April 2010


Bemused by PowerPoint: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates

It’s Friday, which mean it’s time for Change of Venue, our weekly left-turn where we examine the non-legal—or at least aspects of life that lawyers may be good at, but did not learn in law school.

This week, we give a standing ovation to most lawyers’ ability to handle complexity and obfuscation. To desimplify and complicate is not the purview of rank amateurs, but should be left to those with the professional training and natural ability for such perplexification.

In that admirable effort, we point to a tool that we love: The overly complex but highly revealing flow chart.

Our Afghan "plan"

Those who would point instead to PowerPoint as the most maddeningly numbing medium, I would have to say, nuh-uh. Yes, PowerPoint may be the enemy of all that is good, but it is a drone, not a drill. It lulls to slumber, not to psychosis.

No, for a rousing, gin-inducing, time-wasting effort, I’ll take the flow chart every time.

Two such charts came to mind this week.

One was in a New York Times story that ostensibly mocks PowerPoint. But when you look at the image, I think you’ll see why their missile is aimed wrong. The piece is titled “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint.” Here’s the lede:

“Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.”

I think we’ll all agree with that assessment. As the article says, the slide is emblematic of a military tool that has spun out of control.

Still, it’s fun—and I’m sure many lawyers will agree, and enjoy tracing the conceptual paths with their fingers. You can read the whole story here.

Typeface Madness

Here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, we’ve also been enjoying a flow chart designed to help you select a font that fits your need and your personality. It’s a hoot, and a worthy Friday time-waster.

To see the entire flow chart in all its psychotic glory, start obsessing here.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi

 

You may never have heard of Jeff Adachi. After all, how many people can name the Public Defender, whether in a large city or small town? But Adachi has worked hard to rectify that, both in his own San Francisco—where he is the elected P.D., the only one in California—or here in Arizona, where he visited in the past week. 

Adachi was here for an appearance at a screening of a movie, one that he wrote, directed and produced. It’s called You Don’t Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story. According to the Web site: 

“You Don’t Know Jack tells the fascinating story of a pioneering American entertainer Jack Soo, an Oakland native who became the first Asian American to be cast in the lead role in a regular television series Valentine’s Day (1963), and later starred in the popular comedy show Barney Miller (1975-1978).” 

You can read more about the movie here. 

Actor Jack Soo

 

But suffice it to say that Adachi has wide-ranging interests. For instance, he carved out time to attend an immigration rally—anti-SB 1070, as you might have guessed. And he’s not the only out-of-stater to arrive. 

Arizona’s newest immigration law is making national headlines, good and bad. That has led immigrants in the state—legal and otherwise—to promise that they will move out of a state that they say is encouraging racial profiling. 

But it also has led to an influx of protestors and other public figures who claim to want to make a difference. Think Linda Ronstadt. Or Shakira. And now Jeff Adachi. 

Governing Magazine recently ran a brief piece about Adachi, whom they name the “populist public defender.” 

And Adachi makes a name for himself and his office by speaking on topics that are traditionally far afield of a typical P.D.’s brief. For example, he recently insisted that ballooning employee pensions in the Bay Area city must be reined in, quickly, or the city will be hobbled even further. That kind of position doesn’t sit well with those whom you’d think a campaigning lawyer is trying to woo. But he continues to speak out. 

And then, this week, he visited Arizona. While here, he spoke with protestors and others and operated as a reporter of sorts. 

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom

 

Meantime, other elected officials are taking varying approaches to the SB1070 firestorm. 

Speaking of San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday “imposed a moratorium on city employee travel to the state of Arizona for official business and announced the creation of a task force to determine how best to extricate the city from its Arizona-related contracts” (San Jose Mercury News). 

In Phoenix, Democratic Mayor Phil Gordon has suggested that he will order his City Attorney to challenge the new law. He has gotten pushback from Republican members of the City Council, but Gordon says the City Charter permits him to move forward without a council vote. 

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon

 

Meanwhile, farther north in Flagstaff, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to oppose the new law. It was reported that the council chamber was packed with residents as the council considered their decision. 

All of that leads to many fascinating legal questions. 

  • For instance, the lawmakers who passed the law argue that the law is aligned with—not in opposition to—federal law, so there is no need to raise the specter of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. Most scholars are reported to disagree.
  • And how do you square Terry v. Ohio, which allows police officers to proceed on reasonable suspicion that there may be a weapon present, with this new law, which requires officers to act on reasonable suspicion of a person’s status—and to do it without resort to racial profiling? The Arizona Peace Officers Association has been charged by the Governor with coming up with standards—I don’t envy them.
  • And state legislators, who take pride in the state’s independence and refusal to kowtow to a centralized power, also bristle at the notion of sanctuary cities, or cities that think they can carve themselves out of the new regime.

As I write this, the news just broke that the very first two lawsuits against the new law have been filed. These opening salvos came from the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, and a Tucson police officer. The story is here. 

Curiouser and curiouser. But it’s a fight that’s worth watching. 

And click here for more information on the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

[This story contains corrected copy, identified below.] 

PhoenixLaw Dean Gene Clark

The Phoenix School of Law was the venue for an important event last evening. Amidst a panel of distinguished speakers, the school celebrated the launch of the newest volume of its Law Review.

What? Not enthralled yet? Well, pay attention.

The Phoenix Law Review has reached the grand old age of three—that’s 3! And already, its staff are jumping into issues of significance to the state and its legal community.

The new volume is called the “Arizona Government Issue.” It includes “A History of the Arizona Courts,” written by the Arizona Chief Justice herself, Rebecca White Berch. So right there, it’s worth the price of admission.

Vice Chief Justice Andrew Hurwitz

Her excellent article is surrounded by eight others, only some of which I have begun reading. And that is because I just got a copy last night. In fact, the volume wasn’t even printed until the day before the launch symposium. Now that’s called hitting a deadline!

A law review, as they say, takes a village. But everyone present last night took the time to praise 3L Anthony Tsontakis. It was his idea more than a year ago to publish a volume coincided with the centennial of the Arizona Constitution.

Tsontakis describes himself as “a history kind of guy,” and he says his interest in government and elections grew through clerkships and internships at the Secretary of State’s Office (working with Joe Kanefield (an editorial board member of Arizona Attorney Magazine), at the Arizona Legislature and at the Goldwater Institute. (And another shout out to board member Keith Swisher, an assistant professor at the school and the volume’s faculty advisor.)

Anthony Tsontakis

Anthony Tsontakis says that he contacted 50 to 70 people about possible articles, and then saw them through to publication. Preparations this week required “three consecutive all-nighters” and “53 straight hours” of work (Attention, legal employers! Hard worker on deck).

Tsontakis says that he hopes “the volume will demonstrate that today there are three bona fide law schools in the State of Arizona.”

The work—in the volume and in the launch symposium—paid off. (In fact, when I toiled away on law review as managing editor of the Hastings Comm/Ent, we never had lobster ravioli. All rise for the great catering!)

The evening began with PhxLaw Interim Dean Gene Clark talking about “the magic of the success of this book.” He then introduced Nick Dranias, an attorney with the Goldwater Institute.

[The following three paragraphs contain corrected copy.]

Dranias is one of the volume’s authors. He wrote “The Local Liberty Charter: Restoring Grassroots Liberty to Restrain Cities Gone Wild.” He wins for most evocative title, and for getting things off to a rousing start. In his remarks, he said that the Arizona Legislature “is designed to do one thing well: gridlock and stasis. Well done!”

Nick Dranias, Goldwater Institute

Of course, Dranias was being complimentary, for he appreciates a body designed to “throttle back public passions.” Any body that fosters caution—“looking before you leap”—in terms of legislation is close to the heart of the Institute. 

Dranias was humorous and ironic when he clarified, “As much as we would like to put the pedal to the metal and have the legislative process generate a conservative libertarian utopia, it tends to generate gridlock instead, and by design. But we must yield to temporary evils to secure the benefits of a written constitution.” (his corrected eloquent words, not mine).

Vice Chief Justice Andy Hurwitz was up next, and he spoke from his experience in all three branches of government. He admitted that “I learn something new every time I read our Constitution.” And so did we.

In his wide-ranging remarks, he talked about the constitutional provisions that involve judges, and the history of the State Bar sending names to the Governor for final selection.

He recalled that, when he was Chief of Staff to Gov. Bruce Babbitt, the then-conservative State Bar would send one name only for each opening. But Babbitt wasn’t going to be fenced in, and the Bar later would agree to send more.

Justice Hurwitz also remembered a time when electing judges was the norm—and not always such a good one.

As a young lawyer at the firm later named Osborn Maledon, Hurwitz arrived at court one day on a matter—only to find his opposing counsel already engaged in conversation with the judge.

“Drawing myself up to my full height, I said, ‘Your honor, this is highly improper.’”

Christy Smith, Office of the Governor

But, he laughed, the judge simply replied, “Sit down, sonny. We’re not talking about your case. He’s also my campaign manager—we’re talking about my election.”

The Vice Chief Justice declined to say how the matter turned out.

Finally, Christy Smith spoke. She is Deputy General Counsel to Gov. Jan Brewer, and she encouraged law students in attendance to consider a life in public service. In fact, she believes that there should be more lawyers serving in the Legislature (no word on whether the Governor shares that view).

March 2009: The AZ Constitution

All in all, a momentous evening to honor a great accomplishment. Congratulations, and well done.

Read more about the Law Review of the Phoenix School of Law.

And read our own March 2009 story on the history of the Arizona Constitution, written by Hon. George T. Anagnost.

A brief item today, using this coolio Internet blog technology to tout—books.

That’s right, we’re blogging it old school today to be sure you’ve perused the newest site dedicated to those marvelous dead-tree reading tools.

The Brennan Center for Justice launched its Just Books page a few weeks ago, and it’s worth bookmarking. For the lawyer at the keyboard, or anyone concerned about injustice issues in a cruel, cruel world, this is a site to come back to again and again.

So get reading here.

Law Day will be here next week, and it has lessons to impart.

It is an annual event that encourages Americans to think hard about the benefits of living in what we call a nation of laws. It’s a little self-congratulatory, but as an exercise, it’s a useful one.

Each state is encouraged to develop its own curriculum. In Arizona, the focus of the Supreme Court’s Law Day will be an April 30 program titled Law, Justice, and the Holocaust:  What You Do Matters” (more information is here). A program co-sponsor is the State Bar of Arizona.

The program will examine how atrocities like the Holocaust are rarely the simple acts of madmen. Instead, they often are carefully and legally scripted.

For instance, in the Third Reich, Adolph Hitler and his henchmen wanted to be sure laws and legal structures were altered to support their Final Solution. Sadly—but not so surprisingly—lawyers and judges went along with that travesty, either through persuasion, coercion, or with pleasure.

A program I attended yesterday demonstrates that we need not leave our own continent—or our own country—to see examples of civil liberties tossed aside—and all the more immorally because it was done under the auspices of the law.

The 49th annual scholarship awards of the Arizona Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League was held—deliciously—at the Phoenix College Culinary Café on April 25. (Disclosure: My wife is Chapter President.) Along with the scholarship awards, they hosted a terrific keynote speaker who reminded everyone about the obligations we have as free Americans.

Tom Ikeda of Densho

Tom Ikeda is the Executive Director of Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project. He (and their Web site) explained that:

“Densho’s mission is to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. We offer these irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historical images and teacher resources, to explore principles of democracy and promote equal justice.”

Ikeda spoke eloquently of the work and privilege of speaking with aging Japanese Americans whose lives were forever marked by internment in what can only be described as concentration camps. Founded in 1996 in Seattle, Densho wants to memorialize the oral histories before they are lost forever. Currently, the project is up to more than 400 interviews.

 

Those remarkable interviews are available on the Densho Web site as videos and in transcript form. They also are searchable by topic, making it easy to locate a brief discussion within even hours-long interviews.

Every bit of Tom Ikeda’s presentation was compelling. But of great interest to lawyers and anyone who cares about the law, Ikeda also showed a clip of law professor Peter Irons, as he described a seminal moment in research. He explained how he had sought and sifted through the case files on Korematsu v. United States, the case that had upheld the federal government’s exclusion and internment of United States citizens.

It was in those files that Irons found a “smoking gun.” Justice Department lawyers had written memos explaining that they had good reason to doubt the Army Department statements that the nation was imperiled by Japanese American citizens, should they be permitted to remain free. The lawyers pointed out the ethical obligation not to lie to the Supreme Court, and said that Department lawyers must provide all of the evidence to the Justices.

They did not, however, and the Supreme Court ultimately issued one of its most infamous cases, exemplary of a miscarriage of justice.

(In the 1980s, Korematsu and two other cases were overturned when evidence was presented that the U.S. government had “altered, suppressed and withheld important and relevant information from the Supreme Court.”)

Congratulations to the Arizona Supreme Court for looking hard at the legal profession’s failings in Germany in the 1940s. But let’s not forget our own profession’s failures here at home.

Happy Law Day.

Click here for a 2004 story on Densho.

Click here and here to read some more recent articles by Arizona Attorney Magazine on the anniversary of the Japanese American Redress legislation.

It’s Friday, which mean it’s time for Change of Venue, our weekly left-turn where we examine the non-legal—or at least aspects of life that lawyers may be good at, but did not learn in law school.

A business lunch begins with ...

This week, recognizing how well lawyers eat (to talk business, of course), I point you to a restaurant.

Being a statewide publication, that’s not something I would do lightly. But a recent meal at this establishment told me I should encourage your gorging there.

The place? C-Fu Gourmet in Chandler, Ariz.

I’ve been to this Chinese restaurant many times, but the recent Arizona Asian American Bar Association banquet reminded how good it could be.

To keep this post short on the words but long on the salivation, I’ll list the nine courses from that April 14 feast

  • Spicy Shrimp and Calamari Salad
  • Chicken Asparagus Soup
  • Beef Tenderloin and Gai Lan
  • Princess Chicken
  • Double Mushroom, Tofu and Greens
  • Steamed Fish, Ginger Scallions and Soy
  • BBQ Pork Mai Fun Noodles
  • Salted Fish/Chicken Fried Rice
  • Double Dessert “Sesame Ball and Fruits”

 Yes, Sesame Ball and Fruits. Why do you ask?

The menu includes far more than this suggests. I recommend the three-part strategy: Eat, drink, nap.

Drop into their Web site for more info. Or, even better, just stop by:

3-part test: Eat, drink, nap

2051 W. Warner Rd.
Chandler, Az. 85224
S.W. corner of Warner & Dobson, 1 mile east of the 101

Unhappy with my selection? Want to recommend something else? Post a comment, or send your thoughts to arizona.attorney@azbar.org

Here’s how I began my Earth Day: Wanting to kill a bird.

A woodpecker, more specifically. He has grown very comfortable on our roof, and greets the (near) dawn with his rat-a-tat-tat on the metal vent stack rising from our bathroom.

Not the brightest woodpecker, I’m guessing. But even though “Dick” (so named by me because he’s a real pecker) may not be damaging our wood, he still is sending me around the bend.

No need to worry, though. I understand that no harm can (intentionally) befall Dick. Because he is a migratory bird, he is protected from foul play by the likes of me under the auspices of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Good thing for Dick I’m a law-abiding man.

And that’s just one way that the law interacts with the densest of the Solar System’s terrestrial planets, also known as our blue marble named Earth.

Reading the history of Earth Day, you unearth (get it?) all kinds of tidbits. For instance, according to Wikipedia (the un-Shepardized version of all learning):

  • April 22 is also the birthday of actor Eddie Albert of Green Acres, who was a staunch environmentalist and spokesperson for the National Arbor Day Foundation. Albert spoke at the inaugural Earth Day ceremony in 1970.
  • April 22 is the birthday of Vladimir Lenin.

Smile, Comrade, it's Earth Day

That last may be the funniest factoid of all, due to all the fallout that ensued. By selecting April 22 as Earth Day, the progressives irked a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who  said, “Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them.”

So there.

The Wikipedia entry adds that Lenin was never noted as an environmentalist.

"Comrade Lenin Cleanses the Earth"

Really? I guess they’re not counting ethnic and other cleansing, as evidenced in at least one poster from his time.

 

And while I was meandering on the Earth Day/lawyer nexis, I came across one other person: Kathleen Rogers.

Kathleen, whom you may not know, is the President of Earth Day Network … and a lawyer who went to the law school at the University of California–Davis (Go, UC!).

More to the point, she previously held the position of … wait for it —

Chief Wildlife Counsel for the National Audubon Society

Kathleen Rogers

Holy scat, that’s a great title. I mean, who among us hasn’t had to herd a few cats. But “Wildlife Counsel”? That’s ridiculous. 

 

And if Earth Day isn’t about aspiring to a job with a cool title, what is it about? To say otherwise is simply pessimistic, political ideology.

So happy birthday, Vlad … I mean, Gaia. You may be a mother, but you’re our mother.

 

(For more on the environment/socialism/degrading Western values connection, you really should read a 2009 editorial in The Washington Times. The authors compared Arbor Day to Earth Day. Arbor Day, they claimed, is a happy, non-political celebration of trees. Earth Day? That’s a pessimistic, political ideology that portrays humans in a negative light. Hate that.)

A news release came winging its way into my e-mail today, pitching an upcoming event. In tone and content, it reminded me of a similar seminar I attended more than two years ago. And it caused a flood of memories—some shameful—to come surging back.

No, not that kind of shame—sorry to disappoint readers whose breath quickened at the prospect of a steamy tell-all, or at least a lawyer discipline mea culpa.

No, mine is more a tale akin to a misdeed of a founding father—the I-can’t-tell-a-lie fella. But more on that in a minute.

The upcoming seminar will be held at the Law Library of Congress (library being a small clue to the shame of me and George W). In recognition of Law Day 2010, the library will present “You Be the Judge: Cross-Cultural Issues in the Courts” (press release below).

Wow, I thought. This sounds great. Maybe I could convince my overseers that a DC journey would be worthwhile for their journo (“Keep mum about the cherry blossoms being in bloom,” I warned myself). But as I read the release, a sense of déjà vu crept over me. Hadn’t I heard this? Hadn’t I attended this before?

Well, I excavated the stacks that “grace” my office space. Shifted aside were the reports generated by SuperLawyers 2006, the legal salary surveys from 1999-2003, and the glossy promotional materials about firms that had been merged entirely out of existence.

Alison Renteln

And that’s when I found it: my file on the ABA Midyear Meeting, held in Los Angeles, February 2008.

The seminar I had attended in the City of Angels had been titled “Stranger in a Strange Land: Cross-Cultural Issues in the Courts.” And in almost all respects, the programs sounded much the same. The panelists were much the same. And when it comes to the promotional copy, let’s be generous and say it was “almost identical.”

Well, why shouldn’t it be? After all, the new program and the old program share almost identical panelists; aren’t they entitled to re-present a seminar? Including the promo language?

Now, full disclosure: Like all writers, I have “repackaged” my own writing for multiple occasions and purposes. For example, portions of this very blog post have appeared as (1) a travelogue on “Pubs of the New American Skid Row” on Globe Trekker, (2) an (online) encyclopedia entry on the history of Cameroon, and (3) a lengthy and not-improved-by-gin wedding toast delivered to the boss of a cousin’s friend, whom I have not seen since.

So cast stones I shall not. I don’t fault the authors for “recycling” their copy (maybe it’s in honor of Earth Day, which we’ll cover tomorrow!).

But the repeated program tells me that it’s OK if I miss a program I’ve already seen.

However, for those of you who weren’t in LA in 2008: This will probably be a great program!

Here’s what I recall most from LA.

All the speakers were great. But of particular interest was Alison Dundes Renteln, a USC political scientist. She also “wrote the book,” titled “The Cultural Defense.”

As the promo copy (from 2008) says, “In a growing number of cases in state and federal courts all across the country, immigrants are pleading the cultural defense—invoking the customs and traditions of their homeland to explain their actions. Even when it is not raised per se, culture plays a role in many cases, both civil and criminal. Does the adage that ‘all men are presumed to know the law’ apply to recent immigrants? Should they be held to the same standards as everyone else, on the theory of ‘When in Rome …’?”

A cause for reflection -- and a great read!

In the LA seminar, we also got to use those coolio handheld TrialGraphix gizmos, where we could “vote” on scenarios. We were living like it was 1999. And when we attendees punched in our results, wow, were we all over the board.

Anyway, back to my shame.

You may recall recent news stories about George Washington failing to return two library books to New York City’s oldest library. His 220 years’ worth of fines would yield about a $300,000 bill. Y’know, the same as a modern-day lobbyist’s monthly expense account.

It’s too bad a few books had to besmirch an otherwise pretty good record, George. But I’m right there with you, Mr. President.

My misstep occurred immediately after the LA seminar. In the crowded hallway at the hotel, a card table bore a creaking stack of Renteln’s tomes. Available for sale, of course.

Typically, I steer clear of the “purchase” tables in favor of the “complimentary” tables. But the scholar’s arguments intrigued me. And so, against all my training and experience, I reached into my wallet for an AMEX, which appeared surprised to be making an appearance.

The young fella tasked with the manual-slide-the-carbon-paper charge “machine” was having a tough time of it. Such a tough time, in fact, that as I walked away I had a nagging sense that he had mishandled the sale. That he had, in fact, not made a sale.

Headlong on my own path toward moral oblivion, I decided not to go back and check. I had a signed carbon receipt in my pocket, and I was late for my SuperShuttle (which I missed). Why call attention to another human’s failings?

Why indeed? As I’m sure you know by now, the charge never went through. I thought occasionally—less and less as the months swam by—that I should contact someone. But whom? The publisher? The author? My priest?

Well, I did none of those things. All I can say is that the book sits there still, staring at me balefully, as bad-ass as any true bill ever returned by a grand jury. “Quoth the volume: Nevermore.”

Of course, the book consoles and teaches me another lesson.

“Your honor, in my defense, my cultural background taught me to yield my spot to the impatient lawyer behind me, and not to return to trouble the harried and likely incompetent young man wielding a charge-card machine like a dull butter knife.”

Oh, the shame. It burns. It burns bad. Word, President George. Word. 

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington, DC   20540
Phone:  (202) 707-2905
Fax:  (202) 707-9199
Email:  pao@loc.gov

April 21, 2010

Press contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public contact: Leon Sciosia (202) 707-1496, lsci@loc.gov
Request ADA accommodations 5 business days in advance at 202-707-6362 (voice/TTY) or ada@loc.gov

Multiculturalism and the Rule of Law Subject of 2010 Law Day Program

In recognition of Law Day 2010, the Law Library of Congress will present a program titled “You Be the Judge: Cross-Cultural Issues in the Courts.” The two-hour program will begin at noon on Monday, May 3, in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.    

The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.

In a growing number of cases in state and federal courts all across the country, parties are raising “the cultural defense”—invoking the customs and traditions of a diversity of cultural backgrounds to explain their actions. Even when these issues are not raised directly, culture is playing a role in many civil and criminal cases.

In this engaging and highly interactive presentation, audience members will use hand-held technology to “vote” on the outcome of vignettes drawn from real cases and presented by an inter-disciplinary panel of some of the nation’s leading cross-cultural experts.

Moderated by George Washington University School of Law professor Jonathan Turley, the panel will include Rene L. Valladares, chief of the Trial/Appellate Division of the Office of the Federal Public Defender, Las Vegas, Nev.; Dr. Mark J. Mills, M.D., J.D., a renowned forensic psychiatrist and professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; and the Hon. Delissa A. Ridgway, U.S. Court of International Trade-New York and chair of the American Bar Association’s National Conference of Federal Trial Judges.

Law Day is a national day to celebrate the rule of law and its contributions to the freedoms that Americans enjoy. In 1957, the American Bar Association instituted Law Day to draw attention to both the principles and practices of law and justice. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day with a proclamation in 1958. For more information on Law Day, visit www.lawday.org.

The Law Day program is sponsored by the Law Library of Congress with the support of more than 40 organizations, including the American Bar Association, the District of Columbia Bar Association and the National Conference of Federal Trial Judges. 

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

Founded in 1832, the mission of the Law Library is to make its resources available to members of Congress, the Supreme Court, other branches of the U.S. Government and the global legal community, and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of law for future generations. With more than 2.6 million volumes, the Law Library contains the world’s largest collection of law books and other resources from all countries and provides online databases and guides to legal information worldwide through its web site at www.loc.gov/law/.

# # #

PR 10-84
04/21/09
ISSN 0731-3527

Maricopa County Court Tower and Supervisor Don Stapley

Today’s top legal story was a construction story—what could be better in real estate-crazy Arizona!

 

The “topping-out” of a building, even a new courthouse, is rarely much more than page 3 stuff. More often, it rates only a squib in the newspaper, or a larger filler news story, but only if there’s a good photo.

But the skyward reach of the Maricopa County Superior Court qualifies for much splashier coverage. For it is steel and mortar—and so much more.

The courthouse, as most everyone knows, has become a Rorschach inkblot on the legal psyche of the Valley community. It was constructed with cash that the county administration had saved up over at least 10 years. But it is also the most expensive single construction project that the county has ever taken on.

Thrifty, or spendthrift? Individuals disagree.

Recently departed County Attorney Andrew Thomas thought it was a waste of money, and worse. Over the past year, using the rising court tower as an iceberg, or a battering ram, he aimed crushing blow after crushing blow at county government. And in his mission to unearth what he claimed were massive improprieties, he even extended his assault beyond all the usual targets. He included court leadership itself, going so far as to file charges against judges.

Those actions—and therefore the Court Tower itself—split the legal community like very little ever has. It led to indictments, harmed reputations—on both sides—anger, recrimination, firings, and the specter of a rudderless county, perhaps mortally wounded by action and reaction.

Andy Thomas has resigned now, building his campaign for Arizona Attorney General. His replacement—Rick Romley—was named and has begun his own purge. So everyone has now taken a collective deep breath.

Hon. Barbara Mundell

But that high opera served as a fitting first act to the topping-out ceremony, where county officials maybe even enjoyed themselves, for the first time in a long time. Board of Supervisors Chair Don Stapley—who himself had been charged by Thomas—had to feel a certain sense of accomplishment on the sunny April day as he spoke to the assembled well-wishers.

But it was in a keynote speech delivered by Presiding Judge Barbara Mundell that we learned one of the more interesting aspects of the new courthouse.

She spoke on April 14 at the annual dinner of the Arizona Asian American Bar Association. And her words and tone also were those of someone who had come this close to a ship-sinking iceberg. She was insightful, drained, and relieved.

Hon. Gary Donahoe

Judge Mundell enumerated the challenges she had faced—including a lawsuit by Andy Thomas against a Spanish-speaking probationary DUI program, which he alleged were race-based courts. (She won that federal lawsuit at the trial and Ninth Circuit levels.)

“No Presiding Judge had ever been sued before,” she marveled. “I was making precedent, but not in a good way.”

She still sounded stunned as she spoke about “a new way of attacking the court that I’d never heard of: through press releases, out in the public.”

The low point, she said, was when she was contacted by the media at about 2:00 on a weekday afternoon. They had been informed that a search warrant had been issued for her home and office, and they wanted to tape what happened.

“I had to explain to our 14-year-old daughter that strangers may be going through our house, through her room.”

“Mom,” her daughter asked, “did you do something wrong?”

She managed to obtain an order to stay the warrant, if it ever existed.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s stories like that, you surmise, that make the engraved words on the new courthouse resonate even more with her: “The first duty of society is justice.”

But the visible words outside cannot compare with the words inside that people like me will never see. And those words are written on the building’s top beam, now hidden forever by lath and drywall.

Before that top beam was hoisted into its highest point, Judge Mundell said, many judges and court personnel were invited to inscribe it with a Sharpie. Most just signed their names. But then Judge Gary Donahoe stepped forward.

Donahoe, of course, had his own notorious run-ins with the County Attorney. Out from under that hammer, the judge added perhaps the most poignant hieroglyphics to the soon-to-be hidden building beam:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” —MLK

A fitting apex, indeed.

Here is the news story on the Court Tower’s topping out.

The oldest law school west of the Rockies has been in the news a lot lately, legally speaking. In fact, they got to go to the big show—as a defendant at the United States Supreme Court (Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 08-1371).

UC Hastings in flattering evening light

University of California, Hastings College of the Law is not only one of the longer names of a law school; it also is a party to a suit in which the Christian Legal Society says it should be deemed an official campus organization. They insist that the school’s refusal—because the Society will not agree to abide by the school’s nondiscrimination policy—is a constitutional violation.

The argument was this morning. You can read about it here.

The legal issues are fascinating. The Court must decide (as the New York Times reports) “whether a law school can deny recognition to a Christian student group because it won’t let gays join. [It is] a case that could determine whether college nondiscrimination policies trump the rights of private organizations to determine who can—and cannot—belong to their ranks.”

What’s of even more interest to me—as an alum of that esteemed law school—is hearing the Justices talk about the “campus” of Hastings.

Guffaw.

UC Hastings, The Dark Tower, in unflattering 1950s-era light

The two—OK, three—buildings that comprise the “campus” are at the butt end of what San Franciscans call the “Tenderloin.”

And sure, it’s possible that law students skipping class could engage in a little hacky-sack or Frisbee (do students still play hacky-sack or Frisbee anymore? I wouldn’t know, being such old caselaw myself). The place they would do that is termed, hilariously, “the beach,” a strip of concrete mounded with concrete benches and concrete planters. Sounds very garden-spot, doesn’t it?

Despite its sad-sack location, I and many of my fellows came to enjoy the surroundings. It wasn’t just the easy access to pool halls and watering holes we liked. It also had amazing Vietnamese food close by, the great public library was down the street, and access to courthouses (federal and state) that other law school denizens can only dream about.

Eating a Vietnamese sandwich as you walk to the Ninth Circuit to watch oral arguments? It’s hard to get a better law school experience than that.

And when we tired of proletariat surroundings, we would ride Muni (SF public transit) out to the UC Medical School, where we would commandeer conference tables in its beautiful library. Even then, we learned, doctors know how to live.

So good luck to the Justices in determining what’s acceptable among school clubs. For the rest of us, think about a visit to San Francisco’s lesser-visited neighborhoods, like the Tenderloin. To get you started on Tenderloin tourism, read this New York Times article, from a reporter who did just that.

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