Saturday, August 27, 2011

Uncle Jim is more than a namesake - by Judge Jim Gray

As my father told the story, when he asked my mother to marry him, the only condition was that if they had a son they would name him after his younger brother Jim. I guess mom agreed, because that is what happened.
My uncle, James L Gray, was a special and unique man. He was a natural gymnast, golfer, skier and windsurfer, and also a natural leader. After graduation from UC Berkeley, and flying fighter airplanes out of Pensacola, Fla., during the Korean War, he returned to his native Southern California, bought a small house on Lido Island and sold heavy construction equipment for Hal Anawalt.
But one day he met a restaurateur named John McIntosh, the owner of the Snackshop and Coco's Restaurants, who wanted to open a steak house. Because of Jim's people and entrepreneurial skills, McIntosh asked him if he would be interested in being his partner. McIntosh already was highly knowledgeable in the food part of the business, so it became Jim's responsibility to learn and then oversee the bar and entertainment facets.
One evening as these plans were progressing, Jim was having dinner at our home in La CaƱada and talking about what they were going to name their new restaurant. We had a great time discussing the possibilities. But eventually they settled upon John McIntosh's middle name, which was Reuben. And so the restaurant became known as Reuben's.
I went to the grand opening of the original Reuben's, which was on Coast Highway in Newport Beach at the present location of the Sol Restaurant. It became so successful that, with time, they opened more. So I also went to the grand opening of the Reuben's in Santa Ana, which became popular with many people in the area, including attorneys who worked at the courthouse.
Later they opened a Chinese restaurant next to the original Reuben's, which was called Wu Ben's. Unfortunately, even though the restaurant was successful, Jim said that the labor in providing quality Chinese food was disproportionate to their ability to get a proper return on their invested capital.
So they closed Wu Ben's and opened the first real nightclub in the area, which they called Isadora's. It was so successful that there was always a line of people waiting to get in. When I was in law school in 1971, Jim invited me to take a date to the Reuben E. Lee, and after dinner to go to Isadora's. But to avoid the line, Jim told me to go to the back door and tell them that I was his guest. So that is what we did. Of course, the manager didn't believe me when I said my name was Jim Gray, but after showing him my driver's license and him making a phone call, they put another table out for us. We had a great time.
The band, the Road Home, played there for years, and it was so good that people went crazy. Even so, when they announced their last number and asked people not to dance on the tables, I thought they were exaggerating. But they weren't because, but for that request, I probably would have been dancing on the tables along with most everyone else!
McIntosh and my uncle also opened the Gorda Liz on Bayside Drive, where the Bayside Restaurant now sits. This was a Portuguese-themed restaurant, and it was the most authentic, non-authentic restaurant I have even seen. One day Jim took us there for dinner, and requested we help him by ordering and trying every appetizer on the menu to see if each was satisfactory. It was my pleasure to help him out.
Eventually, Reuben's had restaurants nationwide, and they were so successful that they caught the attention of the Grace Lines Corp., which bought them out. Unfortunately, Grace Lines was too large an operation to devote the special care necessary for the continued success of a restaurant chain. So as the restaurants failed to keep up with the changing times, they slowly went out of business.
When things were going well, Jim traveled in some pretty big social circles, hanging out with George Argyros, Jim Gianulias and other highly successful people. But after he sold his stock to Grace Lines, Jim faced a weaker economy which caused him some problems in his later business ventures. Nevertheless, when he died in 2004, just shy of his 80th birthday, he still had a large turnout of friends and admirers at his memorial service. Fittingly the reception was one of the last functions at the Reuben E. Lee, which was then serving as the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, before it was dismantled.
Why was Jim still so popular? Because to have friends, one must be a friend. And that is what Uncle Jim was all his life. One of his traits was that he treated everyone the same.
As just one example, he treated his stepchildren exactly the same as his biological children, even in his inheritance. During his life Jim had two wives, and after those marriages ended in a divorce, he also had two girlfriends. And each of those four women was actually present at his memorial service. Who else that you have ever known could make such a claim? Only my Uncle Jim, and I salute him.
JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the composer of the musical revue "Americans All," which will be performed in September and October at Vanguard University, and can be reached

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It's A Gray Area: Trip to the 'Promised Land' has a profound effect - by Judge Jim Gray

My wife, Grace, and I just returned from a two-week tour of Jordan and Israel sponsored by Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church in Corona del Mar.
What a great trip, and what a privilege to visit places I have read about in the Bible and elsewhere since childhood. It was truly sobering to think that we were standing in the places where so many important things happened throughout history!
As one of my best friends says, the Holy Land is a powerful place filled with confusion, but brings clarity to pilgrims seeking to know God. I agree and, first and foremost, this was a humbling religious experience. But it was so intensely personal that I don't feel I can share it with you, other than to ask you to pray for me, as I will pray for you.
Otherwise, as St. Augustine said, "Life is a book, and people who don't travel read only one page."
In that regard, there were many things I had not realized before this trip, such as how small Israel is. For example, the distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is about five miles, to Jericho about 40 miles, and to Nazareth about 70.
Furthermore, and I don't think this is sacrilegious, often throughout our time in the Holy Land I kept wondering why God would have ever designated this place as the "Promised Land," where it is hot, dry and rocky. Why not Maui, Pacific Palisades or Newport Beach instead?
We started in Petra, Jordan, one of the great historic and archeological sites. The elaborate tombs of kings and nobles were sculpted straight out of the sandstone cliffs. And I am happy to tell you that Petra was not destroyed by Indiana Jones in his "Last Crusade" movie.
We also visited the Sea of Galilee, which is really a freshwater lake, and swam in the Dead Sea, which is the lowest point on Earth's surface at 1,400 feet below sea level, and is so salty that it probably is impossible to drown. In fact, I couldn't even sit down in 18 inches of water because my legs kept popping up.
The ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee were truly moving. This was where Jesus spent most of his time teaching, where he gathered disciples, and also performed some of his miracles.
We also learned that as best as can be determined, actual history does not match some of the stories we have heard all of our lives. For example, Jesus was probably born in 4 B.C. around harvest time, which would have been in April instead of December.
And there probably weren't any "inns" as we think of them in Bethlehem. Instead there were numerous caves, some of which were reserved for people living communally, and others were left for the animals. So actually the innkeeper in the Christmas story has probably been wrongly disparaged throughout history, because by providing the space in a cave with the animals he was giving Mary some privacy during childbirth, which she otherwise would not have had.
And because they had little wood in the area, what we call the manger was probably a stone watering trough for the animals. But although these variances are interesting intellectually, they certainly do not make any difference in the religious significance of the stories.
Another place that really had an impact on me was the fairly new Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, which was built near the site where the Archangel Gabriel informed Mary that she had been chosen to bear the son of God. Within the basilica are large and deeply impressive murals from many countries of the world depicting the impact of that wonderful story from their perspective. My favorite murals were from South Africa, Japan and the United States.
But the most overwhelming experience was being inside the Old City in Jerusalem where we followed the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa, and went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Being in the places where Jesus bore the cross, and was crucified, died, placed in a tomb and resurrected was beyond deeply moving and sobering. It really cannot be explained, but only experienced.
Although I am not Jewish, the Western Wall was also a place of deep impact. Their belief is that God is actually always present at this the nearest point to the destroyed Temple. And the people praying at this wall with such sincere devotion is something worthy of the utmost respect.
Throughout our trip all of us felt safe and even welcomed. But this certainly is a deeply troubled land where the Palestinians are obviously being occupied, and the evidence of past and present conflict is never far away. Throughout Israel are young men and women in the police or army, both Israeli and Palestinian, armed with machine guns. At the River Jordan we saw portable bridges that could be used by the army immediately in the event the bridges were destroyed.
And, of course, the tilt-up, 25-foot high cement wall in Jerusalem separating the Palestinian from the Israeli land, along with the armed checkpoints through it, were omnipresent scars. As a professional mediator of disputes, it continually went through my mind that all of this should be unnecessary.
If people would begin by understanding that there are no "solutions" to these problems that go back for hundreds and even thousands of years, that would be a good start. Instead there are only "resolutions," which will not be perfect, but the best that can be achieved under difficult circumstances.
Israelis should be ensured of their right to exist safely in their own land; Palestinians should have a designated country of their own, and be able to control their own water, power and movements; and all religious sites should be respected and as much as possible be under the control of the group that is affected by them.
Fortunately, the Palestinians now seem to be closer to having a responsible government with whom the Israelis and others can negotiate. The U.S. should step forward and exert some neutral and principled leadership to help bring a lasting peace to this confused place. Probably no one else could do it but us, and it is long since time for us to take that role.
JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "A Voter's Handbook: Effective Solutions to America's Problems" (The Forum Press, 2010), and can be contacted at

It's A Gray Area: A chance to support regulating marijuana - Judge Jim Gray

On Sept. 1 you will have a chance to help us make history. On this date there will be an event to support the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Initiative that will be on the November 2012 ballot. Please join us.
The event will be hosted by Richard Moriarty at his Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery, 2128 Mesa Drive, Newport Beach, which overlooks the Back Bay from behind the Newport Beach Golf Course. This truly interesting winery isn't open to the public, and doesn't give public tastings, but Richard is opening his doors for us because he believes in this cause.
The honorary host for the reception will be Assemblyman Chris Norby, and Steve Downing, the former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, will be joining me as a co-host. The reception will be in the Wine Cave from 6 to 8 p.m. But it will be preceded by a VIP tour led by Richard. This will consist of not only the grounds of the winery, but he will also show us the Lamborghini that he has hanging from the wall of his living room. In addition, he will be "firing up" the Lamborghini's engine, which he has turned into a coffee table in his garage.
And marijuana is also the largest source of revenue for juvenile street gangs, Mexican drug cartels and lots of other thugs. By passing Regulate Marijuana Like Wine, we can take much of that money away from these violent groups. Of course, the additional benefit of being able to tax the sale of marijuana is not the reason to vote for this initiative, but the extra tax revenue won't hurt either.
Of course regulating marijuana like wine will not eliminate these criminal organizations, but today Mexican drug cartels are not planting illegal vineyards in our national forests in competition with Robert Mondavi. In addition, teenagers are not selling Jim Beam to each other on their high school campuses, but they are selling marijuana to each other all the time.
Why? Because it is illegal!
But this new initiative actually will make marijuana less for children than it is now. How is that? Because today under Marijuana Prohibition it is easier for young people to obtain marijuana, if they want to, than it is alcohol, because illegal marijuana sellers today don't ask for ID.
For the exact language of the initiative, visit You will see that the initiative expressly addresses what were perceived to be the defects of Proposition 19, which was on the ballot in November 2010. Thus, it expressly does not change any laws or regulations about driving a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana, people using or being impaired by marijuana in public or in the workplace, furnishing marijuana to anyone younger than 21, or allowing anyone younger than 21 to buy, possess, sell or use marijuana.
In addition, the initiative expressly prohibits any advertising of recreational marijuana. And instead of allowing each of California's cities to establish a regulatory system, it mandates the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control establish a workable system, with the wine industry being used as a model.
Yes, even under this new initiative marijuana will still be illegal under federal law for anyone to buy, use or possess. But does anyone honestly believe that the federal government has all of the answers? To the contrary, don't you agree with me that we in California are adult enough to decide how best to control our health, safety and welfare regarding marijuana and hemp?
Recently the Drug Enforcement Administration released a statement that marijuana has absolutely no accepted medical uses. Note that this pronouncement did not come from the U.S. surgeon general or any other medical professionals. Instead it came from police officers, who are literally attempting to practice medicine without a license, and who are purporting to be more of an authority than either the voters of California who passed Proposition 215, or the hundreds of medical doctors in our state who recommend the use of marijuana to their patients.
As you are probably aware, last June the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes a former United Nations secretary general and United States secretary of state under President Reagan, as well as former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, labeled the world's War on Drugs a complete failure, and called for its repeal. This action has already been called for by the United States Conference of Mayors, and just last week the NAACP made the same recommendation.
You and I now have a large opportunity to put those recommendations into practice. Personally I believe that the most effective and patriotic thing I can do for the country I love is to help us repeal the failed policy of Drug Prohibition. But you do not have to go nearly that far to believe that there must be a better way, particularly regarding marijuana.
If you want to help us find that better way, I invite you to support the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Initiative on Sept. 1. Tickets are $150 and $1,500 for the VIP tour. For tickets, contact my friend Jason Pitkin at (949) 232-8882. If you attend, introduce yourself to me as a supporter because I will want personally to shake your hand.
JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs" (Temple University Press, 2011), and can be contacted at

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's A Gray Area: Hall of Famers give back to younger players - by Judge Jim Gray

Thanks to Ron Yary, a former Outland Trophy winner at USC and Minnesota Vikings all-pro tackle, and Dr. Casey Cooper, a noted sports psychologist, the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame have established the Legacy Leadership Program here in Orange County. Through this program, Hall of Fame members mentor and establish a one-on-one relationship with deserving high school football players, which lasts a year or more.
The program goals are to help motivate and inspire high school players to make better choices on the field and, even more importantly, in the classroom and the community.
But this isn't just a feel-good program. Each Hall of Famer participates in a two-hour training session that provides insights for their mentoring. Then they sign a participation agreement whereby they promise to uphold the program's policies and guidelines.

Each Orange County high school can nominate one football player. The applicants and their parents will go through a brief orientation that spells out the benefits, guidelines and responsibilities required by their participation. Among other things, confidentiality and child abuse issues are discussed. Unfortunately, only two applicants can be selected, so the competition is fierce.
To qualify as a mentee, the football player must be entering his senior season, be a leader on his team, be highly regarded by his coach and have the ability to play football in college or professionally. The candidate may need some special focus and guidance to improve his classroom performance, and may also face adversity at home.
It is more than an honor to be nominated, because during the selection process applicants can attend several sessions dealing with athletic life skills training. Last year two of the presenters were former UCLA star running back from Tustin, DeShaun Foster, and former Long Beach Poly and USC linebacker and Super Bowl great Willie McGinist. Among other things, the presentations emphasized the importance of an education, and how it affects both their football careers and also their lives after their playing days are over.
The program coordinator monitors the mentees and Hall of Famers through personal contact and phone calls to ensure that both sides are satisfied.
Last year the committee selected Victor Silva of Godinez High School and Trey Madden from Mission Viejo High School as mentees. Victor has been mentored by Yary, and Trey's mentor has been Michael Haynes of the Patriots and Raiders.
These two young men also were invited as guests at last summer's Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio. They were even able to be on the sidelines during the 2010 Hall of Fame game between Dallas and Cincinnati, where they had the opportunity to meet all the players and have private conversations with the other Hall of Famers.
After their Canton experiences, both young men were hosted at the Newport Sports Museum (and if you haven't visited that museum, you are really missing out!), and those in attendance said that it was really noticeable how the experience had changed them — for the better. Both appeared to have more confidence, and had developed more of a leadership attitude of helping their teammates and others both on and off the field.
This year's winners were just announced. They are Alipa Peters from Estancia High School and Alfonso Cacciatore from El Modena High School. So it will be interesting to see how they progress.
In addition to a great experience for all of the applicants and the two selected athletes, the program also provides an ongoing relationship with community partners, such as sports psychologists and sports museums, in an effort to provide mentoring and leadership to a larger number of young athletes.
As has been discussed several times in this column, someone will mentor our children. And if it is not their parents, coaches, scout or religious leaders or teachers, it will be drug dealers, members of juvenile gangs or other thugs. Because, say what you will, Charles Manson was really effective in finding and "mentoring" the lost souls that made up his "family."
So please join me in applauding Yary, Dr. Cooper, the NFL and the many other forces behind the Legacy Leadership Program in mentoring some of our young athletes. And maybe their action will stimulate all of us to redouble our efforts in establishing and maintaining mentoring other programs of our own.
JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "A Voter's Handbook: Effective Solutions to America's Problems" (The Forum Press, 2010), and can be contacted at

It's A Gray Area: Making peace, even while in prison - by Judge Jim Gray

A few years ago, a woman named Susan Russo, who was serving a life sentence without possibility of parole at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, Calif., sent a letter to attorney Laurel Kaufer, saying that their prison environment was filled with conflict and violence, and there was a dire need and desire for change.
Could Ms. Kaufer help?
The answer was yes.

In response, Ms. Kaufer and her colleague, attorney Douglas E. Noll, established a peace mediation program at that prison, initially with 15 inmates as students, and it has been successful.
But it wasn't easy. These two mediation professionals soon found out that Ms. Russo was right. Confrontation and violence were a standard and routine part of almost everyone's existence at the prison.
Nevertheless, they established a program through using simple communication skills based upon listening — really listening. That means that the students were taught to listen to what other people were saying and then to acknowledge what the speakers said by repeating it back. The benefit is that this shows other people they are being heard, which is a huge ratification of their humanity — and also a proven way to reduce tensions.
By using this simple skill, the 15 female inmates were slowly able to reduce conflict and violence and bring some amount of peace to the prison. For example, rather than using pepper spray to break up potentially violent situations, prison guards started to call in Ms. Kaufer's students to mediate them. It often worked.
Of course, no one can avoid conflict. But the secret is for people in conflicts to understand that they have choices about how they will respond and react to them. Conflicts become destructive when people give in to anger, which then thwarts their ability to make good choices about how best to respond.
But choosing to listen, understand and confirm the other side's views and feelings often results in addressing the problems peacefully on their merits, instead of having them escalate to violence.
Teaching these lessons and skills to our children would be a wonderful gift.
So instruct the children close to you that the next time they become angry, frustrated or feel disrespected, to literally stop and take a moment to list as many choices as they can think of about how to respond. Then show them how if they stay focused upon their feelings and those of the other people involved, they will more than be able to arrive at a peaceful and beneficial outcome.
Life skills like these will bring permanent beneficial result into their lives.
Included in this approach is staying away from blaming, judging or criticizing others, because this is almost always counterproductive. When people take ownership of their own actions instead of blaming or criticizing others, they will most likely realize that they are captains of their own ship, that they are in control of their own destiny.
That has been the result at Valley State Prison. So far, none of the 75 inmates who have been certified as "Peacemakers" has even been reported to be involved with violence. In addition, since 30 inmates have been certified as mediators and another 20 as instructors, mentors and coaches, the program is now self-sustaining — maybe even transferable to other correctional facilities.
Furthermore, the participants hope that by the end of 2011, at least 20% of all of the inmates at Valley State Prison will have been certified as Peacemakers, which will go far in bringing peace into the entire facility. With results like these, it is not surprising that the program has been endorsed, even lauded, by the acting warden and the chief deputy warden.
Another tribute to the program is seen by the fact that the inmates themselves have donated more than $1,300 to pay for needed written materials. Because all of these contributions come from their wages of 21 cents per hour, of which 14 cents are automatically transferred to the California Victim Compensation Fund, this represents their earnings from more than 9,280 work hours!
In today's world, the Department of Corrections is not appropriately named, because it mostly has become a Department of Incarceration and Warehousing.
But we all must understand that most of those incarcerated will someday be released back into society. Wouldn't it be better if they had learned some coping and peacemaking skills before that occurs?
You can help this occur by making a contribution to the Fresno Regional Foundation for Prison of Peace, 5250 N. Palm Avenue, Suite 424, Fresno, CA 93704. People who are incarcerated really can use our help. For more information, visit
JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibilities of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2009), and can be contacted at or

It's A Gray Area: Fundamentals are the answer to the recession - by Judge Jim Gray

The fledgling program TAP America is trying to strengthen the U.S. economy by encouraging people to buy more American products as a matter of patriotism; however, like so many other political proposals, it sounds like a nice idea, but it won't work.
Just like Communism's mantra of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" sounded good to many people, it simply will not work. A more apt slogan is, "You can't fool Mother Nature."
Why? Because the "invisible hand" of economics is always present. Practical reality regarding Communism means that if people have no incentive to work by receiving the benefit of their labors, they won't work. Similarly, if people are able to choose between a good quality shirt selling for $12 that is made in another country, or a similar good quality shirt that is selling for $20 that is made in the United States, some may be patriotic for a while and pay more for the domestic shirt, but not enough to matter, and not for long.

That is the reason all of the talk about preventing the "outsourcing" of jobs is nothing but talk. If a company overall can make a much better return, or just stay in business, by having its manufacturing or other services performed elsewhere, it is economically inescapable that this will occur, as long as the quality of the work is acceptable. And putting artificial barriers in their way will not only be unsuccessful, they will mostly be counterproductive.
So how do we put America back on the road to prosperity? Not by the government activity of passing laws or installing more programs. But instead by going back to our roots, which means we must out-work and out-compete everyone else.
How can this be done? We must focus upon our strengths by emphasizing the areas in which we compete best, and also go on to develop more of them.
What are some of these areas? Fortunately there are many in which our country excels, such as in Internet technology with companies like Facebook and Google; computer technology with companies like Intel, Apple, IBM and Dell; agricultural and construction equipment with companies like John Deere and Caterpillar; the entertainment industry with companies like Disney and Six Flags; large-scale retail sales with companies like Costco, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Best Buy; soft drinks and other beverages like Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola; aerospace companies like Lockheed and Northrop Grumman; and niche companies like Coach and Tiffany. And that is not even addressing all forms of agriculture, as well as heart valve, knee and hip replacement products and our system of higher education, all of which are still the best in the world.
In short, we can compete with anybody, and we can pay good wages and maintain safety in the workplace and the environment along the way. All we need is to get away from our general state of pessimism and a dependence upon government to do it for us.
Most people do not understand that government does not create wealth. Instead, government takes other people's wealth, keeps a lot of it for itself, and then mostly distributes the rest to those for whom there is a political benefit. Such a system not only engenders a demeaning and initiative-sapping welfare system that traps the poor, it also engenders an enormously lucrative welfare system for the wealthy.
But if our tax money is spent by the government, that spending should be concentrated upon "shovel-ready" projects, such as issuing contracts to private companies for maintaining and upgrading our physical plants like bridges, parks, and water pipelines and sewers. This spending will actually provide good jobs to our workers and spur the economy. But otherwise government incentives like tax breaks, even for necessary things like research and development, mostly evolve into nothing but politics. Thus they should be avoided.
The other critically important thing we must do is to reform our income tax system. Not only are the tens of billions of dollars that are spent annually in record-keeping for taxes and preparing tax returns not contributing to our general welfare, people now are actually being punished under the present system for saving and investing money. Reversing that would result in a huge stimulus for our economy — and enormous savings for almost everyone.
Unfortunately, the biggest opponents of tax reform, surprisingly enough, are not accountants and tax attorneys, they are members of Congress. Why? Imagine how much political power members of Congress presently have by controlling who will and will not receive tax breaks that can be worth millions and even billions of dollars. So people who stand to benefit from those tax breaks logically spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to support politicians who will pass legislation that will save them millions.
In sports, successful coaches always concentrate on fundamentals, and that is the winning strategy we should go back to as well. Hard work, education, industriousness, creativity, less government involvement in the economy, and incentives and rewards for achieving success are the things that made our country great. We will once again be prosperous when we elect politicians who will help us to bring those qualities back.
JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "A Voter's Handbook: Effective Solutions to America's Problems" (The Forum Press, 2010), and can be contacted at

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Remember the four Cs when making friends - by Judge Jim Gray

Within the first three to five minutes of meeting someone new, that person will have formed a strong feeling about who you are, how much they will like, trust and have confidence in you, and whether they will want to form a relationship with you. And you will reach the same conclusions about them.

This is the message of "Contact: The First Four Minutes: A Practical Approach to Meeting the Right Person" (Ballantine Books, 1994).

The verbal and non-verbal messages we send can be important in both our personal and professional lives, no matter who we are. This is true in interviewing for a job, soliciting business, greeting a new potential customer, meeting people at social functions or in potential dating relationships.

Thus it would not only help each of us to focus upon these critical first four minutes, we should also teach our children, grandchildren, employees, students and anyone else we care about to focus on them as well. My wife has included a summary of "The First Four Minutes" in her training manual at Walker Physical Therapy for years to guide her employees on ways better to greet and serve her patients, and she says it has worked famously well.

The four factors that are most effective in initial verbal contacts are confidence, creativity, caring and consideration — otherwise known as the Four Cs. Any successful initial encounter must convey at least a threshold amount of self-confidence. Being timid, apologetic or self-deprecating does not inspire confidence and, when seen as a first impression, make a meaningful relationship problematic.

Showing creativity not only displays innovation and problem-solving, it also implies sensitivity to the feelings of others. People are attracted to others who show that they can take a large amount of diverse information, make sense of it, and come up with creative ways of getting the job done.

People are seen as being caring if they give complete attention to their new acquaintance.

Dale Carnegie said it best: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

Being considerate is shown by the absence of criticism and by not doing things to imply that you are superior and others are inadequate. One way of showing this is by gently helping your new acquaintances to clarify or expound upon their thoughts as they are expressing them.

A good way to display each of these important traits is to ask questions about your new acquaintance's nationality, occupation, marital status and even the derivation of their name, and then listen to and follow up upon their answers.

You can also ask questions about their attitudes about timely subjects, such as sports, movies or current events in the outside world, as well as their opinions about them. Through this approach you can quickly find things you have in common, such as growing up in the same city, rooting for the same ball team, having young children, etc.

Common bonds can create relationships.

Often you can get a response from people who are more shy or reticent to offer information by offering an insight about yourself that is not too personal or embarrassing, such as "I was always shy when I was a child," or "I would really love to learn to play the guitar, (or travel to Hawaii)," and then ask if they had similar experiences or desires.

Another way of bonding is to offer a compliment to someone. By doing that you are really saying to that person, "I like you," or "You seem to be a special person," or even "I would like to get to know you better." But the compliment must always be sincere, or it will (appropriately) have a negative effect.

Using humor or humorous situations in the first four minutes can also be an effective way to bring new acquaintances into your circle of friends, as long as your comments are in good taste, and they really are humorous. It works, but be careful in this area.

Other successful approaches are asking for advice and listening carefully and appreciatively as your new acquaintance offers assistance. Or you can also suggest that this person reminds you of someone you know, and then provide some exotic details that will show how interesting that other person is.

Finally, courtesy to others is always noticed and appreciated.

Non-verbal contacts are equally important in making a good first impression. These include good eye contact, nodding your head in agreement or encouragement, giving your new acquaintances enough space by not physically crowding them, giving a warm and firm handshake, personal cleanliness and dressing in the way that would attract the type of person you want to attract.

By no means do you want to be or come off as being a phony or a hypocrite by adopting any of these approaches. But being aware of these tips and using them to display your natural warmth and friendship can be a win-win for you and everyone else. So give them some thought and put them into practice, and help others do the same. They will help you and other people that are important to you to have a more gratifying and successful life.

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "A Voter's Handbook: Effective Solutions for America's Problems" (The Forum Press, 2010) and can be contacted at

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Time to privatize out government work - by Judge Jim Gray

When former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger first took office he promised to address the out-of-control worker's compensation system, and he did.

Unfortunately, after making progress on about 15% of the difficulties — the ones that were the easiest and least controversial — he basically declared victory, and sailed off to do other good deeds.

Recently I read that Gov. Jerry Brown said he would reduce the size and expense of state government by eliminating 37 state panels, advisory boards and agencies. Some of these are part-time, and pay their members $100 per meeting.

But others are supposed to be full-time and pay their members up to $128,000 per year, even though many of them, on average, meet only once per month. The savings to eliminate just these 37 agencies is estimated to be more than $10 million per year!

Well, how many state agencies do we have? I looked on the Internet and found that there are more than 500! You can see the list at

How many of these agencies are duplicative or even totally unnecessary? Surely many more than 37 can be consolidated or eliminated! Our state has a budget deficit, and all of the people on these agencies get salaries at taxpayers' expense, many get medical coverage and pensions as well, and all of the agencies have overhead expenses.

But even as importantly, it would be far more effective and much less expensive in many cases for many of these agencies to contract out the work they do to private companies.

Why? Because in the business world, much more than in government, incentives matter!

For example, a good friend of mine, Richard Esgate, has a company based in San Diego called Esgil Corporation. Here is his story.

Richard is an engineer, and during the 1970s he worked for San Diego County, supervising its Building Inspection Department. At that time, Richard had serious challenges staffing for all engineering plan checks due to large fluctuations based upon the time of year, government policies and the state of the economy.

The obvious answer was to have a private-sector firm available for overflow during the busy periods and staff absences, so requests for service proposals were sent out. But all of the private firms that submitted proposals were determined by County Counsel to have conflicts of interest, because they would be checking their own plans, potential clients or competitors.

Fortunately, where there is a need, an entrepreneur will fill it. So Richard left the county and set up a firm that works exclusively for governments, which means he does no private design work at all, and thus he avoids all conflicts.

That was 31 years ago, and now Esgil Corp. has 25 employees, including 12 licensed engineers, and does all of the permit work for seven cities and much of the overflow work for many other cities, counties, state and federal agencies, Indian tribes in California and 18 other states. And, literally, everybody is happy.

Why is everyone happy? Because the governments no longer have to hire, pay and supervise so many workers. In fact, all the seven governments have to do is collect the fees, keep about 25% for themselves, and forward the remaining fees to Esgil Corp.

Esgil's employees are deputized to staff the counters at the city building departments and they do all the rest of the work as well, including keeping current on all applicable building codes and regulations, receiving, analyzing, giving recommendations for changes, and approving the plans for construction, and performing all of the on-site building inspections.

For their part, the private contractors are happy because they are dealing with knowledgeable engineers who have an incentive to have the plans submitted as correctly as possible. Why? Because not only do delay, revisions and change orders cost the contractors lots of money, they also require more work from Esgil.

This unity of interest has resulted in Esgil setting up and encouraging preliminary meetings with contractors to plan for large developments like shopping centers and high-rise buildings so that everyone can face the important and complicated requirements that must be met. And this saves time and expense for everyone.

As a practical matter, government agencies simply do not have these same incentives. This is shown by the fact that the average time from the submission of plans to Esgil for complicated building projects until final approval is usually about 90 days, including about two plan re-checks, while the average for government agencies is about a year, with five to six plan re-checks.

Throughout these 31 years, Esgil has only been sued twice, and neither suit was successful. And, although Esgil does not itself handle any money, its reviews of the fee charges assessed by the governments to the developers have found that government employees have mistakenly billed the developers less than they should about 25% of the time.

So that is what is happening with the governmental building departments that contract with Esgil.

Imagine the benefits that would accrue if other state agencies, like Caltrans, for example, were to contract out their work to similar private companies! This issue cries out to be probed, because we shouldn't just manage our budget deficits, we must reverse them!

If you want to help bring California back to fiscal stability, make it a point to contact your legislator on this issue. This time let's not allow anyone to declare victory after just addressing the easy issues and then moving on. The bureaucracy at times seems all powerful and ready to crush us, so how about privatizing the bureaucracy!

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at or Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.

Friday, June 3, 2011

So much fun, history on Balboa Island - by Judge Jim Gray

A few weeks ago at a book signing at Martha's Bookstore on Balboa Island, I met and began talking to Sharon and Bob Lambert, who live on the island.

They told me about the existence of two things I didn't know about, which I now pass along to you. The first is the annual Balboa Island Parade, and the second is the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society.

Since 1993, on the first Sunday in June, there has been a parade on Balboa Island's Marine Avenue. Participants include drill teams and bands, decorated golf carts and floats, interesting people and "island dogs" in costumes, children on bicycles, vintage cars and lots of other "craziness."

This year, the theme of the parade is "Balboa Island — the Spirit of America," and it will be held at 11 a.m. June 5. The bridge to the island will be closed at 10:30 a.m., so plan accordingly. You can see pictures of past parades at and

The Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society was founded in 2000, and the museum itself opened in 2002 at 502 S. Bay Front, Unit A, which is on the second floor and right next to the ferry dock. In fact, they are still collecting memorabilia reflecting life on the island, including pictures and stories. So if you have any, please consider providing them to the museum.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and you can call them at (949) 675-3952.

From the Historical Society's website, I learned that Balboa Island came into existence in 1906 when W.S. Collins, an early land developer, began dredging up sand to build up the island so that it would not be under water at high tide. Then, beginning in 1907, waterfront lots were sold to the public for $600, while the ones not on the water went for $300. Collins built a concrete "castle" on Collins Island for his wife.

For many years, the houses or cottages on Balboa Island were only used during the summertime and were boarded up the rest of the year. Until natural gas was brought to the island in 1920, all cooking was done on gasoline stoves, and the only lighting came from coal oil lanterns or candles. In addition, for many years, the residents used outhouses because there were no sewers.

The first seawall was built of wood in 1909, but it was replaced in many places by cement in 1914. The first bridge to the main island was a 12-foot wooden structure that was built in 1912, but in the first two years it was not strong enough to handle anything but foot traffic and a few horses. It was replaced with a cement bridge in 1929, and the original wood from the bridge was then used to build the Jolly Roger Restaurant (now Wilma's). This landmark was where our family bought ice cream cones before our nightly walks around the island during my childhood vacations. So it has always been a special place for me. The entire bridge was expanded in 1981 to include the present 9-foot walkways on each side.

The Grand Canal separating the Little Island from the main island was dug in 1913, and the dredging of sand and the build-up of the both islands were completed at the same time. During the 1920s and '30s, many movies were filmed there. James Cagney owned Collins Island for 10 years beginning in 1938, and it was used by the U.S. Coast Guard during most of World War II.

Collins operated the original ferry between Balboa Peninsula and the island from 1909 until 1914, but the service was irregular. Then in 1919, Joseph Allen Beek procured the contract. His original ferry was a large rowboat, "The Ark," and it was powered by a small engine.

Three years later, that boat was replaced by the "Fat Ferry," which carried up to 20 passengers. Not long after that Beek added a one-car barge that was pushed by his ferry and charged 10 cents for each car that he pushed across the bay.

The ferry service contract is still held by the same Beek family, so they are now getting close to their 100th anniversary. The present three 64-foot ferry boats, the "Captain," "Commodore," and "Admiral," began in operation in the 1950s. Their top speed is 4 mph, and it is estimated that these boats have made this 1,000-foot crossing about 22,500 times every year since then. That means that each of these ferry boats has traveled far enough to have gone around the world more than seven times.

So lots of things of interest have occurred on Balboa Island, and many of them are celebrated at the museum. Make plans to be a part of that history, and attend the parade with your children and grandchildren June 5. And while you are at it, also visit the museum, which will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. on the day of the parade.

It will be a slice of Americana at its best.

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at or Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.