Posts Tagged ‘law’

Photo: National Park Service
Blue Ridge Mountains.

Today’s challenge features my favorite lines from “America the Beautiful,” the 1895 poem by Katharine Lee Bates, with music by Samuel A. Ward. The challenge is to sing it along with me — outloud — without choking up.

“O beautiful for spacious skies,
“For amber waves of grain,
“For purple mountain majesties
“Above the fruited plain! …

“America! America!
“God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
“Confirm thy soul in self-control,
“Thy liberty in law.”

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Photo: Bruch / Stringer
A street in Istanbul where people could go to have documents typed up while they waited, 1959. The tradition is only just dying out now.

In Turkey, public scribes have offered a document-typing service for generations. Now, partly because of the opposition of lawyers and partly because of new laws providing legal access to the indigent, the tradition is fading away.

Joshua Allen writes at Atlas Obscura, “On a side street near Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse, an electric sign reading ‘Petition Writer’ points to the open door of 67-year-old Hayrettin Talih’s tiny, one-room office. …

“Talih sits in front of a manual typewriter, in the same pose as a black-and-white photograph of himself, from 40 years earlier, which is tacked on the wall beside him.

“Occupying the chairs opposite his desk are a couple of older citizens who are explaining a property dispute with a relative. Talih listens, demands clarification where necessary, and finally applies his fingers to the chattering typewriter, producing an affidavit that the couple will use to start proceedings at the courthouse, and hopefully get their rightful dues.

“Although he is not a lawyer, Talih has clients who clearly trust him to translate their experiences into Turkish legalese, which is replete with archaic Ottoman words — much like the Latin phrases beloved of English-speaking lawyers. An understanding of this obscure language is vital to Talih’s work as a public scribe or arzuhalci, a profession he entered almost 50 years ago. Now, he is one of the last of his kind. …

“Public scribes were a necessity in the Ottoman era, when the language used in state documents was even farther removed from ordinary speech and a large percentage of the population was illiterate. On top of legal work, the scribes also made a living by writing love notes and letters for soldiers who travelled to fight in the wars that consumed the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. …

“The scribes say that they do not claim to be lawyers, as they merely help clients to express themselves on paper. ‘Let’s say I wrote something I don’t know about, and the person lost all his expenses and lost the case. Won’t he turn around and complain about me for putting him in that loss? It’s better not to write something you don’t know,’ Talih says.

“[Scribes] defend their profession as the only option for those who cannot afford a lawyer. … But according to İmmihan Sadioğlu, a lawyer at the Istanbul Bar Association, … the legal labyrinth cannot be navigated by an amateur, and the specific wording that the scribes use in the initial documents can be crucial. …

“After all, there is a government system in Turkey that covers the costs of those who cannot afford to pay a lawyer. … As this government support becomes better known, Sadioğlu and her fellow lawyers believe that the last scribes will see the writing on the wall.

“ ‘If a disadvantaged person can access justice easily, then he won’t look for other solutions. As for the state, it should increase the level of funding for legal aid,’ Sadioğlu says. ‘Someone who can receive a better and higher quality service from a free lawyer will not consider risking his rights by using a scribe.’ More at Atlas Obscura, here.

Don’t you love the fedora in the old photo? I think I’d ask for the help of a scribe just to sit and admire that hat.

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Sheikh Khalifa believes the United Arab Emirates would benefit in multiple ways if people there had more time to read. So he saw to it that a law got passed requiring employers to do their bit.

The National reports, “Employees will be given time off work to read under a law that was passed [in October], which also exempts reading material from taxes and fees.

“The President, Sheikh Khalifa, announced the law, which is aimed at achieving the country’s vision of a knowledge-based economy. …

“As part of the law, the Government will give a ‘knowledge briefcase’ to the families of newborns.

“Schools will be obliged to encourage reading among pupils, as well as a respect for books. Books that are no longer wanted must not be destroyed, but preserved, reused or donated, Sheikh Mohammed said.

“Fees and taxes for distributing, publishing and printing reading material will be scrapped, and facilities for authors, editors and publishing houses will be provided. Sheikh Mohammed said the law would consolidate ‘the cultural image of books in our society, and oblige coffee shops in shopping malls to offer reading material for customers.’ …

“A national fund will be set up to support reading initiatives and assist media organisations to advertise the importance of books. The fund will also be used organise a month dedicated each year to promoting literature.”

More here.

It’s an unusual approach, but it seems OK as long as there is freedom to choose what gets read. Lately, I’ve been immersed in the beautiful, wrenching autobiography of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca and learning all over again how literacy gives people wings. Baca learned to read in prison at around age 20 and it transformed his life.

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As I noted the other day, the approach to saving the Harlem home of Langston Hughes is online fund-raising.

Meanwhile in France, the home of James Baldwin may be saved by a squatter and a quirky French law.

Shannon Cain writes at LitHub.com, “To clean the floor of James Baldwin’s guest room would take 32 disposable cleaning wipes. I figured this out on my hands and knees, estimating the square footage of the terra cotta tile surface. There were 40 wipes in the package. If I used one wipe per roughly two square feet, I’d have enough. I was camping here without running water or electricity, but damned if I was going to live inside a dusty mess.

“Four days earlier, struggling under the weight of a camping backpack laden with supplies, a duffel of linens, bag of books and a deluxe inflatable bed, I’d pushed aside the unlocked wire barrier of the ten-acre property and entered the 17th-century stone house, illegally.

“It wasn’t hard to do; the door had been busted off its frame long before I arrived and the place was wide open. I was sweating, exhausted and elated; I’d spent the previous six hours traveling by trains and buses from Paris, stressing hard about this moment, worried I’d be detected. …

“I needed to establish my squatters’ rights, which according to French law would be mine after 48 hours. The cancelled postage on the postcard I was about to send to myself would serve as one of these proofs. … To send a letter, one addresses it to the Ancienne Maison Baldwin, chemin du Pilon, St. Paul de Vence 06570. It seems the post office, at least, remembers James Baldwin. …

“The squatter’s law in France is meant to dissuade land speculation and absentee ownership. It is perhaps one of the purest manifestations of socialism. For seven years, the real estate developer that owns the Baldwin house has let this historic structure and its magnificent gardens go to seed. In the meantime, they’ve been busy with other projects, including the construction of an enormous American-style shopping center in Nice, all superstores and parking lots, reputedly built within a flood plain.

“In my research over the last months I have heard nothing but disdain and outright hatred for this corporation among the local people. ‘He’s a bandit, that one,’ muttered a local business owner.”

Read the whole crazy adventure and how Cain outfoxes the “bandit,” here.

Photo: Shannon Cain
Former home of writer James Baldwin on the French Côte d’Azur.

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