Thursday, May 27, 2021

No. 422: An Excellent Book about How Bill Garrett Broke the Color Line in Big Ten Basketball

Many people know Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color line in major league baseball. However, few people know Bill Garrett of Indiana University (IU) broke the color line in Big Ten basketball.

The Book
In 2006, a friend sent me a just-published book entitled Getting Open: The Unknown Story of Bill Garrett and the Integration of College Basketball. I read the book and found it excellent. Recently I reread the book and decided to prepare this blog post.

The Authors
Getting Open was written by the father-daughter team of Tom Graham and Rachel Graham Cody. Tom grew up in Garrett's home town of Shelbyville, Indiana, graduated from Harvard Law School, and became an international trade lawyer. He was on the freshman basketball team at IU and knew many of Garrett's coaches, teammates, and fans. Rachel is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Divinity School, where she focused on African American studies.

The Book's Structure
The first part of the book ends with Shelbyville High School's victory in the 1947 Indiana state high school basketball championship. The Shelbyville starting lineup that year consisted of five seniors, including Garrett and two other outstanding black players. The second part of the book describes the "gentleman's agreement" that had prevented blacks from playing basketball in the Big Ten conference, and how the agreement was breached.

The Garrett Story
After Shelbyville won the Indiana high school championship in 1947, and after Garrett was named Mr. Indiana Basketball, many people wanted Garrett to enroll in the fall at IU. Great black athletes had been playing football at IU for years. But Garrett decided to enroll at Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Garrett transferred to IU in 1947 from Tennessee State during the legendary tenures of IU president Herman B Wells and IU head basketball coach Branch McCracken. When I arrived at IU in 1962, I began getting my hair cut in the men's barber shop in IU's Indiana Memorial Union. I learned from my barber there that Wells years earlier had fired the barber shop's manager, because he had refused to cut the hair of blacks. Wells had taken many other steps to open up IU, and he also was a staunch defender of academic freedom. Garrett became an outstanding basketball player at IU.

The Robinson Story
The book includes extensive material about Robinson. On April 15, 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color line in major league baseball when Robinson started at first base on opening day at Ebbets Field. Branch Rickey, then the president of the Dodgers, often told a story that had haunted him for many years. In 1910, when Rickey was the baseball coach at Ohio Wesleyan University, his team had a black catcher named Charles Thomas. A hotel in South Bend, Indiana, where Rickey's team was to play Notre Dame, refused to give Thomas a room. The hotel, when pressed, agreed to put an extra cot in Rickey's room. When Rickey got to the room, he found Thomas sitting on the cot in tears, pulling at the skin on his hands, and saying, "It's my skin, Mr. Rickey. If I could pull it off, I'd be just like everybody else."

In World War II, blacks served in the military to defend our country, and many died. After the war, there was much talk about the absence of blacks in major league baseball. Rickey asked his scouts to find an outstanding black player. They located Robinson, who had been a four-sport college athlete in California, and who was playing for a black professional baseball team. When Rickey and Robinson met, Rickey asked: "Have you got the guts to play the game no matter what happens?" Robinson asked: "Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?" Rickey replied: "I'm looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back!"

In 1946, when I was a high school junior, I played second base for Nottingham High School in my home town of Syracuse, New York. That year I got an early look at Robinson. I attended a game between the Syracuse Chiefs, then a farm team for the Cincinnati Reds, and the Montreal Royals, then a farm team for the Dodgers. Robinson played in the game, and I could tell he was very talented.

General Observations
Getting Open remains in print, and is incredibly interesting. I strongly recommend the book, especially for readers interested in the history of race relations in America.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

No. 421: William Barr Is in Trouble Again

Statement by Former DOJ Employees
In No. 358 (posted March 2, 2020), I reported on a February 16, 2020 statement signed by about 2,700 former employees of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The statement called for the resignation of then U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr after he interfered in the prosecution of Roger Stone. I agreed with the former DOJ employees that Barr should resign. He did not resign at that time, but he resigned shortly before the end of President Donald J. Trump's departure from office. Now that Barr is a former U.S. Attorney General, a recent development has him in trouble again.

CREW's FOIA Lawsuit against DOJ
On May 28, 2019, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit against DOJ under the federal Freedom-of-Information Act (FOIA). The lawsuit challenges DOJ's failure to disclose to CREW certain records pertaining to DOJ's handling of the massive two-volume report of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III submitted to Barr on March 22, 2019. The records in question relate to whether the evidence presented in the second volume of the Mueller report was sufficient to establish that President Trump committed obstruction-of-justice offenses. The seven-page complaint is here.

The CREW lawsuit has two counts. Count 1 is "wrongful withholding of non-exempt records." Count 2 is "failure to grant expedition." (See CREW v. DOJ, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, Case No. 1:19-cv-1552.)

The CREW lawsuit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. President Obama nominated her in January 2011. The Senate confirmed her in March 2011 on a 97-0 vote.

Judge Jackson's Opinion
On May 3, 2021, Judge Jackson issued a partially redacted opinion. Here is an excerpt from page 25 of the 41-page opinion (the full opinion with redactions is here):
And of even greater importance to this decision, the [DOJ] affidavits are so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence. The review of the unredacted document in camera reveals that the suspicions voiced by the judge in EPIC and the plaintiff here were well-founded, and that not only was the Attorney General [Barr] being disingenuous then, but DOJ has been disingenuous to this Court with respect to the existence of a decision-making process that should be shielded by the deliberative process privilege. [DOJ's] redactions and incomplete explanations obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum, and the excised portions belie the notion that it fell to the Attorney General [Barr] to make a prosecution decision or that any such decision was on the table at any time.
The "Conclusion" in Judge Jackson's opinion is on pages 34-35 of the opinion. It reads:
For all of the reasons set forth above, the Court will grant both motions for summary judgment in part and deny them in part. It will grant [DOJ's] motion and enter judgment in favor of [DOJ] on Count One with respect to Document 6. But [DOJ's] motion will be denied, and [CREW's] motion will be granted with respect to Document 15, and DOJ will be ordered to produce the document to CREW. [DOJ's] renewed motion to dismiss Count Two will be granted, and the claim will be dismissed. [DOJ] must file any motion to stay by May 17, 2021, and it must inform the Court of its position on whether this [opinion] may be unsealed at that time.
DOJ's Request for an Extension
On May 14, 2021, DOJ filed an unopposed motion for a one-week extension (to May 24) to respond to Judge Jackson's May 3 opinion. She granted the motion.

General Observations
At this time (May 14), it is anticipated that DOJ will file a reply on May 24 to Judge Jackson's opinion, and that she will comment on that reply. In due course, we may see some or all of the redacted material in the opinion. We also may see more details about Barr's handling of the Mueller report during the period between his receipt of the report and the release of the redacted report to the public. If it is found that Barr misled Congress and/or the public about the contents of the report, I do not know what actions might be taken against him. I plan to report further developments.


Friday, May 7, 2021

No. 420: The New York State Department of Financial Services Suffers a Setback on Regulation 187

Regulation 187 (Reg 187), issued by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), relates to the marketing of life insurance policies and annuity contracts. On July 27, 2018, DFS issued an amended Reg 187. The Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of New York and other entities and individuals (collectively, the petitioners) challenged the amended Reg 187 in the New York State Supreme Court (the state's trial court).

The Two Court Rulings
On July 31, 2019, the trial court judge found in favor of DFS. He ruled that the amended Reg 187 is not unconstitutional. The trial court ruling is here.

The petitioners appealed the trial court ruling in the Appellate Division (Third Department) of the New York State Supreme Court. On April 29, 2021, an appellate division judge, with the concurrence of several other judges, reversed the trial court's ruling by finding that the amended Reg 187 is unconstitutional. The appellate division ruling is here.

General Observations
The appellate division ruling is a setback for DFS. Reading the two rulings is necessary to understand the significance of the case. According to news reports, DFS is reviewing the appellate division ruling. I plan to provide updates on this case.


Monday, May 3, 2021

No. 419: Update on Transamerica's Appeal in the Lebbin Case

No. 414 (March 23, 2021) discussed a strange twist in the appeal to the federal Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals by Transamerica Life Insurance Company (Transamerica) of a Florida federal district court judge's decision in a lawsuit filed by the Spector-Lebbin Family Trust (Trust). The district court judge ruled that Transamerica should pay the Trust about $2.5 million, including interest, for breach of contract.

On February 23, 2021, however, in a strange twist, the Eleventh Circuit clerk wrote a letter to the parties about jurisdiction. More recent developments are discussed in this update. (See Trust v. Transamerica, U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, Case No. 20-11756-AA.)

The Clerk's Follow-Up Letter
On April 21, the Eleventh Circuit clerk wrote a follow-up letter to the parties. Here is the full text:
Based upon the responses of the parties, it appears that this court has jurisdiction to consider this appeal. A final determination regarding jurisdiction will be made by the panel to whom this appeal is submitted on the merits.
A Circuit Court Judge's Order
On March 17, after the parties filed briefs in response to the clerk's February 23 letter, one of the parties filed an additional response. The other party filed a motion seeking permission to answer the additional response. On April 26, a circuit court judge issued a one-sentence order denying the motion.

General Observations
Because Florida is in the Eleventh Circuit, I said in No. 414 that I did not understand why someone in the Eleventh Circuit thought it may not have jurisdiction. I still do not understand why.

The docket does not yet identify the three circuit court judges who will be assigned to the panel that will consider the case. I think the case has been fully briefed. I also think the parties are awaiting oral argument, or a decision if the panel does not want oral argument. I plan to report further developments.


Monday, April 26, 2021

No. 418: More on Caro's Little Book

In No. 312 (May 15, 2019), I discussed Robert A. Caro's magnificent 2019 book entitled Working and subtitled Researching, Interviewing, Writing. Recently I reread the book. As a result, I have a few suggestions.
  1. To refresh your memory about Caro, please read or reread No. 312.
  2. Please read or reread Working.
  3. Please obtain Path to Power, which is the first volume of Caro's towering biography of Lyndon Johnson. Then please read Chapter 27 entitled "The Sad Irons," which begins on page 502 of Path to Power. If you have read Working, you already know the subject of the chapter. If you have not read Working, I can tell you the subject of the chapter is a major development in American history. I promise you will be deeply impressed by the chapter, and you will understand why many prominent historians consider Caro our greatest biographer.

Friday, April 16, 2021

No. 417: Genworth Terminates Its Agreement with China Oceanwide

On October 21, 2016, Genworth Financial, Inc. (Genworth) entered into a merger agreement with China Oceanwide (Oceanwide). Since then, the parties have entered into sixteen "waiver agreements," under each of which the parties extended the "end date" in the original merger agreement. My two most recent updates on the situation are in No. 395 (October 26, 2020) and No. 406 (January 8, 2021).

The 8-K Report and News Release
On April 6, 2021, Genworth filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission an 8-K (significant event) report. Attached to the 8-K is a news release entitled "Genworth Announces Termination of Merger Agreement with Oceanwide." Here is the first paragraph of the news release (the full news release is here):
Genworth Financial, Inc. (NYSE: GNW) (Genworth, the Company) today announced that it has exercised its right to terminate the merger agreement with China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. (Oceanwide) as of April 6, 2021. Terminating the agreement allows Genworth to pursue its revised strategic plan without restrictions and without uncertainty regarding its ultimate ownership, which might impact the Company's ability to successfully execute the plan.
General Observations
During the more than four years since the merger agreement between Genworth and Oceanwide was originally signed, many federal and state regulators in the United States, as well as regulators in Canada and China, have poured a tremendous amount of effort into trying to approve the agreement.

From the beginning, I have been deeply concerned about the potential impact of the agreement on Genworth's policyholders, especially its long-term care insurance policyholders. For that reason, I am relieved that the agreement has been terminated.


Monday, April 12, 2021

No. 416: An Interesting Beneficiary Dispute

On January 22, 2021, a three-judge panel of a state appellate court in Georgia unanimously upheld a trial court ruling in an interesting beneficiary dispute between the widow and a granddaughter of the insured. For ease of reference, here are the key parties:
Donald: Donald Usher, insured, grandfather of Emery
Emery: Sarah Emery, granddaughter of Donald
Gayle: Gayle Usher, widow of Donald
GTL: Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Company, insurer
I have the trial court ruling, the appellate court panel ruling, and some documents from the trial court proceedings. Here I describe the case based on those rulings and documents. The two rulings are in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post. (See Emery v. GTL, State Court of Gwinnett County, Georgia, Case No. 18-C-04523-S6, and Georgia Court of Appeals, Third Division, Case No. A20A2082.)

Background of the Case
On October 15, 2010, GTL issued a $25,000 policy on the life of Donald. Gayle was the beneficiary. On September 11, 2015, Donald made Emery the owner and beneficiary. I found no explanation of the reason why Donald made the change.

In August 2016, about a month before Donald died, Gayle called GTL and inquired about the policy. GTL initially informed Gayle that it could not discuss the policy with her without the permission of the owner.

On August 15, 2016, despite not having sought Emery's permission to discuss the policy with Gayle, GTL faxed a policy change form to Gayle. On August 18, 2016, Gayle returned the policy change form to GTL. When GTL received the form from Gayle, it was missing a page requiring the signatures of Gayle and Emery. GTL notified Gayle and Emery that it could not process the form because it did not contain the signatures.

Emery did not respond to GTL at that time. Gayle responded that she had retained a copy of the signature page, and faxed it to GTL. The fax showed the purported signatures of Gayle and Emery.

On August 31, 2016, GTL updated its records to reflect that Gayle was the owner and beneficiary. On September 9, 2016, Donald died. On October 15, 2016, GTL paid the death benefit to Gayle. A year later, on October 3, 2017, Emery's attorney wrote to GTL and enclosed an affidavit from Emery confirming her status as owner and beneficiary of the policy.

Emery's Lawsuit
On June 18, 2018, Emery filed a lawsuit against GTL alleging bad faith failure to perform under an insurance contract, breach of contract, and negligence. After a hearing, the trial court granted GTL's motion for summary judgment. The trial court reasoned that, because GTL had paid the beneficiary named in its file, the company had complied with applicable law and was therefore insulated from liability.

Emery's Appeal
On appeal, Emery argued that the trial court erred in finding that GTL paid the death benefit to Gayle in accordance with the terms of the policy as contemplated by §33-24-41 of the Georgia Code. The appellate court panel disagreed with Emery. The panel said the statute in question does not impose on an insurance company the duty to investigate and determine whether a person fraudulently completed and submitted a policy change form.

General Observations
As indicated at the beginning of this post, I think this is an interesting case. Because I am not an attorney, it would be inappropriate for me to express a legal opinion on the case. Having said that, it is my personal belief that Gayle stole the death benefit from Emery.

Available Material
I am offering a complimentary 10-page PDF consisting of the trial court ruling (3 pages) and the appellate court panel ruling (7 pages). Email and ask for the April 2021 package about the case of Emery v. GTL.