Monday, July 20, 2015

Missouri Hospitality: Great Lawyers

St. Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” The same goes for law. This past week I travelled to Missouri to speak at their annual DWI conference. It was held at the Tan Tar A Resort in Osage Beach, Missouri. On top of work, I spent weeks in advance preparing my talk entitled “DWI Defense- Texas Style.” Little did I know, I would be the one be learning. The Missouri lawyers were so hospitable even providing me with two of their kind lawyers personally taking time out of their schedule to provide me with rides to and from the airport (a two hour drive!) Their magnanimity was sweeping. If I wasn’t in my room fine tuning the speech, it was only to sleep and shower. They graciously hosted me to dinners, happy hours, late night parties. They even invited me to swim (they have a slide at their big pool). Travis Noble, one of the state’s most respected DWI lawyers approached me with a big bag of cigars informing me he knew of my taste for repose (had never met him before).  I got to enjoy the inspiriting company of one of Missouri’s most well respected Supreme Court Justices as well as a top appellate judge over smiles and cocktails. They regaled me with scintillating  stories and quick-witted humor. The congeniality in the “show me” state was exemplary and warmed my heart.
Amidst such hospitality, I was able to learn about Missouri law. What gems of justice they possess ! If a person has not been convicted in ten years, they can apply for an expunction that will wipe their previous conviction clean.  They have “SIS” which is a probation that applies to DWIs in which no conviction results. I met Denise Carter, a practicing Missouri lawyer who is also licensed to practice law as an advanced solicitor advocate in Great Britain. She explained to me how in Great Britain the police are not allowed to give opinions. They can just state facts. Their Not Guilty verdicts are viewed and argued differently. An acquittal in Great Britain is when they avoid an “unsafe conviction.”  Learning from these differing perspectives expanded my creative pools. This is the pinpointed type of progressive logic needed to combat the illogical “tough on crime” cultural milieu expected in Texas courtrooms. Particularly impressionable on judges and jurors is the concern for a safe community, but true democracy cannot be attained unless one is just as diligent in avoiding “unsafe convictions.” It is always an honor for me to be invited to speak to other lawyers; however, I have learned that unless you spend the time to meet, learn about and truly care for the people, it is a shallow venture. 
So thank you Missouri for your open hearts, time and red carpet hosting right down to the parting succulent breakfast buffet in the company of the sweet moderator and DWI lawyer Denise Childress and young public defender Judson Wall. I have to say that the dinner with O.J. Simpson lawyer F. Lee Bailey was an added bonus enjoyed inimitably, much less in the congenial atmosphere of one of Missouri’s top DWI officers. The camaraderie shared amongst all the players in the criminal justice system regardless of hats worn was uplifting. So to St. Augustine I say, “Page by page study with fervor, the most interesting chapters are sometimes better than the whole book.” Missouri, you are one hell of a chapter.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Private Lawyer Versus a Public Defender

THE law entitles a citizen accused to a public defender if they are indigent. Indigent would be defined as receiving government assistance for subsistence (unemployment, food stamps, and public housing). The courts require proof of this and to receive a public defender without financially qualifying is a theft offense, which is a crime of moral turpitude and serious. Most people think that a public defender is free to them. It is not. Although the taxpayers pay for this legal service (some counties have a public defender’s office- others use a wheel court appointment system), it is not free to the citizen accused. The law allows the court to order the defendant to pay back the services (at a much discounted rate) back as a condition of the plea or sentence. If it is a dismissal, the judge can order these fees paid back (proof) before the dismissal is signed. The court appointment system does not amount to getting a “free lawyer.”

People in prison make the distinction of “free world” lawyers versus court appointed lawyers. If you ask anyone in prison to share the horror stories of public defenders, undoubtedly you will hear stories of how the public defender “works with the system” (and not for you). Although this is not true, the perception remains. Do judges prefer to use court appointed lawyers and public defenders that plead cases to lessen their dockets? Although this is not always true, once again the perception remains. So what is the difference between a court appointed lawyer and one that is privately retained?

The fact is most public defenders are not specialized in one particular aspect of criminal law (DWI, for example). A public defender’s workload is generally heavy and it is a fact that they make less per case than a privately retained one. Does this translate into getting lesser service or results? Not necessarily. But training, resources, and specialization are very important considerations to factor into choosing representation.

The Coffey Firm associates and I purposely do not take court appointments. We do not feel that it is fair to unduly burden ourselves with our resources when we have retained clients that are paying for our time, attention and reputation. In addition, we provide physical facilities and ample staff to accommodate our clients and their needs during normal working hours. Being available for our clients is part of the fee they pay us for, versus getting paid a court appearance, which is typical for a court appointed lawyer. Court appointed lawyers must fight to get paid for non-court time and often are not compensated fairly for such. This is not a problem with privately retained lawyers. Court appointed lawyers also do not have the resources available for top continued legal education (for example, expensive specialized seminars). Often it is this difference in training which results in drastically different results given the same set of facts.

Much like in the field of medicine or taking your car for repairs at a shop that specializes in that brand of car or car repair, court appointed lawyers as a general rule do not hold the level of knowledge or specialization in a particular field which can make all the difference in a case result. It is vital that our courts continue to appoint lawyers to the indigent who cannot afford specialized retained counsel; however, it is just as important for the public to understand the distinct disadvantages of such.

Knowledge is power. Lawyers are not “one size fits all.” Court appointed lawyers are critical in democracy to uphold the rights and protections of those who cannot afford to defend themselves, but this does guarantee they will get the best representation or even have a say in who is appointed (courts determine this). My personal favorite quote on hiring lawyers is by Red Adair, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

College Letter to My Son Spencer Crawford

Yesterday the Ivy League schools announced their acceptances. Tens of thousands of students like my son anxiously awaited by their computers at the magic hour of 4 pm east coast time to log into their portals. I have dreamt my whole life of this moment.   I have worked hard, survived two divorces raising four kids, built a specialty law firm from the ground up expanding to two offices in two cities and three counties, spent countless of hours giving back to my industry and justice by unpaid volunteer work speaking and educating others across the country in my field, all while trying to balance being the best possible mom I could be. We all want the best for our kids. We all think that we are responsible for them, and then one day we wake up and realize we are wrong. We are privileged guests in witnessing the amazing life they create.

Spencer grew up in the midst of challenges. He has no memory of his father ever living with him as we were divorced when he was two. He embraced a stepfather, who after ten years, left in a text message never to return. As the youngest of three brothers, he learned to be tough. He had to be, as his oldest brother was an offensive lineman and currently a two time world champion UT quidditch player. He grew up nurturing a younger sister, watching over her like a protective brother would, whose father had left. He learned to be resourceful, as half the week was spent with his grandmother watching over him due to my work and living in two cities. He never cowered as his older brothers always attracted the spotlight due to their overriding achievements. Kiki, the oldest, was the high school drum major after playing football his freshman year and the valedictorian. Sparky, his middle brother, was the star varsity tennis player and the salutatorian. He is reminded of these facts every day of his high school career as he walks to class past the "Wall of Honor" with pictures of valedictorians and salutatorians since the schools' inception in the 1950s, to include mine as the salutatorian in 1987. No small feat for a large public high school of west Fort Worth with a present graduating class of near 400.  Of worthy mention, out of all my children, I have never seen him lose his temper once. Not even when Sparky broke his prized ping pong racket that was made  by a German ping pong champion. He curtly announced, "I'm going to spend the night at Coop's house" and returned the next day. This young boy grew up to be a champion, not only of character, but in every way.

His senior class voted him the highest honor, "Mr. Brewer High School". He was also voted Homecoming King. These past 4 years he has served in the student council. This year he was voted both Student Council and National Honor Society President. He was the JV football quarterback, and played varsity tennis (placing in several tournaments), as well as varsity basketball.  The Davey O' Brien Foundation honored him as one of the top 5 student/athletes in all of north Texas awarding him a $2500 finalist scholarship. For the White Settlement Independent School District (WSISD) kindness week, where each school selected its best representative of kindness and charity towards others, he was chosen
to represent the high school and was honored on the football field in a balloon releasing ceremony. True to his perfect 800 math SAT score, he has won several area math tournaments (his picture in the local Bomber News). On standardized testing, he is one point away from perfect on the ACT and superscored (best of all his scores) 30 points from perfect on his combined reading and math  SAT.

It's not just his outer accomplishments, which reads like a Bill Clinton (an idol of his)  high school resume, it is his character. Despite heavy courseloads of AP classes, he spends his precious spare time attending games and functions he is not a part of  like soccer, volleyball and baseball, to support the teams. But it's not just the traditional. Having a passion for basketball and being concerned with a public high school's limited budget, he envisioned a new basketball college-style locker room and made it happen. He raised over $5k alone, and arranged for further fundraisers and the coordination of professionals and suppliers to make it happen. Today, it exists as the finest high school basketball locker room in all of the metroplex. Growing up spending his summers at Camp Stewart for Boys, he spent 2 summers as an LT (counselor in training) and last summer gave back as a full fledged counselor.

As a mother, it is the stories of him giving up his special seats at a Dallas Mavericks game to someone who could not otherwise attend at a school function  that warm my heart. He is so open hearted that when this year's German foreign exchange student needed a home to live in because the host family did not work out, he volunteered ours and has been spending his senior year being a great host brother.

So this brings me to yesterday. He and I toured the Harvard campus twice. We also made a special visit to Stanford. In addition, we made special trips to New York City (Columbia) and Philadelphia (Penn). He cherished these experiences and the chance to broaden his outlook. Despite a recent Huffington Post article referring to the trend of ivy league schools focusing on students specialized in one area (a trapeze artist example was given) and the overwhelming advantage of being a female or  minority (40% of most ivy league schools' student body), we still held out hope that a Caucasian, well rounded leader who  met and exceeded all the academic thresholds still had a shot. Stanford and Harvard declined. Penn and Columbia waitlisted him. University of Texas accepted him months ago (the new Harvard of the South, only accepting the top 7%).

I was crushed when I saw his fingers on the mouse as he breathlessly awaited his last school portal: Columbia. With everyone checking at once from a pool of over thirty four thousand students, the server was overwhelmed. A screen flashed momentarily (in which he thought he read acceptance by mistake) only to have the wait list message appear.  I had prepared for this moment. No one school or a slew of ivy leagues was going to crush his spirit.  I told him there would be a surprise. I had arranged at 4:30 (once he got his results) for him to receive a flight lesson. We littered our yard with signs like "The Sky is the Limit"and drove him unknowingly to Meacham field. He was all smiles. The skies gave him a taste and reminder of always reaching high and that anything is possible.

                                       (Willy, our German exchange student and Spencer)

Spencer, this is my letter to you. I can't possibly be more proud of you.  There is not anything more you could have possibly done to increase your odds. You are an amazing leader, and much more importantly a fine young man of the most noble character.  No school, no one person, event or act can control your fate. These ivy league schools have a history and tradition that makes our country proud. I thank them with much respect for their consideration of you. As our country ages; however, we are proving by the numbers, that the highest levels of success are being obtained outside the ivy leagues. Out of the top Fortune 500 company CEOs, only one came from an ivy. I have found at the courthouse, it is the scrappers, much like in any business, that are making the most lasting impressions and contributions to society regardless of where they went to school. Embarassingly as a sidenote, it was Harvard's President Larry Summers who only a few years ago, declared that women and girls were not as good at math and science. The number of Rhodes Scholars from other (non ivy) universities is growing (28 alone from UT) and taking command.

Spencer, you already possess all the attributes that matter. Whatever school gets you will be blessed. Remember when you fell down and busted your chin at the State Fair (pic below) ? Do like you always do and pick yourself right back up, flash that million dollar smile, and forge ahead. Do the best you can wherever you go. And as a sidenote, just know that  Dallas-Fort Worth loves electing Longhorns to Congress if you find that in your path.  I love you so much. Mom

Thursday, March 19, 2015

DWI Asleep & Parked in Your Car

You decide you have had too much, and you feel the right thing to do is pull over and sleep it off. Is this a DWI? According to a Tarrant County judge in a bench trial in case number 1366316, decided on February 12, 2015- yes it is. Do I respectfully disagree with the decision? Yes.

Here are the facts: my guy (Mr. "H") was asleep in his legally parked car at a QuikTrip in Keller, Texas. No one saw him drive. No one called the police on him. The QuikTrip attendant had no idea as to how long he had been there, but it had been "a while." The seat was in recline with Mr. H fast asleep. After waking him up, the police interrogation went like this:

Mr. H:    "I personally think I did the best thing."
Cop:       "What's the best thing?"
Mr. H:    "Where I'm at right now."
Cop:       "Which is what?"
Mr. H:    "Well, it damn sure ain't drinking, damn sure ain't pulling somebody over and hitting 'em head on collision, right? You're really going to take me to jail for DWI?"

In Texas, DWI stands for intoxication "while operating a motor vehicle." Funny thing is, the Texas Penal Code does not define "operate a motor vehicle"- the juries and judge get to decide. The Court of Criminal Appeals (highest Texas criminal court) has laid out the parameters of the definition in Denton v. State (911 S.W.2d 388): "The totality of the circumstances must demonstrate that the defendant took action to affect the functioning of his vehicle in a manner that would enable the vehicle's use." There are a few cases where the appellate courts use common sense and hold the following:

Texas DPS v. Allocca (301 S.W.3d 364, Tex. App. -Austin 2009):
Asleep with the seat in recline and vehicle in park although running is not operation

Murray v. State (07-13-00356-CR, Tex. App. - Amarillo 2014):
Asleep, truck parked off the roadway although running with no evidence as to how long the driver was there is not operation

The issue of admission to the act of operating a motor vehicle is a legal one. Under corpus delecti, the law requires additional evidence beyond the defendant's admission. This is a basic safeguard in our law. This prevents a conviction based on accusation alone or a confession. The premise is to prevent a false conviction based on a false accusation, forced confession or false confession. Whether or not the admission is true is not sufficient in and of itself to provide the corpus or "all" of the evidence. There must be more. A driver, such as Mr. H, cannot legally provide all the evidence to his own conviction (here the issue of operation).

So what is the big picture? Napoleon once remarked, "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Gaining as many DWI convictions as possible is good for campaign statistics to pander to the "tough on crime" voters and insatiable members of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers who are influential in drafting DWI legislation). It makes no logical sense to convict someone of DWI when the evidence is a parked car showing no evidence of intent for movement (e.g. flickering brake lights, vehicle in gear). Is the State of Texas so desperate for the $3-6k DWI surcharges that accompany each DWI conviction, that it is willing to convict people who are not even legally operating their vehicle? There are currently 1.3 million Texas drivers who do not have valid insurance because they are a part of the 60% who can't afford the $1.7 billion Texas DPS surcharge.
Sure, in a perfect world no one would drive while intoxicated. The argument that one should not drive while intoxicated to begin with does not negate that is responsible and logical to pull over in a safe place and sleep it off when one finds one's self intoxicated. To do otherwise, is to risk harm to one's self and others. Shame on the society which would rather argue semantics for financial and statistical gain over being concerned about others' welfare. A simple fix since the law is not defined?

Operation should be "causing a vehicle to function in the manner in which it was intended to function." Who buys a vehicle to use as a motel room? If the law is not fixed, every running RV parked at Nascar or a camping ground with alcohol involved is a possible DWI. It is time for some common sense in our court system when it comes to DWI. Long overdue.

Do you want to know who is a DWI hypocrite? Someone who wants DWI enforcement to "keep the streets safe" yet at the same time would rather have a DWI conviction opposed to actually keeping the streets safe. Society is better off and lives will be saved if people who are driving while intoxicated will pull off the road and do the right thing. The only way we can do this is not convict people who are doing the right thing in these circumstances. Shame on illogical law enforcement decisions.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

An Open Letter

To all my past, present and future clients, and for anyone who is curious:

If you ever wanted a nutshell version of "DWI at Night, Coffey in the Morning" here you are straight from the source. I have practiced law for 19 years. This defines who I am. At the age of 12, my father encouraged me to be a lawyer after helping me write and practice a Student Council Treasurer campaign speech (I ended the speech, "Vote Me Me for You You" and won, so it's true I come by my marketing quite honestly).

In my wildest dreams, I never could have fathomed how much injustice there was in the world of criminal law, particularly DWI. As a new lawyer, I heard about the National College of DUI Defense or NCDD (celebrating its 20th anniversary this year) training held at Harvard every July. I went to it and my world was lit on fire.

It was shocking to find out how inaccurate breath testing was; how the National Highway Safety Administration skewed statistics and conducted experiments that don't meet scientific parameters in developing the standardized field sobriety tests which every year falsely convicts so many people. Also, how forensics did not include the reporting of uncertainty (just now coming to light but still not mandated for breath testing) among other glaring red flags despite people's liberties and lives at stake.

I delved into research, publishing, speaking, and became board certified all in an attempt to learn and help as many people as I could, including lawyers. The NCDD asked me 3 years ago to become Regent. This is an unpaid, serious 13 year commitment that involves a mandatory 4 seminars every year. On top of this, there are mandatory Board meetings, workshops, and other pressing time commitments. I accepted this position without flinching. I have sacrificed many family vacations (being a busy trial lawyer these commitments take up the majority of my free time I have every year), time away from my family, and important events and dates in my personal life to carry out this commitment for a full 13 year term. When I accepted, my oldest was going off to college and my youngest was in the 5th grade. Sure, it is painful missing college events and sacrificing family vacations as they age in critical years, but it is an honor to be able to effect change for the betterment of humanity. It allows me to help others positively (outside my own clients) across the country.

Since becoming a Regent, I started a forensics committee. We have plans to send a metrology expert on mathematical uncertainty to the National Forensic Commission committee hearings so that the public interest can be represented. I hope one day to see breath testing reported in uncertainty units. I am proud of all the work I am able to accomplish with and through the NCDD for the greater good of our country when it comes to fairness. We not only put on excellent educational seminars for lawyers, but we hold numerous training sessions for public defenders across the country at no cost to them. This is an important necessity as most public defenders offices have deficient budgets. I have taken it upon myself to show appreciation and inspire my fellow defense lawyer colleagues by showcasing special and accomplished members with a "Member in the Spotlight" segment sent out to all 1500+ of our membership, as well as to educate the public on what leaders DWI defense lawyers are in their communities. In addition, I take great pride in educating our members and the public on justice related issues through my blogs (both NCDD and otherwise) and social media. This influences prosecutors, judges, jurors, and voters all for the betterment of humanity as we seek justice for all.

This defines me. Not just my words, not my marketing, not my certifications or education, but what I do. Just as our fellow Americans sacrificed family and their personal lives to fight for the founding of our country and serve in important positions as Founding Fathers. I view it as an honor to give and sacrifice with my talents to keep their vision of fairness and constitutional protections alive. Whatever contributions I can give, I view it as my duty to do so and practice doing so. My four children and family understand. How can I expect them to give their best and make the world a better place if I don't sacrifice? So sacrifice I do! It is a very good word to describe me.

So the next time, you drive by my billboard or hear some crazy rumor that is normally a product of someones jealousies or inadequacies, just look at my work. I was chosen a Regent because the leadership of NCDD and its Founders saw the truth, I work hard, and sacrifice to do the right things. You can't get to my position unless you have earned it the good old fashioned way. You can't stay at my level unless you are made of the right stuff. You can't effect change unless you are a leader. Thank you NCDD for choosing me to lead and lead I shall.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mimi Coffey's New Year's Eve Formula

Yes, it's that time of year- where everyone wants to party on New Year's Eve but fears a DWI. If I wasn't a DWI lawyer, I would not know what to do, so in that spirit here are my tips based on 19 years of experience. Please be advised that different states have different laws and if you are on probation, these tips don't apply as most probations condition you fully cooperate with a DWI investigation. If you are in Texas and NOT on DWI probation, take heed. First I would like to add, that the best thing is to try to avoid putting yourself in this situation. I highly advise UBER, a cab, or a designated driver. Speaking of which, if you TRULY have not consumed too much make sure you have a portable breath test device (you can buy them in the automotive section of Walmart) in your car. Blow into it if you get pulled over, show the cop. It is one of the smartest ways of avoiding being arrested. I have a fellow Regent in the NCDD who did this. No cop wants to realistically take a .04 to the station. If you do get pulled over here are the basics:


1. You don't have to answer questions. You do have to provide drivers license, registration, insurance and step out of the car when asked.  THINK HIGH SCHOOL GOVERNMENT: REMAIN SILENT. Tell the cop "I would like to decline all questions." I would recommend you wish the public servant a "Happy New Year!"

2. You don't have to do ANY tests. Yes, they may arrest you but that does not mean you are guilty. The law is PROOF beyond a REASONABLE DOUBT. You are not obligated by law to provide ANY evidence.  The field tests are not scientific and they are designed for you to fail (much published, including the HGN). Unless you can nail them, I would not advise you do them.

3. The cop chooses breath, blood or a urine test.  If you have had one 12 ounce normal beer within the hour ONLY, you are pretty safe to blow otherwise know that there are many issues with the breath test recognized by courts that may affect you (temperature, the length of blow, etc.). If you cooperate, you have a right to your own independent blood test. Remember on most holidays, if you refuse they will get a warrant for your blood. You have the right to ask if they are going to get a warrant and to be shown the warrant.With that being said, here are some additional tips with the caveat that the best thing to do is to avoid getting in the situation as there is much grief to a DWI even if you are ultimately exonerated.

Things to DO:

1. Throw away all open containers (They are illegal anyway).  If you bring alcohol to a gathering (yes, even that expensive bottle of Johnny Walker Blue) LEAVE IT there. Throw away all empty containers. Yes, those empties from last weekend will be used against you...

2.  Leave the breath mints, tongue strips, and mouthwash at home. As crazy as this seems, most DWI cops will try to say you were "attempting to mask the odor" of alcohol.

3. Take pictures of your receipts and email them to yourself. This is your private business. Throw the real receipts away. Cops often don't return them or show up the day of trial with them. If you try to explain the receipt, it won't help prevent you from getting arrested, no matter how many people were on the tab.

4. Lock your phone with a passcode. Don't tell the officer your passcode. Even though the courts have ruled cops need a warrant to go through your phone, don't tempt fate. I have had cases where pictures of text screens were a part of the police report. Keep some numbers handy in your wallet or purse written down for "in case of emergency" so you can bond out or you may find yourself in jail a long time (some cops will graciously let you use your phone, but not all).

5. Tell your friends not to text you until later the next day. If you are arrested your phone will be in police custody. Nothing like "crazy time last night" popping up as a text as you are getting booked in. You want to value your privacy.

6. Keep your mouth closed. There are cameras in the squad cars. I can't tell you how many cases are destroyed due to unwise comments made while handcuffed in the back of a squad car. Yes, you are being taped even when you are alone! Don't fall asleep. Sure, it's late but I promise you some prosecutor will say you were "passed out" due to drinking.

7. Do not bring medications with you! Cops give DWIs on medication now, even if it is prescribed and you are taking it according to proper dosages. Some prosecutors could care less about the meaning of a "therapeutic level".  When asked if you are taking medications, you have the right to politely decline all such questions. YES, YOU CAN GET A DWI EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE NOT BEEN DRINKING AND ARE JUST ON MEDS.

8. If you got pulled over for a nonexistent traffic stop, make sure to politely ask the cop why you are being pulled over and state in nice terms how you disagree (this will get you a probable cause jury charge). Sadly, many cops will turn down the volume during this stage, so make sure to ask if you are being recorded as you can file a complaint later if they pull this one on you. Destroying evidence is serious business.

9. If you do the responsible thing and pull over- make sure it is in a parking lot and turn the car OFF. Turn off all lights and TAKE THE KEYS OUT OF THE IGNITION. The best thing to do is to hop in the back seat. Some (not all, thank God) judges will find you guilty even if it is only to have the heater on. Keep a blanket in your car. The law does not define "operation" hence the issues making each case circumstantial.

10. Be friendly and nice to the police officer but leave it at that. No need to start apologizing and start giving confessions. It won't change the arrest decision I assure you.

10+. Once in a blue moon (very blue moon, call it turquoise), a cop will ask if you have someone that can get there to get you in 10 minutes. Always try to keep an arrangement of this sort handy (yes, tell grandpa to keep the ringer on the night you go out). I'm always pained to see these rare instances of not having anyone end up in my office.

Big NO NOs:

1. If you have been drinking don't deny it. It's a cop's number one pet peeve. Regardless of how sober you are, he will take you in. You might as well have called his mother stupid- denying drinking just means the fight is on.  Remember to politely decline to answer all such questions as to how much or what you have had.

2. Whatever you do, don't say "I couldn't do these tests even if I were sober!" If that phrase pops up in your mind, don't even think about doing the tests.

3. Don't mention if you know a cop or have a family member that is a cop. Juries hate name dropping and with most cops, it won't do a lick of good. Some cops live to arrest other cops. Yes, sadly this is what differentiates DWI cops from the others too often...

4. If you refuse a specimen test and they get a warrant, don't fight it after they have shown you the warrant (which you have a legal right to ask). Resisting will get you another charge.

5. Don't get in fights at bars, I promise you - you will get pulled over for a DWI as they will be looking for you.

6. Don't get rowdy in bars- same deal. See above. Bartenders don't like to call on patrons, but believe me THEY WILL and DO.

7. If you are refused service at a 24 hour restaurant or drive through- park your car and start walking. I assure you the cops are on their way. Be sure to be polite when refused service. Arrange for someone to pick you up somewhere. Take yourself off the obvious path.

8. If you have an accident, pull over and do the right thing. Running from it will get you two charges with failing to stop at the scene of an accident being a more serious charge, one involving a crime of moral turpitude.

9. If you know you are going out drinking, leave your favorite beer shirts and other such loud non judge and jury friendly attire at home.

10. Don't challenge the cop to do the field sobriety tests (yes, they only do a measly partial demonstration compared to you). They have practiced them a gazillion times, trust me. You won't get what you are looking for.

10+. Whatever you do, don't tell the cop "I'll see you in court." You have just lost your license buddy. Some of the compassionate cops knowing the DWI will kill ya, may let you slide on the license hearing out of benevolence, plus juries don't like an ass. Please know that there is a wide political spectrum of opinions and powerful lobbies when it comes to social drinking. No one wants anyone hurt or killed on the road, but unfortunately there are plenty who don't mind responsible social drinkers getting persecuted. You don't want to be on any side of it where it involves handcuffs and your life.

Have a safe and happy new year from all of us at the Coffey Firm.  Happy 2015! May it be filled with happiness, good health and good cheer!

-Mimi Coffey, Sr.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jury Misconduct

The Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest court in Texas) rendered that a rushed juror who regretted his decision and cooperated with the defense in a motion for new trial is not good enough evidence to overturn a verdict. In Colyer v. State, 428 S.W. 3d, 117 (2014), the jury foreperson testified that his verdict was not a true verdict because he was rushed into judgment. He detailed that the late time of day, distance to the parking lot, approaching inclement weather, and amount of time it took for the Judge to respond to the jury’s notes, caused him to rush to a guilty verdict that he later regretted. He meticulously described how he received an emergency phone call from a doctor regarding his daughter. After this, and worried about her serious condition, he stopped deliberating. He hurriedly rushed the other jurors to judgment, agreeing with them without forming his own true opinion. This information later came to the court's attention. The defense made a proper motion for new trial. The trial judge denied it. (Why would the trial court want to reclog the docket?) The appellate court granted it based on juror misconduct, only to have it finally reversed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The purpose of appellate courts is to right wrongs. This is clearly a miscarriage of justice. Trial stats and judicial efficiency do not justify injustice. This decision makes very clear that Texans cannot always rely on appellate courts to do the right thing. Having a new trial with a jury who is committed under oath to fairly and impartially deliberate is the law. There is no way to substantiate a forced and hurried verdict to make it legally proper, whether it ultimately turns out to be guilty or not guilty. Who will ever know in this case- without the defendant getting a new trial with a jury who renders an unbiased verdict based on the law and evidence, not “outside influences”? For the highest court to take it upon themselves to determine what is fair and just without hearing all the evidence, which is not their job, is a misappropriation of the appellate court’s role. It demonstrates that a guilty conviction and judicial expediency is prized more in the system over a citizen’s right to a fair day in court.

Clearly this was jury misconduct. People make mistakes. Honest people of courage admit them and correct the situation. Kudos to this jury foreperson. He did the right thing in honestly admitting his misconduct to ensure the defendant would get a fair, new trial. The highest criminal court in Texas is wrong. This may have just been another ’run of the mill’ DWI case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but this was this citizen’s life, reputation and denied justice. This erosion of trust and integrity in the system provides yet another reason why judges should not be elected. Texas needs to realign with states like Missouri, whose judges are peer reviewed chosen followed by retention elections. There desperately needs to be some measures which ensure qualifications of proficiency of the law, coupled with a proper judicial temperament analysis by those in the know, such as bar panels, to qualify judges for the bench.

Being a judge is one of society’s most instrumentally important jobs for democracy to flourish. When one judge (the jury foreperson) admits a mistake, it is time for the other judges to fix it. That is their job, not their choice. Lesson to all: it is a sad day in America when someone’s personal life and agenda determines another’s fate. It is an even sadder day when the courts won't do their job to fix it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

If You Drink Alcohol, You Should Read This- They Will Get a Warrant for Your Blood and Then.....

The Texas Department of Public Safety laboratory in Houston was responsible for thousands of botched results (some completely fraudulent) because of lab analyst Jonathan Salvador. This occurred from 2006-2012. The Texas Forensic Commission got wind of his questionable work and launched an investigation. One of the commissioners in the investigation, Dr. Nizam Peerwani concluded that the Texas Department of Public Safety lab's office "tolerated under-performance". So this was not just a problem from the analyst, but the whole lab shared culpability. Rather than properly address the problems after this scandal in order to improve testing, Texas DPS convinced our legislators to restricting test results in court only to them. Hence, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 38.35 was enacted that restricts test results admitted to court to be limited to those of a lab with the Texas DPS certification. Laboratories like Max Courtney's was shut down immediately. Max Courtney's lab was instrumental in exposing the bad lab problems of Texas DPS. According to Dr. James Booker, an expert witness, the shoddiness and problems of Texas DPS continue unabated. It is just more difficult to see and expose because independent labs can't retest the samples. No lab seeking DPS certification wants to jeopardize it by exposing problems with Texas DPS testing.

One would think that Texas DPS would have fired Jonathan Salvador after his fraudulent work was exposed and District Attorneys across the state were dismissing his cases. They did not. More sickening, a grand jury in May of 2012 refused to indict him despite the Texas Forensic Commission's findings. He finally resigned on his own in August of 2012. What does this state for society? Sometimes there are bad juries, no two ways around it. It's a pipe dream to expect Texas DPS to monitor themselves. We are only jeopardizing and denying due process to those accused of crimes in Texas by limiting forensics to an entity with a proven bad track record. Justice requires truth. Truth requires trust. A lawyer's job is not to trust the government, but the public should have some amount of trust- trust that can't be had in our present framework. It is time for the legislature to amend this problem. There are better labs with higher standards that the people of Texas should be, as a right of law, entitled to.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Judge Chastises Jury After Verdict: Tells Them They Got It Wrong

Ohio Judge Amy Salerno is under heat now for approaching and chastising a jury after they found the defendant (name protected for expunction purposes the defendant may pursue) Not Guilty of Assault and Disorderly Conduct. She told them “99% of the time the jury is correct. Now it’s 98%. You got this wrong.” One juror, feeling berated, burst into tears and another juror requested an escort home for safety reasons as the judge’s outburst was made in the midst of the alleged victim’s agitated family and friends. The judge further went on to state she would have her chance to get the defendant regardless of the jury’s verdict because he had other cases pending in her court (which were later dismissed by the prosecutor).
Here is what is wrong with this picture:
1. The Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges states in Canon 3: A judge shall perform the duties of the office fairly, impartially and diligently. It further states under Canon 3 A (3): A judge should be patient, dignified, respectful, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses and lawyers. The official comment states, “The duty to be respectful includes the responsibility to avoid comment or behavior that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment, prejudice, or bias.” We all have opinions. The difference is the jury’s opinion is all that matters in a court of law. Just because a judge may disagree, this does not open the floodgates of a judge’s first amendment right to free speech. The judge is acting in an official capacity and the ethical rules prohibit a judge from engaging in behavior under the cloak of a robe that disrespects a jury’s verdict in any way. The jury’s verdict is law.

2. The Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges states in Canon 3 C (1) (a): A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned including: the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a part, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding. Clearly, without even hearing the evidence in the defendant’s other cases- which were eventually dismissed, she had formed an opinion of guilt. One cannot make a proper verdict without the evidence. This is law school 101 for judges.

3. The Ohio Supreme Court (whom Judge Amy Salerno answers to) has its own more specific ethical canons. In Canon 3 B (10) it states on point: A judge shall not commend or criticize jurors for their verdict other than in a court order or opinion in a proceeding. This is cut and dry. The appending caveat exists for judges to legally address juror misconduct issues. It certainly is not a license for judicial misconduct.

Thankfully the jurors in this case filed a complaint. The Ohio State Bar has now filed a complaint with the Ohio’s Supreme Court’s disciplinary board. Following the hearings, the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline will determine what if any punishment should occur from removal of the bench to loss of law license. This is more common than people realize and totally unacceptable. Last year it happened in Tarrant County, Texas. After a Not Guilty verdict on a DWI, visiting Judge Jerry D. Ray lashed out at jurors in a diatribe accusing them of deciding to “ignore the law and your oath” comparing the verdict to the O.J. Simpson trial. The presiding juror, an elementary school speech therapist, stated:
“It was horrible. He was horrible. I mean, we were absolutely chastised like children. Like we were total idiots.”

So how does this happen- and why? In all professions, there is a bell curve of performance. The problem is judges don’t answer to bell curves. They are in a unique position, in that their success isn’t measured by the strength of their abilities. This is further complicated by their professional isolation. Once in office, judges are independent. There are no checks or balances. They are rarely disciplined or admonished by state bars or state supreme courts for unethical or inappropriate behavior. As a matter of fact, in Texas the majority of the judicial complaint process is secret. Once they serve a term, they are rarely challenged at the polls due to an incumbent’s edge. A case in point, Judge Amy Salerno was elected in 2005. If she can’t control her temper and impropriety after ten years, the public has no reason to expect her to now or in the future.

As for isolation, you don’t have to learn how to play with the schoolchildren on the playground, or even understand schoolchildren, when you are the playground. It’s called the “God” complex. Lawyers are the first to tell you that a disproportionate amount of Federal judges (appointed for life) suffer this. One of the reasons why it is so rampant is because of how legally insurmountable it has become to have a federal judge impeached and thereby removed. As for accountability, rarely are judges ever reversed on appeal in today’s “tough on crime” world, where so many decisions are politically based. As for performance, judges don’t have to answer to a bell curve. They are the bell curve. For lawyers, those who are good do well. Those who are not, don’t and are forced to contend with the repercussions. Once judges get elected or appointed, they have no measuring scale because there is no need. Judges like Ohio Judge Amy Salerno don’t fear repercussions. They have been groomed to believe they are always right.

Does this apply to everyone? No. Recently, six judges retired from my county serving an aggregate 120+ years. A retirement reception was given by the defense bar in which each judge had the opportunity to make remarks. The old phrase of "we are what we think" gives a truthful window to the soul. What I discovered was the best two judges said basically the same thing. They emphasized kindness and doing things for the right reasons. Unlike Judge Salerno, they would never be caught chastising a jury. Moreover, those were the two (of the lot) that had the best work ethic. The only judge to receive a standing ovation (not one but two) remarked he agreed to serve as a temporary judge when the position came open and the local bar took a vote. That temporary position turned into 39 years and he serves the distinction as Texas’ longest tenured judge, a most beloved one.

These tidbits are insightful in that it makes sense to let lawyers (or those in the know as opposed to a general electorate) have some say in who serves on the bench. Ohio Judge Amy Salerno’s behavior cannot be categorized as a rookie mistake, yet she was reelected this fall despite the Ohio’s Supreme Court’s pending disciplinary case. Our administrative and appellate judges must do better in keeping the judges accountable, lest things spiral out of control like they did for Judge Amy Salerno and Judge Jerry D. Ray. The unacceptable actions of these judges only weaken the public’s confidence in our judicial system. The Judge Amy Salerno YouTube video (above) has her chastising citizens accused before they are convicted. The best judges in my experience are the ones who focus on good just as much as they try to right wrongs. They know people make mistakes. They know encouragement breeds change, hope and positivity. They know when discipline is necessary: “Just a spoonful of sugar, makes the medicine go down... in the most delightful way. “

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Texas Blood Testing: A Racket

First, let me start off with a very important fact that many may not know: for every single DWI conviction in the state of Texas, Texas DPS sends a separate bill (outside of all the fees and punishment in court) called a DWI surcharge that ranges from $3,000 to $6,000 (depends on the type of DWI) to the convicted citizen. They have even tried to do it to people who possess out of state licenses although they don't qualify for the surcharge. Anyone who thinks Texas DPS does not have a financial interest in DWI convictions is sorely mistaken.

My story is just one of many across the state and it is shameful to share. This week I went to court to discuss a ".09" blood test, first time DWI with a prosecutor in Dallas. I explained that my client and I had the blood retested with a better qualified lab, one which is well respected in private industry and whom the federal government uses (Department of Health and Human Services). The result cameASCLD (American Society of of Crime Lab Directors) certification. ASCLD certification is fraught with problems. For example, a "blind audit" is not random at all. These huge deviances from proper standards has caused several states to disassociate with ASCLD, including the U.S. Army. Also on record is ASCLD's continued support of substandard forensic labs despite the reporting of serious lab errors it has failed to take proper corrective action on, some of which have resulted in litigation. The bottom line is that the proper standards of operating guidelines and procedures are necessary. This is seriously lacking in the Texas DPS- ASCLD certification process. To deprive a citizen accused of the right to have their blood independently tested is a ploy to insulate itself from scrutiny while rubber stamping essentially substandard work if one factors in the ASCLD issues versus industry peer review.
back .07. Once you consider a margin of uncertainty of .02, my client's blood ranges from .05 to .11 depending on which sample you rely on. The assistant district attorney told me she would not consider the retest as this lab was not "Texas DPS certified" (which is the law). Most forensic labs in Texas get their state mandated Texas DPS certification by paying the fee and applying for

The new "Michael Morton" discovery law forces DA(s) to hand over all the evidence. A law had to be passed to make this happen. Enacted this past January, previous to this prosecutors willingly withheld evidence that could prove someone not guilty (Michael Morton spent 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit). There is no difference in withholding evidence and denying one the right to have evidence independently tested. It is a farce to create a subterfuge (requiring a "Texas DPS" certification) for the district attorney not to consider all the evidence. This law cannot withstand basic due process arguments in appellate court. Until then, it is necessary to repeal this "Texas DPS certified" only law where no citizen of Texas can get blood testing outside a Texas DPS approved lab. Just a short time ago, Texas DPS was still using a"single point" ethanol control in test batches despite legal ramifications at both .08 and .15.

The only thing that Dallas prosecutor was interested in that morning was how to convict my client, not the truth. No one cares until the injustice happens to them or a loved one. It is time to make Texas fair for everyone. A false conviction is a travesty, not something politicians should be proud of or we the public allow. If the government labs were so good, why are they scared of having their work retested? Here is an article on problems with Texas DPS, representative of the lax standards in forensic labs that exist still today in way too many places: Texas DPS Lab Problems

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Illegal DWI Study Done in Fort Worth

Last year I walked into my office one afternoon and was asked by my staff, "Hey, did you hear cops are pulling people over for no reason on Beach Street (block from my office) and asking for breath tests ?" I was shocked. Sure enough, word spreads fast. It was on the local news that night.  Guess what ? It was a $7.9 million National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) grant for a "2013 Roadside Survey" which turned out to be illegal. Why ? It is not legal for law enforcement to pull citizens over with no reasonable suspicion of a crime or no probable cause for a traffic violation. It was being done by "data takers" (armed with police vehicles) contracted out by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) under the guise of "voluntary roadblocks" where motorists were waived to restricted areas, given surreptitious passive alcohol tests (PAS tests) and asked to give a specimen.  PIRE's goal was to pull over 8,000 motorists in 60 cities. Only problem is, in Texas roadblocks are illegal and despite where roadblocks are legal, "voluntary roadblocks" are not.  In response to a public outcry, Congress initiated an investigation. The subcommitee in the House on Highway and Transit determined NHTSA's conduct was not appropriate (comments from Congressmen in attached picture).  Due to a temporary restraining order in Reading, Pennsylvania, testing was suspended. In Fort Worth, the "data takers" were off duty Fort Worth police officers. On November 20, 2013, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead made a public apology and announced they would no longer participate.  NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman, had to announce on March 12, 2014 that the nonconsensual passive alcohol samples would be terminated.   Bottom line, DWI concerns have risen to illegal and unconstitutional proportions, laws have been broken and civil rights violated.  Shame on the government.

Special thanks to Gil Sapir and Mark G. Giangrande for writing a 12 page report on this illegal activity in the July 22, 2014 issue of  Drinking/Driving Law Letter.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lying Expert Witnesses: The Shabby State of Criminal Justice in Our Country

The American Criminal Justice System: “Houston, We have a Problem.”

James Ferguson
Mark Fuhrman, convicted of a felony perjury after the O.J. Simpson trial, is now a national Fox legal analyst, an “expert witness” on police matters. Last week, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, ruled “Dr.” James Ferguson, a state toxicologist, convicted of perjury, could NOT be sued or found liable for lying in a murder case where his expert witness testimony was relied upon by the judge for the conviction. Fred Zain, toxicologist at the West Virginia Department of Public Safety, falsified lab results which resulted in as many as 134 wrongful convictions. Once under investigation, he merely picked up and moved to San Antonio, Texas to work as a toxicologist where an investigation found at least 180 cases in which fraud may have led to wrongful convictions. He died in the comforts of his Florida home in 2002. Picking up the pieces in Boston, Massachusetts, over 34,000 lab results are now in question after state toxicologist Annie Dookhan pled guilty to crimes related to falsifying results. These cases are just the recent ones. They are only the tip of the iceberg. If an athlete is caught cheating in the Olympics, he or she is stripped of their medal and the opportunity to compete. In the criminal courts of America, if a police officer or expert witness is lying to obtain a conviction, they get promoted and receive raises. If their lies are caught, the Courts protect them. The 6th Circuit Court rationalized, “Dr. Ferguson deserves absolute immunity in the case because all testimony, even if perjured, is protected to ensure witnesses will be candid without fearing lawsuit.”

Mind you, this absolute immunity protection ONLY applies to government witnesses. It‘s the same type of logic as preventing poisoned customers from suing a chef because this would stifle the chef’s creativity in the kitchen. How many chefs would poison patrons? An illegal and unlikely scenario as restaurants would shut down and there would be health code compliance complaints. These safeguards do not play out in the criminal justice system. Quite the opposite: convictions win elections, including in the appellate arena, and look great in the media while those successful earn job promotions. 
As for a forensic regulatory body, NONE with any regulatory powers over the criminal justice system exist, although the first National Commission on Forensic Science has just been created. What is currently in place is a scandal ridden “pay as you go” certifying agency environment where groups like the American Crime Lab Directors (under major fire and litigation) can issue board certifications and certificates for a fee despite not adhering to scientific peer review recommendations; e.g. blind audits, true proficiency tests.

Annie Dookhan
How does this happen? It starts with deception and a lack of qualifications with no one caring enough to check. “Dr.” James Ferguson, did not have a doctor’s degree, nor a master’s degree and it is questionable that he even posses an undergraduate biochemistry degree (the University records showing how he was able to finagle this degree are “missing.”). According to an Ohio State University Biochemistry professor since 1965, Mr. Ferguson is missing six of the 15 required courses in his major. He failed chemistry courses seven times. His grades are poor. The same deception unveils with Fred Zain. Mr. Zain claimed to have graduated from West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University) with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. Records show he never minored in chemistry. He had only taken a few courses in chemistry, all of which he either flunked or barely passed. He also failed an FBI course in forensic science including the basics of serology (blood testing) and bloodstains. Annie Dookhan also feigned credentials. She claimed she had a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. School officials have confirmed she has no such degree, nor has she ever taken any master’s courses there.  Amazing how one can’t even qualify to get into a nice apartment complex without a background check, yet the government can lock you in prison based on fraudulent toxicology reports by fake experts. The “fact checking” only seems to work one way. Before even negotiating a plea bargain, a district attorney always runs the criminal history of a defendant. Most district attorneys’ offices employ multiple investigators to locate witnesses, verify witness accounts and check backgrounds.  Wouldn't it be most prudent to spend a mere pittance on ordering academic transcripts from “expert witnesses” and running background checks before we set them loose on lab tests ? As far as tax payer dollars are concerned, it costs roughly $45k a year to house an inmate. The taxpayers don’t get that money back once it has been spent housing a wrongfully convicted person. In Fred Zain’s case, West Virginia alone shelled out a combined total of $6.5 million to the wrongfully convicted- all while the guilty, prevaricating witness is lucky to even be prosecuted.

Fred Zain
Let’s face it, nobody wants to hear of a lying government expert witness who has managed to defy all the common sense odds and get away with convicting innocent people with the seeming approval of all the cogs in the justice system from the prosecutor to the judge.  So, the only way to calm the ruckus down is to distract and “whitewash” the problem. In James Ferguson’s case, the media reported he had merely misreported his graduation year of 1988 for 1972. Sounds harmless enough, right? Except, this fails to account for the fundamental problems lurking under the surface. The fact that it took Mr. Ferguson twenty five years to obtain his degree also explains why he could not produce the gc-mass spectometry chromatograms (if in fact he even knows how to run a gas chromatograph) in Benjamin Uselton’s case alleging intoxicating dosages of alprazolam, where the coroner, a phD, had already reported the absence of such findings in the original autopsy. Mr. Ferguson’s unconventional scientific methods were also key in Virginia LeFever’s murder conviction where he asserted the deceased had lethal dosages of strychnine in his rectum, despite reports to the contrary by medical personnel who treated the deceased when he was brought into the hospital for an antidepressant overdose. While a special panel of lawyers, scientists and West Virginia Senior Circuit Judge James Holliday were investigating Fred Zain’s misconduct, he managed to hoodwink Bexar County, Texas into letting him take over their toxicology. The untimely for Texas, West Virginia report when finally issued, concluded his misconduct was so egregious, any testimony he offered “should be presumed as prima facie invalid, unreliable and inadmissible.” In Annie Dookhan’s case, she was too busy churning out guilty convictions for her satisfied prosecutors for her supervisors to acknowledge that her 500 lab analysis per month (five times the national average) was a glaring red flag. They also conveniently glossed over the fact no one had ever seen her work a microscope and that she had a bad habit of misidentifying samples.  It seems she subscribed to, “A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanations." (Saki)
As incredulous as these sordid tales are, the aftermath is even uglier. They will continue to happen unless decisive measures are taken. It took drug testing in the major league sports to prevent cheating. The “honor” system was just not working, ask Alex Rodriguez. The Tour de France can reclaim the seven Tour de France medals Lance Armstrong won while taking performance enhancement drugs, but a lying “expert witness” cannot restore the years lost to prison of someone framed by an uncaring and negligent justice system that turns a blind eye. Bo Bennett said it best, “For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” That reason should be the fear of repercussions. If a person can have their probation revoked for something as simple as missing a report period or failing to take required classes, we should require our government “experts” to prove their worth and work.  It’s one thing for a charlatan preacher or carnival barker to line their pockets disingenuously, a whole other to allow unqualified and unethical government “experts” to play God with people’s lives based on shams.
Here is a simple and common sense roadmap that doesn’t take a college genius to figure out. We must start off with safeguarding the integrity of our country’s most precious institution, the justice system.  First, we must separate police work and its prosecution from toxicology. The only bodies that scientists should be reporting to are other scientific bodies (legitimate, of the academic and scientific peer review variety). Currently much police miscegenation occurs, right down to the divvying and mixing up of funds and paychecks. Forensic results should be reported to the government, not controlled by the police or prosecution (as the Virginia LeFever murder conviction demonstrates where the prosecutor told James Ferguson what they were looking for despite the coroner’s findings). Second, although ethics is the new corporate “it” word, it seems to be staggering behind in the world of the police state.  We must make it an essential minimum and reality in the HR of government personnel hiring. Proper screening of candidates and reference checking should be mandatory and commonplace. Our government experts should not only demonstrate the highest academic credentials, but they must also possess character beyond reproach; for their opinions don’t favor the highest bidder of a government contract or the buying power of widgets, but directly affects the value and experience of human life, a far more precious commodity and one that our Constitution was designed to protect. The type of character of one to whom so much power is given must be circumscribed with honesty, meticulousness, and trustworthiness.  Third, we must not “trust” that local governments can ferret out frauds. There needs to be uniform national and consistent standards, protocols, and mandatory  continued  professional education akin to what lawyers, accountants, doctors, nurses,  architects and engineers are required to take to take to keep up with developments in the field. All experts should be subjected to national certifications testing their proficiency before they can practice, akin to passing the FBI forensics courses to prove they possess the minimal aptitude and skills with which to handle and report laboratory evidence before doing so.  Hopefully, the time has come where enough shame and disgust can propel us forward to reclaim what in theory should be the world’s best justice system, but is currently a far cry.


Mimi Coffey Founding Father Reading List

Understanding the Founding Fathers and the circumstances surrounding the American Revolution makes one a better lawyer.

Mimi Coffey Reading List

Mimi Coffey's 2007/2008/2009/2010/201/2012 /2013/2014/2015 Reading List

My favorite thing to do outside of work is read. Just give me cold, hard facts, no spin… My favorite books are on the lives of our Founding Fathers. To understand those who formed this country and its constitution gives me the inspiration and guidance I need to carry on with those principles as I seek justice through the law to help others. Here is a list of books I have completed this year. The astericks mark my favorites. They are close in order to how they were read. Before television and radio, the intellects of generations past prized their books and shared their reading lists. To understand the books one reads is to have a window to their soul. Most of the Founding Fathers read the classics, I read them in turn as classics. Here is a bird's eye view to my soul and required reading for my children in their adulthood (and hopefully my descendants) if they are to understand diplomacy in whatever walk of life they should so choose:

Reading List 2007:

1*Joseph Ellis: Founding Brothers-the Revolutionary Generation. Pulitzer Prize Winner
2.Joseph Ellis: Passionate Sage: the Character and Legacy of John Adams
3.Joseph Ellis: His Excellency: George Washington
4.Joseph Ellis: The American Sphynx: the Character of Thomas Jefferson
5.Richard Brookhiser: Alexander Hamilton, American
6.Thomas Fleming: Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr & the Future of America
7.*Nancy Isenberg: Fallen Founder: the Life of Aaron Burr
8.Walter Stahr: John Jay
9.*H.W. Brands: The First American: Benjamin Franklin , Pulitzer Prize finalist
10.Richard Brookhiser:Governeur Morris: the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution
11*Craig Nelson: Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution and the Birth of Modern Nations
12.Jeff Broadwater: George Mason: Forgotten Founder

Not only have I derived factual basis to understand our laws, these books have brought to life in my mind the cities of Philadelphia, New York, Paris,Boston, London and Washington D.C. as they existed in those times.   It is with great excitement that I look forward to visiting (& revisiting for some but now with new knowledge) these cities to see monuments and tombs of those I most admire. Cicero once said: "Not to have knowledge of what happened before you were born is to be condemned to live forever as a child." Long live democracy through all it ugly aches and pains. – Mimi Coffey, Sr.

Mimi Coffey's 2008 Reading List
*1. General and Madame de Lafayette: Partners in Liberty's Cause in the American and French Revolutions by Jason Lane
*2. Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution by Mark Puls
3.A Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry and the American Republic by Henry Mercer
4. James Madison: The Struggle for the Bill of Rights by Richard Labunski
5. John Hancock: The Picturesque Patriot by Lorenzo Sears
*6. John Marshall: Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith
7. Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution by Robert H. Patton
*8. Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan
**9. The Great Upheaval: 1788-1800 by Jay Winek (my favorite book covering the Founding Fathers period thus far, very well written and hard to put down)
10. American Creation by Joseph Ellis
11. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham

2009 Reading List
1. Matthew Lyon "New Man" of the Democratic Revolution, 1749-1822 by Aleine Austin
*2. Rochambeau by Arnold Whitridge
3. Financial Founding Fathers by Robert E. Wright and David J.Cowen
*4. Two Fighters and Two Fines: Lives of Matthew Lyon and Andrew Jackson by Tom Campbell
5. Jefferson THe Scene of Europe 1784-1789 by Marie Kimball
6. 1776 by David McCullough
7. Revolutionary Characters by Gordon Wood
8. (Obama is a Founding Father on his own terms, hence his acceptance into my reading category) Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
9. Forgotten Patriots by Edwin G. Burrows (the untold story of American Prisoners duringi the Revolutionary War)
*10. Adopted Son:Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Nation by David A. Clarey

2010 Reading List
* 1. Undaunted Courage (the Lewis and Clark expedition) by Stephen Ambrose
2. The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming
3. Libery to Lucy Moore (the Founders were influenced by France, this is a book on the French Revolution)
4. Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence by Denise Kiernan & Joseph D'Agnese
5. The Traitor and the Spy: Benedict Arnold and John Andre by James Thomas Flexner (no doubt Benedict Arnold would have been a huge Founding Father due to his military successes had he not lost his way, a sad tale on how he became a traitor)
6.Travels in North America in the years 1780-1781-1782 by The Marquis de Chastellux (fascinating to see the new America through the eyes of a French nobleman who fought our Revolution and was friends to everyone powerful at the time from Washington, Sam Adams , Thomas Paine to Madison...just proves that birds of a feather truly flock together)
7. Franklin and his French Contemporaries by Alfred Owen Aldridge 1957 New York University Press: great insight on how the French was influenced by Franklin and his attachments both scientifically, philosophically, diplomatically and socially with them. Amazing to know the French as a whole value Franklin even more than Americans.
8. The WOrks of Dr. Benjamin Franklin consisting of Essays, Humorous, Moral, and Literary: with his Life, Written by Himself, a rare book printed in 1835

2011 Reading List
1. The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family by Claude-Anne Lopez adn Eugenia W. Herbert 1975
2. The Secret Loves of the Founding Fathers by Charles Callan Tansill
3. Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove
4. The American Revolution 1763-1783 by William Edward Hartpole Lecky, M.P. arranged and edited by James Albert Woodburn, copyright 1898. This was a very interesting book as it is the American Revolution seen through the eyes of a British historian. Amazing to study our country's founding through this perspective. The British made way too many wrong assumptions and blunders. Had it not been for these, like Canada we probably would have remained British for a very long time.
*5. Aaron Burr: The Years from Princeton to Vice President, 1756-1805 by Milton Lomask, a great book on understanding how the natural cycles of politics work
6. A Magnificent Catastophe (the tumultuous election of 1800) by Edward Larson 2007, 2 valuable lessons from this book: 1) No way was Aaron Burr ever a traitor, he could have cinched the 1800 election easily and despite the tie vote did not for the good of the party (no wonder he was later found Not Guilty of treason in the western conspiracy). This proves that good character always pays off particularly in politics. 2) John Adams was hated by his own Federalist party for not declaring war on France when the country could least afford it but is respected for it now. Always do what is right in the situation, not what is politically expedient.
7. The Founders on the Founders by John P. Kaminski, a very interesting book on how the founders of our great country viewed eachother in their own words as found in their letters and writings
*8. Jefferson and Hamilton by Claude G. Bowers, 1925 Houghton Mifflin Co., so well written that you feel as if you are a fly in the room as Bowers takes you back in history and you witness so many great Founders in their bravery and wisdom as they interact between Hamilton and Jefferson. A true depiction of the genius of both of these two men.

2012 Reading List
*1. Stevens Thomson Mason: Misunderstood Patriot BY Kent
Sagendorph. Turns out he was the grandson of the first Stevens Thomson Mason of
Virginia who fought for freedom of the press when Congress voted to forbid
printing of the controversial Jay Treaty. This Mason was the boy Governor of
Michigan. An incredible story. He led the charge for Michigan to become a state,
built railroads and personally would rode around the state helping people when
cholera broke out and many people died. He truly loved Michigan and did
extraordinary tasks while it was still a wild west territory.

2. Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, great read. It's inspirational to read how the mother of 2 Founding Fathers ran 3 plantations all alone at age 16 and that a woman was brave enough to print the Declaration of Independence and also signed her name on the bottom willing to die with the signers themselves if caught.

3. Philip Freneau, the Poet of the American Revolution by Mary Stanislas Austin. Frenaua's poetry deeply moved the country at a time when emotions were all we really had in the lopsided battle. He also fought for the country on our seas and was captured and nearly died on a British war ship. He ended up living a long and productive life creating newspapers that assisted the political agendas of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Makes you understand the power of the written word, you can move mountains.

*4.John Paul Jones by Lincoln Lorenz,published in 1943 by the US Naval Institute. A powerful and inspirational read of  a man who made miracles happen. When everyone said it could not be done, he made it happen: from capturing the Serapis while his ship was sinking to sailing the ice waters from Denmark to Russia. He was noble and principled, you could tell this from his friends (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson). Thanks to him we have a navy with the highest principles.

5. Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans by Winston Groom. An inspiring read on a battle that can best be described by the words of Matthew Arnold "Only two things are needed, the power of a man & the power of the moment." Andrew Jackson was that man. The battle looked unwinnable. Andrew Jackson was a man who would never quit, never considered defeat, always worked towards victory and had the heart of a lion. It is refershing and healthy to see the Baratarian privateer Jean Laffite and his brother get his due as well. The British tempted him with great riches to sell his ships and weapons (the most in all the region and necessary to win the battle) and he didn't flinch due to his patriotrism that history has largely questioned. Rich in enjoyable prose, Groom does an excellent job in bringing one of the US's most inspiring David versus Goliath stories to life. It is no wonder that the winning this battle made Andrew Jackson the 7th President of the US.

6. Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye. Robert Morris sacrificed everything he had: wealth, credit, & time because he was dedicated first and foremost to helping our young, fledgling country in the most important way which was financing the American Revolution and new country. Despite all his hard work, many jealous politicians tried to accuse him of finanical impropriety but nothing could stick because the truth was if anyone owed anything it would be this country owed Robert Morris. Reading this book was inspirational and he belongs in the parthenon of most well respected Founders, without his financial genius our country could not have come into existence.

*7. Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright and a Spy Saved the American Revolution by Joel Richard Paul. This book is a joy. Silas Deane sacrificed everything to secure funding for the American Revolution: his business, his family (his wife died while he was in France, he never got to speak to his son again before he died with his political issues astrife while he was in Ghent). If Steven Spielberg ever got ahold of this book, it plays out with more drama than the HBO John Adams series (which was excellent). Once again, like the jealousies that surrounded Robert Morris some of the early Founders were jealous to an insecure point of making false accusations against Deane (accusing him of financial impropriety). Congress totally later vindicated him and paid his descendants the money his estate was justly due and restored his great reputation. He lived in France securing money for arms at a time when he had to secretly hide all his transactions as a merchant lest Britain start a war with France. He was the first unofficial ambassador to France from the US working at a time where he would go long months with no correspondence from Congress due to confiscated ships seizing mail, etc. Imagine being an unofficial envoy from an unoffical country. When I think of Silas Deane, all I can do is smile huge and be so ever grateful for such a true American hero back before it was known we would be a country. Cheers to Silas Deane.

8. The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army by Paul Lockhart. An inspiring read on how a foreigner with great military experience down on his luck immigrated to America and by giving it all he got, brought together an army that Washington could actually use by teaching it discipline and creating the first 'blue book' of rules and became one of Washington's most respected officers (Washington's last act as General was commending the Baron). To this day he is considered the favorite German immigrant in our Revolutionary history with German cultural parades around the country (in Chicago and New York) still honoring him.

9. John the Painter: Terrorist of the American Revolution by Jessica Warner.  Although "John the Painter" was not a Founding Father, he had contact with Silas Deane who was. While the Founding Fathers were trying to figure out how to end British rule, "John the Painter" was fighting fire with fire. He was burning seaside British towns in retaliation for the British burning down American seaside towns.  Whether rightly or wrongly, he proves that in war "fighting fire with fire" can be effective. Many British came to the opinion that burning seaside American towns was not right.

10. Benjamin Franklin: "Fart Proudly" a collection of Ben Franklin works edited by Carl Japikse. These writings show a humourous and witty side to the great Franklin.  Works that show not only was Franklin a genius, he was the kind of guy you would truly enjoy having a beer with.

11. Memoirs of Aaron Burr by Matthew L. Davis published in 1838.  Before Burr's death, he brought Davis all his writings, letters and works he wanted the world to judge him by. These included legal documents he created, intimate letters between him and his wife and others close to him.  These letters prove he was truly one of the greatest Founding Fathers of our time often overlooked or misjudged due to political jealousies of the time (eg. Jefferson's masterminded treason trial that was ridiculous and wholly without merit). Thank goodness this book was written. It sets the record straight for all future American generations to learn from one of the most brilliant Founders of our country.

12. Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Volume 2, by Mattehw L. Davis published in 1838. Volume 2 expounds upon the ridiculous trumped up treason trial in which he was found Not Guilty and the duel with Alexander Hamilton. In his later years he was crushed by the death of his daugher but took on two young ladies who lacked money for education and funded and encouraged them. He died with a dream that America would expand to the west.. it did. A true visionary and commanding Founding Father.

2013 Founding Father Reading List

1. Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling. Interesting insights into John Adams' character as he experienced the loss of his reelection. Was disappointed in the lack of development of Aaron Burr's role as he could have single handily won the election but backed down in the era of gentlemanly politics. Quick light read beneficial to understanding the labyrinthian role of politics.

2. Moreau de St. Mery's American Journey 1793-1798 translated and edited by Kenneth Roberts and Anna M. Roberts published in 1947. The American Revolution inspired the French Revolution and at one time the Vice President of the French Commune (Congress) Moreau de St. Mery managed to escape France just before all the guillotining of powerful leaders. He fled to the US for 5 years and opened a bookstore in Philadelphia and became a member of the American Philosophical Society (which Ben Franklin was a member of), thereby getting to know personally some of the Founding Fathers including John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. It is interesting to view the Founding Fathers from a French diplomat's view. His American awakening is quite enlightening and a cultural enlightenment in many ways.

3. John Laurens and the American Revolution by Gregory D. Massey , 2000 by the University of South Carolina. They ought to make a Hollywood blockbuster out of this biography. I was truly moved. Young John Laurens, son of Henry Laurens- President of the Continental Congress, was born and raised in South Carolina. Due to a very cultured and visionary father, he was sent to Geneva, Switzerland and England for higher education including formal law school training (at a time when American lawyers just apprenticed under someone). He was almost finished when he returned to America to serve as General George Washington's secretary. He left behind a pregnant wife (too risky for her to travel due to fear of capture as his dad was even captured and made a prisoner of war in the Tower of London). He sacrificed everything and never asked for pay both serving in the military and as a diplomat to France to help Ben Franklin secure much needed loans. He was the epitome of honor and integrity in advancing this country's best interest. He died before 30, after the war, in a skirmish in South Carolina (the British were still raiding and foraging for food before complete evacuation). A very sad ending, but moving and inspiring to us now as we fight to try to keep the wonderful opportunities and freedoms for our fellow countrymen alive. May we all live to honor and fight for the good of others as he did. Hallowed is the name of young, noble John Laurens.

3. Redcoats and Rebels by Christopher Hibbert published in 1990. I have read so many books on Founding Fathers that I have now expanded into the military arena. What is particularly interesting about this book is that it is written by a well respected British historian. He is very accurate on facts right down to correcting the fact that at the decisive battle of Yorktown, the British did not play When the World Turned Upside Down in surrender (the song had not even been invented yet despite most American schoolkids being taught this). What was heart wrenching was discovering the extent of torture that happened to both sides in the Carolinas (particularly South Carolina) as the British abandoned the civil rules of war by slaughtering innocent civilians, etc. It is interesting to see how the ineptness of the Howes and Clinton probably cost the British the battle. As Ben Franklin always said: In order to persuade, you must use interest over reason. Clinton owned 4 estates in New York, and made protecting New York a priority rather than helping Cornwallis in Yorktown. Why choose a military leader soft on the Americans ? Fascinating read. One thing is for sure, the British have always had (even then) big fans of true democracy. Great read on leadership, lessons on how to be strong....

4. George Washington's Generals, edited by George Billias published in 1964. The book is divided into 12 chapters including one on George Washington and all his generals.  Every chapter was written by a different scholar. It exemplifies how it takes many different personalities on a team to effectively tackle a colossal problem. Knox was the artillery man, planner. Greene- the team spirit captain that kept everyone's spirits high. The Marquis de Lafayette- the young, eager "nothing is impossible" adored "adopted son" of Washington that he trusted most. The bravest- Anthony Wayne and Daniel Morgan. Gates- the professional soldier who brought training.  I really felt that there should have been a special chapter to include Baron Von Steuben who brought Washington's ragtag army much needed discipline and rules. We would not remember the Founders if it were not for these guys that made winning the Revolutionary War a reality. Any parent wanting to teach lessons on leadership should read through this book and share its stories around the dinner table. Great stuff.

5. Swamp Fox by Robert D. Bass, published in 1959. Marion Francis, otherwise known as the
Swamp Fox is the quintessential leader, much like George Washington, both professionally and personally. They say he created guerilla warfare in America. It is important to note however that he was never careless, reckless or bravado. He always placed the best interest of those fighting under him first. He skirmished when battles could not be one. He retreated to let his men live and fight another day. He was always merciful. When South Carolina later passed laws to protect military leaders like Francis from liability when they had to take property and provisions for their troops, he demanded to have his name left off saying that he had always lived his life to do right by others under all circumstances. Truly, one of the most remarkable men of character America has ever had.

6. Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Woman and the First Great Scandal of 18th Century America by Alan Pell Crawford published in 2000. Gouverneur Morris who wrote the majority of the US Constitution, was the ambassador to France during the French Revolution, and was much like today's modern day George Clooney (in terms of a reputation of a much sought after playboy who refuses to marry)- quite the debonair ladies' man and successful businessman chose to marry Nancy Randolph late in life. Nancy was accused of miscegenation (having a slave as a lover, unacceptable in that day), murder (not formally but by her brother in law a powerful Virginian congressman) of her sister's husband, and rumors of killing an infant born out of wedlock to her brother in law (she was found Not Guilty). This book was a fascinating tale into the life of Nancy (Anne Cary Randolph), a girl who suffered much although born into a very wealthy family (her mother dying and she leaving the home young due to strained relations with her father's new wife). Through all her trials and tribulations she gained strength, perseverance and died a very wealthy woman who left much to her son with Gouverneur who became a successful businessman of New York who built a church, which still stands today, that entombs her remains. It is an inspiring tale of the strength of the human spirit and what it can overcome with goodness, charity and forgiveness to others, and hard work.

*7. The Extraodrinary Mr. Morris by Howard Swiggett published in 1952. After reading Unwise Passions, my interest in Gouverneur Morris was piqued yet again and I wanted to delve into his life once more. This biography proved to be a hundred times better than a previous one I read on Morris (more factual and dry). Swiggett really brings the idiosyncracies of Morris to life. One really feels as if you know him intimately after this exciting and page turner read. Morris was envied by many of the Founding Fathers he worked alongside because he was so much younger yet brilliantly talented. He was raised wealthy and this was the lifestyle he was both accustomed to and comfortable with. This came in handy when sent to France during the French Revolution, he helped many French nobles from certain death by guillotine. He was extremely educated and well read. His life is a most fascinating one.  He loved exercise and insisted on walking much despite his peg leg. His political popularity took traditional ups and downs and no matter the condition or party in power, due to his noble character and respect for all he was always asked to deliver eulogies of well respected Founding Fathers despite party affiliation which he did.  He died with  a political legacy  that proved patience and open mindedness for all views and party positions is necessary and important, no matter how passionate you feel about yours. He was one of George Washington's favorite friends.

8. Famous Queens of History: Marie Antoinette by John S.C. Abbott (published in 1910 or earlier by the Werner Co., date not listed).  In studying the Founding Fathers and American Revolutionary History, one becomes keenly aware that independence from Great Britain was not possible at that time without the tremendous funding of the French Revolution so I wanted to understand better the actual lives of the King and Queen of France who made it possible. This is indeed a very sad tale. Much of the stereotype of Marie Antoinette is not true. The French at that time had taken royalty to new heights (much ceremony in getting dressed, eating while visitors paraded by and watched you eat every morsel). Raised by a powerful Austrian Queen mother in Vienna, she had much distaste for all the French pomp and ceremony (most people think the opposite from the line of "Let them eat cake"), this offended her French ladies in waiting and from there the rumors proliferated. The country went broke and the French Revolution broke out due to its starving populace. She lamented her whole life that she was not educated properly. Maybe if she had, her and King Louis might have been able to avoid the low depths that brought forth both of their heads on a guillotine. This book shows her to be quite the doting and affectionate mother. Lucky for America, the French provided much needed funds. Unlucky for France, this cost came at too great a price for the happiness and security of their own people. Democracy is great, but as the tales of woe and mass beheadings tell in this book, rule of mob is never balanced.  A great history lesson for the world to remember.

9. The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged American's Newfound Sovereignty by William Hogeland. Great read on politics. The impetus behind the Frontier Rebel movement was the fact that the tax scheme benefitted the merchant class (larger and bigger manufacturers of  alcohol) versus the small frontiersmen brewers. Great lesson on politics. Leave it to the frontiersman lawyer leading the movement to be the skilled, deft one able to compromise versus the violence of the angry masses. Lessons in what not to do: the Alexander Hamilton approach versus George Washington who eventually pardoned the two ringleaders sentenced to death.  Bottom line: there must be fairness and equity in our tax laws. True today as it was back then.

10. Blooding at Great Meadows: Young George Washington and the Battle that Shaped the Man by Alan Axelrod. This book is key to understanding the real George Washington. As a young man he was highly ambitious both in surveying which led to real estate business interests and in politics. He also followed the Washington tradition for generations of marrying into serious wealth. At the age of 16 he went into the Virginia wilderness for 33 days surveying with a very small band that taught him self reliance, wilderness smarts and bravery. At 22 he led his men to victory in the Great Meadows skirmish with the French and Indians only to capitulate to embarassing defeat at Fort Necessity on July 4, 1954. Batlling alongside British General William Braddock 22 years before July 4, 1776 Independence Declaration he learned firsthand the weaknesses of the world's strongest army at the time and gained invaluable wisdom and insight that would prepare him to lead victoriously the troops in the American Revolution. Branded an assassin for  the death of a French officer at Great Meadows, he learned to endure and overcome great obstacles. An inspiring read on what truly defines the great American can do spirit.

11. Revolutionary Management: John Adams on Leadership by Alan Axelrod. After the Revolution was over, hard to believe- but that's when the hard part started. Many a society has seen the rise of one revolution on top of another (look at the parties that rose to power in the French Revolution one on top of another amidst massive and constant bloodshed). This is because a society can't be stable without good government. Adams was the one key Founder who kept asking "What now ?" and make things happen. He had the right credentials that gave him keen insight into management. Before he was a lawyer, he was a teacher (understood education from a policy perspective), delegate to the Continental and Constitutional Conventions, ambassador to the Netherlands securing important loans America needed, a member of the delegation that wrote the Peace Treaty (also one of the 3 on the Declaration of Independence Committee), Ambassador to Great Britain once we became a country, a Vice President, a President. He also was an author of important pieces that were considered by our statesmen when they were shaping our government. So well rounded in so many important facets of policy making. This book contains from his writings (both of a public nature and private through his personal correspondence) in snippet form with analysis following his wisdom in management. To lead, you must at some level also be a good manager. So glad he existed when he did. He brought many unique gifts to the table which helped create an ideal framework of government. (this book read while on my honeymoon)

12. John Paul Jones Commemoration at Annapolis on April 24, 1906 compiled and printed in 1907 as a Resolution of Congress and reprinted in 1966. This 210 page book traces the journey General Porter undertook to find the body of John Paul Jones, navy hero extraordinaire of the American Revolution. It is a fascinating read as historical documents conflicted on important facts such as his burial location. When one reads the part about opening up his 113 year old casket and the description of what his flesh hand felt like (he was buried in a sealed lead coffin with alcohol and was surprisingly quite preserved) to the solemn and reverent joy of the festivities honoring his life on both sides of the Atlantic (Paris, France where he was found and Annapolis, Maryland) one is very touched. The whole event and all its details are truly surreal. So uncanny how such a hero was buried like a pauper in an unmarked grave only to have proper respect paid 113 years later. The book includes speeches made at the ceremonies from the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt and French dignitaries. It was very satisfying to me to read about  proper homage finally made to one of history's most incredible military heros and a personal hero of mine.

13. The Young Jefferson by Claude G. Bowers, copyright 1945. Jefferson was influenced early on by great characters- he hung out and studied law under Virgina's great George Wythe, included in the circle was the royal Governor of Virginia. One traces his love of music, architecture, fine wines, and books to his early  years as he cultivates himself with the finest minds of Virginia, goes abroad to Europe enriching his mind and tastes while representing our fledgling new country facing its' challenges as our French Ambassador. One sees the trials and great patience he had to grow to help our country become successful. The romance of his wife is a beautiful love story and she instills in him the love of family that he never forsakes even after her death.  Very enlightening read, great account of the mind and events that created the Declaration of Independence.

14. Monticello: A Family Story (an intimate portrait in depth of Thomas Jefferson and his family) by Elizabeth Langhorne, copyright 1989. Thomas Jefferson had two motivating great loves: democracy and family.  Of course he had other cultivated hobbies such as architecture, gardening, landscaping. philosophy and a dabbling into the sciences but all his life choices were premised on a furthering creating and strengthening our yound democracy and taking care of his family. In this book one sees a very soft side of Jefferson- the ever vigilant father taking care to give his daughters' excellent education, the doting grandfather, the helpful and guiding father in law sacrificing everything including what amounted to all his finances to care for his large extended and growing family when the son in law (later governor of Virginia) ran into obstacles.  One's heart is touched by the depth and solidity of his love of family. This kindness always also factored into his decisions regarding the treatment of his slaves he considered family members.  True to his deceased wife Martha's promise he never married again after her death dedicating everything to the family he brought into the world. He was a man of solid character when it came to family.

15. First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph Ellis. It was a natural segway to go from reading Monticello to First Family as the lives of Jefferson and the Adams family interwined much. What is striking from this read is to relive the amazing accomplishments of John Adams and to see his son John Quincy Adams parallel much of it. Some of those amazing highlights both father and son shared: both were sent to negotiate a treaty at the end of a war (Revolutionary and 1812), both were US Ambassadors to Great Britain after war with Great Britain (Revolutionary and 1812), both served as ambassadors to the Netherlands and both became Presidents. One becomes acutely aware of the personal sacrifice that all members of this great and illustrious family made in the cause of always putting the country's needs and interests first. John and Abigail would spend years apart as he served the country both abroad and at home. Their letters and legacy evidence a true love story, one for which Americans can make claim to as the type of character that formed and sustained this great nation when other revolutions like the French came and failed. Proof that for democracy to succeed there must be good characters in leadership as well as good ideals.

1. Colonel William Smith and Lady: The Romance of Washington's Aide and Young Abigail Adams by Katharine Metcalf Roof in 1929. This old book is a rare find and I hope my analysis of it keeps twinkles of Adams precious history flickering otherwise lost to the dustbins of garbage refuses where old books too often find themselves. President John and Abigail Adams had one daughter: Abigail who married  the dashing, charming American Revolutionary officer Colonel William Smith whom she met while she was in Europe as her father served as Ambassador to Great Britain. This marriage was both a blessing and curse to Colonel Smith. Although George Washington recommended him for high office due to his devotion and bravery, many like Congressman Timothy Pickering manuevered to prevent high office and just rewards to Colonel Smith (Pickering tried like Smith his hand at land merchant speculating but did not prove as successful; John Adams always attributed it to his marriage with his daughter). Without reading this book, one would most likely form the wrong impression of how the Adams felt about their son in law (as I did by reading the above First Family by Ellis). The intimate letters tell a whole different story. John Adams was always recommending his son in law to higher office due to his achievements not patronage- but politics can be a tricky business as most often this failed. Abigail Adams, his mother in law, adored him. Colonel Smith came from a New York enterprising merchandising family and he brought that entrepreneurship ambition with him to the Adams family. Although some of his land speculations did not pan out, many did. John Adams encouraged him to enter law, this was never an interest of his. He preferred military sacrifice and business. He worked hard and honestly. In charge of troops when Washington died, he arranged a memorial service and monument erected to his honor in a highly esteemed manner in which Washington would have been proud. One side note of this book is the political melodramas that come to light regarding Burr (too often we only read the other version preserved by the Jeffersonian faction). Like Burr, although at one time very close to Jefferson (while they served together in international delegations in Europe) Col. Smith finds himself also at odds with Jeffersonian politics. The result of which produced him being dragged through a treason trial like Burr on unfounded charges (both found not guilty). He was very prescient about people and could distinguish noble men from traiters or posers. His warnings about General Wilkinson (hundreds of years later, discovered documents proved Wilkinson to be a double spy) manifested true although even this met criticism from President Adams his father in law who disagreed with him on this point. The great message of this book is his perseverance. One will always have political enemies and obstacles in life- just do the right thing and be good to those you encounter, write your history and the true history will bear you out. He was elected to Congress his later years in life and served admirably contributing much needed military guidance to Congress. His wife Abigail Adams patiently and loving served and beared well.  Beautiful story of good character, sacrifice, love and family.

2. Adventures of Jonathan Corncob: Loyal American Refugee written "by Himself", London, printed in 1787, newly reprinted by David R. Godine, Boston.  This is not the typical book on my Founding Fathers list but I read it because shortly after the American Revolution this was the hit fiction book read in Great Britain. It is still to this day a mystery who wrote it (although theories exist). This book's purpose was to expose to the British the "redneck, uncouth" American of that day. The story line is wild, hard to follow and of course Jonathan (whom I found out was a name the British thought described an American Forrest Gump of that day) describes his ridiculous escapades with women, the seas and military punishment observations.  The pleasure in the book is when the mystery author at the end explains all anonymous, so much of this sordid and outlandish tale is true.  I can't even fathom how a true Briton perceived Americans after this read.  It makes you wonder how much of American-British  history may have been colored by such extreme perceptions.

3. Barbary General: The Life of William H. Eaton (The amazing account of a flamboyant hero who was truly America's Lawrence of Arabia) by Samuel Edwards, 1968.  I honestly wasn't sure after reading and studying John Paul Jones in depth, if it was possible for there to be such another hero of the American Revolution time period defined by such blatant bravado and success (we know the generals had their share of defeating obstacles). Lo and behold, I found him- it is William H. Eaton. During early America, American ships were (much like the Somalian pirates of today) being pirated in the Barbary Coast. This was a huge problem to the early Presidents. Most European countries just paid the ransoms in the form of yearly "tributes" which were outrageously expensive. President Adams started building a navy, very nascent at that time. President Jefferson was not so keen on a big military so he was trapped in the ransom quandary while American seamen were being captured, and impressed into slavery.  William Eaton on his own came up with the brilliant idea of solving the problem by handling the politics from within.  With permission of President Jefferson he led a hardy group of adventurers (from different countries) and marched 600 miles across the Libyan desert from Alexandria to Derna, coordinated with the US Navy and defeated the Arabic Derna city defenders, deposed the dey's power and set up rule. Spectacular bravery, sacrifice and leadership on an unimaginable scale. He even self taught himself Arabic. The discipline he had to enforce on the march, the respect he had to earn from cultures foreign to his own to lead all point to the brilliance of a larger than life man.  Fascinating tale, inspiring read. Eaton- a true hero that defined the American can do on a grand scale.

4. The Barbary Pirates by C.S. Forester, originally printed in 1953, updated with new material by Flying Point Press in 2007.  After the spellbinding Barbary General read (see above) I wanted to get some background on the pirates off the Coast of North Africa. What struck me most in this book was the sad tale of the 307 American shipmen of the ship Philadelphia who were captured as slaves and held for over 3 years while our country tried desperately hard to win their freedom back and secure the seas. This was an informative read on the history and events that caused us to sing in our U.S. Marine Corps Hymn "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli; We fight our Country's battles in the air, on land and sea..." It took great bravery for our American seaman (both military and merchant) to sail halfway across the world away from ready resources and supplication to ensure justice on the Barbary waters.  My hat is so off to them.

5. Jefferson and the Gun-Men: How the West Was Almost Lost by M. R. Montgomery published in 2000. The book parallels the Lewis & Clark exploration (for this I recommend Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose) and Zebulon Pike's western exploration into Spanish territory alongside the "Burr conspiracy." The author is uninformed on important Burr details (I recommend he read Burr's 2 biographies by Matthew Davis full of direct correspondence) such as WHY the Supreme Court led by Marshall heard the nonmeritorious treason trial and rendered a Not Guilty (not because the federal system was "so small" but because law requires it and this after Kentucky and Mississippi dropped the bogus charges due to lack of evidence).  It would behoove the author to study what did and did not constitute treason  (for eg. Congress told John Paul Jones after Independence he was welcom to fight  for Russia's Queen Catherine the Great because it was legal and there was no war in the US, much like Burr exploring the western territories and action if in fact Spain declared war against the US). His case against Burr relies chiefly on General James Wilkinson whom history has proven to be a double spy, yet he refers to him as "that loyal Democratic-Republican" (p.284). The narrative on Pike proved interesting. It was disappointing to learn Pike (unlike Lewis & Clark) did not take care of his men (left 2 to freeze in the wilderness), lied to his men about the reason for the expedition and where they were going. He never even climbed Colorado's Rocky Mountain's "Pike's Peak." I have, and am very much impressed with it- just not the name sake. Inspiring read on the hardiness of what it takes to cross the western territory on horse and canoe, especially in the dead of winter without enough supplies, food or clothing.  Sad tale how Lewis committed suicide years later as Congress was fighting him on his expenses (which they eventually paid). Great perception by the author that adventurers enlighten but it is hard core economics of mines, land for farming and cattle that expanded our country's borders. " the long run picks and plows far outweigh guns and glory. Work defeats adventure, every time."

6. American Traveler (The Life and Adventures of John Ledyard: The Man Who Dreamed of Walking the World) by James Zug, 2005. Before the Lewis and Clark expedition, young John Ledyard had already expressed to Thomas Jefferson his dream to walk across the American continent. He was a hardy, adventurous visionary. He was on Captain Cook's third and final voyage.  Very insightful (Captain Cook was murdered by angry Hawaiin natives) he wrote in his journal witnessing Captain Cook's "disgustful behavior" in Tonga "Perhaps no considerations will excuse the severity which he sometimes used towards the natives... he  would perhaps have done better to have considered THE FULL EXERTION OF EXTREME POWER IS AN ARGUMENT OF EXTREME WEAKNESS." In his college years he went to Dartmouth and made an extreme canoe voyage of 220 miles down the Connecticut River which is still a tradition on campus today. He hiked across Siberia and was on  an African adventure when he died. Ironic how his portrait was hung in the Somerset House, the headquarters for the Royal Society in London, the same building where eight years earlier he had went to collect his pay for the Cook voyage. From a sailor to world celebrated hero of the Royal Society, John Ledyard teaches us what it means to follow your dreams.

7. John Dickinson: Conservative Revolutionary by Milton E. Flower. Known as the "Penman of the American Revolution, he wrote The Farmer Letters (much like Thomas Paine's Common Sense which helped turn the tide of political feeling towards Revolution), Letters of Fabius (much like the Federalist Papers that helped convince the states to vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution), and the majority of our first form of government, The Articles of Confederation.  He rose to the the executive governor position of both Pennsylvania and Delaware. Many know him infamously as one of the Founders who voted against the Declaration of Independence; however, this fails to take into account that after being on the wrong side of that vote (calculating  at the time that our country did not have the military might and resources) he dedicated his life to winning the war effort and serving our country quite nobly.  Ironically, one of his political adversaries in the royal Penn government, Joseph Galloway (who eventually fled to England to live after the Revolution) attacked John on the streets of Philadelphia one day only to have the colonial government insist that while serving as governor, John live in the mansion he built. A fascinating and most impressive read on one of our most least celebrated Founding Fathers who deserves his rightful place in history.

8. George Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager. A great read on how we won the American Revolution because we had the better spy network. It is very well researched. I was inspired by two great life lessons: Benjamin Tallmadge was smart enough to embrace new spying techniques against tradition and that is why Washington promoted him and put him in charge (it is always smarter to go with expertise and stay abreast of new developments). Go with the guy/gal whose heart is in the right place. Although Robert Townsend was quiet and understated and on paper would not look the best part for his role, he would turn out to be Washington's best spy because despite all outward appearances, when it mattered most his heart was rock solid in the right place.  This book makes me appreciate all the undercover Americans who have and still risk their lives for our country's security. Thank you to you...

9. The Treason Trials of Aaron Burr by Peter Hoffer. I wrote a blog about this book: .I was very inspired by the strength of Aaron Burr to withstand and fight back against false treason charges that were the convenient result of a symbiosis of double agent (paid Spanish spy) General James Wilkinson and Thomas Jefferson's political animosity towards Burr. Wilkinson needed to stop Burr from settling the American West (Spain's interest) and after a casting of ballots 36 times in the contested election of 1800 (in which Burr refused to canvas or campaign for votes as was the gentleman way of the times) Jefferson wanted to rid himself of Burr's political threat. This case has been cited 383 times in federal court since 1807 for basic principles such as the right to an attorney, to bail , to view and inspect the evidence, to cross examine your accuser but most importantly for the principle that the executive branch can't use the judicial branch for its own political purposes.

10. Glory, Passion, and Principle: The Story of Eight Remarkable Women at the Core of the American Revolution (2003) by Melissa Lukeman Bohrer. This is an inspiring read on eight women who defied the odds from Deborah Sampson, who dressed as a man to join the front lines of the Revolution to a poweful Indian Cherokee leader Nancy Ward who exhibited the kind of wisdom and compassion we often see so little of in time of wars amidist inflamed prejudices.  An interesting historical note, the story of Phyllis Wheatley, a slave who became one of the greatest poets of that generation at a time when most slaves and free blacks could not read or write, was not believed by Thomas Jefferson (quite disappointing, George Washington on the other hand was most impressed and her and saved her letters and poems).  The power of the pen is sometimes mightier than the sword as Thomas Paine proved, but few school children can appreciate it was the mighty pen of Mercy Otis Warren and her supreme use of effective sarcasm that also fueled the Revolution. Great quick read.

11. Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin by Bill Kauffman (2008). After reading The Treason Trials of Burr, I was inspired to read about this great criminal defense lawyer and Founding Father. It turns out he was quite the Anti-Federalist (a very important ideological group at the time needed to argue for the balance of state versus federal powers). He was instrumental in not only being responsible for the Not Guilty treason trial of Aaron Burr and Not Guilty impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase (both political retribution trials); he was the delegate at the Constitutional Convention who defined the treason statute correctly knowing that this would be used by politicians against others for political purposes. He argued strongly against the federal government being able to have constitutional powers to summon up state militias. Unfortunately, his predictions have come true as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was wise before his time. Although he did not prevail on many good points that would have wisely limited the federal government, his contributions were colossal. We can thank his efforts in large part for the fact that we have a Bill of Rights.  The original Martin Luther is credited with leading a religious reformation. Martin Luther King's efforts have been rewarded with a national holiday. Yet, the Constitutional Convention delegate Luther Martin, who took up unpopular views of limiting federal government at a time when George Washington could easily have been made a king, is a forgotten founder. Thank you Bill Kauffman for writing this tremendous piece on a great and largely unknown founder. Our country would be better off remembering Luther Martin's cogent arguments that keep freedom alive in the face of an exponentially growing federal government. Our roots are our history, and his- some of the best.

12. The Making of a Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit by Dr. Sheila Skemp (2013). First, this book was exciting to me as it was written by Dallas' County Criminal Court no. 3 Judge Doug Skemp's sister. She is a colonial history professor at the University of Mississippi. Her history expertise is spot on. This is the story of how Ben Franklin went from a cool and level headed diplomat acting as a go between into a passionate rebellious incendiary all basically because of the beratement and humiliation he suffered from the British at the "cockpit." The hearing that was suppose to be a perfunctory act, turned into a public mockery of Ben when the British found out he had leaked Massachusetts' royal governor's Thomas Hutchison's correspondence in an effort to explain American frustrations.  King George got mad at this secretive act of Ben's and stripped him of his American postmaster job.  All the while, Ben was working hard to turn Pennsylvania into a royal colony. Very interesting read, it definitely shed light on aspects of Ben Franklin most Americans don't know. If it wasn't for the cockpit incident, Ben might have been successful in getting England to concede to American demands. When they finally did by sending Admiral Richard Howe to concede all American requests, Ben Franklin (after the "cockpit" debacle) said it was too late. A great practical life lesson in never making someone a spectacle- a poor taste in politics can sometimes start a revolution !!!!!

13. For King and Country: The Maturing of George Washington 1748-1760 by Thomas A. Lewis 2006. Want to know George Washington's least favorite day of the year ? Yup, July 4. Why ? Because way back before he led the Continental Army to freedom he surrendered in defeat Fort Necessity on that date.  Not only did he surrender in defeat, his killing of Lieutenant Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville sparked the 7 year French Indian War all over a mistaking a band of French/Indians who claimed they wanted to talk for a war party. Washington teaches us that we all make mistakes. It is learning from them and overcoming them that makes great leaders. An insightful read on what formed his incredibly resilient and strong temperament. A book that teaches all good things come at a price. Nothing great ever happens easy although it may appear so. It is years of discipine, learning from our mistakes and forging ahead with courage and hope that builds a great people. Thank you George Washington for never giving up on yourself and thus your country.

14. The Family Life of George Washington by Charles Moore 1926. This is a very old book, a true relic and  treasure. When the author was a child he had a visitor that shared he used to sit on George Washington's knee as a child. The author goes into great detail about his Washington's family. I dare say many of the details are probably not known by Washington scholars unless they have read this book. It was very interesting to read about Daniel Parke, the paternal grandfather of Martha Washington's son (George Washington's stepson) John Parke Custis. Daniel Parke's life's story is an important one to learn from. He had a fiery temper, although he rose to extreme success despite it (becoming a favorite of Queen Anne and awarded with a Carribean governorship) he died a most gruesome death (dragged out of his house, back broke and left to die on the street) at the hands of his very dissatisfied subjects. Parke's daughter (Washington's stepson's mom) apparently inherited her father's bad temper as her husband was so happy to be free of her, his tombstone declared the years he lived away from her in his "bachelorhood" to be his happiest (making his tombstone that still stands today one of the most bizarre ones where it lay). It just goes to prove two principles: what goes around comes around and the apple does not fall far from the tree. Funny how throughout history the names change but the stories repeat themselves.  As for George Washington, this book gives keen insight into his solid, moral character and how he was most magnimous with friends and family.  As a salient political note and lesson, when he discovered that his mother, Mary Ball Washington, was petitioning the federal government for a pension, he put an end to that by continuing to suppport her needs till her death rather than burdening the government. This is a great book with true, rare historical jewels.

15. Desperate Sons: Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, and the Secret Bands of Radicals Who Led the Colonies to War by Les Standiford 2012 (Harper Books). The Sons of Liberty were not just in Boston, but in New York, South Carolina and all throughout the colonies. They arranged the Boston Tea party, rebellion from the ground up against various acts like the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts, and galvanized the people's heads and hearts towards independence. They were both of the learned class as well as artisans. They rallied around symbols such as the Liberty Pole and strategized in taverns. Paul Revere is one of the greatest success stories, as his business flourished and Reverware remains to this day.  Several others, with a flair for risk taking and disregard for the law, died in poverty and with tragic tales.  A good moral to the story is: rebellion for the right reasons can be productive but the ends as a way of living never justify the means.  Principal is key and sometimes calls for actions outside our comfort zone, but solid living based on character and respect for others is the only true map for success. Thanks to these brave and daring souls, we live in this great country founded on liberty and justice for all.

*16. Paul Revere &The World He Lived In by Esther Forbes, published in 1942 by Riverside Press. Well written (makes you want to read her other books, well researched, communicated and pithy). Paul Revere can best be described by two words: enterprising perseverance. He was always the man for the job. He manufactured gunpowder when Boston needed it (a trade he had to learn);  cast bells and copper sheathing for boats after the Revolution when there was a dire need; and invented dentures out of wiring and sheep's teeth for his friends out of need, just to name some of his ventures. So it is no surprise that when the Sons of Liberty needed a dependable man on the spot, Paul Revere was that guy.  Although he was captured before Concord, his midnight ride still started the chain of reactions that readied the colonists and gave time for Sam Adams and John Hancock (both serving in the Continental Congress) enough time to escape capture. His silver crafstmanship, of master quality, remains in museums today. His son carried on his business growing it to over 10,000 workers. Even at 80, his political passion could be relied upon. His is the first signature during the War of 1812 on a petition of local Boston men who pledged to carry out actions and supply the town's needs. He lent money generously to those in need, always took care of family and extended family (his mother lived with him till she died), and died a well respected man of means. It was not the ride that made the man (as the famous Longfellow poem makes obvious), but rather the man who made the ride. America can be very grateful for an early founding father who truly proved  the principal- the harder you work, the more you contribute.

17.  John Hancock: Patriot in Purple by Herbert Sanford Allen, 1953. This New York  journalist quit his job and spent 5 years doing major historical research on John Hancock because a definitive biography of him had never been written. He did a fantastic job This book is truly a gift of historical insight with a story which needed preservation for the ages as we honor our Founding Fathers.  The man with the biggest signature on the Declaration of Independence, who sacrificed his wealth for our fledgling nation when it looked impossible to win a Revolution, who served as President of the Continental  Congress, and a multi-term governor of Massachusetts deserves an in depth study of his life and his contributions.  John Hancock worked hard for his wealthy merchant uncle who had no children of his own. He eventually inherited his uncle's business. His forbears helped create Harvard University and were educated there, as was John Hancock. John joined up with the Boston Sons of Liberty early on, at a time when monied interests sided with the British. He sacrificed much for the cause, even financing the construction of a ship for the war effort.  He worked tireless hours during the Revolution and was rewarded by the love of the people with many terms as the head of Massachusetts. He always adhered to style and class, yet the love of his heart for his country resulted in many balls, parties and festivities thrown for the benefit of the people both in political function and outright celebrations for the masses. As he  got older and suffered serious health problems with gout, the people overlooked his inabilities to serve and kept reelecting him. He surrounded himself with a trusted cabinet that could get the work done. His administrations were judged effective due to his even tempered hand in conciliating and working with all sides. It is amazing he could even keep his business afloat with all the years his attentions were directed in government.  He brought a broad mind and outlook to government assisted by the fact  he had spent time in Europe prior to the Revolution. Most Americans think that the Declaration of Independence was signed by all immediately. Not true. His was the first and only signature for a time period, him knowing full well that this was treason and he would be hanged if caught. During the Revolution he and Sam Adams lived under a cloud of being wanted and threatened with a treason trial and death. This never stopped him.  Both his beloved children died, and his wife remarried quickly after his passing. Those candles and many others have burned out forever, but the work and heart of John Hancock for his country will live on in perpetuity because he lived for "the people" and democracy for all. John teaches us that when you put your all into what you believe  for the right reasons and for righteous causes, nothing is impossible and greatness happens for many as a result.  Long live the legacy of John Hancock, a great man for all times.

18. Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests that History Forgot by Joseph Cummins, published in 2012 by Quirk Books in Philadelphia. Great quick read that glosses over ten tea parties in early America that were instrumental in galvanizing the country. We find them interesting history now, but back then identifying openly with the tea parties was a treasonable offense. This book goes into the history behind the ta tax, tea consumption as a culture and how different colonies bonded together over the tea crisis with varying responses. Philadelphia was able to send the Polly ship loaded up with tea back to England avoiding a Boston tea party destruction. This book fulfills an important need in reminding Americans that there was more than just one Boston tea party.  It was not that Americans could not afford the tax on tea, it was the principle of no taxation without representation.  To this day, we as a society look back at those tea parties as important gestures of our dedication to a representative democracy.

19. Dr. Joseph Warren: the Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty by  Dr. Samuel A. Forman published in 2012 by Pelican Publishing Company. Dr. Samuel Forman is both a physician and has served in the mililtary, so he blessed us all with this excellent book based on his curiosity into a Founding Father who was both a doctor and served in the military as well. This book is extremely well researched, with poignant personal parts (such as sharing with the reader when he visited the grave of Mercy Scollay, Dr. Warren's lover in widowhood prior to his death) and top rate myth debunking. Schoolchildren across America can recite the names of Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and sadly so few know Dr. Joseph Warren.  It becomes very clear that history may very well have recorded the name of Dr. Joseph Warren as one of its Presidents had he not died so early on in the battle of Bunker Hill (technically on Breed's Hill). In a short time, Dr. Warren served as the President of the Provincial Congress, Chairman of the Safety Committee, and led his men on Breed's Hill.  A self made man, whose father died when he was 14, he graduated from Harvard, taught school, got his master's and apprenticed under a British trained doctor. He advocated for minimum standards in medicine among practicing physicians. He had a robust practice due to his sharp skills and excellent way with people. He wrote pithy and powerful patriotic pieces. He founded a Mason's group in Boston and advocated for peace between the two resulting Mason lodges. He was a visionary. Due to his work, weapons for the Revolution were seized at Fort Ticonderoga. He was the one who gave Paul Revere the signal before he started on his famous ride. He treated both wounded American and British soldiers. He treated the poor. He braved smallpox by volunteering in early smallpox vaccination clinics. When the first Continental Congress was meeting he was holding fort in Boston and trying to maintain civil order and a separation of powers with the military minutemen. He was a visionary, he coordinated a trip to England for Josiah Quincy to try to broker peace with the mother country. He was smart, diplomatic, not capable of maintaining enemies with his magnanimity, charm, and forgiveness; he was a leader among leaders. When the shots bellowed forth, his men at Breed's Hill needed a leader. He fulfilled this role sacrificing his life having no idea that the Continental Congress had appointed him a General 3 days earlier. Dr. Joseph Warren was a phenomenal leader, a phenomenal man.  Cheers to that rare leader of leaders who was instrumental in the early days of our Revolution and always put the good of his fellow man before himself. He died with four parentless children as his wife had already passed. There was no sacrifice he considered greater than the urgent needs of his young, desperate, fledgling country.

20. The Muse of the Revolution by Nancy Rubin Stuart published in 2008 by Beacon Press. Mercy was an author, playwright and astute observer of history. Why ? One of her brothers was not so interested in school and she took his place. Pity all girls were not afforded an opportunity for education back then. She had an unquenchable thirst to write the history of the American Revolution and did. Funny how she was married to James Warren (member of the Provincial Congress, on the Board of the Navy) who could have been a signer of the Declaration of Independence or top military officer but she always held him back. Whenever he was asked to step up to the plate and serve in important positions, she would hold him back. The result ? The sins of the father came back to haunt the sons. When her two sons needed assistance from the Continental Congress, none was to be found, even pleas to President John Adams who was a dear family friend who on many occasions tried to get James Warren to serve in important needed positions.  One of her sons traveled to Portugal in hopes of becoming an ambassador and the other sought a pension due to losing a limb in the Revolution. Ironic, how she was so ambitious yet held her husband back.This perspective and studying Mercy's personal life really makes you appreciate the sacrifices of the women who supported their spouses to the highest level, such as Martha Washington and  Abigail Adams. Mercy was inspiring in that she never let age stop her. She finished her monumental  history annal when she was well past 60. Bright as can be, her writings helped stir a Revolution. They were necessary sparks at opportune times, much like Thomas Paines' Common Sense. Great read, especially the insightful history tidbits such as when her son sailed back to America with the notorious Captain Landais, who serves as a poignant life lesson to heed warnings about unstable personalities (Congress had ignored John Paul Jones and Ben Franklin's warnings about him). Landais actually fired at an American ship during the war and was so brutal, his own crew mutinied and took over the ship.  Pleasant read on an important figure. After all, history is for those who write it. Interesting to delve into the life of the author behind the powerful pen. Her work was most impressive.

1. The Whites of Their Eyes: Bunker Hill, the First American Army, and the Emergence of George Washington by Paul Lockhart published in 2011 by Harper. Not only is the author an excellent military historian, but his prose reads like a novel come to life. There are great lessons to be gleaned from this book. The first is that it is so important for a military leader to ensure his grand strategy goes into effect. Interesting to note that the battle redoubts were not to be initially built on Breed's Hill. Who knows how the battle may have went and how many lives saved, had Artemis Ward's original strategy been implemented. History leaves it to Prescott or Putnam for responsibility  in the change of plans,  but no one really knows. This demonstrates the importance of having a sanctioned and appointed top military commander. There cannot be a battle of the egos on the field lest one courts failure. This all took place before the Continental Congress had appointed George Washington the commander in chief. Second, recognize brilliance and reward it.  John Stark was the clever officer who determined impromptu the battle must be fought behind some form of barrier. He immediately had his men construct the rail fence which was responsible for the large amount of British casualties and the saving of many American lives. This form of brilliance is neither situational nor coincidental. John Stark went on to capture the mercernaries at Saratoga by sheer genius which allowed Horatio Gates to win the Battle of Saratoga. Yet Stark was never promoted to General. Who knows how much shorter the Revolution may have been had he been strategically placed in proper command ?  Author Paul Lockhart, through his tool bag of lively and impeccably placed narration, brings the military side of our American Revolution to life in sheer wonder.

2. The Minutemen and Their World by Robert A. Gross, published in 1976 by Harper Collins. After reading Lockhart's Bunker Hill book, I was fascinated by the Minutemen and the role they played in the Revolution. Robert Gross does an excellent job in describing the demographics, politics and life of Conord, Massachusetts. I was struck by the fact that whether loyalist or patriot, after the Revolution the most powerful families rose back to power. This small town example gives a lot of credence to the old saying that you can take all the money away from the wealthiest people in the world, give them 5 years and they will earn it all back. It was interesting to see how church membership was so integral to status back then.  The influential families that used their influence and sacrifice to help win and inspire the Revolution was postitively motivating.

3. Benedict Arnold in the Company of Heroes by Arthur S. Lefkowitz, published in 2012. What a magnificent piece of scholarship !  Mr. Lefkowitz details the lives of the courageous men who went with Arnold to Quebec. It is inspiring to see how this experience made them some of the best soldiers and officers in the Revolutionary War. It was fascinating to learn about them from their beginnings to death.  It was interesting to learn of the plot to kidnap Arnold after he became a traitor, that almost come to fruition. It was not a surprise to see that Benedict Arnold, although a courageous soldier, had many shortcomings and depravities when it came to moral values.

 4.  Christoher Gadsden and the American Revolution by E. Stanley Godbold, Jr. and Robert H. Woody, published in 1982 by the University of Tennessee Press. Christopher Gadsden was the Samuel Adams of the South. He was a firebrand revolutionary early on. He served in in the military, spent almost a year in solitary confinement as a prisoner of war, served in the Stamp Congress and both Continental Congresses. He served many years in various capacities in the South Carolina state government. He was elected governor of South Carolina but due to bad health, turned it down and served on the governor's privy council. His service to the country was unwavering and noble. Interesting to note, as an old man he reflected on his life and remarked, "He that forgets and forgives is the best citizen." He  made many political enemies with his firebrand style. It would appear that he did not advocate this style of politics in his later years. He requested to be buried in an unmarked grave. His wish was carried out. Gadsden is an inspirational character, yet at the same time an instructive life lesson on how diplomacy trumps acerbic politics.
5. Nathan Hale 1776 by Henry Phelps Johnston, published by Yale University Press 1914 (only a thousand copies made). Heroes are born, not made. They are great men and women of character who rise to the occasion. This biography touches on some of the sterling character that made Nathan Hale a hero, America's first spy killed in action. This book is a rare gem in that it makes use of never before unearthed firsthand sources (original letters) to add to the story of America's beloved hero. Loved the  appendix which proved as enlightening if nor more so than the narrative.

6. Scientist, Soldier, Statesman, Spy Count Rumford: The Extraordinary Life of a Scientific Genius by G.I. Brown, published by Sutton Publishing (paperback edition) in 1999. Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared American born Benjamin Thompson the greatest scientist America has ever produced right up there with Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Thompson (otherwise known as Count Rumford) made landmark studies into heat. He invented a stove and heating system that would feed the masses. Always the opportunist and his life philosophy, during the American Revolution he became a spy and later immigrated to England. He started the Royal Institute there and was invited to France's equivalent. He lived in Bavaria many years in a high position of government. Always thinking with a scientific mind, he embarked on a massive project to take the homeless off the street (making it a crime and giving them jobs in a factory he built) and make them productive. Not only did he achieve this, in order to accommodate them he came up with the aforementioned inventions (mass heating and stove system). His personal life was not exemplary, as he was not loyal to anyone including his own family (leaving his first wife and a taciturn relationship at times with his American born daughter), yet his accomplishments due to his industriousness and scientific mind are inspirational.

7. The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr by H.W. Brands, published by Anchor Books in 2012. Aaron Burr is one of my favorite founding fathers. He is much misunderstood and falsely so (we need to get textbook writers who touch the surface to revise based on research and truth versus lazy snippets that are merely repeated). University of Texas Professor H. W. Brands is one of my all time favorite authors. When I read his biography of Ben Franklin, I literally could not put it down. I recall spending an entire Sunday in pajamas from sunup to bedtime literally in my bed reading that book. This is a short masterpiece. In true H.W. Brands style, it is a page turner. Aaron Burr's love for his daughter, grandson and country leap off the pages. What I would pay for H. W. Brands to write a 700 page comprehensive report of Burr's life. In this little American Portraits series you see inside the soul of Aaron Burr. You witness his genius, his political savvy and unparalleled love for his daughter. The final pages will have you in tears as you share Burr's heartbreak over what he loves most: his family.  Brands quotes enough snippets of the Burr treason trial to convince even the history novice of the ridiculousness of such charges. Great book on a great man who should be the torch on how to be the world's best dad. The unjust sufferings he went through are simply gargantually unfair.

8. Aaron Burr The Conspiracy and Years of Exile: 1805-1836 by Milton Lomask published in 1982. Great read on Burr's later years. He surmounted many obstacles including the death of his beloved daughter, only grandson, the treason trial and years of exile abroad in Europe. Through all his most difficult times it was the love of his daughter that motivated him to be strong. This book is an inspirational story of the power of love between parent and child and how it can get you through anything.

9. Nathanael Greene by Gerald M. Carbone published in 2008 by Palgrave Macmillan. This is an inspiring read of George Washington's right hand man. Greene helped secure independence by winning the Southern campaign. He also placated and played peacekeeper to the French, whose navy was vital to the battle of Yorktown. He had impeccable judgment in people. He warned Washington against General Lee, who as it turned out had given plans to the British on how to capture the American army. Greene personally signed off on supplying his army with uniforms when they were naked. The fledgling Continental Congress did not have the funds. Greene was never repaid and was besought by creditors and died shortly thereafter at the age of 44. Serving nine years as General, he went years without seeing his wife and family and sacrificed all for the independence of this country. Washington made an excellent choice in Greene. Our country is forever grateful.

10. American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America by David O. Stewart published in 2011 by Simon and Shuster. This is a very slanted read by an author who obviously dislikes Burr. Despite this, I learned some very interesting facts about Burr. Most fault Burr for the Hamilton duel and the fallout was immense. Very few know that this was actually the 3rd duel scheduled between them but Hamilton had apologized on two previous occasions. Hamilton also wrote prior to the fatal duel that he would withhold fire. This he did not do, yet many believed he had and therefore attributed moral depravity to the duel. Undeniably according to the boat witnesses, they heard two shots (both fired). It is also interesting to see how far Thomas Jefferson went against what we know him for (rights) in a relentless pursuit to see his biggest challenger prosecuted for treason unsuccessfully. It is quite disturbing and a great lesson in that one must not trust a person will always live up to their professed principles, many do not when it benefits them- particularly where power or politics is involved.11. Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution by Mark Puls. Henry Knox was not only a jack of all trades, he was its master too. He was Washington's chief General on artillery. He helped beef up the Navy (convincing Congress to buy 6 cheap but cutting edge ships when it could afford none), he came up with the 3 tiered government of checks and balances and communicated this with Constitutional Congress delegate Governeur Morris who made it happen. He was loyal to Washington when Conway's Cabal almost replaced Washington with General Gates. Always a man of action, impeccable smarts, a visionary and of good character, the county owes much to this one incredible man. He was the Ben Franklin of diplomacy in both the congressional and military arena. Yet it all started when he started working as an understudy at the age of 12 in a bookstore (reading voraciously) to help put food on the table for his mother and brother. A man of good heart achieves much, a fantastic and inspiring read.

12. They Were Not Afraid to Die by A.C.M. Azoy, published in 1939 by The Military Service Publishing Co. of Harrisburg, Pa.  This is a very old book with great historical insight. Interesting to learn how the Battle of Bunker Hill could have been won had the Americans had more ammunition. One of the New York battles suffered a great loss because in the frenzy of military planning, some hot air officers full of confidence refused to consider a small passage which turned out to be a back door entry of defeat. Interesting to see how General Gates was really a coward, nowhere to be found at the Battle of Trenton and refused to end the Battle of Saratoga early because he was neither a man of action nor courage. A historical gem with facts that should not be lost to history but carefully detailed in this delightful book.

13. Recollections of the Jersey Prison Ship by Albert Greene take from the manuscript of Captain Thomas Dring, Prisoner, published in 1829.  A harrowing read of how American prisoners of war were treated on a British prison ship. The book describes Dring's rescue which is a true tale of hope and inspiration. Right down to the particulars of how they would get sick from the copper pot the food was cooked in and the dirty water, to lack of sunlight and hygeine, the book brings to life the inhuman struggles our forbears went through to bring us independence and democracy. It makes you realize the problems of a modern world not at war are very minor and inconsequential in comparison. May we all do our best to make our forbears proud by spreading kindness and truth so that all may have a fair shot at happiness and opportunity.

14. Weathering the Storm: Women of the American Revolution by Elizabeth Evans, published in 1975 by Charles Scribner's Sons. In focusing on the "Founders" and military leaders of the American Revolution, we often don't think to remember the huge sacrifices and risks that women took to create this country. This book glosses over in nutshell fashion the struggles of eleven women: from Deborah Sampson Gennett,who dressed as a man to join the army, to Grace Growden Galloway, who lost everything due to her ties to the loyalists. What really struck me was the injustice of war and how the best of  people can lose their moral sense of right and wrong and how this can even seep into and then dominate governmental policies. It is not right to strip people of their land and property just because they were associated to the losers of war. The strength of one's character can be seen not only in times of struggle, but particularly more so in victory and power. Many women before us exercised tremendous strength, risk and sacrifice in giving to the greater good. Let us never forget this.

15. Martha Washington by Patricia Brady, published in 2005 by Penguin Books. Wow. The image I had before of Martha being the doting grandmother (which she was) does not hold a candle to the strong willed, visionary Rock of Gibraltar Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was. In a day and age where the classes really did not intermarry, young and ambitious Martha broke the mold. She fell in love with wealthy Daniel Parke Custis. His patrician father forbade the union. Martha, on her own, made a visit to the stalwart man and changed his mind. As Daniel lay dying in bed (whose illness also took their infant son), they both bucked tradition by not having him do a will appointing a trustee to look after Martha and family. Instead, upon Daniel's death, Martha took over the details of running their large land ownings. This made her a most eligible widow with George Washington winning her heart. She would sacrifice and brave the weather, roads and danger in winter campaign months to support George as she travelled to Valley Forge and other winter campsites. She kept the morale of the officers and troops up. She always had many in her home from raising grandchildren to taking in relatives and their children, as well as special guests. She was a sincere lover, not in words only but action to George. She was brave and a risk taker, during the American Revolution they stood to lose everything but she was always fervent in the cause an ardent patriot. She was a true gift to our nation's first President. May we all honor her example and legacy for all time to come.