Showing posts with label obituary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label obituary. Show all posts

Thursday, October 7, 2021

RIP Russ Kick, eccentric FOIA champion

With images obtained under the federal FOIA, Russ Kick's "Memory Hole"
catalyzed conversation on the Iraq war. Now archived at the Library of Congress.
The transparency community lost an eccentric hero in September: Russ Kick died at his home in Tucson, Arizona, at age 52.

Kick's passing has been reported in many forums, and he was well remembered by The Washington Post and Seven Stories Press last week.  Nevertheless, I feel bound to add my own recognition of the loss.  A self-described "rogue transparency activist," Kick was a legend in the access community.  I knew him only through email exchanges.  I remember him as consistently eager and obliging at the prospect of rallying a recruit to any one of his many causes.

I'm sorry that the Post obit, by Harrison Smith, is paywalled, because it's a thorough and deserved tribute to a remarkable person who embodied the term "citizen-activist" long before it was fashionable.  Kick was a "FOIA frequent flier" who used the "spear" of access law, as Senator Patrick Leahy recently described the federal FOIA, to investigate the many causes that stirred him, from chemical warfare to animal welfare.

Kick had some real wins, too.  His 2004 publication of photos of coffins returning from the Iraq war stimulated vital public discussions about access, privacy, and, of course most importantly, the war itself.  The Defense Department said the photos were released mistakenly.  Vibrant discussions in my FOI class were fueled by those photos and by other content that Kick collected at his Memory Hole website (archived).  Kick's many and varied collection of FOIA prizes persists, for the time being, at The Memory Hole 2 and its "sister site," AltGov2.

Kick edited "The Graphic Canon."
I don't want to be too narrow in my recollection, nor to whitewash Kick's sometimes bawdy tastes and conspiracy-minded inclinations.  His eclectic libraries of content rescued from digital deletion ranged beyond government records to, as the Post summarized, "classic literature, erotica, food and ancient meditation practices."  His literary talents generated a bibliography of the intriguing and bizarre, including a "disinformation" series that touted conspiratorial revelations on governments and sex.  Meanwhile, he edited stunningly artful representations of classic literature in graphic novelizations.

It would be easy to write off Russ Kick as a quaint sort of crackpot.  The Post quoted Kick aptly describing himself: "'I can't focus completely on any one thing for too long,' he wrote in an online biography. 'My personal brand is a mess.'"

Yet with such volume of productivity in so many veins, with real impact that moved the needle to put the demos back into democracy, there was undeniably genius in the madness.  Russ Kick left the world better off than he found it for what he contributed.  Any of us should be so blessed to have the same said of us when we're gone.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

RIP Hollis Joslin, JD '14, attorney, pilot, novelist

I'm heartbroken to report the sudden death of a dear friend, attorney, and alumnus, Hollis Gordon Joslin, JD '14, at age 56.

A husband, father, and grandfather, Hollis was a real-life "Renaissance man."  Besides lawyer, he was an auto mechanic, entrepreneur, licensed pilot, outdoorsman, poet, musician, and novelist.  In law, he practiced in bankruptcy and personal injury.  He made a series of funny ads for his practice, but also a serious one.  Owing to popular skepticism of lawyers, a viewer might misinterpret his serious ad as saccharine, but I can say from knowing Hollis, and knowing his Christian faith, that his down-home expression of compassion for would-be clients is purely genuine.

Hollis came to formal higher education only later in life, finishing his bachelor's in 2010.  In the finest tradition of a non-traditional student in law school, he was respected and adored by youthful classmates, whom he mentored generously with gentle and humble wisdom.  If formally a student in my torts classes, he was foremost a teacher to me, too.  He thought deeply about philosophy, economics, and politics, and was eager for a discussion partner to test out revelations.  I obliged to my own benefit.

One auspicious fruit of Hollis's deep thinking—I like to imagine forged at least in part by our conversations, but I probably self-aggrandize—was a clever novel that he conceived of as a contemporary revision of Randian objectivism, incorporating his own ideas.  Like me, Hollis subscribed to laissez-faire regulatory policy in principle, embodying the libertarian impulses of his native Texas.  But he also was deeply troubled by the prospect of corporatocracy.  Here is a prĂ©cis of the book, "Citizens United":

If, as the Supreme Court said in Citizens United, the political speech of a corporation is no less protected by the First Amendment than that of natural persons, then the First Amendment implies a right for corporations to speak from elected office. That is the theory Vizion Inc. proposed to justify the corporation's candidacy for president of the United States: a less than remarkable development in a dystopian world dominated by the Global Trade Partnership. But the new Republic of Texas is having none of it. Flourishing under a policy of liberty and individual empowerment, Texas is all that stands between freedom and the tyranny of a corporate new world order. 

Hollis had an exciting video trailer made for the book.

I had always intended to write something about Citizens United (the book) here at The Savory Tort, but Hollis had asked me to wait until he devised a sort of "grand premiere."  I think that ambition fell by the wayside as he dove into law practice, and, I admit, I never followed up.

Hollis is survived by his lovely and loving wife, Dr. Cheryl Wathier, a kind and patient soul the likes of which a Renaissance man needs in a partner.  I was privileged to visit Hollis and Cheryl once in Arizona, and I never imagined that would be the last time I would see him.  Now I pray for strength for Cheryl and the kids.  In memory of Hollis, the family asked for donations to St. Jude's Children's Hospital.  My thanks to Justin Kadich, '14, for apprising me of the sad news.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

In memoriam: Cassandra M. Langtry, JD class of '23

I'm saddened to share news of the passing of Cassie Langtry, a law student in my fall 2019 Torts I class, on January 15.   

An obituary recounting a full and generous life is posted at the Luzerne, Pennsylvania, funeral home, along with tributes and memories from friends and loved ones, including her law school classmates.  I knew of Cassie's affection for dogs, and the obituary remembers her love for her Comet and Scout.  She also liked reading and kayaking, so our hobbies overlapped quite a bit.  I did not know of her devotion to faith, but I am not surprised to learn that she served with World Challenge in Ecuador and instructed youth at her church in West Harwich, Massachusetts.  

In lieu of flowers or gifts to honor and remember Cassie, donations are sought for the Best Friends Animal Society, an organization dedicated to the protection and rescue of animals.

Cassie passed on the same day as a death in my family, of Gloria Buzi.  Gloria was a generous soul who relished retirement on Maryland's eastern shore.  A great many years of age separated Gloria from 24-year-old Cassie.  The difference might tempt one to a bitterness over lost potential, but I think it rather an occasion to recognize the distinctive gift and ultimately unknowable reverberations of every life.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Mass. Chief Justice Ralph Gants dies


Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants has died.

Read more:
NECN
Boston Globe
Boston Herald

Also:
Ralph Gants on this blog

Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants was a graduate of Harvard undergrad and law, one-time AUSA, and recipient of an honorary law degree from UMass Law at 2016 Commencement (pictured and below).

Also:
On criminal justice reform with Jim Braude at WGBH News
On access to justice at Harvard Law School

HT @ Prof. Cleary.