August 2011


It’s that time of year again when the ABA Journal seeks input on the best legal blogs in the United States. Their list from last year is here, and it includes some terrific content.

Awkward moment: If any of you readers wants to submit a brief “amici”  (recommendation) in support of AZ Attorney, I would appreciate it. The Journal’s editors make their own determination (and the amici are not counted like “votes”), so the brief submission form is just a way to bring a blog to their attention. So no need to get mushy or wax poetic; a few kind words would do.

The submission form is here. The submission deadline is Friday, September 9.

And even if you are not inclined to name this blog, please consider submitting a recommendation for your own favorite legal blogs. We run a rotating roster of bloggers in the Arizona Attorney Blog Network, available at our News Center. And the ABA Journal keeps its own extensive list here; look around and recommend a great blogger or two; they’d appreciate it.

The winners from last year’s ABA Journal issue are here. Enjoy.

Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona

According to an announcement this morning from the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, U. S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke has resigned.

Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney.

We covered U.S. Attorney Burke and his goals for the office back in January 2010. (He also is a former member of the Arizona Attorney Magazine Editorial Board.)

The Arizona Republic reported on the resignation, noting that it follows on the heels of the recent “Fast & Furious” gun scandal, which has engulfed the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. Just today, other outlets reported that ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson had stepped down. The Washington Post reports he has been reassigned.

Republic columnist Laurie Roberts had one of the most intriguing—and quickest—commentaries on what she estimates occurred. (Though Arizona lawyer Faith Klepper has reminded me that lawyer Greg Patterson–who blogs as Espresso Pundit–predicted this back in June.)

Here is Dennis Burke’s resignation letter to President Obama (click to make it larger):

The full release is below. We’ll have more news on this as it become available.

Dennis K. Burke Resigns as U.S. Attorney for District of Arizona 

PHOENIX – Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, has delivered his letter of resignation to President Obama.

In an email to staff, Burke said:

“The work in every corner of this office – your work – has been significant and impressive.  When I first came to this office a decade ago as a line AUSA (Assistant United States Attorney), I knew this was an excellent office and did important work.”

Burke added, “My long tenure in public service has been intensely gratifying.  It has also been intensely demanding.  For me, it is the right time to move on to pursue other aspects of my career and my life and allow the office to move ahead.

Burke was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona in 2009.  His resignation is effective immediately.

Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney, under the Vacancies Reform Act and by virtue of her position as First Assistant.  Burke added, “I thank Ann for agreeing to assume these responsibilities until the Attorney General or the President makes an interim or permanent appointment.”

RELEASE NUMBER: 2011-194(Burke)

Just as Arizona Attorney’s October issue was going to press (an issue dedicated to law office management, of all things), a unique video competition came to our attention. And it may be a way to highlight your firm or office.

The American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section has announced the first-ever “Law Video Awards,” to recognize the best law firm and legal industry videos. There are four categories: Large Firm, Small Firm, Legal Consultant/Vendor/Organization (open to any legal-related organization) and Short Video.

The submission deadline is September 30, and winners will be announced in November.

Are you ready for your close-up?

Here is a link to more information. And below is the complete ABA press release.

American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section Announces Inaugural “LPM Law Video Awards” Honoring Top Law Firm and Legal Videos

Chicago, IL (August 15, 2011) – The American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section (LPM) is pleased to announce the first ever “Law Video Awards,” which will recognize the best law firm and legal industry videos in four categories: Large Firm, Small Firm, Legal Consultant/Vendor/Organization (open to any legal-related organization) and Short Video.

The Law Video Awards are taking place at the 3rd Bi-annual ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference, November 8-9, 2011, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia, PA.  Focusing on business development strategies for law firms, the Conference provides attendees with practical advice from leading attorneys in the field today.

As a new addition to the Conference, the Law Video Awards will examine the increasing use of videos by law firms for promotional purposes. Video submissions are being accepted and will be previewed and honored during a special Golden Gavel Award Ceremony on Tuesday, November 8. For complete information on the Conference and registration to attend, visit ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference 2011

“There is a growing recognition that video is increasingly becoming an important part of the law firm marketing mix, and firms and organizations that have created innovative and interesting videos are benefiting,” said Micah Buchdahl, Chair of the ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference. “The ABA and LPM are well positioned to organize and create an innovative and entertaining program to highlight the best videos in the law business.”

“The power of video as a business development and marketing tool is undeniable,” added Nick Gaffney, Vice Chair of the ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference and Director of the LPM Law Video Awards. “For years, professional services firms have used video for public relations, training and recruitment, and it is crucial that the legal profession keeps pace with the leading accounting and consulting firms. While some law firms are just beginning to explore the use of video, the marketplace is demanding more and better content.”

Winning videos will be selected by a panel of judges and the public. Entries will be reviewed using eight criteria:

  • Creativity
  • Marketing of the Video
  • Tangible Results
  • Overall Design
  • Copywriting
  • Use of the medium
  • Memorability
  • Popular appeal

All video entries must be submitted by September 30, 2011. In addition to awards in each of the four categories, an overall “Best in Show” award will be handed out (voted on by conference attendees).

Additional details about the Law Video Awards can be found on the call for entries page.

The ABA Law Practice Management Section is a professional membership organization providing resources for lawyers and other legal professionals in the core areas of the business of practicing law — marketing, management, technology and finance.

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.

Breaking News:

The State Bar of Arizona CLE Department has just added a final training on AZTurboCourt for civil subsequent filing. It’ll be held Friday, September 9. More information and registration are here.

***

Lawyers are deadline-driven. And this week, a big one approaches.

This Thursday, September 1, e-filing will be mandatory for most filings in the Arizona Superior Court in Maricopa County.

Civil cases must still be initiated on paper; but beginning Thursday, civil subsequent filings will no longer be accepted in paper form in that court (eFiling applies to general civil cases, not the subcategories of civil cases such as probate and family cases.). The rule went into effect months ago, but the Arizona Supreme Court’s Administrative Order 2011-87 removes the paper option this week.

To read the order, click here.

And for a well-written description of the process and answers to your likely questions, click here for a blog post by Michael Jeanes, clerk of the Superior Court of Maricopa County. (Kudos to the Maricopa County Bar Association for running his article.)

If all of your questions are answered and you’re ready to get started, click here. (Don’t wait until you have to file something to get registered, because the process may take more than one day to complete.)

I have heard some concern expressed about the thus-far lackluster use of e-filing by lawyers in Maricopa County. Apparently, since it has been available, AZTurbocourt has seen far fewer than the tens of thousands of filings that could have been made digitally. Some have wondered whether not enough was done to get the word out.

(Click here to read a roundtable we ran on the topic in Arizona Attorney Magazine back in 2009.)

My guess is that lawyers know the change is coming and will be required on September 1—so why adhere to a new regime when it is merely recommended and before it is mandatory?

Law practice is complex and difficult and time-consuming enough without adding recommended changes. I would imagine that as soon as the new requirement is in place, they will get on board. After all, lawyers understand deadlines—and Supreme Court rules.

Lawyers may not be tea-leaf-reading kind of folks, but even those famously left-brained professionals must see the signs.

Oddity is all about us, people. And that is nowhere more clear than in the signs that line our roads. Let me share.

First, the depressingly inaccurate.

We have witnessed a Mesa battle this week over signs that contain inaccurate information—but it will apparently take a court to have them removed. The recall election of Russell Pearce already occupied too much of the time of newsfolk. Now, we are confronted with signs that operate simply through misdirection.

Here’s the story.

And here is the sign making all the hubbub. (Oddly enough, the Arizona Republic didn’t include the photo with its news story. I had to head over to the Phoenix New Times, that visual bunch, to find it. You can read the NT story here.)

To counterbalance the tawdry signs of politics we see all around us, I direct you northward. There, drivers came across a (we hope) playful warning—about an escaped panda bear.

The story, not nearly as good as the photo below, is here.

Enjoy.

Natural disasters have a way of seeming unnatural when they strike areas unaccustomed to them.

That was the case yesterday, when an earthquake hit the Eastern Seaboard. Its epicenter was Mineral, Virginia, but its effects were felt as far north as Canada.

Initial estimates were that the quake was more shake than break (especially compared to those typically experienced on the West Coast), though I’ve seen some photos of extensive damage. I guess it’s all about your perspective.

Here is a news story about people’s reactions in Washington DC:

On the lawyerly side of the equation, though, be sure you watch this other video. It is Reuters coverage of the press briefing at which prosecutors announced they that they were filing a motion to dismiss charges against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The earthquake struck early into the media event.

To his credit, the prosecutor who was speaking when the shaking started stayed cool as a cucumber, even as the room began to be evacuated.

But did he have even one “gulp” moment? I don’t mean about the seismic event itself. I mean about what Nature, or a higher power, may have been saying in regard to the prosecutorial decision. “Everybody’s a critic,” he must have thought, his legs swaying beneath him.

The timing makes you wonder.

OK, I am willing to admit that I take the whole Watergate scandal rather personally. But for me and many others, Watergate was a watershed. And for some of us, it hit pretty close to home.

As the surreal nature of 1973 devolved into the constitutional crisis of 1974, I was but a wee lad in upstate New York. When the news of a mundane break-in came in the newspapers (young people, ask the old people what those were), no one in my family (and few in the news media) had an inkling that it would eventually bring down a presidency.

Whenever the Watergate hearings were televised, they were on in my house. And so powerful was the testimony and so compelling the questioners, it occurred to a young me that it would be honorable to be a United States Senator (thanks a lot, Sam Ervin). It took fully three more decades to understand the folly of that estimation.

But by the time the hearings had done their work and shown the Nixon presidency to be the hollow criminal enterprise that it was, the summer of 1974 was over, and we all awaited what we thought would be the inevitable.

Until my 12th birthday on September 8. On that fateful day, President Gerald Ford pardoned his predecessor of all crimes. It was over—but so incomplete.

“He can’t do that!” I insisted to my dad, who stared, ashen, at the TV.

I look happy, but a constitutional crisis gnawed at a nation.

“Well, yes, yes, I think he can,” gulped a man who had spent the summer telling his sons that we were witnessing the wheels of democracy working toward a just conclusion.

The rest of that birthday holds no memories for me. The TV was blissfully turned off, and the house, myself included, sank into a lethargy of mourning. For at least one 12-year-old, President Ford had exercised his first and last decision of any import, and it was cast in infamy.

Looking back, of course, I can see I was a dramatic young man. But it’s hard to shake the notion that a nation’s cynicism was poured in lead by Nixon and hardened in a steaming bath by Ford.

And that’s why this week’s little news item about a DC parking garage cheered me, just a little.

At long last, a historic marker has been erected outside the garage where Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward met with FBI deputy director Mark Felt (code-named “Deep Throat” by a Post editor who could be pretty dramatic himself). There, amid the screech of tires and the odor of gasoline, Felt provided valuable information about the obstruction of the FBI’s Watergate investigation. That information, and what the Post did with it, underscored the belief that we are a nation of laws, and not of men.

As the nearly interminable 18-month presidential campaign rouses itself into an extended exercise in obstreperous obscurity and oppressive obloquy, I would invite each of the candidates to stop by the garage. Pause between the dog-walkers and the valet-parkers. Block out the taxi honks, and read the sign.

And then ask yourself if you aspire to the greatness that two men demonstrated in a dark, dank garage. Ask whether you care enough about a country and its institutions that you would take real risks to expose the crimes and misdemeanors of the nation’s most powerful people. Ask whether you would pursue justice doggedly and with a conviction that a democratic people deserve nothing less.

And then—and only then—return to the campaign trail.

Here’s what a former disillusioned Cub Scout thinks: A visit like that would have to make every one of the candidates more qualified for the job of President.

Hell, it’s worth a shot.

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