Arizona civil verdicts 2013 gavel

As July rushes headlong to a close, I offer suggestions for two pieces from the June Arizona Attorney Magazine, before it recedes into memory.

The first is related to a decade-long favorite feature article: our annual roundup of the previous year’s largest civil verdicts, written by attorney Kelly MacHenry.

This year’s well-written and -researched story is here. But that’s just part of Kelly’s accomplishment.

For this, our anniversary year, Kelly suggested we also include a roster of the top verdicts of the past decade.

When an author offers a great idea along with the labor and smarts to get the job done, there’s really only one thing an editor should say: “Yes, thank you!”

So enjoy Kelly’s story about 2013 verdicts. But rip out and save her list of the top 100 verdicts of the past decade, which begins here.

Tomorrow, I share a story and news of an upcoming event that should be on your calendar.

LSC_LogoLast Friday, a significant anniversary passed, one that should be marked by anyone concerned about equal access to justice.

On July 25, the Legal Services Corporation noted that it had been established 40 years ago. As it describes itself, it is the single largest funder of civil legal aid in the United States.

“LSC provides federal funds through competitive grants to 134 independent nonprofit organizations with nearly 800 offices in every state, the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States. LSC is headed by an 11-member Board of Directors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Board is bipartisan: no more than six members may be of the same political party.”

“Every day across America, victims of domestic violence seeking protection, veterans trying to avoid homelessness, and consumers facing wrongful evictions or foreclosures are forced to navigate the legal system alone because they can’t afford a lawyer,” LSC President James J. Sandman said. “LSC’s funding of high-quality legal services for low-income people helps assure fairness in our legal system, and it’s never been more needed, or more important, than it is today.”

Here is an infographic detailing some of the need met by the LSC. You can read important facts and statistics about the LSC here.

LSC Legal Services Corporation logo

(click to enlarge)

Its celebration will be noted in a three-day event in Washington, DC.

 

 

Wordcrimes 1 Weird Al Yankovic video

Nothing lightens a busy week’s load like a grammar lesson.

Hmmm, scratch that. Instead:

Nothing lightens a busy week’s load like “Weird Al” Yankovic.

That’s more like it.

OK, even if you’re not a “Weird Al” fan, you may enjoy his video take on the importance of grammar (didn’t see that coming, did you?)

(And before I forget to ask, how many decades do we have to see “Weird Al” Yankovic in this country before we’re able to simply drop the apostrophes? Odd, don’t you think? Probably a legal name, like somewhere in performance history, there’s already an Equity actor named Weird Al, no apostrophe. Oh well, back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

Here, in one compact video, Al points out a wide variety of the grammatical missteps folks make every day.

Hat tip to Fennemore Craig attorney Chad Mead for alerting me to “Weird Al’s” great public service.

Have a terrific—and wordcrime-free—weekend.

Wordcrimes 2 Weird Al Yankovic video

How serious do Americans think our incarceration crisis is? Their word choice provides a clue.

How serious do Americans think our incarceration crisis is? Their word choice provides a clue.

It may be wonkish and nerdy to admit, but I enjoy the etymological side of public policy quite a bit.

Wait, that sentence itself is pretty incomprehensible. So let me start again.

We may all know “mass incarceration” when we see it (especially in the United States). But where did the term come from? Who used it first? And is it a neutral phrase, or laden with ideological baggage?

That is the conceptual adventure a reader embarks on when they begin a recent article on the Brennan Center website titled “Just Facts: Quantifying the Incarceration Conversation.

In the article, Oliver Roeder explains the roots of the term mass incarceration. That alone makes the article worth your time.

But of special interest is the kind of research that a digitized knowledge base allows us. The existence of digitized articles and scholarship permits talented people like Roeder to track trends in word use. Because of that, he’s able to explain, among other things, how use of the phrase ramped up, and to compare it to the increasing size of our prison population. Here is an example of one of his tables:

Mass incarceration table Brennan Center

Roeder earned his economics Ph.D. at the University of Texas in Austin. Perhaps not coincidentally, Texas is one of the states trying to make inroads in the mass incarceration challenge.

A few years ago, I wrote a story about the possibility for altered sentencing laws in Arizona. It appeared way back in 2012, when the prospects had brightened and then dimmed.

But if Roeder’s analysis shows anything, it is that the concept of mass incarceration has entered the collective consciousness. Supporters and detractors both understand that they must wrestle with the propriety of a historically large prison population.

So maybe it’s time for an updated look. What do you think?

state bars urge attorneys toward rural law practice

Some of us muse on the pleasures of a rural law practice. And others do something about it.

I have written before (like, here) about efforts to transform underemployed lawyers into busy rural attorneys. Not to romanticize the notion, but there is something fulfilling about a law practice in which you know many residents of your community.

Around the country, many communities suffer the effects of too few attorneys to do the necessary work. And a recent story in Associations Now explored the strategy of two bar associations—in Nebraska and Iowa—that devised strategies to address the challenge.

In Nebraska, the solution is a Rural Practice Initiative. In Iowa, a committee aims to alter the dynamic. And these are just a few of the organized efforts.

Would such efforts bear fruit in Arizona? Evidence suggests our rural areas face similar challenges. Let me know what you think.

In a video screen-shot, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (center) describes a proposed judicial selection plan.

In a video screen-shot, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (center) describes a proposed judicial selection plan.

The dialogue over how we select judges continues in earnest across the country, and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor continues to be in the thick of it.

As Justice O’Connor recently said, “The courts are the bulwark of our democracy, and we can ill afford to see them undermined.”

Last week, we read an announcement that a new proposed plan had been released, and it is named the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan. (The complete plan is here.)

The new proposed plan was issued by the Advancement of the American Legal System.

The new proposed plan was issued by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.

The proposal comes out of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS). You can read more about the news here.

According to plan advocates, the plan “was the outgrowth of work by Justice O’Connor, IAALS and the Advisory Committee to its Quality Judges Initiative, chaired by former Arizona Chief Justice Ruth McGregor, who is a member of the Justice at Stake Board of Directors.”

As described by Justice at Stake, the plan includes:

“a judicial nominating commission to screen judicial applicants and identify the best qualified candidates, appointment by the governor of one of those candidates, broad-based and objective evaluation of judges’ performance on the bench, and periodic retention elections.”

(Yes, that is very much like the Arizona system, at least in three counties.)

Justice at Stake logoWould you like to see where your state stacks up in its judicial-selection method? The IAALS, at the University of Denver, breaks it down here.

In case you’re thinking the conversation is of interest merely to court wonks, read a new study by the Defense Research Institute, which calls itself “the voice of the defense bar.” Its report titled “Economics of Justice” details the facts behind its position that financial blows suffered by the judicial branch are inflicting “widespread economic harm in communities.”

A press release and link to the full report are here.

Finally, for a quick synopsis of the O’Connor Plan, watch this video with the Justice herself, along with retired Arizona Chief Justice Ruth McGregor and IAALS Executive Director Rebecca Love Kourlis.

 

FIRRP Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project logoWhen the planning for this Friday’s educational seminar on unaccompanied minors in federal custody occurred, would anyone have guessed the topic would grip the nation?

Attorneys have been invited to attend the immigration CLE by the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. Space for the Phoenix event is limited to 180 people. As the Florence Project says, “Please share this with your colleagues at your law firms and with other attorneys who may be interested in helping detained immigrant children.”

The cost to attend is $75 until July 22, and all proceeds benefit the Florence Project. You can register and pay online here (be sure to indicate “CLE” on the “purpose” line). Questions? Contact the Project’s most excellent Pro Bono Program Director, Tally Kingsnorth, at tkingsnorth@firrp.org.

Here is more information about the event, to be held at the Fragomen law firm, 3003 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85012, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Reception is at Suite 1200, but the seminar will be in the basement auditorium.

Please note that parking for this CLE will NOT be validated and will be at your own expense. Seating is limited to first come, first served.

The training will begin with a discussion of the current UAC situation along the Mexico–U.S. border, ORR custody, and background on children in removal proceedings. Next, the instructors will briefly cover the mechanics of an SIJ case for minors in removal proceedings (Note: the Florence Project presented on SIJS last year and will be scheduling another more intensive CLE on this topic later in the fall). Finally, the presenters will review U visas, T visas, and asylum claims for children.

Instructor Bios: This CLE opportunity will be led by Laura Belous and Golden McCarthy. Before joining the Florence Project’s staff (for a second time), Laura worked as a Staff Attorney with the Pima County Office of Children’s Counsel and represented over 450 children in dependency proceedings. Previously, she was the Mental Health Equal Justice Works Fellow with the Florence Project and represented clients with serious mental illnesses in Eloy, Florence, and Phoenix for two years. Golden spent four years as an ESL teacher and then director of an adult education program in Brooklyn, New York. While in law school, Golden was President of CUNY Law Moot Court and a Fellow for the Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality (CLORE) under the directive of the Honorable Jenny Rivera. She also participated in the Economic Justice Project and the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Clinic at CUNY Law.

This CLE may qualify for three hours of CLE credit.

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