I am a lawyer, mediator, trainer, consultant, and writer. I am these things because, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in justice and sensitive to injustice. At the age of nine, while reading Clarence Darrow’s autobiography – “Attorney for the Damned”, I discovered that there are lawyers who advocate for the powerless Darrow’s passion for representing unpopular clients and causes never left me. After reading Darrow I knew I would be a lawyer someday. That happened although not in the usual course of things.
For most of my thirty plus years as a practicing attorney I worked as a prosecutor – an insider in the Justice System. I learned much during those years but what I took away from the experience is that we can do much better when it comes to how we respond to those who break society’s rules.
I retired as a prosecutor in the fall of 2010 and was employed for nearly two years for a local non-profit, mediating workplace conflicts. I also enrolled in graduate school at Eastern Mennonite University, focusing on “conflict transformation.” My hope was to work as a mediator overseas. That was put on hold when I took a class called “Conversations in Restorative Justice.” Through reading, conversations with other restorative justice practitioners, and blogging, I delved deeper into the need for an overhaul of our entire criminal justice system, recognizing that it is broken and that a social movement is needed to bring it in line with the needs of the people.
In the summer of 2012 I began to develop the idea of exploring justice as a diarist. With five children grown and on their own, I realized I had time to talk with criminal justice professionals, and with ordinary people, about their experiences with the justice system. I decided to become a researcher / journalist / blogger on the trail to discover what justice looks like for the average person and for those caught up in the system. In January of 2013 I took the first of several road trips in my old red pickup, with my dog Charlie, on a pilgrimage of sorts to discover what justice looks like in our country. I found many people willing to share their experiences. The conversations, my own observations and impressions, and other discoveries have ended up here, on the Justice Diary.
I presently divide my time fairly equally between Maine and Iowa. When in Maine I work with the Portland Center for Restorative Justice and reside at Wayfinder School near New Gloucester where students live and study in a restorative community. When I’m home in Iowa I work as a mediator, facilitator, and trainer for the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. I also think deeply about the “Third Half of Life” and will soon begin a new blog with findings, reflections and interviews.
Fred Van Liew
Fred Van Liew, JD
Van Liew Mediation & Consulting
2643 Beaver Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50310