Professional Responsibilty & Coronavirus

(Originally posted on March 25. Updated on April 4.)

The YouTube version of this post is here.

*******

As I mentioned this morning, the Rules of Professional Conduct are rules of reason.  Here are some thoughts on practicing reasonably during a public health crisis.

Competence  & Communication

  • Current Events

To me, competence includes understanding the effect that current events have on the representation.

For instance, on March 16, the Supreme Court adopted Administrative Order 49.  It’s an emergency order that addresses judicial operations and it has been amended three times.  Here are the Court’s March 16 Emergency OrderMarch 18 amendmentsMarch 20 amendments, and March 24 amendments.

Yesterday the Governor issued the  “Stay Home/Stay Safe” order.  It’s the sixth addendum to an Executive Order that issued on March 13.  The original order and addenda are here.

Finally, here is a post on Judge Toor’s message and order regarding operations in Chittenden Civil.

Competence includes understanding how the Judicial and Executive orders apply to you and your clients. It also includes staying abreast of new orders as they’re issued.  Your duty to communicate with clients likely includes explaining to them how the orders will impact their matters.

  • Emergency Advice & Assistance

Competent representation includes having the knowledge and skill required for the representation.  However, here’s Comment [3] to the rule on competence:

  • “In an emergency a lawyer may give emergency advice and assistance in a matter in which the lawyer does not have the skill ordinarily required [and] where referral to or consultation or association with another lawyer would be impractical.  Even in an emergency, however, assistance should be limited to that reasonably necessary in the circumstances, for ill-considered action under emergency conditions can jeopardize the client’s interest.”

Diligence & Communication

Rule 1.3 requires lawyers to act “with reasonable diligence and promptness” on behalf of clients.  Rule 1.4 requires lawyers to keep clients reasonably updated as to the status of their matters, to provide clients with enough information to make reasonably informed decisions about their matters, and to respond to clients’ reasonable requests for information.

In my opinion, when it comes to assessing reasonableness, context matters. Conduct that might have violated the rules last summer, might not now. While lawyers cannot abandon or ignore clients, I’d argue that they can keep the bigger picture in mind when prioritizing their days.

What if you become unavailable?

First, these are stressful times.  Don’t forget your own well-being.  Here is my post on coping with the stress & anxiety related to the public health crisis.

Now, what if you are stricken with the virus?

I have not shown any symptoms. Still, who knows what the future holds?  So, today, I recommended that the Professional Responsibility Board plan for my unexpected unavailability. Develop a roster of lawyers able to do my job if I can’t.  In my mind, I thought of it as my “Amii Stewart Recommendation.” 

Because babe, as I was drafting it, I guaran-f’ng-tee you that I knock-knock-knocked on wood!

In short, none of us is immune.

Comment [5] to Rule 1.3 suggests that diligent representation includes having a plan to protect clients’ interests if a lawyer is incapacitated.  This is particularly important for sole practitioners.

For now, and given the duties of competence, diligence and communication:

  • Who will contact clients, courts, and opposing counsel if you are incapacitated?
  • Who will deliver files, return unearned funds, check your calendar?
  • Who will check email, voice mail, the U.S. mail?
  • Who will handle hearings or events that have not been suspended or postponed?

My post on succession planning is here.  My post on disaster planning is here.

KEY! If you have a succession plan, make sure someone knows where it is and who to contact when it’s triggered.

Your clients aren’t immune either.

Rule 1.2(a) requires a lawyer to abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of a representation. What if a client cannot communicate their decisions to you?

Well, Rule 1.14 applies whenever a client’s capacity to make adequately considered decisions about the representation is diminished, no matter the reason.  Initially, the duty is to maintain as normal a client-lawyer relationship as possible.  At some point, doing so is no longer possible.  Thus, the rule specifies situations in which a lawyer will be authorized “to take reasonably necessary protective steps” or “to make express considered judgments about the matter.”

In my view, and at the risk of being promoted to Captain Obvious*, it’s best that the client makes the decisions that the rules envision the client making.  For now, some lawyers might have clients from whom it makes sense to seek advance direction, especially in matters with critical decision-points imminent.

*or would it be a demotion? I’ve always wondered which way the chain-of-command flows on obviousness.

Client Confidences and Working Remotely

I’m not sure what number immediately precedes “infinity.”  Whatever it is, it’s the number of times that I’ve blogged or said that a lawyer has a duty to take reasonable precautions to safeguard client information, including reasonable precautions to prevent that inadvertent disclosure of or unauthorized access to client information.

Most of you are working from home.  Do you have a dedicated workspace away from curious ears or bored and prying eyes? Are you working on a device that’s connected to others in your home? Are you on public Wifi?  Are you – gasp! – chipping in with your neighbor to share the same Wifi? Should you set up a VPN?

Important considerations.

Trust Accounting

Got this question from 3 different firms: no, Vermont’s rules do not prohibit an electronic signature on a trust account check.

Civility & Cooperation

99.99% of you rock.  I heard one story, however, that saddened & maddened me.  I urge all lawyers to be accommodating when considering requests for accomodations that are related to COVID-19.  Rescheduling, posptoning, extending a deadline, you name it.

I blogged about civility & the pandemic here.  It includes two examples of how NOT to act during the pandemic.

On that note, here’s an uplifting story.   Judge Amy Totenberg is a United States District Judge in Georgia.  Last week, Judge Totenberg issued an order related to court operations during the crisis.  The order included:

  • “Be kind to one another in this most stressful of times. Remember to maintain your perspective about legal disputes, given the larger life challenges now besetting our communities and world. Good luck to one and all.”

Among others, the ABA Journal and Law.Com have the story.

Oh, and for one of the more entertaining orders I’ve ever read – and another example of what courts will not consider to be an emergency – check out this post.

Conclusion

I know you are all doing your best.  I am too. I’m not trying to scare you; I’m trying to lend guidance by sharing some of the considerations to keep in mind as you make decisions. Please continue to contact me with specific questions.

This post was general, for a broad audience. I didn’t address every question I received this week, several of which related to duties and rules not discussed here.

Still, I’ll end as I began: the rules are rules of reason.

In my opinion, no matter the duty or rule you’re analyzing, there is nothing unreasonable about acting in such a way as to minimize the risk of spreading or acquiring a deadly virus.

Peace.

In the meantime, keep on knockin’.

New Amendments to Emergency Order

On March 20, the Vermont Supreme Court approved new amendments to Administrative Order 49, the Emergency Order issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The March 20 amendments are here.

The following was added to Section 6 – Email Filings:

  • “A signature block containing the filer’s typed-in name preceded by
    “/s/,” or an electronic facsimile of the filer’s signature, a scanned
    copy of it, or another form of electronic signature as defined in 9
    V.S.A. § 271(9), will serve as a party’s signature on pleadings,
    motions, and other documents that must be filed with a signature.
    This exception does not apply to affidavits, verified pleadings, or
    other signatures that must be notarized by statute.”

The most recent amendments also include an order

  • “That ¶¶ 13 and 14 of Administrative Order No. 49 be added to read as follows:
    13. Participation in Court-Ordered Mediation: Pursuant to V.R.C.P. 16.3(b)(3), for as
    long as the judicial emergency exists under this order, the judicial emergency
    constitutes “good cause” authorizing remote participation in mediation, by video or
    telephone, without a stipulation or further court order. Notwithstanding V.R.F.P.
    18(d)(4) and V.R.P.P. 16.1(d)(4), parties to matters in the family and probate
    divisions may attend court-ordered mediation remotely, by video or telephone.”

Related Information:

Image result for update

 

A Professional Responsibility & Legal Ethics Bracket!

As a basketball fan, this weekend – the first of the NCAA college basketball tournament -would normally be one of my favorites of the year.  I find the first weekend’s games to be the most exciting.   And, of course, there’s the brackets.

Well, with some time on my hands, I created the first, and hopefully not annual, Professional Responsibility & Legal Ethics Bracket.  I’m hash tagging it #prmadness.

Participation is purely voluntary and, even better, free.  Here’s how it works.

As with the NCAA tournament, I’ve created 4 quadrants. To participate, all you need to do is vote bracket-style.  Yes, “vote.”  That’s the only difference between this and a “regular” bracket where you pick the entire tournament at once.  The voting for the first-round will remain open until 9:00 PM on March 24. For each match-up, the concept/phrase with the most votes will advance to the next round.  Then, voting will begin anew.

For example: in the Conflict/Confidences quadrant, the first match up is:

  • #1 – Candor to the Tribunal
  • #16 – Meritorious/Frivolous Claims

Voters choose between the two.  Whichever ends up with the most votes, advances to the next round.

What are the voting criteria?  That’s completely up to you.

  • One concept is more confusing to you than the other? Pick it!
  • One is a rule that you feel you’ve mastered?  Great, that’s your winner!
  • One makes you laugh, the other makes you tremble with fear?  That’s a good enough reason as any.

I mean, in the real tournament, I’ve heard of folks who pick teams based on uniform color, or, which mascot would win a fight between the two.

Or, vote like a pro.  Professor Alberto Bernabe – host of the Professional Responsibility Blog – is a frequent member of my blog’s#fiveforfriday Honor Roll in Legal Ethics.  Here’s how he’s going to make his picks:

  • “I am voting based on this question: which of the two is more necessary, or more important.”

I based the choices on the questions I receive at CLEs and via inquiries of bar counsel. I also threw in a few of the concepts that are beginning to gain traction in the world of professional responsibility and legal ethics.  Later tonight and tomorrow, I’ll do 4 separate blogs, one on each quadrant.  I hope to use them as both a teaching tool and a distraction.

Do you have to vote in all 4 brackets? No.  You can vote in as few or as many as you choose. So, have at it!

Again, the master bracket is here.  To vote in a particular quadrant, click on a link below:

Yes, there are some rules and concepts that did not make the tournament field. Just like in regular March Madness, some of the omissions will be controversial.  For instance, I didn’t list “Conflicts” or “Confidences.”  Each is so broad.  So, I merged them into a single quadrant of aspects of each.  It’s the quadrant at the bottom left of the bracket.  Also, “Competence” is subsumed into the entire bracket.  Other notable omissions:

  • Pro Bono – I didn’t want anyone to have to vote against it!
  • Advertising & Letterhead: big issue, but one that almost never comes up in the calls and questions I receive or in the formal complaints that are filed either.
  • Direct Contact with Prospective Clients:  don’t get quite enough questions on this issue.
  • Advising Cannabis Clients – again, close, but no cigar.

And, knowing me, it’s entirely possible that I simply overlooked a rather important topic.

Enjoy!

Image result for 64 team tournament brackets

The “You’ve Been Unsubcribed” EMail

Today, an email went out informing lawyers that they’d been unsubscribed from the JUD.AttyLicensing email list.

After hearing from several of you and receiving the email myself, I contacted Andy Strauss.  Andy is the Judiciary’s Licensing Counsel.  Andy confirmed that the email went out in error.  You do not have to do anything in response.  Everyone will be returned to the list.

Please consider sharing this post with other lawyers.

Note: if you did not receive the “unsubscribed” email, it might mean that you do not have an up-to-date email address on file with Andy’s office.   To contact that office, click here.

Thank you.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Image result for unsubscribe image

VT Supreme Court Declares Judicial Emergency & Adopts Emergency Procedures

Note:  I posted this on March 16 in response to the Supreme Court’s order of the same date. The Court issued an amended order on March 18.  I’ve updated that below.

*********

Today, the Vermont Supreme Court declared a judicial emergency and adopted changes to state court procedures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Court’s order is here.  Please read it yourself.  A summary:

  • the order goes into effect immediately.
  • the order extends until April 15, 2020, or until further order of the Court.
  • the order supersedes all COVID-19 orders previously issued by the Vermont Supreme Court and the Vermont Superior Courts.
  • effective March 17, 2020, all nonemergency Superior Court hearings, both evidentiary and non-evidentiary, are postponed (there are exceptions, listed in the order).
  • Judicial Bureau hearings are postponed.
  • In non-evidentiary hearings that have not been postponed, parties and counsel may appear by telephone without seeking permission by motion.  Read the order for more details, including who is responsible for calling the court and comments on situations in which video participation may be feasible.
  • Section 6 of the order authorizes certain filings by email even in courts that do not yet require electronic filings.  See the order for details.
  • Section 7 outlines how access to court buildings will be handled.

Again, my summary is not a substitute for reading the order, which is here.

The original order was amended on March 18.  The amended order is here.

Image result for vermont judiciary update

Temporary Order on Appearances in Chittenden Civil

UPDATE: JUDGE TOOR’S MARCH 12 MESSAGE

From: Judge Toor

To: Chittenden County Bar

I want to keep you all informed with regard to how the courts are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court has created a task force that is working daily on the issue and is in direct contact with the Executive Branch and particularly the Department of Health. We are currently having all-judge daily telephone conferences with the Supreme Court. This is a fast-moving issue and things are changing daily. The Court has been updating statements on the court website daily, which I urge you to read, and is considering various options as to state-wide steps to address the issue.

            We do NOT want anyone coming to court if they have any reason to believe they may be ill or should be in self-quarantine due to travel or exposure to others who have tested positive. Posters will be going up at the courthouse to that effect soon. We expect the website will soon reflect that requests for continuances due to health concerns may be made by email to avoid people coming to court to deliver paper requests. As you know, I will not require a request in advance for phone appearances when someone is potentially ill if the matter is not one at which evidence will be taken. We are all planning to be very liberal with requests to appear by phone or continue matters where parties are concerned about risks to their health in coming to court, whether due to their age, underlying medical conditions, or other concerns. We are discussing other ways to reduce court events that bring large numbers of people together in the various dockets, without bringing the court system to a grinding halt.  I’m sure you know that some courts in other jurisdictions have already cancelled jury draws, jury trials and other court events. 

            Currently, the trial courts have discretion with respect to such things as jury trials and draws until the Supreme Court decides otherwise. I have decided today to move our next jury draw from  April 9 to May 7 (and will discuss that with the lawyers in those cases at the pretrials that are currently scheduled), and will revisit whether that can go forward as we see how the illness progresses in the community. I plan to contact  the lawyers who already have a jury selected for a trial later this month to discuss whether we should proceed as scheduled. I welcome any thoughts from any of you as to how you think this court, and the courts statewide, should be proceeding. Feel free to email me directly with suggestions or comments—as long as they do not relate to a particular case—at helen.toor@vermont.gov. Please practice social distancing and do all you can to stay healthy.

Helen Toor

 

Original Post:

Judge Toor just sent the following message:

To Chittenden County Bar:

I am instituting a temporary standing order that any lawyer (or client) with cold symptoms (coughing or sneezing, and obviously any high temperature) may appear by phone in my courtroom without advance permission for any hearing that does not involve taking evidence. Please call in five minutes early as the Call Center can cause delay in getting you to the courtroom phone.

-Judge Toor

Thank you Dave Gurtman for forwarding the message.

The February Bar Exam

I’m on my way to a watefront hotel!

Alas, both hotel and waterfront lie just south of the 45th parallel.  As Jimmy sings, I need a change in latitude.

Image result for changes in latitudes jimmy buffett

Anyhow, the bar exam begins today.  As soon as I publish this post, I’ll walk the block-and-a-half to the host hotel to help register 104 prospective lawyers who will sit for the Vermont administration of the exam.

The exam they’ll take is not the same exam that many of you took.  In 2016, the Vermont Supreme Court adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE).  For an explanation of how the UBE works, check out this post from February 2017.  In short, the UBE is the same in each of the 35 (or) states that have adopted it.  While each jurisdiction sets its own passing – or “cut” – score, scores are portable.  So, for example, an examinee who sits for the Vermont administration of the exam can use their score to apply for admission in any of the UBE states.

For years, I’ve used this blog to preach an attorney’s duty of competence.  The UBE is one of the initial tools we use to measure competence.  Indeed, in a Q& that I did with Keith Kasper and Andy Strauss, Keith opened by stating that:

  • “The UBE is a measure to assure that those applicants we certify for licensure are qualified to practice law. Unfortunately, a law school degree is not sufficient. While not part of the UBE, the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam) is utilized by most states to assure that bar applicants have studied not only the substantive aspects of the law but the ethical requirements of being a lawyer. On the other hand, the UBE evaluates the core legal knowledge of the applicants as to the most important aspects of a modern law practice.  It undergoes periodic review and updating to reflect the modern practice of law in this country. One of the most recent changes since you and I took the bar exam is to add federal civil procedure to the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”) portion of the UBE, as procedural aspects of the practice of law are also of great importance to the competent practice of law.”

You can read the full interview here.

Finally, odds are that between 60 and 70 of today’s examinees will attain the 270 that Vermont requires for admission.  Hopefully, many of those who do will stay in Vermont to practice.  To do so, and once approved by the Character & Fitness Committee, they’ll have one year to:

  • complete 15 hours (at least 6 of which must be “live”) of continuing legal education in Vermont practice & procedure that has been approved by the Continuing Legal Education Board and certified by the Board of Bar Examiners; and,
  • complete a mentorship.

Failure to complete the CLE or mentorship results in an administrative suspension that can only be cured by completion.

The current list of approved CLE courses is HERE.  An outline of the mentorship program is HERE.

We can never have too many mentors.  If you’re willing to serve, let me know and I’ll put you on the list.

 

Happy Birthday PK!

Note:  I originally posted this on February 15, 2019.   In that my brother’s birthday comes each year, I’ll continue to post on every February 15.

*************

Welcome to #151!

Bacardi isn’t today’s topic.  I can’t stand rum.

Today’s topic is my brother.

My brother is Patrick Francis Kennedy.  Some of you may know him as “The First Brother.” That’s how I list him when he earns a spot on the #fiveforfriday Honor Roll.  No, he’s not a lawyer.  He’s simply incredibly smart and can do legal research.  When he feels like it, he submits a perfect 5 for 5.   Give him a few days and he’d argue your motion to dismiss.

Then he’d argue opposing counsel’s position and leave the judge with a difficult decision.

I’m not sure how best to describe Patrick.  He is a lot of things.

Patrick makes his living as some sort of coder.  Or maybe he’s a programmer or a network engineer.  Honestly, his professional world is so Greek to me that I’m not exactly sure what he does.  But he’s damn good at it.

Patrick used to be in the Army.  He drove tanks.  Then, he did something, I can’t remember where or what, that exposed his tech competence to a superior officer.  That was the end of driving tanks. They whisked him off to West Point to run systems and such.  Now, he works for MyWebGrocer.

Patrick is also a top-notch chef.  He’s won multiple chili contests, an accomplishment that actually works to mask how adept he is at cooking anything & everything.  Not only does he know the precise temperature at which the various meats are best served, he’s knows how to order the right wine for each.  And how to make the right cheese for each wine.  Don’t like wine?  He brews beer.

My brother can fish & hunt.  He can explain how a piano works, how to attack a zone defense, and how the Union Army prevailed at Gettysburg.  He is conversant in Spanish and Italian.  He’s traveled extensively in Europe, been stationed on the DMZ, and coached a middle school basketball team to a tournament championship.

While wearing a tuxedo.

He can capably discuss Cornwallis at Yorktown, the aerodynamics at Daytona, and the paradoxes of time travel.  He could do your kid’s calculus homework then show her little sister how to build a leprechaun trap.  Afterwards, he’d let you choose whether to have him teach you how to make candles, brisket, or reservations for a Papal mass.

Patrick has constructed compelling arguments that Ignatius J. Reilly is literature’s greatest character, Rock of Ages is Broadway’s greatest musical, and Rick Burleson is Boston’s greatest shortstop.  He was the only Vermonter among the 25 finalists for the President of Red Sox Nation.

He doesn’t cheat at board games or throw tantrums when he loses.  (Hello bar counsel!) He’d crush you in Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy, but then lie to you that he was lucky to do so.

I could go on & on about my brother.  Nothing I’ve listed should be construed to indicate that something I omitted is not in his wheelhouse.  Further, if my description of him seems random, well, it is.  Because that’s him: the rare person who knows so much about so much that it makes those of us who aren’t so smart (or interesting) wonder “how does he know so much about so many random things?”

But the things that he knows and can do are not why he’s important to me.  Without diving into detail, I’ll leave you with this.

Patrick is my younger brother.  By 18 months.  For his entire life, he’s had my back, unconditionally.  24/7/365. If you have a brother, you know what that means.

I wish I was more like him.  As a person, and as a brother.

My brother is a remarkable person with a fascinating variety of talents, interests, and areas of knowledge.  Everything I’ve shared about him is true.  Yet, there’s no more accurate way to describe him than as the best brother in the world.

Oh, one other thing, Patrick Francis Kennedy was born on February 15.

Happy birthday bro!

Bro

https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/sites/default/files/documents/op19-003.pdf

Monday Morning Answers #189

Welcome to February!  Interestingly, we open a month that only has 29 days with the first Honor Roll to include at least 30 people.  Thanks to all who submitted answers!

Friday’s questions are here.  Today’s answers follow the Honor Roll.

Honor Roll

Answers

Question 1

There’s a rule that prohibits a lawyer from communicating about the subject of the representation with a person that the lawyer knows is represented by another lawyer.

Which is NOT an exception to the prohibition?

  • A.    The other lawyer consents to the communication.
  • B.    The communication is authorized by law.
  • C.    The represented person initiates the communicationV.R.Pr.C. 4.2, Comment 3.  For more, see this post on the no-contact rule.
  • D.    Trick question.  A, B and C are exceptions to the rule.

Question 2

Here are 2 things I mentioned at CLE:

  1. last minute changes to wire instructions; and,
  2. a prospective out-of-state client who claims to be owed money by a person or business that is in Vermont, and who only communicates with you by e-mail.

I was warning lawyers about  ________.

  • A.   accidentally communicating with a represented person.
  • B.   the risks of not understanding how to conduct e-discovery competently.
  • C.   the Unauthorized Practice of Law.
  • D.   common trust account scams.  See my post: Learn to Identify Trust Account Scams

Question 3

Consider the following:

  • must be in a writing that is signed by the client.
  • cannot be used for representing a defendant in a criminal case.
  • cannot be based on securing a divorce.

Here, we’re talking about:

  • A.   Contingent Fees
  • B.   Flat Fees
  • C.   An agreement to limit the scope of a representation
  • D.   All the Above

Question 4

Attorney called me with an inquiry.  She said “Mike, I represented Client.  The case is over.  She’s coming to my office later this week.  I have some questions about mental impressions, as well as internal notes and memoranda.”

Most likely, what did Attorney call to discuss?

  • A.  The duty to report a client’s fraud.
  • B.  The duty to act competently to safeguard client data stored in the cloud.
  • C.  The duties to a client who suffers from a diminished capacity.
  • D   The duty to deliver the file.  See my post: Deliver The File  I also have a power point on this issue. I will e-mail it to anyone who asks.

Question 5

Background: after consecutive quizzes that included questions related to the British royal family, the ghost of Aunt Kate admonished me through a local lawyer who spent many an election night at Aunt Kate’s house.   As such . . .

. . . in 1966, Alan Page led the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to the college football national championship.  He went on to star in the NFL, and played in 4 Super Bowls for the Minnesota Vikings.  On the Vikings, he was part of a defensive unit that had a colorful nickname.  After retiring from football, Page embarked on a legal career that included serving for 30 years on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

That’s right: he played & served in Prince’s home state.

Back to Super Bowl bets & long odds: another available bet is “what color Gatorade will the winning team pour over its coach?”

When betting opened, a particular color was the longest shot, with a $100 bet paying $1,800.  As of this morning, that color is now the odds-on-favorite, with winners only getting even money.

If you know anything about Prince, the Vikings, and the nickname of Page’s defensive unit, you’ll know the color.

What color?

Purple.

The Washington Post covered purple’s surge among bettors here.  In the end, however, the victorious Chiefs dumped orange Gatorade on Coach Andy Reid.

Image result for orange gatorade super bowl

 

Happy Birthday Papa!

Note:  This colum originally ran on February 9, 2018.  I’m re-posting it because, yesterday, Papa would’ve turned 104.  Only one more year until he reaches his number.

**********************

Welcome to # 105!

Today I’m going to write about Eddie Bonneau.   Eddie was my grandfather, my mom’s dad.  I called him “Papa.”

How am I tying this to #105?  Good question.

My grandfather isn’t 105.  His birthday was February 1 and, if still alive today, he’d have just turned 102. It only feels like 105 years since I’ve seen him.  So there’s that.

Plus, using a prop to which I frequently resort in this column, the final digit in 105 is, well, 5.  And VT Route 5 runs through Bradford, which is where my grandfather lived for the final 50 (or so) years of his life.

Good enough for me.

I’m going to share two stories about Papa.  But, first, some background.

Eddie Bonneau was born in Chicago.  Somehow, his family ended up in Lebanon, New Hampshire.  Papa dropped out of Lebanon High School after his sophomore year.  Like many of French-Canadian descent, he went to work in a woolen mill.

When he was 21, he married my grandmother.  She was 17 and had recently graduated from high school.  She was the bread-winner: Nanny made $7 per week, Papa $5.

Within 10 years, they’d had 4 kids and moved across the river & up the valley to Bradford, Vermont.  My grandfather opened a grocery store.

The grocery store lasted only until the early 1950’s.  My grandfather was deep in debt. His creditors took over.  Papa decided against bankruptcy, concluding that it was morally and ethically wrong.

Over the next few years, he and my grandmother had 2 more kids.  For the rest of his life, my grandfather worked here and there: some jobs as a door-to-door salesman, one as a butcher, another as a clerk at the 5 & Dime.

I remember him as being the smartest guy I knew. He didn’t talk much, but when he did, you listened. What he didn’t have in school smarts, he had 100 times over in common sense.  He was a voracious reader & keen follower of current events.

Papa loved cribbage.  And cards.  He dutifully played endless rounds of pinochle with my grandmother and various family & friends, even though my grandmother usually whupped him, no matter their respective partners.

Papa wasn’t active.  I don’t think I ever saw him in anything but dark pants and a button-up white shirt.  That’s how he dressed even when he & my grandmother took us to Lake Winnipesaukee, where he’d sit on a bench reading a newspaper while we swam.  Actually, once he wore his clothes off the bench & into a boat.  We were at Niquette Bay on Lake Champlain.  He helped me catch my first fish.  A little pumpkinseed.

Besides not being active, Papa smoked.  He was an equal opportunity smoker.  He smoked for breakfast, he smoked for lunch, and he smoked for dinner.  He smoked on the bench at the beach.  I vividly recall mornings at his breakfast table, where we’d pretend not to hear his daily coughing fits that he thought the wafer-thin bathroom walls muffled.

Emphysema eventually killed him in 1994.

Before it did, my brother and I have an enduring memory of visiting our grandparents for a family event, only to have Papa disappear. We went to find him.  He had wheeled his oxygen tank to the barn to sneak a cigarette.  By then we were in our late teens, maybe 20’s.  We didn’t feel compelled to make a mandatory report to our grandmother, mom, or aunts.

You see, one thing Papa loved, but lacked, was quiet.  My mom has 4 sisters and a brother. Unlike my grandfather, one might accurately describe my grandmother and her 6 children as the sharing type.  As in, they’ve always shared pretty much every thought that ever entered their heads.  So if Papa wanted a smoke in the quiet of the barn, who were my brother and I to stop him?

Now, the stories.

First, like I said, my grandfather was super smart.  And he was proud.  Not vain, but proud. I visited my grandparents during the holiday break of my first year in law school. Once we sat down, he said, after a long drag, “so Mister, tell me a law.”

I had no ready answer. He wasn’t impressed.

Next, for special occasions, my grandmother would send me, my brother, and our cousins checks.  Sometimes $3, sometimes $5.  She’d include a card with a note to “buy yourself an ice cream!”  Once, in law school, I lost one of my $3 checks. I was too afraid to tell her, so I let the Irish side of me take over.  Meaning, I just ignored it, figuring that ignoring it would make the issue go away.

Epic fail.  Eventually, my mother called to ask why I hadn’t cashed Nanny’s check. I had to fess up.  Again, Papa wasn’t impressed with someone who cared so little about $3 as to lose a check.

A few months later, Nanny & Papa gave me $300 as gift for my graduation from law school.  For people like them, it was an astonishingly staggering amount.  Think about it: it’s 25 times as much as their combined weekly income as newlyweds. I cashed the check immediately.

About a month later, I was back in Vermont and went to visit my grandparents. First words out of Papa’s mouth: “guess you didn’t lose that one.”

I don’t how to end this post.  I’m not sure how it ties to 105, other than it doesn’t.  I just felt like writing about my grandfather.  I miss him.  He was a good man. He had nothing, but made sure that his kids had something, which, besides my parents, is one of the main reasons that I have anything.

Thanks for indulging me.

67FCDEE4-4A0B-4B58-9AB7-151422E4069A