The annual awards luncheon of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education always highlights the lawyers and judges who have stepped up to make a difference. Thursday’s event was no different.

The event had moving remarks by all the speakers: AZFLSE Executive Director Dr. Kevin Ruegg, Hon. Roxanne Song Ong and soon-to-be Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer.

Out of those remarks, let me share just two quotes that helped define the great work the Foundation does. 

Amelia Cramer quoted Cornel West: “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

And Todd Lang: “Our democracy is an illusion to those who find out courthouse doors closed.”

Here are photos of the winners.

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Here is my annual slideshow of select swag (OK, promotional items) provided by exhibitors at the Bar Convention.

A caveat: This is not all there is. What is shown here is an extremely subjective, personal selection made by me. I tend not to pick up pens (they’re nice, but meh).

Thanks again to the exhibitors for helping make the Convention more affordable.

Here’s the schtuff.

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Great news from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University:

Justice Berch to receive top AWLA award for encouraging, mentoring women in law

By Janie Magruder

Hon. Rebecca White Berch

Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch will receive the 2012 Sarah Herring Sorin Award from the Arizona Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) for her superior contributions to women in the field of law. Justice Berch, who graduated from the College of Law at Arizona State University in 1979, will accept the award on Friday, June 22, during the State Bar of Arizona’s annual convention at the Arizona Biltmore.

The award is named for Sorin, Arizona’s first woman lawyer who, in the early 1900s, became the 25th woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Sorin was admitted to the Arizona bar in 1902, and practiced throughout the Arizona Territory, developing a specialty in mining law and practicing with her father, William Herring.

The award is given by the AWLA Board of Directors to a member who demonstrates support for and encouragement of the advancement of women in the legal profession.

“Rebecca is a living mentor who reaches out to help those coming up through the ranks behind her,” said Paige Martin, a partner in the Scottsdale office of Kutak Rock LLP, who submitted her nomination. “She is not a pedestal-sitter. She’s a person who takes all of this very seriously.”

In assembling the nomination, Martin spoke to people who work directly with the Chief Justice, and Martin also had a great deal of personal, first-hand experience with Justice Berch’s support for women in the law.

“The award has several components, including professional achievement and personal involvement with women in the law, and Rebecca certainly is outstanding in both of those,” said Martin, a past AWLA president and member of its advisory board. “She also is a great supporter of AWLA and its goals. She comes to our events, she brings people with her, and she encourages her clerks and others to join. Moreover, Rebecca’s physical presence at AWLA events demonstrates her recognition of the importance of an organization such as ours. Our mission is to promote and encourage the success of women lawyers, and she is a living embodiment of how to accomplish that goal.”

AWLA advocates for and shares information with its members on maternity policies, part-time work flexibility options and salary disparities, among other issues, fosters connections among women lawyers, and monitors and celebrates the successes of its members and women lawyers.

Justice Berch said she is honored by the nomination and the award, especially to be included in the company of its past recipients. They include Justice Ruth V. McGregor (ret.), Judge Mary M. Schroeder, Helen Perry Grimwood, Doris F. Mindell, Roxana C. Bacon, Grace McIlvain, Barbara A. Atwood, Laura A. Cardinal, Amy Schwartz, Georgia A. Staton, Judge Janis Ann Sterling (ret.), Amelia Craig Cramer and Martin.

Advocating for women in the law is a natural for Justice Berch. She first joined AWLA after her law-school graduation, and later, when she taught and directed the legal writing program at ASU, she was the faculty advisor for the Women Law Students’ Association.

Those were dichotomous times, the era of the “Fab Five,” when the five top elected offices in Arizona were held by women, and yet a prominent local country club still banned women from its men’s grill, and the Augusta Country Club, sponsor of the Masters Golf Tournament, would not have women as members.

“AWLA, then and now, helps lawyers make friends and find mentors. Participation may also alert you about career opportunities. And, by the way, men are welcome to join, too, and we hope they find the same advantages,” Justice Berch said.

The organization helped her with mock interviews and critiques before she submitted her judgeship application, which resulted in a boost to her poise, confidence and knowledge, she said.

“In today’s tough job market, membership in organizations such as AWLA has never been more important for law students and new lawyers,” she added.

“Starting in practice is more difficult than new lawyers anticipate it will be, and they can feel quite alone sometimes, so it’s helpful to have a friend outside your firm who you can call, and who will act as a sounding board,” Justice Berch said. “And don’t we want these new lawyers to have the best possible bridge into the practice of law?”

Born and raised in Phoenix, Justice Berch is a “Triple Devil,” having also earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from ASU. She has spent most of her career serving Arizona and its citizens. She was in private practice from 1979-1986, then directed the law school’s legal writing program from 1986-1995. During that time, she co-authored Introduction to Legal Method and Process, a law-school textbook that is used around the country and is in its fifth printing.

Justice Berch served as Solicitor General for the State of Arizona from 1991-1994, and was Special Counsel and First Assistant Attorney General from 1995-1998. She was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals in 1998, then appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court in 2002. In 2009, Justice Berch began a five-year term as Chief Justice.

She speaks to hundreds of groups annually, from school assemblies to service organizations, and serves on several national boards, including the National Conference of Chief Justices’ Board of Directors, the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ Board of Trustees, and the Green Bag Board of Editors.

Janie Magruder is the Director of Print Communications and Media Relations at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

L to R: Roxie Bacon, ASU Law Dean Doug Sylvester, Hon. Patricia Norris

We all learned at law school that an oral promise may rise to the level of a binding contract.

So you’d think UA Law Dean Ponoroff would have paused before agreeing to the challenge leveled at him earlier this week.

If we give you an ASU Law School shirt later this week, will you wear it in public?

He sat at the Board of Governors meeting Tuesday, and a passing parade of civil procedure rule petitions may have blurred his thinking and weakened his resolve (or maybe that was just me). Whatever the case, Dean Ponoroff agreed. “Yes, yes I would,” he intoned to a roomful of people who are trained to never ever ever forget anything.

And so, comes the Law Dean long about a Thursday morning. He enters a Biltmore conference room to participate in the annual Ethics Game Show pitting him and his team against a similar squad from ASU Law School.

You know what’s coming. Yes, he had a 100% cotton shirt in his future, courtesy of Bar Governor Lisa Loo. And ethically (at the game show), the Don had no choice but to don it. Here are a few photos (click them; they get bigger).

Dean Ponoroff and ASU Law School Dean Doug Sylvester helped the crowd laugh and enjoy the morning. Here’s wishing U.S. News had a ranking for that.

Of course, they were only part of a rousing and hilarious panel at the Game Show. Besides a turnabout T-shirt, it also included ASU Law and UA Law teams, in costume. And, just to add to the hilarity, ASU’s mascot Sparky was present to rouse his team—and to do pushups when the ASU team nailed an answer.

If you’re interested in milk-out-the-nose laughs combined with legal education, the Game Show is the ticket.

Panelists were Dan Barr, Kurt Zitzer, Susan Kayler, Keith Swisher, Kim Demarchi, David Sandweiss, Roxie Bacon, Hon. Patricia Norris, State Bar CEO John Phelps, Steve Hirsch, and Deans Ponoroff and Sylvester.

Congratulations to all the speakers, as well as emcees Lynda Shely and Pat Sallen, and moderator Hon. Ruth McGregor, on another successful and laugh-filled program (and ethics credit!).

So, you’re familiar with bingo, right? That quaint game with the squares, the marker and the chance to win a buck or two?

This year, the Convention exhibitors have put bingo on steroids. (I couldn’t use that exclamation in years past, when the Diamondbacks were an exhibitor.)

Convention attendees are given a card on which the exhibitors’ names are inscribed in a bingo grid. Wander about, stop by the exhibitor booths, ask them to stamp your card. Pretty soon, you’re on your way to the chance to win—more than a couple of bucks.

At my last count, I saw that there were 22 prizes available. And those prizes (again by my count) have a combined value of about $3,100.

Boom! I think I just got real interested in that ol’ game of bingo!

And it bears mentioning: When you get your card stamped, stay and chat with the exhibitors for a few minutes. I urge that for a few reasons: 

  • You weren’t born in a barn, were you? Be polite; your seminar can wait a minute.
  • The products and services they tout are often remarkable and may well be just what your law office is looking for.
  • The payments by exhibitors go a long way toward underwriting the costs of this annual event. So every time you see an exhibitor, remember that their presence helps keep Convention costs reasonable.

So that’s my message. Go. Meet. Get stamped. And good luck!

The State Bar Convention is about a lot more than merit selection of judges—but a dialogue on the topic ranged through numerous sessions.

Prop 115 panel, L to R: Grady Gammage, Jr., Peter Gentala, Hon. Mary Schroeder, Pete Dunn, Hon. Ruth McGregor (ret.)

An unscientific survey (by me in the Biltmore hallways) reveals that too few lawyers are even aware that a ballot proposition is headed our way that would alter the Arizona Constitution in a way that should be of interest to all.

Proposition 115, as it’s been numbered, will be on the November ballot. For some background on merit selection generally, see a page on the State Bar website (the State Bar supports the compromise).

A Wednesday morning seminar at Convention covered the general topic of the relationship between the Legislature and the courts. And as I noted previously, even that session ended up substantially focused on merit selection.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, a session dedicated to the topic provided a stellar panel. It included Ninth Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder; former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor (ret.); Pete Dunn of the Arizona Judges Association; Peter Gentala, Counsel to the Majority in the state House of Representatives; and State Bar President Joe Kanefield. The moderator was Grady Gammage Jr. (who has performed this task, on the same subject, before).

A slide on the judicial merit-selection compromise

Judge Mary Schroeder, in short order, explained why we have merit selection, why she opposes Prop 115 and why Arizonans should be proud of their judges. Justice McGregor then did the same.

On the other side of the issue, Peter Gentala and Pete Dunn urged support for Prop 115.

State Bar President Joe Kanefield

Dunn, however, said that even he believes Prop 115 will be defeated “because it’s a very complex proposition and people usually vote no.” But if it goes down, he added, we had better be ready for a legislative backlash. He said he would expect “a total emasculation of merit [selection] in coming sessions.”

Four audience members spoke, largely in opposition to the proposition or simply seeking clarification. Speaking for the State Bar and its support of Prop 115 were Amelia Craig Cramer and Whitney Cunningham.

Justice Scott Bales

Gazing at the packed-to-the-gills Grand Ballroom at the Arizona Biltmore, it occurs to a lawyer that there may be no better way to kick off a Bar Convention committed to education for the future than to look back at legal pioneers.

That must have been the thinking of Convention organizers driven by the motto “100 Years of Lawyers Serving Arizona.”

That concept gave us Wednesday’s lunch, which included a witty and insightful panel led by Justice Scott Bales (and introduced by Bar President Joe Kanefield). Accompanying him in a triumvirate of value-laden remarks were Roxie Bacon and Grant Woods. Bravo to all.

The event was comprised of fascinating video clips—eight minutes in all—featuring Justice Bales interviewing retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Her memories were crisp, direct, funny and—given her experience as a woman lawyer pioneer—occasionally startling.

Those clips were pure gold. But they were complemented by being punctuated by the panel’s own remarks.

Roxie Bacon and Grant Woods

In those remarks, Roxie and Grant shared names of others, in addition to Justice O’Connor, whom they count as their own pioneers and mentors.

Grant reminded the audience that Justice O’Connor was the most powerful and influential woman in the country for a long time. But he added his own debt to retired Justice Stanley Feldman, who brought many others to his side “by the force of his argument and the power of his intellect.”

Justice Scott Bales

Roxie spoke warmly about retired Arizona Chief Justice Charles “Bud” Jones. Politically and in other ways, she said, they could not have been more different. “He was the most unlikely mentor you ever could have imagined for me.”

And yet, she said, he was caring and compassionate toward her as a younger lawyer. “With dignity and humor he brought me into the big leagues of employment and labor law.”

The audience clearly enjoyed a lunch committed to Arizona’s legal history. And the biggest laugh of the day may have come on the heels of a story Grant Woods told about a judge who was well known for always following her own tune.

In a high-profile case, an older man—Grant suggested he was 68 years old—was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Clearly upset, the man sputtered to the judge, “Your honor, I’m 68 years old. I don’t think I can do 40 years!”

Ever polite and charming, the judge leaned over her bench and gazed down at the convicted man.

Joe Kanefield

“That’s all right. You just do as many as you can.”

Well done.

Have a great conference.

Steve Tully

A panel Wednesday morning at the State Bar of Arizona Convention examined a relationship often in the news—the one between the legislative and judicial branches. Speakers with experience as elected officials, lobbyists and think-tank leaders wrestled with a topic on which many find disagreement common.

“Striking a Balance: Relations Between the Legislature and the Courts” included moderator David Earl and speakers Steve Tully, Clint Bolick, Sally Rider and Jerry Landau.

Panelists opened by sharing their initial thoughts on the challenges that a good working relationship faces.

For example, Sally Rider of the UA’s Rehnquist Center said that the tension between branches is exacerbated by a failure to communicate. Jerry Landau agreed: “When one branch doesn’t understand the role of the other, we have problems.”

Bolick, of the Goldwater Institute, was more pointed in his opening remarks. After praising the Arizona Constitution, he continued.

In regard to ballot referenda, “Courts have used the single-subject rule so much as to prevent the Legislature from presenting various important issues to the people. And that is discomforting. If there is one value that our Constitution elevates above all, it is the right of the people to control their government.” Limiting referenda too strictly restricts that power. “Courts have overstepped.”

Things quickly got interactive, as attendees would have predicted on such controversial topics.

L to R: Clint Bolick, Sally Rider, Jerry Landau

Among those hot-button issues discussed was merit selection, especially as embodied in a November Arizona ballot referendum titled Prop 115. In a conference at which at least two other panels will focus on merit selection, this morning seminar grew into a significant conversation on the ballot proposition.

In fact, it was not the panel but an audience member who raised merit selection. Lawyer Tom Ryan enlivened the debate when he stood at the microphone.

“The idea that the Legislature respects the court system is a fallacy. We have a supermajority of Republicans in the House and Senate. … [The Legislature is] controlled by ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council], and they have an agenda: to close the courthouse doors. The idea that Prop 115 will improve merit selection is a fallacy; it simply gives the Governor the unfettered ability to choose judges.

David Earl

Bolick responded, agreeing that under Prop 115 the Governor “will control far more of the system” than ever before. But he added that the State Bar currently “has a monopoly over picking the lawyer members” of the judicial nominating commissions. And Bolick said he believes that the Bar, which takes positions on many public policy issues, should not have any role.

And even under the new possible regime, Bolick added, “The system should not be controlled entirely by the Governor and the State Bar. That upsets the checks and balances system.”

Bolick said that, personally, he will probably vote yes on Prop 115, but the Goldwater Institute has decided not to take a position.

Audience member and former State Bar President Mark Harrison rose to vociferously oppose Prop 115.

“This was a compromise that did not need to happen, and which is a solution in search of a problem. Justice O’Connor supports the current system, and the Arizona Town Hall called it ‘the best functioning part of our state.’”

He concluded by saying (with a smile), “I urge everyone to vote no—as many times as you can.”

Bolick responded: “I share a lot of your concerns, but I don’t think the system is as good as it can be.” He said that lawyers may know a lot about judicial candidates, and they should provide input. “But the State Bar should not choose them.”

Former Judge Noel Fidel spoke briefly.

“It would have been better to fight than compromise. This destroys merit selection from within.”

Among the audience-speakers on the topic was Whitney Cunningham, currently the State Bar’s First Vice President (and President-Elect at the close of Convention). He rose to explain the State Bar’s role, and why it decided to support the compromise that led to Prop 115.

“What people should understand is that not preserving merit selection was a real possibility that was on the table. If this passes, the State Bar will still have a role, and a formidable role.”

“The Bar was at the negotiating table, and we did what we thought was necessary to preserve merit selection in our state.”

Keep up with what’s happening at the State Bar Annual Convention by following! Get short, timely messages (including photos, speaker presentations and more) from Arizona Attorney Magazine’s staff. If you, your firm or employer are active on Twitter, just insert the hashtag #azbarcon into all of your Convention tweets to allow them to be read and searched by fellow attendees and the entire legal community.

Can’t attend Convention but want to know what’s going on? You also should follow

The Twitter links will take you to updates in our Convention Daily—news items and photos that will appear on the magazine blog, Facebook and Tumblr pages, and in our News Center:

No Twitter account? No problem. You can create your own Twitter account from your mobile phone to start tweeting now:

  1. Text the word START to phone number 40404.
  2. Twitter will reply and ask you to text the word SIGNUP to create a new account.
  3. Reply with your unique username (less than 15 characters).
  4. Once Twitter accepts your username, it will send you a confirming message.
  5. Text your password and you’re all set. Send a message to 40404 and it will post as your first tweet.
  6. Don’t forget to insert #azbarcon into all of your Convention tweets.

Once Your Account Is Set Up: Follow @azatty

From your phone, text the words Follow azatty to phone number 40404. You’ve now turned on our updates on your phone and will hear our take on Convention events.

The Next Step: The Web

It’s always easy to log in on the web to look at your profile. Simply go to and enter your phone number. A verification code will be sent to your phone. Enter the code on the web, and you’re in!

News from the State Bar of Arizona:

Contact: Alberto Rodriguez, Communications Department

Phone: 602.340.7293


State Bar Convention Celebrates 100 Years of Service by Arizona Attorneys

Event will provide forum for attorneys to reflect on advancements, discuss current issues, and plan for the future.

PHOENIX – June 19, 2012 – The State Bar of Arizona will host the 2012 Annual Convention at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, June 20-22. More than 1,600 attorneys from across the state will convene and participate in the 79th annual convention.

This year, the convention will offer more than 40 seminars, nationally recognized speakers, unique social and networking opportunities, along with a silent auction benefiting Defenders of Children. Many seminar chairs have incorporated this year’s theme of “Celebrating 100 Years of Lawyer Serving Arizona” into their programs that will better educate and enhance the legal profession.

Incorporating State Bar President Joe Kanefield’s commitment to technology, several cutting edge advances will be used to present this year’s convention, including a mobile app, and downloadable materials. All while maintaining the Bar’s commitment to “going green.”

Other convention highlights:

  • Alison Levine, the first American to complete a 600-mile journey from west Antarctica to the South Pole and who was featured in the PBS documentary Living Courageously, will deliver an inspiring keynote address at the State Bar Luncheon on Friday, June 22.
  • Honorable Medhat al-Mahmoud, the Chief Justice of Iraq and President of the Iraqi Higher Judicial Council will speak about the state of the country’s judiciary nearly a decade after the U.S. led invasion brought about regime change at a FREE CLE seminar on Friday, June 22.
  • The Bar will launch its first-ever convention mobile app that provides convenient and time-saving information including registration information, seminar schedules and presenters, sponsor and exhibitor listings, a sitemap to help guide registrants and direct access to news and social media.
  • Amelia Craig Cramer of Tucson will be introduced as incoming president of the State Bar of Arizona.

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