All About Me
Welcome to my website! I am editing the All About Me section to
reflect some further personal changes. I created this site to share my
writings from the last decade. I also wanted to create a home for my
tribute to my sister, Lisa. There are some pieces I have written about Lise in the archives as well as pieces I have written about both my parents. All died in the last 4 years.
I intend to continue writing about politics, poetry, books, sports, music, dogs and whatever I feel passionately about. I grew up in the 60’s, in the era of the counterculture and the new left. As my generation ages and prepares to leave the historical stage, I feel the lack of alternative, critical perspectives daily in the media. I hope to offer some perspectives that reflect the progressive social justice aspirations of my generation.
This blog reflects only my views. Anything written here is solely my
responsibility and a reflection of my sensibility. It does not in any
way reflect the views or perspectives of my employer, the Social
Security Administration (SSA). SSA includes employees with views from
all over the political spectrum. I have been careful to write outside
of work time and outside of any work-related computer.
After spending 14 months in Anchorage Alaska, in August 2011 I moved
back home to Wilmot, New Hampshire. I have now been home for almost two years. It is great to be back around family and friends. The hardest part of my time away was my separation from people I love.
I spent the last half of 2010 and a good part of 2011 working as a federal Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for SSA in Anchorage. I heard the claims of Alaskans seeking Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) benefits. Since August 15, 2011, I have been working as an ALJ
out of a new SSA hearing office in Lawrence Massachusetts. I am personally very proud of the Lawrence Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The people in my office work hard to carry out its mission. The office is full of very caring and committed people.
It is an honor to continue to have the opportunity to serve the American people
in my capacity as an ALJ. I do take very seriously my professional
obligation to apply the law fairly and to the best of my ability.
I enjoyed Alaska, the people and the place. I feel like I
barely scratched the surface of what there is to see and do there.
Alaska is a place of surpassing beauty. I have written about it some
and will write about it more.
Before I received the appointment to be a federal ALJ, I had a
wonderful experience working as a legal aid attorney for New Hampshire
Legal Assistance (NHLA), the state-wide legal aid program for NH. From
1986-1989, I worked in the North Country office of NHLA located in
Berlin NH. From July 1989 to May 2010, I worked in the Claremont
Branch Law Office of NHLA.
I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a legal aid
lawyer. I always looked forward to going to work. There is tremendous
purpose and satisfaction in the job. I would encourage students and
prospective law students/young lawyers to consider a legal aid career.
There are great opportunities for creativity as a legal aid lawyer
although admittedly the job market now is tough. You have to go after
the job doggedly. Whatever I did not accomplish as a legal aid lawyer
was mostly a reflection of my own shortcomings and lack of initiative.
I was never held back by any litigation director or other boss. NHLA
nourished its staff and gave advocates wide opportunities to make a
difference for low income people. I never have regretted my legal aid career choice. The program has gone through a hard time because of drastic funding cuts by the legislature but I expect it will bounce back. During my time at NHLA, there was a cyclical pattern of program expansion and retraction.
Most of my legal work at NHLA was on behalf of individual clients with
public benefit problems. I specialized in representing unemployment
insurance claimants and those denied Social Security Disability/SSI. I
also did eviction defense, fair housing, chapter 13 bankruptcy and
representation of domestic violence victims.
For more than 10 years, I lobbied the NH state legislature as a legal
aid lobbyist. My job was to help promote bills which helped low
income, elderly and disabled people and to oppose bills which were
harmful to our clients. I served as the Policy Director and chief
lobbyist for NHLA and I frequently appeared and testified in the
legislature. Some of the pieces I wrote that appear in the archives of
this blog supported legislative efforts which I had engaged on behalf
of NHLA and its clients. Many of the pieces originally appeared in the
Concord Monitor, my local paper, where I participated as a member of
its Board of Contributors.
I have been very proud of NHLA’s legislative work over the decade or so I worked in the NH Legislature. Among other accomplishments, NHLA played a key role in:
— helping to raise the state minimum wage from $5.15/hr to $7.25/hr
— imposing an interest rate cap on payday and auto title loans
— protecting homeowners from foreclosure rescue scams
— improving the scope of the unemployment program including raising
benefits and expanding eligibility for part-time workers
— allowing courts the discretion to hear about past abuse when
domestic violence victims seek protection from abuse orders
— giving domestic violence victims a defense against eviction when
the basis for eviction was an incident in which they were being abused
My past personal experience demonstrates the value and need for
progressives to make a long-term commitment to state legislative
advocacy. This commitment needs to be supported by high quality,
state-specific research. Legislators, with good reason, want to know
why they should support a particular initiative, its state-specific
history and its likely impact. Too often progressives, not unlike
conservatives, lack answers to these type of questions. National data
is not good enough.
What happened in the 2010-2011 session of the NH state legislature was a
tragedy where extreme right wing ideologues hell-bent on budget cuts
hacked away at various human services, including legal aid. They did
not care to hear about consequences. This recent experience does speak
to the point about the need for progressives to engage state
legislatures. Too often progressives are missing in action on this
I dedicate this blog to the memory of my sister, Lisa Baird. After a
prolonged battle with breast cancer, Lisa died on October 21, 2009.
Lisa was an inspiration and a mentor to me. Not a day goes by that I
do not think about Lise and miss her. Lisa was an accomplished
immigration law attorney as well as an almost life-long activist. She
set a very high standard in her dedication and devotion to her
clients. There was no better person on the planet than my sister.