Find here selections from my work history that have had a pronounced impact on my trajectory. None of this work would have been possible without the integral support and involvement of a cadre of extremely capable clients and collaborators too numerous to name individually.
Chatham County, Georgia, home to Savannah, was sued in a bridge allision. Admiralty jurisdiction, constitutional from inception, is historical, complex and recondite. Intersect the ancient jurisdictional issue with sovereign immunity and modern municipal governance and a case before the United States Supreme Court was born, Northern Insurance Company of New York v. Chatham County, Georgia, 547 U.S. 189 (2006). I was again on a small team that provided deep pre-colonial research and technical writing in the admiralty lexicon for the principal brief.
Chemistry Creative, Inc. is the neoteric kingpin in visionary design and media production. This gifted outfit from Brooklyn is at a nucleus of inventive energy, but the reach of its operation and imagination is limitless — for example, it unfurls elaborately fabricated and timed campaigns that roll out synchronously in multiple metropolises on a global scale, beautifully, and at the height of technical competence. From cinematography and environmental design, to audio engineering and astonishing events, the all-star troupe infuses its clients’ businesses with a full dose of the extraordinary artistic verve emanating from New York City. Its clientele includes HBO, American Express and Def Jam. Chem asked me to furnish corporate development, administration and governance so that company growth could be received and channeled. I did that, and also developed intellectual property compacts and licenses to splice joint ventures, negotiated and composed leases on massive commercial spaces in the city, and devised intricate compensation agreements that rewarded the aces who bring Chem’s magic to life.
There are stakes in art. Visual media are often the most powerful instances of information and influence. As with every Whitney Annual and Biennial, the 77th of these in the museum’s history (begun in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney) would be no exception to offering one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States. It brought together 103 artists and three curators — Stuart Comer of MoMA, Anthony Elms of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, and Michelle Grabner of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. To make this exhibition possible, I developed special media protections on behalf of Navia Vision, including medium-aware indemnities accounting for controversial content. This was the last Biennial to take place at the Whitney’s Madison Avenue building. In 2015 the museum is celebrating its new downtown waterfront locale.
Finding the Titanic was a major technological effort and investment. What incentive do salvors have to go all in on such risks? The public benefits immensely from the archeological recovery of lore. Individual careers can be made, too. But is it enough? When the exclusive salvor in possession of the Titanic shipwreck came up with artifacts technically abandoned under age-old maritime and property doctrines, it expected to recoup its investment. A skein of conflicting property law concepts in the common, international and constitutional domains came into relevance. The matter was resolved before a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. I was on a small briefing team that researched and drafted the position of ownership. My work was documented in a Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce piece titled A Conceptual Wreck: Salvaging the Law of Finds. That article was dubbed the last word on the distinction between the laws of finds and salvage by the journal’s editors.
New Orleans gets its character from a few sources, like the lay of swamps, rivers and mud. But its people are the true prize. One of them is Sister Helen Prejean, who has been fighting the death penalty for decades, and still is. She writes best-selling books about her work, which include several compelling case studies. Her mission is charitable in nature, so when I was asked to establish the nonprofit media entity holding rights to the Academy Award winning Dead Man Walking for her group of advocates, I gladly undertook the work pro deo.
In the years after Hurricane Katrina the New Orleans community carried on, but not without a comprehensive collection of distractions. The vestiges of destruction went on for miles. Basic services were scarce. Wind and water scars cut far inland. Water pressure was intermittent, as was power. The metropolitan infrastructure was unmanned. Half the population had not returned. The most violent crimes were at an impossible high. The United States military was permanently stationed downtown. The economy recessed. Skyscrapers laid vacant. My office was on the 33rd floor of the Energy Centre, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Mississippi, Brazilian hardwoods, Italian marble, and a spiral staircase wound through the floor to a law library worthy of an ABA accredited law school — but I’d step up to the brass faucets, turn the tap, and out would shoot air. It was an apt metaphor for the whole shebang. A crippled government struggled to instill confidence. At the time, and even in retrospect, the list of problems and failures was endless. I moved to New Orleans to participate in those national civic affairs, and worked epic cases: fallout from the enormous levee, flood and environmental catastrophes; state takeover of the Orleans Parish schools; and a broad array of matters proceeding through governmental systems disrupted to their cores. Many moments stay with me vividly, but one in particular sums up the experience. The caption of the case was essentially every responsible figure from the President, to the Governor, to the Mayor, to the private contractors that built and maintained the canals and the levees, against and all the same and all the rest on down the line. The petition was thick like a novel, and it read like one too. It was the story of how the flood came to be, dozens of plaintiffs’ pages recounting the scientific history and all the warning signs. Straight-line canals were dug to shortcut the shipping distance between the Gulf and New Orleans, rather than winding up the Mississippi. The sediment under those wetlands was fine and soft, and it’d fall in on itself from the sides and fill up the canals again, making them too shallow for ships to pass. The dredging would repeat, as would the natural cycle of filling from the sides, which would widen the canals, not just deepen them (try this at the beach yourself sometime — dig a channel where it’s almost wet, dredge it down the middle, and watch what happens). When Katrina blew in running at a dead angle south to north, the biblical storm surge charged up the canals (“superhighways”, as they were dubbed) and either overtopped or simply shattered the levees. That complaint landed on my desk. A few months later, I was sitting in a deposition in another tower on Poydras — it was a resident of the Lower 9th telling it from his vantage, where lives were swept away in an instant. The question was, “What did it sound like?” He testified among a cadre of lawyers holding bated breath around a massive mahogany table, “Like a crack of thunder, then a jet plane. Water started in under the doors and poured over the windowsills.” Over a thousand people died in Louisiana, some in their attics. View a motion I prepared for the consolidated dredging actions, which proceeded in admiralty. Most don’t know it, but much Katrina litigation proceeded in admiralty because, well, think about it. I maintain a deep love of the admiralty bar and practice.
Jong’lwazi is a novel about the maturation of a young man navigating political schism in his rural South African village circa 1960s; when apartheid most acutely took root; when his region was being carved out of the Union-cum-Republic for a new sovereignty premised on lingo-ethnic genealogy; and when certain processes of democracy were novel if not indigenous. There manifests a parochial dispute over the failure of primogeniture (chiefdom of Mthonjana) that is of political value to the urban power vacuum (based in Mthatha), which is under competing pressures from a national tide (reconstituted as the Republic of South Africa) and international opposition (concentrated in the U.N.). The wayfaring young man is swept into these hierarchies through an illicit relation with the daughter of a parochial disputant of imperfect stature. But his development is more than civic. While endeavoring to unearth the material resources required to bring his infant daughter into his lineage, he is visited with experiences that evoke fragmentary memories of his father, who he incrementally learns was a dualist — a traditional healer skilled with medicinal herbs, and a mystical Christian novitiate who sought to harmonize faiths on a scientific plane. His multilayered pilgrimage is recounted by means of a lengthy correspondence addressed to a Native American who had visited Transkei at a pivotal juncture fifty years prior to the date the composition begins — and through it, and the involvement of a surrounding ensemble, an ethnographic account of a little-known but hugely important time, place and people is assembled. The resulting story grips as much as it elicits.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is home to the origins of public education, and it continues to lead in education quality and innovation. Charter schools are playing the most significant role in the next chapter of public education innovation, which is well upon us. The eventual zero-sum nature of per pupil budgetary allocations between proximate traditional and charter schools generates extreme regulatory and political involvement. This is especially so in a city like Brockton, where the matter was set, and which has a long history that warrants a great deal of pride. The laws governing education in Massachusetts are exceedingly complex and infused with layers of compromise between competing interests that include the largest union in the state. When a well-qualified charter school applicant was notified its proposal was ineligible due to an abstruse mathematical statutory provision, it sought from me counsel and representation before the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). I performed extensive legislative research and analysis in conjunction with consultations among past and present leaders in education policy. I presented the results to the BESE, which consequently permitted the school’s application to proceed. Read the memorandum on statutory interpretation, and another on the legislative history, or view extensive coverage of the matter in the media, including the front page of The Boston Globe.
The fiduciary duties built into the attorney-client relationship are traced back far into recorded history. They continued to develop consistently under the reigns of kings, through the American colonial transfer of legal regimes, and into the 21st c. when a new facet was revealed. What duties do co-counselors owe each other when collaborating on behalf of a client? The opinion of the Louisiana Supreme Court rendered on this issue as it swept across the states in 2007 derives virtually wholesale from the brief to which my research and writing were central, including citation to the Bible at footnote 5 to highlight the governing principle that an attorney can have but one master: the client.
The Harvard Law School (HLS) Environmental Law and Policy Clinic sought technical analysis of hydraulic fracturing practices, including state agency permitting, century-old lease and deed interpretation, and new terms and conditions clauses. I conducted on-site public records reviews in a region experiencing an influx in permit requests. The project included teaching and supervising HLS students and preparing a research memorandum for a national public interest client, as well as a jurisdictionally specific publication to property considerations. My lease and deed work was documented in a co-authored piece titled The Interpretation of Surface Easements in Severance Deeds as a Limit on Hydraulic Fracturing Practices, which was published in the Buffalo Environmental Law Journal.
Teachers’ unions continue to play a significant role in both the labor and education sectors. In 2008, during the depths of recession, the expiration of a Rhode Island teachers’ union contract seized the system. The law in this space is taut. A municipality caught between revenue shortfalls and perpetual contracts sought slack. I researched the history of applicable constructs and policies, and drafted the foundational positions that freed the municipality from additional obligations. This analysis led to a commission from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and the Program on Education Policy and Governance, to document the event in a piece titled The Etiology of a Malfunction in Democratic Processes, which was published in the Arizona State Law Journal.
California’s special election to vote up a successor to Rep. Xavier Becerra proved extraordinarily competitive. When Rep. Becerra was appointed Attorney General of California, dozens of candidates filed for presence on the federal congressional ballot. The 34th Congressional district is exceptionally influential for its representation of major constituencies encompassed within the United States’ second most populous city, notably Koreatown and the financial and arts quarters. I lent top-to-bottom campaign administration to Dr. Jason Ahn, a remarkably selfless and grounded public servant with a strong record of domestic and international humanitarian work on fundamental issues, like superior healthcare, disaster response and family reunification. The project comprised administrative compliance — including financial/treasury activities — at the county and state levels, as well as at the federal level with the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service. The rapidity with which a federal special election campaign must develop also required small-team attention to details that reached media, research, staff, events, communication, and design — for example, the campaign logo was procured from the talented Matt Player of Sydney.
Ultimately, Dr. Ahn chose to support Robert Ahn, an attorney, a Planning Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles, the only Korean American on the ballot, and the run-off candidate facing Jimmy Gomez in the final contest.
In 2013, I wrapped up four years at Harvard University after having earned a Master’s degree in Education Policy & Management, practiced and taught at the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and researched/published a variety of pieces on matters of policy. I was a fellow at the Center for Public Leadership, the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and the Program on Education Policy and Governance. To cap off my time there, I advised Harvard College undergraduates on academic and career pathways as a Resident Tutor. More than anything, it was the learning, the relationships, and the exposure for which I am grateful. But, Harvard University underwrote all of my work there, for which I remain equally grateful. This is all by way of introduction to my work at Cape Cod Community College (CCCC), because it was the siren that lured me from Harvard’s gifts. At CCCC I am the coordinator of an academic program and a member of the faculty teaching across the curriculum, and I have been a special grant-funded project manager in the IT and advising spaces. I found there perfect cause and opportunity to build and implement custom online course portals, with an educational iteration of the Rooster Land platform (see below). In many ways CCCC is the opposite of Harvard. Harvard is the most well-endowed of all the colleges and universities; CCCC is perpetually underfunded and resting on a crumbling infrastructure. Harvard is a four-year competitive private school; CCCC is a two-year open enrollment public school. Harvard has no shortage of applicants of advantage and graduates who reach the highest echelons in their professions; CCCC struggles tremendously to maintain its enrollment of students facing a multiplicity of life circumstances that challenge their academic progress, and its graduates — who can earn only up to an Associate’s degree — are ipso facto not readily positioned for career flight. At Harvard, I felt as though I was a drop in the bucket of talent being poured over students possessing whatever edge, whether self-made or by birthright; at CCCC I feel everyday like I am the bucket. Some educators are motivated most by the frontiers of knowledge, and some are motivated most by the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of individuals. Of course, every educator balances one and the other, among other things too, but, as a mission-driven mortal, I am strongly guided by an abiding empathy for disadvantage, in all forms, but particularly economic. My work at CCCC has been inspirational, and I owe a great deal of enlightenment to my students and colleagues there.
Cashcare was conceptually born when, in the process of considering a non-profit post-secondary education directorship, I was asked to design a program for scaling financial health outreach work. Instead of laying things out in a word processor, I took to my code editor. I designed an application and built a website to showcase it, with an associated write-up. My suggestion was to evolve the program to a digital platform by rolling out a Cashcare application owned by a non-profit organization comprised of a bank consortium. This would have the effect of streamlining the effort — both instructionally and actionably. The many possible features such an application might offer to mitigate impediments to program goals took several shapes: harnessing limited self-control through gamification; increasing control through customization; satisfying control through information; reducing time commitment and cognitive overload through convenience and simplicity; and providing comprehensive advice and instruction through trusted in-app support. The app would be owned by a hybrid 501(c)(3) that has partner banks as its members. This was a fun exercise, but the product of it is still something I seriously ponder.
Blue Mind 3 was the third iteration of an annual convening of ocean experts and neuroscientists founded by Wallace J. Nichols. Mind and ocean, neuroscience and conservation, emotion and environment, grey matter and blue space. Watch a video summation here. The event was held from May 29 to May 31, 2013 on Block Island. I was an integral partner, assisting with development, logistics, media, and programming. I also opened the weekend with Rhode Island’s state poet laureate Lisa Starr (2007-2012), using original underwater imagery obtained from sites on- and offshore during dives with Tampa’s photographer laureate Karen Glaser, exhibitor at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and author of the grainy Dark Sharks series. Presentations followed from filmmaker and granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau Celine Cousteau, chef and National Graphic fellow Barton Seaver, mesmerizing painter Ran Ortner, and a host of neuroscientists from Harvard, NYU, and Vanderbilt who paired up with entrepreneurs, elected officials and creatives from a dozen organizations and agencies to explore new questions about our connection to water.
In some remote South African villages residents benefit little from the kinds of fundamental infrastructural supports traditionally providable by government. For example, educational provisioning may lack resources readily available in other parts of the world and within South Africa itself. I traveled to a rural village with a hand-picked team, where we worked with the community to rehabilitate a dilapidated pre-school, and where the teacher had taken to scratching lessons into the school’s walls. Implementation consisted of establishing a nonprofit, raising financial support, leading international logistics, rehabilitating the building, and providing program instruction and materials. Local tradesmen were integrated and a partnership with international construction groups was forged. We accepted an invitation to assist a second school two years later. Many thanks for support and assistance are owed to Siya Xuza, as well as Craig and Michelle Paxton of Axium Education.
When the border was drawn between North and South Korea, many thousands of family members were left divided. Families were dislocated by the chaos of war. Sixty years have lapsed, and many Koreans have immigrated to the United States in search of peace and hope. There are an estimated 100,000 first generation Korean Americans with immediate family members in North Korea. Time is running out for this generation to reunite with their families; many family members have already passed away. Divided Families Film is a documentary production that is raising awareness of this issue in the global community by telling the stories of first generation Korean Americans hoping to reunite with their families. The project wrapped up its final round of funding via Kickstarter. I supplied logistical, technical, strategic, and financial support throughout.