OUR READERS WRITE Observer readers are typically opinionated sorts, and in this “journal of free voices” we are pleased to give them their say. Following are three strongly held views from Observer readers who are also engaging writers. On Barring Barristers By Scott Nelson Kilgore “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” WITH WHAT COULD BE an historic special session of the Legislature looming ahead, it is only natural to discuss and analyze the policy matters that will be under consideration. Education is the issue, and rightly so. Nevertheless, it is worth pausing before the fury begins to consider flaws in the government itself. And we have some dandies in the Texas legislature. I suggest, quite simply, that we do something Scott Nelson teaches government at Kilgore College. about one of these, namely the incestuous relationship between the legal profession and lawmakers in Austin. Few people are aware that legislators who happen to be attorneys are given special treatment in the courts back home while they represent their districts in the Capitol. They are routinely granted ceedings in which they are involved of thirty days before and after the 140-day biennial session. Understandable you can’t be in two places at one time. But the net effect is that it is in the interest of the seek legislators as counsel to retard the wheels of justice. Such complaints would be of minuscule importance if it weren’t for the fact that there are so many lawyerlegislators available. Furthermore, it is only a symptom of a larger ailment, with a remedy that is rarely taken seriously. Texas has more lawyers per capita and more lawyers in the legislature than almost all other states, and when one examines the judicial processes of Texas, or almost any other American jurisdiction for that matter, a sad conclusion is inescapable: the system is designed for and by attorneys rather than citizens and taxpayers. There is no organized “conspiracy” at work, in the sense of a cabalic cartel stacking the legal cards for pure greed. What does exist, however, is perhaps the natural result of asking lawyers to design rules of justice in which they are to be the major players. It resembles asking the people at the Tobacco Institute if cigarettes are bad for you. If lawyer-legislators are the problem, then what is the solution? In Texas, we have an interesting “loophole” in the Constitution that even Racehorse Haynes could appreciate. Article II states in no uncertain terms that people in one branch of the government are not to be a part of another branch. The crucial passage is this: “No person, or collection of persons, being of one of these departments \(i.e., exercise any power properly attached to either of the others . . .” The framers were merely distilling a principle of separation of powers as old as Montesquieu and firmly rooted in any valid notion of constitutional democracy. One only needs to show that lawyers are a part of the judicial branch in order to conclude that they are constitutionally ineligible to serve as lawmakers. Enter the State Bar, which supervises the licensing of attorneys and installs them as officers of the court. To quote from one of their own pam phlets, the Bar “is an administrative agency of the Judicial Department of the State of Texas, and its Lion with her own dull daily reality. She tries to fill the emptiness with the accoutrements of middle-class young professional New York: homemade pasta and pesto, the restoration of fashionable old farmhouses, trips to Europe, brief loveless affairs. She fails. Or he fails it’s still the same character. Even when she/he performs some decisive bitchy action like destroying an ex-husband’s new lover’s old necklace, it doesn’t matter. I just don’t care. There’s nothing in the story in the whole book to make me care. Furman’s stories offer none of the things I read and love short stories for: there is no revelation, no growth, no understanding, no vision except perhaps the vision of a world which grants none of these. But who needs fiction to see that world? Please don’t misunderstand me I’m not demanding glorious epiphanies; an ironic hint will do. With one exception, I’ve failed to find it. Only the Houston story “Eldorado,” published in the first collection and reprinted in the currently ubiquitous Her Work, sticks with me, not only, I like to think, because it’s set in Houston, but because something changes. Mrs. Jefferson’s life will remain the same she’ll continue to live in a Houston condominium, to work in the dress department at Battelstein’s, to miss her dead husband and her busy daughter but everything is different too, because she’s had that glimpse of understanding that makes her story worth telling and reading. I’m being unusually hard on an unassuming little collection of stories, I realize the fruits of disappointment. I suppose I can make a small concession: maybe, just maybe, one of these stories encountered alone in a single issue of Mademoiselle or Fiction would be haunting, disturbing in the right way. But a whole series of them is only tedious. I get the feeling that Viking discovered just a little bit before Jonathan Yardley that the short story isn’t dead at all, that a pretty sizable group of loyal readers is willing to pay $15 a shot for a slim, fashionable volume of the latest in short fiction. I expect that some of them will be thoroughly satisfied with Furman’s latest book. As far as I’m concerned, Laura Furman moved to Houston just in time. I hope The Shadow Line is the first in a long string of fine Houston books; I can’t help hoping Watch Time Fly is the last in a long enough string of New York books. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17 4,.1***IPWAIVOIWAk ft0 40,Orktne..or k i 4.4iritetAmA.Pot4 ‘..sierstoew 41.1.Aftr , ,,iftwalswe*reaN.~0* -..1.,
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