Courts


electionsToday, I share some information from the State Bar of Arizona. They have devised a smart and witty way to remind you about ALL the races that can be found on our ballots, and the vital importance of completing that ballot all the way to the end. Here you go:

The November election is just weeks away and soon your friends and family will be asking you the same question they ask every election: How should they vote the judges on the ballot? We want to help, so this election we’ve come up with a way for you to answer that question.

Watch our Finish the Ballot video below:

That’s it.

Send them the Youtube link and the two-minute cartoon will answer their questions. It explains why we vote for judges, and where to find the information to make that vote.

finish_the_ballot_laptop

In fact, it’s something you should send to all your friends whether they ask or not (hey, maybe even you should watch it). Retention elections are an important part of the merit selection process. The more you help you friends and family understand the process, the better it works.

We also have a fun way to promote our Finish the Ballot campaign. Click here to read more about a chance to win $250 in our Instagram “Finish the Ballot” contest. (The page even includes a sample video.)

finish_the_ballot_instagram contest header

Dick Segal when a student at North Phoenix High School

Dick Segal when a student at North Phoenix High School

Recalling attorneys who have done great things for the community is always a pleasure, and that is what took me to an event back on September 10. In the old Phoenix courthouse, fellow leaders from the Phoenix Community Alliance gathered to remember the achievements of Richard Segal.

He had died suddenly on April 18. (I noted his passing here. And read his obituary here.)

Among other things, Segal was the longtime managing partner of Gust Rosenfeld and former State Bar President. In a historic conference room, though, in an event deftly led by PCA President Don Keuth, folks mainly recalled Dick as a founding officer of the PCA.

Marty Shultz recalls Dick Segal, Sept. 10, 2014.

Marty Shultz recalls Dick Segal, Sept. 10, 2014.

Marty Shultz reminded listeners of Segal’s calm in the face of chaos. He would routinely “pipe in with a soft voice with the most useful solutions to problems.”

Terry Goddard praised the organization and the man.

Terry Goddard recalls Dick Segal, Sept. 10, 2014.

Terry Goddard recalls Dick Segal, Sept. 10, 2014.

“PCA’s formation as a triumph of hope over reality,” he said. “Quietly, competently, he kept PCA on track, on mission.”

Hon. Glenn Davis (ret.)  recalls Dick Segal, Sept. 10, 2014.

Hon. Glenn Davis (ret.) recalls Dick Segal, Sept. 10, 2014.

Retired Judge Glenn Davis praised Segal’s support for the Maricopa County Justice Museum & Learning Center, which shared a floor with the conference room. He urged attendees to view the Legal Hall of Fame display next door, which included Segal, “a lawyer’s lawyer.”

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton recalls Dick Segal, Sept. 10, 2014.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton recalls Dick Segal, Sept. 10, 2014.

The current Phoenix Mayor, Greg Stanton, estimated that Dick Segal had worked with 13 mayors, “always prodding them toward excellence.”

Dick Segal

Dick Segal

“Dick knew that positive change wasn’t a spectator sport,” Stanton continued. “He was present, always there.”

Mayor Stanton told those assembled that the accumulated value of the legal time given pro bono by Dick and his firm “must run into the 10s of millions of dollars.”

The Mayor also noted that Dick was instrumental in launching the Downtown Phoenix Partnership and in bringing an office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to Arizona. He also helped in creating the Human Services Campus near downtown.

“Our city needs more Dick Segals,” the Mayor concluded.

For more information on the gathering and the man, read the Downtown Devil article.

And if you have not visited the Museum, head over there soon. Here are a few images (click to enlarge).

Judge George Anagnost moderates the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014. He gestures toward panelists Bob McWhirter and Doug Cole.

Judge George Anagnost moderates the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014. He gestures toward panelists Bob McWhirter and Doug Cole.

Last week, I attended the annual “We the People” CLE program, which gathers smart folks and lets them loose on the most recent High Court Term. The follow-up was complete and often enlightening.

Paul Bender, Doug Cole and Bob McWhirter offered insightful and often humorous takes on a wide variety of the cases taken by SCOTUS. Led by moderator Judge George Anagnost, they were a formidable intellectual team.

(I appreciated Professor Bender’s unintended error when he misquoted the opening words for the Court’s day: “God save the United States from this honorable Court.” Who doesn’t agree with that occasionally?)

And yet I continue to wonder about the marrying of content with the panelists who discuss it. I have covered this topic—diversity—before, and so let me mention it again.

As always, the cases explored by the panel touch on nearly all areas of human experience. But, as an example, how would the treatment of even one case—Hobby Lobby—have varied had there been even one woman scholar on the panel? Some closely held businesses apparently are untroubled by any medical product or procedure save one—and that one affects women most of all. Would a woman scholar’s view have offered a different, compelling vision?

Of course, I do not believe that all women—or all of anyone—think the same way about legal topics. But, conservative, liberal or in between, a woman panelist may have taken more than an academic interest in the issue.

Professor Paul Bender, seated, at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Professor Paul Bender, seated, at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

The same is true of the Shelby case regarding the Voting Rights Act, or the Schuette case regarding affirmative action, or the McCullen case regarding abortion-clinic buffer zones, all ably examined. A mandatory number of African American scholars, or women, per panel is not what I’d expect. But their complete absence is surprising. (Imagine attendees’ surprise if they walked in and saw an all-woman panel, or an all-Black panel. THAT would be news!)

Adding to the oddity of the absence of diversity was the extended discussion on that very topic by the panel. Professor Bender, for example, took pains to note that all of the current Supreme Court Justices have had professional lives as professional judges, rather than some form of law practice (except for Justice Kagan). And he and others noted that the Court may be diverse in some ways, but not in socio-economics, or geography, or even religion (currently, the Court has no Protestants, six Catholics and three Jews).

An attendee could be excused for feeling some disconnect, sympathetic to the desire to see a diverse bench, while at the same time looking around the very room in which we sat …

Bob McWhirter presents at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Bob McWhirter presents at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Again, and in advance of the usual commenters who will say this is window-dressing (or worse): This is about excellent legal education, and a topic on which the State Bar of Arizona has pledged its focus. I found the discussion to be first-rate, but how can we know all of the excellent diverse commentary we are missing? A consistent absence of diverse voices on legal topics that disproportionately affect those very voices is odd, at best. And it makes you wonder if you are getting a full and complete examination of the issues underlying a Supreme Court docket.

That, after all, is what is promised.

OK, have at it in the comment box below.

Constitution DayIn case you hadn’t made your Constitution Day plans yet, I recommend to you a great video that includes a retired Supreme Court—and Arizona—jurist.

The National Association of Women Judges has launched a public service announcement (in separate video and audio). In it, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor discusses the value of free and fair courts.

And what is more constitutional than that?

Here is the video:

Fair and Free – Full Film – featuring Sandra Day O’Connor (EN) from Informed Voters Project on Vimeo.

Below is more background from the association (and a hat tip to Francine Walker of The Florida Bar for putting me on this very cool trail!)

“In honor of Constitution Day, September 17, the ‘Informed Voters Project’ sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ), has released a new :30 second TV public service announcement and a :60 second radio announcement featuring retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The PSA campaign’s message is a reminder that politics and partisanship have no place in the courts of the United States of America.”

“The National Association of Women Judges ‘Informed Voters – Fair Judges’ project is a non-partisan voter education project developed to increase public awareness about the judicial system, to inform voters that politics and special interest attacks have no place in the courts, and to give voters the tools they need to exercise an informed vote in favor of fair and impartial courts.”

More details c­­an be found here.

Gila County, Ariz., courthouse, by Ken Lund

Gila County, Ariz., courthouse, by Ken Lund

Arizona’s landscape is dotted with some beautiful courthouses, many still in operation. But for those that are not, finding a suitable “chapter two” can be a challenge.

In Gila County, a wonderful old courthouse faced an empty future. But, as an Arizona Republic story explains, it has been transformed into the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts.

I may be on an adaptive reuse kick this month (see my story from yesterday about auto dealerships transforming in Boston), but I was very taken with this Arizona story. You can read the whole thing here.

And for more information on the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, go here and here.

Cecil Ash is one of the former legislators who is now an Arizona Justice of the Peace.

Cecil Ash is one of the former legislators who is now an Arizona Justice of the Peace.

Do former lawmakers make good jurists? Should so many of them be justices of the peace?

A recent Arizona Republic article covered the intriguing issue of ex-legislators finding a “chapter 2” in the elected position of JP. Given the notoriously low pay of state lawmakers, the job of elected JP is a well-remunerated one.

No surprise: When it came time to write a headline, newspaper copyeditors simply couldn’t resist the phrase “cashing in” as a descriptor: “Ex-legislators cash in as justices of the peace” (the print newspaper title—“Justices Served”—struck the same note). Fair enough, I suppose. But the article itself offered a far more deep-thinking analysis of what the job entails and what kind of person fares best in the fast-paced and busy role.

I was pleased to see that the reporter spoke with Cecil Ash, one of the former lawmakers who now are on the JP bench. An anomaly, Ash is an attorney, rare in our Legislature and on that bench. And when he was in the Lege, he was one of the strongest voices advocating for a change to Arizona’s prison sentencing regime.

You can read the complete Republic story here.

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

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