Friends of Webster

Raised in the house, but field certified.

American Violet and Me: Injustice and my Connection to Ronald Machen

Often, you hear about those who want to change the world. Generally, the ones who talk about it are upper-middle class or wealthy. More often than not, they carry a depth of idealism. Very seldom do you find men and women of their ilk that are really willing to promote change.  I believe that to effect change, you have to begin with the world around you.  I believe that those jobs are often monotonous and discouraging.  There is very little glory involved, these lawyers and activists are the antithesis of the red carpet philanthropy that lines resumes of the social elite.  Heroism is often anonymous. Philanthropy is often glorious. Very little gray area exists. These men represented the gray area, where money and true heroism seem to never collide.

American Violet is about the wrongful prosecution of the black citizens of a small Texas town and the fight of one of those citizens named Dee Roberts. She battled the charges but more importantly, she fought to change a judicial system based upon an accuse first, find evidence later mentality. She fought an unjust district attorney and his operation in a  biased civil court. She won after she labored to find the real reason why she was prosecuted [Do not try this approach in the U.S. Coast Guard, questioning and transparency are not allowed]

The movie is based on a true story of a miscarriage of justice. The law firm, Wilmer Cutler Hale Pickering and Dorr, LLP joined the ACLU in remedying this story and ultimately finding justice like a needle in a haystack. Ronald Machen had a pivotal role in the deposition process, breaking down the star witness, District Attorney Calvin Beckett. Beckett is unapologetically bigoted. This fact showed and the plaintiffs won the civil case as Ms. Roberts criminal charges were dropped.

The Coast Guard’s lawyers filed a motion to close my November 10 hearing to family, friends, press and public. The appellate issue-at-hand has never been addressed in an open court. The press was shut out during that part of the court-martial, again at the Coast Guard’s Court of Appeals. When I received word that Wilmer Hale’s reply to the government’s motion was almost completely successful (see note) in quashing their attempt, I just smiled. Is this a little taste of what it feels like? With the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces’ decision to unseal my file (and civil case), my confidence in the idealism of an impartial court has grown. It leads me to believe that maybe, the truth will be known.

NOTE: RADM James Van Sice’s testimony to VADM Robert Papp has been removed from the appendix

October 31st, 2009 Posted by | 100 posts in 100 days | no comments

Coast Guard Academy to look like USAFA, West Point and Annapolis

Bill Would Require Nominations at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy

Bill OK’d to Boost Number of Blacks at Coast Guard School

Diversity is coming to the Coast Guard Academy and Congress will now determine who shows up on indoctrination day. I suppose Congress was tired of excuses and failed initiatives. People have left vitriolic comments on several forums and questioned the direction of the Coast Guard Academy. Some comments have insenuated that there was not a problem with 2.5% African-American enrollment, even though Annapolis, West Point, Air Force have matriculated a far greater percentage of black officers.

When the Associated Press contacted Wilmer Hale, LLP and me, asking for my opinion on the Coast Guard Academy diversity issue, I chose to decline. I recommended that they contact Captain Roderick Walker, my father or Edward Richards. Captain Walker is one of the three black 0-6′s in the Coast Guard; he was denied the Admissions Director position at the Coast Guard Academy.  With the recruiting problems that the Coast Guard Academy has, Captain Walker would have been perfect for the role.  He knows what it takes to graduate from the Academy and he overcame much adversity to do so. He would have opened the doors to potential cadets that instead, choose the D.O.D. academies and Ivy League institutions.


Like the change that we see in Washington, this will surely become a vitriolic topic of discussion at and around the New England College (see 10/24 comment on sidebar).  Then again, I don’t see why Congress voted to intervene in the first place. I mean, there is a black regimental commander. Over four years ago, the MOST QUALIFIED cadet at the academy had to scratch and claw her way to a conditional appointment and then wait a year at the New Mexico Military Institute before being considered as intellectually competent as her classmates. Preparatory schools like New Mexico Military Institute prepares individuals who would have difficulty graduating without that year of preparation. Who would have known that the CGA minority recruiting program would transform one of the least prepared applicants to the class of 2009 into the most qualified cadet in the class of 2010. Perhaps more qualified black cadets would accept appointments if they didnt always have to spend a year in Roswell, New Mexico prior to commencing four years of CGA training and education.  I’d be willing to bet that Congress will find them; next year’s retention rates will reflect their success.

October 24th, 2009 Posted by | 100 posts in 100 days | no comments

20 Days: “Still I rise”

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did 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 back yard.

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.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
And so, naturally….
There I go, rising.

Maya Angelou

October 21st, 2009 Posted by | 100 posts in 100 days | one comment

Justice: How does it feel?

When I was a boy, law was to justice what an unbloomed tulip was to beauty. Beauty was always the outcome, time was the only variant.

When I was in college, early on, I saw justice to be a privilege seldom earned by the seeker, unless found by he who scratched, clawed and valliantly fought.

When I grew a little older, I viewed justice much the same way a thirsty, deserted man saw his mirage. Relief was not as close as it appeared. Make it out of the desert alive and the thirsty man will find the nourishment that consumed his dreams.

Now I see justice for what it really is but wisdom tells me that it will likely change with life’s current. Justice is fleeting but worth the marathon. The more who know justice, the greater their empathy, the better our lawyers, the more benevolent the system.

Justice can be won, but not truly had by a lawyer. Advocates, activists and idealists say that they seek justice but more likely, they seek glory. For no man knows what justice is until he has lost its grip and lived to find it trolling in a vast sea. There are men who know what it is and see my words as premature, selfish rhetoric. They say amongst themselves,

“This young man knows no such thing as justice. He can’t even imagine it. Only we know justice and until another fishes their own of that vast incalculable sea, Justice is known by just us.”

I just wonder how it feels. And I wonder if I’ll ever know.

-WM Smith

October 5th, 2009 Posted by | 100 posts in 100 days | no comments

Pennsylvania Ave?