, who served six terms in the Senate (1971-82), was assistant minority leader for the Republicans in the Senate, and had a distinguished career as president (1981-91) of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, his alma mater (Class of 1957).  A Navy veteran and longtime merchant mariner, Aylmer held the rank of Rear Admiral at Mass. Maritime.  He died at his home on July 8 at the age of 84.

I looked up Aylmer's obituary online and learned that he was "raised in the villages of Osterville and Centerville." (That was in the days when the Cape was not close to being the rich man's preserve that it has regrettably become in so many locales.)  He graduated from Barnstable High School in 1952 and did a post-graduate year at Admiral Billard Academy, New London, CT.  Befitting a man of the sea, Aylmer financed his college education at the maritime academy by operating a tug boat for the New England Dock and Dredge Co.  He later earned a master's degree in education and a law degree. 

An outstanding athlete in his younger days, Aylmer played for the former Barnstable Barons in the Cape Cod (college all stars) Baseball League (1952) and participated in the founding of not one but two teams in the league, the Hyannis Harbor Hawks (1976) and the Bourne Braves (1988).  In 2012, he was named to the league's hall of fame as an administrator. 

May you rest in peace, Admiral.