Gail Archer Bakerink ("Archie" to friends and colleagues) and I met at Yasoo Yani after his morning court calendar in the collaborative courts program. After catching up and congratulating him on his recent nomination to the Laurence Drivon School of Law Hall of Fame, we began the questions.
Q. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A. "Attending my family reunion with my kids, grandkids and great grandkids; that is the closest to perfect happiness I have ever been."
Q. What is your greatest fear?
A. "That the criminal justice system will continue on the path it's been heading for the past thirty years. It's not evidence-based. We have built twenty-seven new prisons in the past twenty years and it's NOT working. Prisons are not what change people."
Q. What is a trait you most deplore in yourself?
A. Archie took out his phone showing me an app for short audio books and it explained it." This one talks about using false modesty. Like saying, 'Oh, I take on too many cases' when they are actually shielding the truth. So to avoid an answer with false modesty, I would have to admit that for me it would be procrastination. I'm not sure I want to publish that, but it is particularly true in my non-legal, non-business affairs. I think the law gives you the timelines itself, it does the work for you. It's the other stuff that I wait until the last minute."
Q. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A. "A lack of empathy."
Q. What is your greatest extravagance?
A. "Probably clothes." I inquired whether his closet was packed. "My wife would certainly say so. Relating back to that procrastination part, my wife has been asking me for months to go through the clothes and donate some to Goodwill…. Again it's a non-business, non-legal matter, so I haven't gotten around to it."
Q. What is your favorite journey?
A. "I went to Cuba in 1993 and started there what I will refer to as a 12-step group. I went back in 2014 and that initial group had expanded to a group of about 40 people. Cuba is a beautiful place and both visiting there and my experience in starting that group were amazing journeys. It is one of the things I am the most proud of in my life."
Q. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
A. "Self-confidence that leads to cockiness because of ego and narcissism."
Q. What do you dislike most about your appearance?
A. "I am doing better now, but my weight was an issue for a while."
Q. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
A. "Again, I am better now, but it used to be any kind of profanity. My wife used to be able to tell who I was talking to on the phone by the words I used. I am doing much better."
Q. What is your greatest regret?
A. "It took me three marriages to get it right. But I did get it right. I have been married now for 33 years. I am the most blessed man in the world when it comes to women. All my wives were great, they really were. We grew apart and I matured through the years and found happiness with my wife Joy. I do regret not remembering to acknowledge my ex-wife at my induction into the Hall of Fame. My ex-wife supported me through law school and my studying for the bar and the beginning of my law career. Although we are not together, she was a crucial support on my journey to where I am now."
Q. What or who was the greatest love of your life?
A. "Romantically, my wife. And of course, I love my children, their children and my birth family. I was the first in my immediate family to graduate from high school. My father dropped out of school because his family couldn't afford shoes. He always wanted to be a lawyer. He passed away a few months before I graduated law school. At my graduation my mother handed me an envelope. My father had been setting aside five dollars every week so that I could take time off after graduation to study for the bar exam. Five dollars a week was a lot for him. There was about $1,000 in the envelope. He had been saving for about four years to give me that. It was a bittersweet day."
Q. When and where were you happiest?
A. "The birth of my children."
Q. Which talent would you most like to have?
A. Without hesitation he said, "DRUMS! I always wanted to play, but I am totally uncoordinated."
Q. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would you like to be?
A. "Abraham Lincoln's personal assistant. I would have loved to observe and know him. I am fascinated with the Civil War and that era."
Q. What is your most treasured possession?
A. "I really think it is my reputation. I am proud of it. If I were forced to give something up that would be one of the last things I would give up."
Q. What is your favorite occupation?
A. "I would pick being a lawyer. I guess because I didn't start law school until I was thirty and I didn't have an education. I thought my chance for a professional career had passed me by. But thank God for Humphreys, and here I am."
Q. What is your most marked characteristic?
A. Archie pondered the question a little while." Determination and faith. Just don't give up. Don't ever give up."
Q. What do you most value in your friends?
A. "Optimism. There is nothing worse than a guy who is always negative. Make yourself look for the good and you'll find it."
Q. Who are your favorite writers?
A. "I like Grisham and Tom Clancy. They both have a tendency to put things in a factually-accurate perspective. Their stories could happen in real life, even though it is fiction."
Q. What is your favorite hero of fiction?
A. "I can't think of one, but I guess a character from a Grisham or Clancy novel."
Q. Who are your heroes in real life?
A. "Historically, Abraham Lincoln. Then, of course, my father. Judge Vlavianos, his dedication to the Collaborative Court and the needs of the individuals in his courtroom are unsurmountable. He told me something I'll never forget, 'Don't attribute to malice, what you can attribute to ignorance,' it really changes one's perspective. And of course, there is Dean Patrick Piggott.Pat has such a heart for the school and he pours himself into it. When things do not go right, it's not just business, it affects him personally."
Q. What do you most dislike?
A. "Uninformed law and order proceedings."
Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. "Overcoming my personal struggles and not giving into weakness."
Q. How would you like to die?
A. "Specifically, at 90 years old. That way I will be married for 50 years; not bad after striking out twice. And it will also be half my life spent sober."
Q. What is your motto?
A. "The average man is as happy as he makes his mind to be. That was a quote from Abraham Lincoln. I believe that happiness is really and truly a choice someone makes. Be happy."