State Bar of Arizona News


Panelists Hon. Joseph Welty, Bill Montgomery and Justice Robert Brutinel discuss mobile devices in the courtroom, Oct. 17, 2014, Phoenix Ariz.

Panelists Hon. Joseph Welty, Bill Montgomery and Justice Robert Brutinel discuss mobile devices in the courtroom, Oct. 17, 2014, Phoenix Ariz.

A recent panel discussion on mobile devices in courtrooms yielded surprising agreement on the role of those devices in the justice system. It took the lone media representative on the panel to throw a little cold water on that unified discussion.

I mentioned before the October 17 event, held at the ASU Cronkite School. Tonight, as sad word emerges from the Arizona Republic of its latest round of forced journalist departures, let me give a synopsis of the Arizona dialogue about technology in courtrooms.

The First Amendment Coalition of Arizona event was introduced by journo and educator Mark Scarp (Mark is also the Past President of the Society of Professional Journalists Valley of the Sun Chapter). The panel, moderated by attorney David Bodney, included:

  • Justice Robert Brutinel, chair of a Court committee that examined the issue
  • Hon. Joseph Welty, Presiding Criminal Judge for Maricopa County
  • Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney
  • Criminal defense attorney Jennifer Willmott (and counsel in the Jodi Arias case)
  • Cathie Batbie, news director at KVOA-TV (Channel 4-NBC) in Tucson

As previously mentioned, the panel discussed the impact of two rule changes, specifically made to Supreme Court Rule 122.1 (use of mobile devices in courtrooms) and Rule 122 (video, audio and still photography in courtrooms).

ASU Cronkite Journalism School, site for panel discussion of mobile devices in courtrooms, Oct. 17, 2014.

ASU Cronkite Journalism School, site for panel discussion of mobile devices in courtrooms, Oct. 17, 2014.

Justice Brutinel led off the conversation by explaining the committee’s thinking. As he sat in the journalism school’s First Amendment Forum, he stated a truism: “There’s a division between the interests of journalists and the interests of justice.”

Initially, he said, the committee considered some drastic approaches. Could a rule simply exclude all digital technology from the courthouse? Could it create a technological wall that prevented its use anywhere in the building?

No, and no, as it turned out. The first would be unworkable and overbearing in numerous ways. And the second would violate FCC regulations.

It wasn’t a slam-dunk, though. Justice Brutinel said that it was hotly contested by the committee, and a full prohibition was argued three separate times. It was finally determined that was not a reasonable position. In fact, there was no good and abiding reason not to allow such devices, with some restrictions.

Guiding the work of the committee, Justice Brutinel said, were certain realities, such as the fact that virtually everyone has a portable electronic device (or three) today. But also discussed among committee members were certain beliefs, held by at least a few: The presence of cameras changes the way people behave (though that effect may wane over time). And it is more difficult than ever before to determine who is a “journalist.”

The answer to the second issue is simple: Courts no longer ask if a person requesting electronic use is part of the media. The same rules apply to all.

L to R: Justice Robert Brutinel, Jennifer Willmott, Cathie Batbie

L to R: Justice Robert Brutinel, Jennifer Willmott, Cathie Batbie

As David Bodney said, the most important takeaway of the new rules is that you must ask for permission; the judge wants to know if you will interfere in the process, so they want to be asked.

That seemingly simple imprecation was challenged by KVOA’s Cathie Batbie, though. She explained how there appeared to be uniform approaches in the Tucson Superior Courts to disallow cameras, no matter the request. “We’re a visual medium, and the public has a right to that access.”

The dialogue that followed may be the definition of the devil in the details. When many on the panel urged that the press should simply take an appeal to the Court of Appeals, Batbie explained again the reality of a profession that travels faster than one whose holdings are conveyed in a West’s bound volume. Such a litigious approach, while possible, Batbie said, was unlikely to occur—or to be helpful.

“How do you get information to the public when you have these hurdles?” Batbie asked. The answer, she suggested, is “Don’t set rules based on some bad journalists, but on what’s right for the public.”

“You do want people to know what you’re doing every day.”

That statement (or perhaps it was a question) went unanswered.

Judge Welty discussed the “logistical challenges” associated with Rule 122. They are “not insurmountable,” he said, but the initial result was that journalists asked to be at every proceeding, just to be cover their bases. Then, as the date for proceedings approached, media made strategic decisions and often didn’t appear.

The Presiding Criminal Judge was the first panelist to use the phrases “gavel to gavel coverage” and “live-streaming,” developments that clearly troubled numerous members of the panel. Judge Welty called it “presenting trials as TV dramas.”

“I’m not sure it’s journalism; it may be reality TV.”

Bill Montgomery offered, “Is it a modern version of the Roman Circus and just trying to provide entertainment?” (which may have been a statement and not a question)

“This is a business environment that is not healthy to our republic,” Montgomery continued, “and that does not create confidence in our justice system.”

“When someone drives several states to get a prosecutor’s autograph, and when he’s told no, he breaks down, this system is not working.”

Jennifer Willmott, counsel in a case often derided as a Roman Circus, said that “What we want is an honest and fair trial.”

Willmott extended the discussion about media inside the courtroom to the larger world: “Cyberlynchings occur on social media among people who know noting about the case.”

Judge Welty added, “Are [TV stations] producing a TV drama or presenting information about our institutions?” (I think he was being rhetorical.)

Faced with prosecutor, court and defense all wrinkling their nose in distaste at TV coverage of trials (or I should say trial; can you say Jodi Arias?), Cathie Batbie could merely offer, “Streaming video is huge. It’s important to provide that coverage, with safeguards.”

Mark Scarp introduces the panel, including (L to R) moderator David Bodney, Hon. Joseph Welty, Bill Montgomery.

Mark Scarp introduces the panel, including (L to R) moderator David Bodney, Hon. Joseph Welty, Bill Montgomery.

After the event, Montgomery said that the new rules allow for flexibility, and broader understanding of the trial system by the public is a good thing.

But when “talking heads give their theory of the prosecution and they don’t even undertsand the law in our jurisdiction,” they do a disservice to viewers.

“Bad media can affect how people act in the courtroom,” Montgomery added.

So what comes next? Enforcement—and education.

Judge Welty said that Rule 122.1 is “completely technology-driven.” Over the next five years, he said, tools like Google glass and iwatches “will make the curent rule meaningless.” When that happens, he said, “We’ll move to enforcing violations rather than banning devices.”

Finally, he offered a call to action: “This issue behooves the State Bar to put together a program for lawyers on all their ethical responsibilities” in regard to mobile devices in courtrooms.

Who’s in? I do know if the Bar puts on such a seminar, it’ll probably be live-streamed.

Fastcase logoSome easy watching for your Monday.

Fastcase has been a free member benefit of State Bar of Arizona members since, well, for years really.

Never ones to rest on their laurels, the Fastcase folks have created a video—90 seconds long—to urge you attorneys to make use of the member benefit.

An aficionado of digital presentations, I’m pleased to see that the Fastcase people have used Prezi (I’m pretty sure) to create their offering. Here it is:

Let me know if it pushes you over the edge and gets you to try it.

Arizona Corporate Counsel Awaards logoHave you met or worked with in-house counsel who impress you with their skills and approach? Organizers of an annual award event seek your nominations.

Founded by AZ Business Magazine and the Association of Corporate Counsel state chapter, the Arizona Corporate Counsel Award nominations are due by Thursday, October 23.

More detail and a nomination form are here.

Categories include:

  • Public company (large and small)
  • Private company (large and small)
  • Nonprofit company
  • Government/municipal/public sector
  • Up-and-comer
  • In-house law department of the year
  • Litigator of the year
  • Intellectual property attorney of the year
  • Community/pro bono attorney of the year

The Awards Dinner will be held at the Camelback Inn on January 15, 2015.

The State Bar of Arizona is a presenting partner for the program.

cle snippets teaser logo. This teaser signifies a new and innovative way to combine magazine content with online learning.How enjoyable a snippet can be.

No need to be mysterious. I’m talking about CLE Snippets, those brief-ish video conversations I’ve been having with Arizona Attorney authors. (Read more about them here.)

Last month, I interviewed Ken Motolenich-Salas about his topic: the Washington Redskins trademark cancellations. (You can read his article here.) Fascinating and timely.

Just as fascinating and timely, though, was my dialogue with Anthony Tsontakis yesterday. Fascinating – OK. But timely? That seems surprising, considering Anthony’s topic: a battle over the 1912 judicial nomination of Judge Richard Sloan.

Indeed, our dialogue was timely. Anthony’s article and our conversation focused on how the nomination battle could lead a commentator to say, “No uglier fight was ever made against a man.” Our dialogue reveals just how little we’ve changed in a century. Not a bad lesson to learn in a bruising election season.

I’ll provide links to the videos with Ken and Anthony as soon as I have them.

Anthony Tsontakis (right) and I take a moment before videotaping our conversation about a 1912 nomination battle.

Anthony Tsontakis (right) and I take a moment before videotaping our conversation about a 1912 nomination battle.

Do these old computer ads represent your current technology thinking? Time to adjust your vertical hold.

Do these old computer ads represent your current technology thinking? Time to adjust your vertical hold.

Technology can be nervous-making. And who likes to reveal they have some Very. Basic. Questions? Especially in front of a room full of lawyers?

That appears to be the thinking behind a State Bar educational event to be held on October 17. It is called Technology for Baby Boomers (Part 1): Everything You Wanted to Know about Technology, But Were Afraid to Ask.

Yes, it says Part 1. It is a series, “designed to answer questions attorneys who are not comfortable with technology might have. Bring your laptop or other device to participate in hands-on exercises during the presentation.”

complexity is the enemy says Sir Richard BransonThis first session will address the following topics:

  • Introduction to computers, the Internet and operating systems
  • Microsoft Office, alternative solutions and add-ons
  • Take care of your technology: DIY or outsource?
  • “The Cloud”

More detail and registration information are here.

The other sessions in the series follow in November and December. I’ll let you know the topics as soon as I know them.

State Bar of Arizona Bar Leadership Institute banner

Remember how I urged you and your talented lawyer friends to apply for the next class of the Bar Leadership Institute?

If you did—and prevailed—this post may be all about congratulating you.

Here is what the State Bar recently announced regarding the new class. Congratulations to you—or your successful colleagues.

Sixteen diverse attorneys from across the state have been selected to participate in the State Bar of Arizona’s 2014-15 Bar Leadership Institute (BLI).

For the eighth year in a row, the BLI will provide its participants with a nine-month leadership program that will foster their professional growth and enhance their leadership skills.

2014-15 Participants:

  • Jazmin Alagha, Law Office of Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado PLC
  • Rebekah Bell, Beauchamp Law Office PC
  • Yusra Bokhari, Arizona Attorney General’s Office
  • Joel Chorny, Pima County Legal Defender’s Office
  • Jennison Cox, Microchip Technology Inc.
  • J. Daryl Dorsey, American Airlines
  • Dominic Gomez, Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community
  • John Gray, Perkins Coie LLP
  • Danielle Harris, Executive Hearing Office – ADOT
  • Claudia Lopez, Alcock & Associates PC
  • Magdalena Osborn, Rusing Lopez & Lizardi PLLC
  • Afshan Peimani, Titla & Parsi PLLC
  • Lizette Rubio, IHC Carrier Solutions
  • Laine Sklar, Town of Marana Legal Department
  • Barry Stratford, Perkins Coie LLP
  • Matei Tarail, Federal Public Defender

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorBar Leadership sessions cover topics ranging from leadership, ethics, and career development to conversations with judges, government attorneys, in-house counsel and executives. Participants can receive up to two years of CLE credit.

The 16 participants were selected based on their legal and non-legal community contributions as well as their statements of interest and qualifications. All participants must be active Bar members in good standing. The participants represent a diverse range of racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious communities, among others.

Upon completion, the BLI participants must commit to a full year of active involvement with the State Bar and/or the community.

For more information on the Bar Leadership Institute, contact Elena Nethers at 602-340-7393.

Downtown Phoenix Sheraton

Downtown Phoenix Sheraton

On Thursday, another in a popular series of networking events for lawyers will be staged in downtown Phoenix. You should consider stopping by.

Hosted by the State Bar of Arizona (Mentor Committee and Young Lawyers Division), it will be held on Thursday, September 18, at the downtown Phoenix Sheraton Hotel, in its District American Kitchen and Wine Bar.

This is the fourth annual such kick-off event, and the previous ones have been crowded and enjoyable affairs.

Here is an image with more particulars:

State Bar Networking event 09-18-14And here is a map:

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