Saturday, November 03, 2007

On the passing of a Sunday School teacher

H.C. Kiser, Jr., died this week. A short obituary is here, and it says in part: "He touched many lives with his testimony of his World War II POW experiences and his desire for everyone to know the Lord as revealed in his favorite Scripture, "Jesus says, I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5)."

I've mentioned before the book about him.

Here is a short excerpt from the book, retelling the story I heard parts of at different times over thirty years ago. The date was October 12, 1944, American airman H.C. Kiser was 19, his bomber was on fire in the sky over Italy, and he was confronting the first crisis of his life:

"H.C. could look out on either wing and see smoke and flames coming out of the engines. He knew, perhaps, it would just be a matter of time until the plane exploded. H.C. and Doug Johnson, both waist gunners, were to bail out of the same escape hatch. Their oxygen was gone, and they were gasping for breath. . . .

H.C. had on fleece-lined gloves, and he crawled over to a metal door handle marked 'Pull in case of emergency.' He pulled his right glove off and grabbed the handle. His hand stuck to the door latch. Gasping for breath, he couldn't release his hand. The other waist gunner, Doug Johnson, came over and put his hand over H.C.'s. They both pulled, and the big door blew off into space. A 50-below-zero wind came rushing up and hit them in the face. They regained their senses from the blast of cold air and began to argue who would jump first - neither of them had ever jumped.

During the course of the argument, Doug pointed at H.C.'s chest parachute. His parachute had popped open when the plane was hit. The ripcord that he was to pull for a successful shoot opening was gone. The contents of the parachute had popped out into the plane and were scattered all up and down the waist of the plane. . . .

Doug said he wouldn't jump without helping H.C., and there were no extra parachutes on the plane. H.C. told him not to risk his life. After much hesitation, Doug jumped. H.C. watched him as he cleared the plane and reached for the rip cord; he pulled it and the parachute successfully opened.

[H.C.] crawled on his hands and knees down through the fuselage of the plane, gathered up all of the tangled shroud lines and the canopy of the parachute, and crawled back to the escape hatch. H.C. had gathered the parachute into a large bundle. In fact, the bundle was larger than the opening out of which he was to bail. H.C. kept trying to compress it small enough to get out of the door.

Finally he did this and began to pray: 'Lord, I don't know what to do, but I just pray that you will help me make the right decision: should I bail out or should I right this burning bomber down?' H.C. said, 'I had seen many planes go down and they usually burst into flames. It seemed like the Lord just said, 'H.C., I am a God of miracles; and if you will just leap out into space with a torn parachute, I will show you that I am a God of miracles.' Some time back in his Sunday School class, as a teenager, H.C. had a teacher who said when the book of Acts was finished that God no longer had to do these mighty miracles as He did when he was here among men. H.C. said, 'I knew that if I was going to live, it would take a miracle from a might God.'

He leaped out of the plane. As he saw the plane's rudder and tail section go by, he unfolded his arms and the parachute went up in a tangled mess. H.C. began to pray that God would open the parachute. He was falling faster and faster, and the parachute hadn't opened. H.C. began to make a lot of promises to the Lord. H.C. said, '. . . I looked at my little Bulova wristwatch and I said, 'Lord, perhaps in the next few minutes I will face death because this parachute isn't opening, and I just want to praise you this morning for the fact that you have taken all fear out of death; I am not afraid to die. Lord, I am nineteen years old. If you would see to open this parachute, I will witness for you every opportunity. Lord, I am so young to die, and I am thousands of miles away from my Godly parents, grandparents, and my pastor. Lord, it is just you and I here now, and I pray to you. I haven't been a Christian long, Lord, but I pray that you will let me live.' Still nothing happened. I told the Lord that maybe this problem was just too big for him, that even He couldn't open a tangled mess. When I told Him He couldn't, He showed me He could. The parachute opened with a terrific bang. I bit my tongue, my boots almost flew off, and I began to praise the Lord Jesus because this was truly a miracle.'"

Called to Be His Servant, H.C. Kiser, Jr.: A Biography, by Beverly Harding-Mullins, pp. 27-29, ISBN No. 0966451104.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ex-judge Shull

The Supreme Court ordered today, at the conclusion of this opinion, that "that James Michael Shull be removed immediately from the office of Judge of the Thirtieth Judicial District, pursuant to Article VI, § 10, of the Constitution of Virginia."

The opinion says: "Initially, we note that the record before us contains many letters from attorneys, court personnel, and local citizens, who have written in support of Judge Shull’s professional reputation and service to his community."

One of those letters was from me, and it said this:

"To Whom It May Concern:

Re: Judge Michael Shull

I have practiced law in Southwest Virginia since the Fall of 1990 and known Mickey Shull for some years. Mr. Shull is an engaging individual with a lively mind. He is smart and he is quick, and he is very empathetic. He has done a lot to help friends of mine from Scott County. He made an excellent living as a lawyer working out of a storefront office, with cases in every courtroom. When I learned that he was a candidate for the judgeship he now holds, I wrote to Senator Wampler to tell him that I supported Mr. Shull, and expressed the view that these qualities - his sharp intellect, desire to help people - would allow him to become an excellent juvenile judge.

Most of the time I have spent with Judge Shull (since he became a judge) has been talking about public affairs with him and other lawyers over lunch or at the courthouse. I have not appeared before him, but I have done my best to follow his career. What I have heard is that he does the Court's work with a high level of energy and that he does a good job discerning and applying the law.

I have no knowledge of the particulars of the complaint against Judge Shull that has been reported in the newspapers. It is my firm belief that Judge Shull is unbiased in his work and perfectly suited to dispense equal justice under the law, to persons of all kinds. His personality and manner of expression might not always make a good impression - sometimes he talks too loud and says too much. In spite of these quirks, I think he is a good man and so far as I can tell, a good judge also."

That's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shutdown plus 60 days wages equals no WARN Act violation

In Long v. Dunlop Sports Group, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Motz, joined by Judges King and District Judge Robert Conrad, held that the employer did not violated the WARN when it shutdown without prior notice but continued to pay wages to the plaintiffs for an additional sixty days. The Court concluded "that the employer did not violate the WARN Act because no employee suffered an employment loss as a result of the plant shutdown until 60 days after the employer provided notice of it." The Court also observed: "When an employer commits to continue payment of wages and benefits to its employees, the employment relationship has not ended."

Suspicious bliss

In U.S. v. Moore, the facts indicate that the arresting officer thought the fellow he stopped outside of the FloydFest was suspiciously "“way too nice."

Judge Urbanski concluded: "Moore’s continued cooperation, talkative demeanor
and friendly attitude does not suggest that crime was afoot." He also concluded that the mere fact that the defendant had just come from FloydFest "is not enough to justify the prolonged stop, detention, and interrogation."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Funny sort of job description

Being argued this week before the Supreme Court is the case of Hilton v. Martin, where one of the issues is this:

The trial court erred in sustaining the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Plea in Bar to the Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint and dismissing it in its entirety on the basis that the claims are barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act because Martin's actions of deliberately striking his fellow employee, Ms. Rhoton, with charged cardiac defibrillator paddles were personal in nature and did not arise out of their employment with Highlands Ambulance Services, Inc.

Two other interesting W.D. Va. judges

I wrote the Wikipedia pages on Judges Dobie and Barksdale.

And, they are as interesting as the rest.

Judge Dobie got the District Court position because FDR owed him a favor, plus he wanted to put up someone so well-qualified that Virginia's Senators Glass and Byrd wouldn't have the nerve to oppose him. Dobie gave a speech at the 1940 convocation at William & Mary, about which the Flat Hat records: "Typical of Judge Dobie's address was the manner in which he brought it to a close. He said that as Lady Godiva had said as she was nearing the end of her famous bareback ride, 'I am nearing my close,' that he too was ending his talk." When Dobie went on the Fourth Circuit, the Court consisted of the three judges, Dobie, John J. Parker, and Morris Soper, whose decisions in desegregation cases belied their backgrounds. Dobie was the son of a Norfolk school official, but he joined in when the Court held that the Norfolk schools could not pay less to black teachers.

Judge Barksdale won a Distinguished Service Cross in France. The VMI website has a picture of him in uniform. As the New York Times reported, at the 100th anniversary of the University of Virginia in 1921, Barksdale was part of the ceremony, presenting a plaque with the names of 80 U.Va. men who had died in World War I. Thereafter, he became a Byrd man during a short term in the General Assembly. Barksdale held the Circuit Court position previously held by his father. After Dobie went on the Fourth Circuit, Roosevelt put Barksdale on the District Court, with the approval of Glass and Byrd.