Arizona Attorney Magazine


AZ Supreme Court logoAccess to justice saw another positive step in Arizona this month, as Chef Justice Bales named the membership of the newly formed commission charged with examining the issue.

The creation of the Commission and the Chief Justice’s views on it were covered by me here. You also should read the Court’s new strategic agenda here. (And the August 20 Administrative Order is here.)

Here is the Court’s announcement of the new members. As mentioned before, the group will be led by its chair appellate court Judge Larry Winthrop.

“Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales announces the formation of the 18-member Commission on Access to Justice. The Commission will be chaired by Lawrence F. Winthrop, Judge on Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals and former president of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education.”

“‘Promoting Access to Justice’ is the first of five goals outlined in Advancing Justice Together: Courts and Communities, the new five-year strategic agenda for Arizona’s judiciary. In the Pledge of Allegiance, Chief Justice Bales noted, we commit ourselves to the goal of justice for all. The new Commission will be charged with identifying specific strategies to help us better realize this goal as our State’s population and technology change.”

“‘This is not a study commission; it’s a commission that will actively develop innovative ideas that remove barriers to justice,’ Chief Justice Scott Bales said.”

An Administrative Order issued on August 20 outlines initial priorities for the Commission:

  • Assisting self-represented litigants and revising court rules and practices to facilitate access and the fair processing of family court and eviction cases.
  • Encouraging lawyers and law firms to provide pro bono services or financial support for civil legal aid for those who cannot afford counsel.
  • Informing lawyers and other citizens about the availability of a state income tax credit for contributions to agencies that serve the working poor, including legal services agencies in Arizona.

In many family and justice court cases, one or more of the parties does not have a lawyer.  Self-representation presents a tremendous challenge not only to those litigants, but also to judges and other court personnel.

“Our courts and judges are doing the best they can under the circumstances, but the question is whether we can do a better job of helping people who choose to represent themselves in court, or for those who cannot afford the services of a lawyer,” Judge Winthrop said. “Our state has made great strides in this area over the last several years, but there remain some critical needs, such as helping people understand the process and navigate the court system. We also should do what we can to boost financial resources for legal service organizations who assist those most in need.”

Access to justice can be golden: Arizona Attorney Magazine opening image for a story on the topic by former State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, Oct. 2012.Judge Winthrop also hopes that the Commission can further engage the business community concerning these issues.

“We want business and government leaders to understand that meaningful access to justice is a workplace and productivity issue. Most of the self-represented litigants in family court and housing cases are, in fact, part of some company’s work force. The whole enterprise suffers if your employee or co-worker is out of the office because they’re in family court or are dealing with housing issues,” Judge Winthrop explained. “If we can help people effectively resolve their court matters and in less time, that’s a ‘win-win’ for both the employee and the employer.”

Judge Winthrop said that people with legal issues are sometimes overwhelmed, and often don’t know where to go for legal help. Raising awareness of civil legal service options and encouraging greater community involvement will be a goal of the Commission. Taking advantage of advances in technology, retooling existing court-based legal self-help centers and the idea of expanding such services into a public library or community college setting will be possible approaches considered by the Commission.

Members of the Commission on Access to Justice include:

Chair

Lawrence F. Winthrop, Arizona Court of Appeals, Division I

Michael Jeanes, Superior Court Clerk

Mike Baumstark, Administrative Director of the Courts or designee

Kip Anderson, Court Administrator

Kevin Ruegg, Executive Director, Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education          

Maria Elena Cruz, Superior Court Judge

John Phelps, Executive Director, State Bar of Arizona or designee

Janet Barton, Superior Court Judge

Ellen Katz, Legal Aid Services, Maricopa

James Marner, Superior Court Judge

Anthony Young, Legal Aid Services, Southern Arizona

Thomas Berning, Limited Jurisdiction Court Judge

Steve Seleznow, Public Member

Rachel Torres Carrillo, Limited Jurisdiction Court Judge

Lisa Urias, Public Member

Barb Dawson, Attorney

Millie Cisneros, Attorney

Janet Regner, Arizona Judicial Council Liaison

Arizona civil verdicts 2013 gavel

Are you curious to hear the stories behind the top Arizona civil verdicts of the past year? At Arizona Attorney Magazine, we covered the topic in our June cover story written, as always, by attorney Kelly MacHenry. But as they say, there’s always more to the story.

This Wednesday, August 27, you can hear Kelly explain what lay behind those significant jury verdicts; she’ll also cover punitive awards, defense verdicts and trends. I have seen her presentation over the years, and it offers helpful insight into what the jurors (and the lawyers) were thinking.

The event will be at The University Club, 39 E. Monte Vista Road, Phoenix, AZ 85004. The Arizona Women Lawyers Association event is $25 for members and $35 for nonmembers.

More information and registration are here.

Canadian Bar Association CBA 2014 report titled Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in CanadaThis morning, if my plans don’t go awry, I’ll be attending the kickoff meeting of the new Arizona Supreme Court task force that will assess the management and governance of the State Bar of Arizona. I’ll report back on how it goes and what comes next.

Until then, you may want to skim some material about proposed changes to the Canadian legal system. True, the northerly report, if adopted, would make significant changes far beyond one bar association. But I was impressed by the Canadian task force’s willingness to look at all elements of the legal profession with a new eye.

I’m suspecting that the Arizona Supreme Court seeks a similarly clear-eyed look.

The entire report, titled “Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada,” is here.

Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong

And I agree: 106 pages is tough sledding on a Friday. But that’s why you should start with a Jordan Furlong column.

I have mentioned Jordan Furlong before (here and here). And I think his name is well associated with any assessment of what the future of law holds.

His concise and point-by-point analysis deconstructs the Canadian Bar Association report, which he admits he likes quite a bit. And, I’m pretty sure, his column and the related report are solid guideposts for what we may see coming to these United States in the not-so-distant future.

Here is Jordan’s post.

Have a wonderful—and transformative—weekend.

Here's how we covered the False Claims Act last March. (Get it? Whistleblower?)

Here’s how we covered the False Claims Act last March. (Get it? Whistleblower?)

Every now and then, the timeliness of a magazine article is brought home to you with great force. Yesterday’s Arizona Republic contained a piece that reminded me how valuable a magazine (even in print!) can be.

The subject of the Dennis Wagner story is a huge fraud settlement that a Tucson hospital must pay. As the article says, the Carondelet Health Network will pay $35 million, which is “the largest penalty of its kind in Arizona.” Just as fascinating, though, is the fact that “a whistle-blower who exposed the case will receive nearly $6 million of that sum.”

Read the whole story here.

The whistleblower is a Tucson woman named Jacqueline Bloink, “identified online as president of an agency that provides health-care compliance consulting and fraud investigations.”

Bloink sued Carondelet in 2011 in federal court. Then, “The Justice Department intervened and said Carondelet ‘knowingly and falsely billed’ the federal health agencies, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release.”

Back in March, we published an article regarding the continuing vitality of the federal False Claims Act. In it, authors Barb Dawson and Daniel Huitink explained how a qui tam plaintiff may step in and sue when they see wrongdoing that affects the public purse. Or, as Dennis Wagner writes, “The False Claims Act contains provisions that allow private citizens to file fraud complaints on behalf of the government and to share in whatever funds are recovered. Under terms of the settlement, Bloink is to receive $5.95 million.”

His article includes commentary from Bloink’s attorney:

“‘This settlement is an extraordinary achievement and confirms once again the essential role that private whistle-blowers and their counsel play in helping our partners in the government to combat health-care fraud,’ David J. Caputo, one of Bloink’s attorneys, said in a written statement.”

Extra points, there, for managing to shoehorn in the value of the whistleblower’s lawyer!

I encourage you to go back and read the article by Barb and Daniel. They give a concise history of what was called “Lincoln’s Law” (named for Abraham Lincoln; you’ll have to read to see why).

More important for possible clients who are potential defendants, read the practice tips our authors provide on how to head off such a lawsuit before it happens. As I read their sage advice, I imagine Carondelet missed the boat in numerous areas.

Just another example of how heeding a good attorney—and purchasing a reasonably priced magazine subscription—can make a world of difference.

Royal Mail Coach, photo by DanieVDM, via Wikimedia Commons

What does a Royal Mail Coach have to do with the law? Our book reviewer tells all!
(Photo by DanieVDM, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

I was considering what takes a book review to a whole other level recently when an email arrived from Judge George Anagnost. And I was all, “Now I remember.”

Do Great Cases Make Bad Law? book by Leland Bllom Jr. The great book that was our reviewer's launching-pad.

The great book that was our reviewer’s launching-pad.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for book reviews (and of books). But too many reviewers think of their task as the same that confronted them in grade-school book reports: Tell what the book is about, in order, and then say if you’d recommend it (or not).

Drafted that way, the grade-school report is far superior, for at least it came with a hand-drawn cover.

Judge Anagnost’s approach is far more—and less—than that. He explains what the book is about, but not in enervating detail. More important, he sets the book in a context of others, and he sets the book’s subject in the context of its times, whether it is present day or the Revolutionary War.

Add to that his need to think discursively, wonderfully so. It is that narrative arc that yields magazine pages that are not a forced march from A to Z. No, his article is dotted with sidebars that illuminate and entertain (and give our Art Director the fun and sometimes difficult task of locating appropriate images that are high resolution and either in the public domain or reasonably priced!).

I post the pages below simply so you can see how his approach enlivens our magazine issues (though you can click to make them larger). But to read the Judge’s latest great review, go here.

And on Wednesday, September 17, Judge Anagnost again moderates one of his successful updates of the past Supreme Court Term. More detail is here. I plan to be there, and I hope you can make it, too.

 

Letterpress BlogToday’s Change of Venue item is aimed at law students (sorry lawyers). But I’d sure appreciate your sharing it with worthy law student friends.

The sum of it is, there’s a blog post contest, and there is cash-money involved. Full stop.

(My blog title may have fanned the flames of your interest by mentioning “fame,” but who’s to say, really?)

The-Expert-Institute-square-logoThe Expert Institute is seeking great law student blog posts and decided a contest may be the best way to locate them (this is their first annual). You can read more details here.

There are a list of rules (it is a legal writing competition, after all), but note that the contest is (1) open to all law students in the United States and Canada and (2) open through December 31, so you have time to provide much valuable content for possible review.

And yes, as you might guess, posts must be related somehow to the use of expert witnesses in litigation.

Turn up, law students! If an Arizona blogger earns a prize in the contest, maybe we at Arizona Attorney Magazine will throw a little fame their way ourselves. (No promises; I’m just thinking out loud. Get writing.)

Have a marvelous—and blog-worthy—weekend.

Our July/August 2014 cover story (and now a video): Changes to the complaint process at the Ariz. Registrar of Contractors

Our July/August 2014 cover story (and now a video): Changes to the complaint process at the Ariz. Registrar of Contractors

Get ready to snippet. (snippet good)

No, this is not a Nip/Tuck episode (or a Devo song), but an opportunity to view an educational video (and maybe get a little CLE).

As I mentioned last month, Arizona Attorney Magazine is participating in a new venture with the State Bar of Arizona CLE folks. “CLE Snippets” are brief videos that let you hear from an author of an article in the coming month’s magazine.

In July, I had the chance to speak with Matt Meaker (right) about his terrific cover story. (This is just a screen-shot. Want to watch? Click the link below.)

In July, I had the chance to speak with Matt Meaker (right) about his terrific cover story. (This is just a screen-shot. Want to watch? Click the link below.)

When I wrote about this before, I promised (threatened) to provide a link to the teaser. So here it is. If you like it, please feel free to share it around. If you don’t, well, let’s pretend this never happened.

cle snippets teaser logo. This teaser signifies a new and innovative way to combine magazine content with online learning.Thank you again to Matt Meaker of Sacks Tierney for his contribution on changes at the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.

Yesterday, an author and I taped another snippet, which is on compliance (or not) with the Affordable Care Act. But more on that later.

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