My grandfather used to say it all the time — actually, my mother used to say, all the time, that this was what my grandfather said: if you have an education, you’ll always have it with you. It’s a familiar saying to the children of immigrants — we’ve all heard it a million times. Which is why, of course, we never listen.

My grandfather spoke Polish, German, English and French, but he didn’t say much anymore at all, by the time I came along. He’d never shaken off his sense of displacement from the war — let alone the other…


The words don’t matter, as long as they are kind

You should write a love letter today.

If you’re carrying unspoken feelings, write a love letter. Be prepared for major anxiety about whether you used the right postage, had the right address, or chose the right words. Be prepared not to know when they’ll receive it or whether you’ll receive anything back. If you do receive a response by mail — keep it. Save it. You’ll read it differently in 5, 10, 30 years, and understand layers previously invisible to your impatient mind.

If you’re the parent of a young child, and find yourself staring at their little pink shrimpy…


A dog, a newt, two nightmares and a writing lesson

Photo by Jacob Dyer on Unsplash

A few days ago, as my two littlest girls ate breakfast, I dug through the six-year-old’s backpack, checking for spare clothes. Shorts? Check. Socks? Check. T-shirt? Check? Dead newt? Check.

It was no longer a vibrant shade of orange but tiny, gnarled — a dry red. Dessicated. So small that it barely ran the length of my pinky finger. I thought of the cartoons and books in which young children slip a mouse or lizard into their bags and bring them home, or to school, and the two enjoy cozy adventures. I looked at my daughter.

“Did you try to…


The cruelty of lawyers, the giant packet of jargon and other updates on the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

In the latest developments in the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case, creditors are receiving giant packets full of legal jargon in the mail, the last hearing was a slugfest, a good number of Non-Consenting States have decided to join the settlement, the claim documentation process is underway and the confirmation hearing is coming up. It’s time for a round-up and a couple of FAQs.

Let’s start with a softball, for the lawyers.

Question: Is it ok for lawyers to be mean to each other?

Answer: NO.

What if you’re engaged in a really heated argument during a hearing? NO.

What if you use really long words and convoluted sentences to make it sound…


I’m learning not to beat myself up over everything I should have done differently as a mother

Photo by Christina Deravedisian on Unsplash

In December 2012, I was on vacation with my parents and two children. At the time, I was working as a prosecutor in New York City. We were two years deep into a massive pill mill investigation, but we had just secured a comprehensive indictment from the Grand Jury — so this was the closest I would get to ‘down time’ for a few years. Unfortunately, it was also “down” time. I was physically in a beach paradise but emotionally in a state of nothingness: physical existence without the capacity to feel. Why? …


After the defendant died of Covid-19, there was something I needed to tell her

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Zoe and I had known each other for seven years, but we had never spoken. When we finally met on Zoom a few weeks ago, there was something I needed to get off my chest:

“Thank you. [T]hank you for sitting through selection and being honest, even though this was not something that would make your life easier. And thank you for participating every step of the way in good faith. And thank you for giving us 18 weeks of your life to help the criminal justice system.”

For eighteen weeks in 2014, Zoe and I spent most waking hours…


The Sacklers’ release from liability stretches back to the “beginning of time”

“[T]he Sacklers are paying $4.275 billion and they very much plan — expect — to be done forever with this chapter,” Marshall Huebner declared and warned during the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy hearing on May 26th.

By “this chapter,” Marshall Huebner — and the Sacklers — mean the opioid epidemic. By “done forever,” Marshall Huebner — and the Sacklers — mean that they expect and plan to be off the hook from any civil liability.

There’s been a lot of great coverage of the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy lately. So you may have heard or read about the “releases,” the mechanism by…


We landed in San Francisco in the middle of the night. It was 1985 and the entire state was a dark, blank slate. I was French. I was eleven years old. I was ready to reinvent myself.

My first impressions were flatlands, streetlights, highways — and Denny’s. In my father’s defense, it was the only open restaurant at two o’clock in the morning, and having spent a few weeks on his own, living in a dark suite in a Bay Area motel, he just wanted to sit down for a meal with his family. The interior was faded but we…


It was a light and carefree afternoon — for the gnats. They circled my toddler’s head, drawn by the scent of strawberries and nap sweat. A few weeks ago, her face had turned to sandpaper in reaction to an ill-chosen sunscreen, so you can understand my hesitation with the bug spray. I held the bottle in my hand and lost myself in a mental flow chart of events and possibilities.

The six-year-old, meanwhile, referring to herself as “the little ripper,” cannonballed into the deep end of the inflatable pool in blatant disregard of the warnings printed on the plastic: “NO…


Searching for Answers About Invasive Maternal Anxiety

Content warning: contains descriptions of catastrophic anxiety scenarios.

Until recently, I never would have revealed the catastrophic scenarios in my mind. Ever since I became a mother, I’ve felt anxious when the kids walked near the edge of anything; giving them baths provoked fears of drowning; toddlers wandering in the kitchen prompted burn scenes; seeing a baby asleep on a monitor screen triggered a need to check their breathing. I just lived with it — oh, and badgered everyone constantly to BE CAREFUL STEP AWAY HOLD MY HAND DON’T TOUCH THAT.

During a family vacation in early 2019, a spectacular…

Charlotte Bismuth

Author of “Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher,” former Manhattan ADA , Columbia Law School grad, occasional legal cartoonist.

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