May 2011


Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

Over the past week, the State Bar of Arizona website has undergone another in a series of transformations. A few months ago, the “public” portion of the site was completely revamped. But more recently, the “lawyer” side got the same treatment.

We are still developing some needed changes on the Arizona Attorney Magazine portion of the site, but one thing I was pleased to finally land was a true magazine news page, separate and apart from the print magazine’s web page. The Arizona Attorney Magazine News Center is now live, and you can see it here.

We have spotted a few bugs that need to be worked out. But it has been (and will continue to be) my great and maddening daily privilege to populate the page with new content—news links, video links, and blog content.

Andy Rooney

Yesterday was Memorial Day, so you may have missed something I posted there. And so I am sharing it here today.

If you are like me and most everyone I know, you have mixed feelings about Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes’ fame, because he can annoy as often as he can illuminate. But yesterday I posted his previous musings on the true meaning of Memorial Day. I think it was quite well done.

I know, Memorial Day is over. But I think watching this will be two minutes and 37 seconds well spent.

Happy Memorial Day. I am hoping that you are spending some wonderful time with friends and family. That is always a high point of the Memorial Day weekend.

Somewhere in there, here’s hoping we all take a moment—or more—to remember why the holiday exists. In my job, I’ve been privileged to report on recent efforts to assist military members (see here and here). And today, there is news of a great initiative launched by the American Bar Association—its “Home Front” website that provides resources for servicemembers and their families.

Here is the concept, as described by the ABA. Please pass it on to anyone you think may benefit from it.

American Bar Association

Division for Communications and Media Relations

http://www.abanow.org

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE FOR MILITARY FAMILIES

ABA Home Front Provides Resources for Understanding Legal Issues and Obtaining Law-Related Assistance

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 17, 2011 – The American Bar Association has launched a new website, ABA Home Front, dedicated to providing servicemembers and military families with resources for understanding legal issues and obtaining law-related assistance for the problems they face every day. This site features an Information Center, a Directory of Programs and a Military Pro Bono Center, all designed to deliver legal information and expert assistance to military families.

“Being in the military is a 24/7 commitment that takes its members and their families across the country, and around the world,” said ABA President Stephen N. Zack. “That’s where the online legal center comes in. At any time, someone can access basic information on the legal issue they’re dealing with — whether it’s a family law matter, tax question or problem with a creditor.”

The Information Center consists of easy-to-understand resources about Working with a Lawyer and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides legal protections for active-duty military and their families. The site also has a Family Law section that explains law-related implications and options in such areas as marriage and divorce, domestic violence and custody disputes.

“The center offers information on a number of legal topics,” Zack said. “We will continue to grow it in response to what servicemembers tell us they need.”

The Information Center will be expanded to include additional materials about landlord-tenant disputes, health law, immigration, contracts and leases, tax, and employment law.

The Directory of Programs can help military families find services in or near their community with state-by-state listings of legal programs and organizations. Programs can include military legal assistance offices, legal aid and pro bono organizations, lawyer referral and information services, and military-specific programs where available. Although many of the programs are pro bono, some may require payment of some costs or impose income-eligibility limits.

The Military Pro Bono Center is a resource for lawyers interested in providing pro bono representation for military members or in providing pro bono lawyer-to-lawyer consultation with military legal assistance attorneys.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

Happy Friday, or Change of Venue Friday, as I call it around here. That’s when we take a more relaxed look at news or events—a lawyers’ blog casual day, you might call it.

It was last Sunday evening, I think, when I heard the radio news story. An airline pilot had arrived at the airport smelling of alcohol. Authorities were called, and by the time they reached him, he was already on the plane.

A snack with your drink?

Another story about the AirTran pilot continued:

“[Airport police] gave him a preliminary breathalyzer test and registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.05, slightly above the legal limit for pilots which is 0.04. The legal limit for drivers in Minnesota is 0.08.”

So here is what surprised me (can you see it coming?). The FAA-approved legal limit for pilots who carry us all hither and yon is … NOT zero! Well, that falls in the category of things that make you go Hmmm.

Besides my surprise, my second thought was perhaps a bit uncharitable to the airline, but I mused, Well, it IS AirTran. I mean, do we really expect unimpaired flying for our discount seat?

It also occurred to me that perhaps the pilot was celebrating his airline’s May 2 merger with Southwest Airlines. Maybe he just imbibed a mini-liquor bottle as a toast. Of course, that can’t the kind of PR that Southwest was looking forward to when they got into the AirTran bed.

One result of the news story was that I meandered through the web for related stories. Holy cow, it’s more than a little distressing to see how many results you get when you search for “drunk pilot” on YouTube.

But it’s Change of Venue Friday, so here is a vintage video you may enjoy: the comedian Foster Brooks appearing as a tipsy airline pilot on the Dean Martin Show.

Have a great—and grounded—weekend.

 

Mary O'Grady

Today, we learned that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled to uphold Arizona’s legal sanctions against employers in the immigration context. Yesterday, a former Arizona Solicitor General gave insight into that case and into the broader topic of arguing your case at the nation’s highest court.

Mary O’Grady spoke to a luncheon group assembled in downtown Phoenix as part of the monthly gathering of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association. Now a partner at Osborn Maledon, O’Grady described the heady experience of preparing a case and advocating it to the Justices. Her Wednesday presentation demonstrated the personal and professional challenges that a lawyer faces in that chamber.

Years ago, the first case that she reviewed as a new Solicitor General was a challenge to the state’s law on same-sex marriage. That special action in the Court of Appeals was a snapshot of the approach her office took to matters, controversial or not.

“Policy issues weren’t our deal,” O’Grady said. “And I never asked assistant AGs ‘Who feels strongly about this case?’ Our job is a legal one.”

That’s not to say that she never heard from AGs who felt they could not advocate a position due to moral or philosophical beliefs. Those concerns would be aired and usually granted.

O’Grady laughed as she described the SG’s Office as “a public defender for laws.”

“Our job is to give our laws the best defense possible, and to help the judges do the best possible job.”

She acknowledged that parties sometimes get very nervous at the prospect of having the Attorney General’s Office (in which the SG is housed) handle “their case.” Those parties sometimes seek to intervene, primarily to tell the court that “they can’t trust the Attorney General’s Office.”

But that sometimes has served cases well, she said. Positions like that may lead the court to see the state’s position as more middle of the road and not a “zealot.” And hearing from those passionate advocates on both sides helps the AG see the matter clearly, “without blind spots.”

O’Grady marched the audience through a case’s progress up through the courts, at each step describing the challenges the SG faces.

Politics and media coverage are most intense at the district court level. There, she and others in her office developed “an art form” of exiting the courthouse with minimal contact with media, protestors and other possible interrogators.

By the time your case is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, an advocate can anticipate a unique experience: the polite telephone call from NPR’s Nina Totenberg.

“That conversation is really almost a moot court in itself,” O’Grady said.

At all levels of the case, though, one thing is constant: Even in a packed and contentious courtroom, once the case starts, the lawyers on both sides just go to work, “and the noise stops, as it should be.”

O’Grady described the progress of the employer-sanctions law challenge in more detail.

As it prepares its Supreme Court case, the state always hopes that the United States Solicitor General will stake out a position that aligns with the state. In employer-sanctions, though, the USSG took no position. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court said it wanted to hear from the USSG on the question.

That led to an appearance before the USSG, then Elena Kagan, and her chief deputy, Neal Katyal (now the Interim SG). One by one, the Arizona advocates and any others that Kagan’s office invited filed into the USSG’s conference room and presented their positions. Months later, they learned that the USSG would not support the Arizona position (though the Supreme Court did support it today).

Among that substantive step in the process and others—like a multitude of moot courts in Arizona and in Washington—O’Grady described some of the more mundane obstacles an advocate faces.

One of those obstacles is “managing reserve seats” for the Supreme Court argument. Keeping a wide variety of family members happy with a guaranteed seat is hard enough, she said. But it is unnerving to hear on the eve of what may be your career’s biggest argument that “Russell Pearce doesn’t have a seat, and he needs one.” Shuffling and reorganizing had to ensue.

“As I prepared for the argument,” O’Grady mused, “I had a bad thought. I knew Russell Pearce would be in the front row, and I couldn’t help but think about Kanye West yanking the microphone away from Taylor Swift.” As it turned out, all went well on that score.

Other challenges included having a colleague reassure her by saying, “Don’t worry, Mary, everyone I talk to believes we’ll lose 8-0!” (They won, 5-3.)

She also had to beseech her politically opinionated sister to not speak to the assembled luminaries about controversial topics—or anything—as she sat feet away from them in the Court.

Ultimately, O’Grady was peppered with 40 questions in her 30 minutes. And then it was done.

She finished her talk to the AWLA with two personal observations, which resonated with the woman lawyers in the room (aside from Court of Appeals Judge Donn Kessler and this correspondent, no other men were present).

O’Grady pointed out that moot court required her to spend about a week in Washington DC in the time leading up to the argument. “And as a working mom, I liked going to DC and checking into a hotel alone for a week!”

Finally, she smiled as she told the group about her daughter’s reaction to seeing her mom argue before the Justices. As they left the Court, the young girl’s sole comment was “Where’s lunch?” But her subsequent Facebook post was far more evocative:

“Just left court, Mom did great. She showed Justice Breyer who’s boss.”

More information on the Arizona Women Lawyers Association is here. And, no, you don’t have to be a woman to join.

Lawyers, even those who are unlikely to appear at the Supreme Court, enjoy hearing from those who have done just that.

I count myself in that group of interested onlookers. In the past, Arizona Attorney Magazine has published the war stories of many lawyers who have stood at that podium and sought justice in their cases. Read the stories here and here.

Today at lunch, we get another opportunity to hear from someone who has advocated at the highest levels of our court system. Mary O’Grady, former Arizona Solicitor General, will speak on the topic of “Defending Arizona’s Controversial Laws in the Nation’s Highest Court.”

The event will be the monthly luncheon of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association. Here is their press release:

Regardless of your position on Arizona’s employer sanctions law, you won’t want to miss hearing from the woman who defended its constitutionality before the U.S. Supreme Court last December.  As Solicitor General for the State of Arizona for nine years, from 2002 until last March, Mary O’Grady was responsible for leading Arizona’s defense in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of some of the most controversial laws in the country.  She has defended the constitutionality of state laws on such subjects as same-sex marriage, school choice, campaign finance, school finance and immigration.

Mary will discuss her approach to dealing with this type of litigation, including her experiences overseeing the work on 10 cases on the merits before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Most recently, last December, Mary argued before the nation’s highest court the case of Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, the lawsuit challenging the state’s employer sanctions law as unconstitutional.  That law allows for the suspension or revocation of business licenses of companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers. It also requires Arizona employers to use the federal E-Verify system to validate Social Security numbers and the immigration status of new hires.  It has been upheld by the U.S. District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mary now works as an attorney at Osborn Maledon.  She began her legal career at Lewis and Roca, and she also worked as an attorney in the Arizona House of Representatives before joining the Solicitor General’s Office in 1999. She has three children.

I wrote just last week about the upcoming Ideas Issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine. But something told me I should write about it again.

And when I say “something told me,” I mean along the lines of an eerie occurrence.

This past weekend, I was taking some stuff to Goodwill. My wife already had done the difficult work of sorting, sifting and discarding items from our overfed garage. And then all I had to do was drive my Conestoga wagon of a car to the donation site.

As I drove, I was thinking about a few of our upcoming issues. Like editors everywhere, I was worrying over the question of how to get good quality content for free; everyone does, indeed, love volunteer writers.

And among the various feature articles still to be written, the Ideas Issue was front of mind. For it not only asked lawyers to contribute, but to do so (1) concisely and (2) wittily. How much blood can you get from a stone, anyway?

Would lawyers submit their ideas? Could I cajole them into sharing what may be out-of-the-box concepts with their fellows?

As I explained last week:

Have you ever said, “There ought to be a law” (or a policy, or a regulation)? An upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine will give you the chance to share your thought—in the “Ideas Issue.”

If you can do that in about 200 words, you’ll have our undying love (and your words and byline printed in our award-winning magazine, but I know you’re all about the love).

Anyway, back to Goodwill.

As I helped the staff unload the car and deposit everything in the correct bins, something caught my eye. Amidst the riot of trashy bits that littered the parking lot, why a small tablet of wood jumped out at me is a mystery. But there, next to my foot, was a tiny honey-colored rectangle. On it was printed a simple “I” in the noteworthy script of a Scrabble tile. And that’s exactly what it was.

I stooped to pick it up, thinking first about the pronoun, and how appropriate it is that the I (as in Me) is worth only 1 point. Clearly, the I must be combined with others to have much value.

And then I remembered how much I had been possessed by my own I(deas) demon that day. The donation worker looked a bit perturbed at my suddenly cockeyed smile, but I just pocketed the piece and climbed into my unladen car.

I’m not particularly given to investing much credence in signs and symbols. But that little tablet urged me toward another collegial try.

Get beyond the I, you Arizona lawyers. Share your thoughts with others. You may be happy you did.

Post your Ideas here or send them to arizona.attorney@azbar.org. And submit soon. Time’s a ’wasting.

A great space: Phoenix's A.E. England Building

Attendees at last week’s Drug Court Professionals conference began and ended their day in the A.E. England Building in the Phoenix Civic Space Park (which, contrary to the ASU speakers’ remarks, is not a part of the downtown ASU campus – that’s across the street). Before they rose to stream across the street into their breakout sessions in the ASU Cronkite Journalism Building, they watched a video created by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. It is part of its “All Rise” initiative. Here it is.

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