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Cookies may be stale, but the message may last.

Three weeks may be too far past an event to report much value—that is, for most events. But a few speakers I heard in March—and failed to report on in a timely way—still yielded insights I believe are worth sharing. This cookie, as they say, ain’t stale.

The first event to share—the one most distant in time—is the annual Learned Hand Awards luncheon. As always, the three honorees were well chosen. And, in a Learned Hand tradition, just as much was expected of the introducer’s speech as was of the honoree herself.

Justice Scott Bales emceed, and he hit exactly the right note by honoring the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. In a ballroom full of lawyers, the reference was spot on.

Nicole France Stanton at the Learned Hand Awards luncheon, 2013

Nicole France Stanton at the Learned Hand Awards luncheon, 2013

The first award—called the Emerging Leadership Award—went to Nicole France Stanton. Andy Sherwood explained her talented background, as well as her commitment to fight bullying and cystic fibrosis.

Stanton urged all lawyers to find their ethical center.

“Finding your voice as a leader at a law firm does not have to wait until you’re an equity partner,” she concluded.

Terry Fenzl introduces Terry Goddard.

Terry Fenzl introduces Terry Goddard.

Terry Fenzl took a more humorous tack in his introduction of the next honoree, Terry Goddard. He displayed—with accompanying ribbing—a photo of a boyish Goddard being sworn in as Phoenix Mayor in 1984.

But like Learned Hand, Fenzl said, Goddard always spoke up for the rule of law, in the fight over polygamy in a Utah border town, in the use of methamphetamine, in mortgage fraud.

Goddard used his speech indicate his gratitude—a commonplace in remarks like these—but also to hurl some political barbs.

“I remember I got to discuss constitutional law with Russell Pearce,” he said. “Maybe not the highest point of my career, but memorable nonetheless.”

He criticized the efforts of legislators to alter the law regarding recall elections, including making the new law’s effects retroactive.

“They claimed it was the will of the people,” Goddard said, “and not just trying to save Joe Arpaio’s behind.”

“Respect for the rule of law is not common in Arizona,” he concluded.

Charles "Chick" Arnold, 2013 Learned Hand Awards

Charles “Chick” Arnold, 2013 Learned Hand Awards

The final honoree was Charles “Chick” Arnold, of Arnold v. Sarn fame. It was his lawsuit that led to massive changes in the way the State of Arizona addressed the needs of it mentally ill residents.

Arnold’s advocate was Judge James McDougall, and he provided eloquent testimony as to Arnold’s fitness for the award. He recalled how the then-Maricopa County Public Fiduciary filed a class action suit on behalf of his 600 wards, demanding that the state live up to its statutory obligations to provide a “continuum of services” for those who had been deinstitutionalized.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors were angered by the action and fired Arnold—only to have to reinstate him after a separate lawsuit.

The stories reflecting courage were touching and remarkable. And that pointed out a fact that I should have noticed in covering years of Hand lunches: The speeches tend to get better and better as the lunch goes on. Not because the speech drafters vary widely in skill level—they all tend to be excellent writers. No, the difference comes from the vastness of life stories that the (usually) older lawyers can marshall.

And so the day opened with ethics and then moved seamlessly to the rule of law, featured by both Goddard and Arnold. Terry Goddard reflected on his career through the prism of that rule, and Arnold did also, always believing that his obligation to his wards trumped his duty to his employer. And for that, all of Arizona should be grateful.

Terry Goddard congratulates Chick Arnold following the 2013 Learned Hand Awards

Terry Goddard congratulates Chick Arnold following the 2013 Learned Hand Awards

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