Article 25

Ask an Unemployed Lawyer

In Uncategorized on 04/11/2012 at 9:18 pm

Occupy Cincinnati started at one park presided over by the statue of an assassinated president and now hangs out at another.Photo by Jon Hughes/Photopresse.

Free Speech is in the Eyes of the Beholder


By U.L.


Dear U.L.,


The city of Cincinnati has agreed to set up a 24-hour “free speech” zone in Piatt Park, in return for Occupy Cincinnati dropping its federal civil-rights lawsuit. Occupy Cincinnati says this is a great victory for the First Amendment, even though the “free speech” zone will only be in effect for one year. What do you think?


A. Doubter


Dear Doubter:


All free governments are managed by the wisdom and the folly of the people.

-President James A. Garfield


You bastard. You assume an unemployed lawyer would be more cynical about such a pronouncement. It’s people like you who look askance at the pride every lawyer takes in his work, always based in a deep empathy for the common person. It’s why lawyers like Jerry Springer and Bill Cunningham migrate to higher callings helping the underprivileged express their political and social concerns.

And, of course, fellow Ohioans and lawyers like President James A. Garfield, the Man Who Would Be President for 200 Days, so he doesn’t get quoted or talked about much. Let’s give the man his due here. Garfield was something of a self-made man, so his distrust of orthodoxy seems refreshing and something you will never again see in a sitting president.


I am trying to do two things: dare to be a radical and not a fool, which is a matter of no small difficulty.

-President James A. Garfield


Let’s see what we have here. Occupy Cincinnati was inspired by Occupy Wall Street, a group of people protesting corporations and stuff. On Oct. 8, Occupy held its first protests throughout the city, including Fountain Square and what turned into a bivouac exercise in Piatt Park. Between Oct. 10-19, police issued numerous minor misdemeanor citations for violating Park Board Rule 21, which pronounced the park closed at 10 p.m.


A law is not a law without coercion behind it.

-President James A. Garfield


On several occasions between Oct. 20 and Nov. 16, police arrested Occupiers connected to demonstrations at Fountain Square, Piatt Park and Burnet Woods, charging misdemeanors for criminal trespass and remaining on Fountain Square after closing hours. Total, more than 300 legal actions against more than 100 people.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 10 and 17, the Good Guys filed civil actions in federal court seeking to keep the city from using PBR 21 to thwart their political activities.

On Nov. 18 the city dismissed charges against the people who were cited for violating PBR 21.


Nobody but radicals has ever accomplished anything in a great crisis.

-President James A. Garfield


This all leads us to this historic agreement, whereby the city agrees to drop all criminal charges against Occupiers, including the group who already had their charges dropped; and the Occupiers agree to drop a federal lawsuit that, on the face of it, looks moot after the city dropped the charges.

The People of Porkopolis are the real winners, though: From now through March 18, 2013 at 11:59 p.m., citizens may gather within 100 square feet of the James Garfield monument on the far eastern edge of Piatt Park. You are not allowed to make too much noise, or be a nuisance, build a fire, use a bullhorn or set up a tent. But you can sit there, quietly protesting, perhaps ruminating on the non-feline Garfield quotes you learned reading this today, free of fear that police will cite you, for at least a year. How great is that?


The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

-President James. A. Garfield


It seems to me, and maybe I’m still just pissed because no public option was included in the health-care package, that liberals generally suck at compromise. They lack that killer instinct or alpha-level competition need or something. So, you get stuff like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which results in record numbers of gays getting discharged. Or hate-crime legislation, where the idea of status crime has had far greater impact on increasing penalties for people who offend police officers or public officials.

So, it would be easy to take potshots at this agreement and the flurry of pronouncements that followed. I’m more tempted to talk about the wasted hours in work this engendered, especially by the attorneys involved, for a group that states as its goal “ending corporate control of our government.” Doesn’t that idea sound a little, um, old?


He who controls the money supply of a nation controls the nation.

-President James A. Garfield


I thought so. So this space is best used to share the wisdom of one of our deadest presidents. He even has something to say about Occupy, from the grave, and it sounds almost Jungian:


If you are not too large for the place you occupy, you are too small for it.

-President James A. Garfield


I think as our warm winter quickly transforms into a warmer spring with extra allergies and bugs, and we are reminded of the paradox of life itself, it’s natural for one’s thoughts to turn to the spiritual development of lawyers. If you want to know what ills a culture, you could do worse than study its secular priesthood, the people charged with resolving cultural disputes.

Your question might superficially seek a cynical unemployed lawyer’s view of what appears to be a gross overstatement of a rather banal outcome, but it hearkens to what is the ultimate question for our time: What is the relative value of subjective and objective information?

You can see the schism play out in the Republican primaries. The “objectivists” are largely a combination of the free-market libertarians (mostly atheist) and the Hegelian rationalists (mostly Mormon, for some damn reason). The “subjectivists” are the crazies, the religious loons, the Patrick Henry cross-dressers.

I have learned that I agree with the great Garfield on this matter, as well:


Man cannot live by bread alone. He must have peanut butter.

-President James A. Garfield



Never take the advice of an Unemployed Lawyer. Always consult with an attorney for any legal advice in your situation. If, however, you want to ask, write to



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