Dave Byers, Director, Administrative Office of the Arizona Courts

Dave Byers, Director, Administrative Office of the Arizona Courts

Yesterday, the Arizona Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts announced the following about Director David K. Byers. Congratulations, Dave!

“The National Center for State Courts (NCSC.org) announced last week that David K. Byers, Director of the Administrative Office of the Arizona Supreme Court, has been named the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Warren E. Burger Award for excellence in court administration, one of the highest awards presented by NCSC. Named for the late Chief Justice of the United States, the Warren E. Burger award honors ‘a state court system administrative official who demonstrates professional expertise, leadership, integrity, creativity, innovativeness, and sound judgment,’ according to the Center’s award criteria.”

“‘The award honors court administrative officials who have taken decisive steps to improve the operations of courts at the state or local level that may have application to courts nationwide,’ states the NCSC’s website.”

“‘We are pleased and proud that Dave Byers has been honored with this award. No one could be more deserving,’ said Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch. ‘He has provided excellent support and guidance for the Arizona court system for more than 35 years. He has been creative in finding solutions to the issues that have arisen. His leadership has helped bring national recognition to Arizona’s courts and has improved the administration of justice. He has worked tirelessly to create a responsive, world-class court system. Through NCSC and other national committees, Byers has shared his expertise to benefit court leaders throughout Arizona, the U.S., and abroad.’”

Arizona_Supreme_Court_Seal“As Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, Byers is responsible for overseeing and administering a court system that employs 10,000 people and operates in more than 200 locations; processes more than 2.6 million cases per year; supervises 42,000 adult felons on probation; and has a combined budget from all courts in excess of $550 million dollars. The Supreme Court also oversees the State Bar of Arizona and the discipline process for the state’s 15,000 plus attorneys and 500 judges.”

“NCSC President Mary Campbell McQueen said, ‘Dave Byers serves as a national role model for court leaders everywhere. He has been on the forefront of helping courts remain innovative, effective, and accessible during the recent difficult financial downturn all state courts faced. Dave has been on the forefront in court advancements on issues from implementing e-filing to improving foster care to protecting fair and impartial courts. NCSC is proud to name Dave Byers as our 2013 Burger Award recipient.’”

“In 2012, Byers was honored with the Gabe Zimmerman Leadership Award, which recognizes professional excellence of non-elected officials. The award is named for former Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ director of community outreach, who lost his life in the 2011 Tucson shooting that killed six and injured 12, including Giffords.

Arizona_Supreme_Court_SealI received some interesting news recently from Heather Murphy (she is the Director of Communications for the Arizona Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts). Heather let me know that judicial education—what we all know as COJET—turned 30 this week. (It doesn’t look a day over 20!)

The anniversary was on November 18, to be precise. (And when you’re dealing with continuing education, you want to be precise!)

When it comes to lawyer education—MCLE—I have heard an earful over the years. But many attorneys may be unaware of all the continuing ed that judicial officers must obtain.

I am looking for stories of court innovation that we can tell in 2014 as part of our NextLaw initiative, and I’m expecting some of those stories may come from our own Supreme Court. I appreciate this story, which is a jump-start on that effort.

Here is a great retelling of the events that led up to this year’s anniversary, as told by the Court itself:

Arizona Supreme Court building

Arizona Supreme Court

 

On this date in 1983, the Arizona Supreme Court established the Council on Judicial Education and Training (COJET). The purpose was to establish educational policies and standards for the court system. Training through COJET covers everything from changes in law, best practices, innovations in court settings, and current issues or topics affecting the administration of justice in our communities.

Now 30 years later, COJET courses have evolved from classroom or seminar-based learning to courses delivered through the internet, via webinars and other technology-based delivery methods. Technology has made it possible to deliver training to the entire state judiciary on a cost-effective basis.

Every full-time employee of the court system is responsible for adhering to a 16-credit hour COJET training requirement to ensure that the staff receives timely, relevant continuing education to enhance and support their role in the courts. People working fewer than 40 hours per week also have training requirements varying from four to 12 hours.

“COJET training is required for everyone, from human resources and support staff to detention and probation officers, managers, clerks and administrators,” said Jeff Schrade, Education Services Director at the Arizona Supreme Court. “For the 2012 calendar year, we delivered training to 8,822 employees statewide.”

For the typical employee, training can be a combination of self-study courses, seminars or conferences. At least six of the credit hours must be facilitated learning in a workshop, seminar, conference, educational group broadcast or college course that meets certain accreditation requirements.

Over the past 30 years, the Council has become the Committee on Judicial Education and Training and the scope has widened to include monitoring the quality of educational programs, recommending changes in policies and standards and approving guidelines for training programs.

Schrade outlined some of his group’s milestones over the last 30 years:

  • The first COJET training videos were produced in 1988.
  • In 1991, the topic of domestic violence was selected for the first statewide broadcast training, which was delivered to five remote sites.
  • An all-day broadcast on victims’ rights followed in 1992.
  • The first national broadcast program took place in 1993 on the topic of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • The Probation Officer Certification Academy was launched in 1995.
  • In 1998, Arizona became one of a small number of states authorized to deliver locally the accredited programs normally offered at the National Center for State Courts in Virginia.
  • The Judicial Education Center opened in 2001, providing a central location with multiple classroom configurations for large or small training events.
  • The Arizona Supreme Court began delivering courses via webcast in 2009.
  • In 2012, training requirements were temporarily pared back to 12 hours for non-judge court staff due to budget constraints at the state, county and municipal court levels.
  • In 2013, the 16-hour COJET requirement for full-time staff was restored.
  • The Presiding Judges Leadership Academy was also launched in 2013.

“The secret to our success is that we deliver highly relevant training on issues that court staff encounter on a regular basis but we also focus on emerging issues and trends,” Schrade explained. “We have a great committee that helps us plan training classes, study and respond to evaluations and develop new curriculum as needed.”

Law for Veterans website screen shotLast Friday, as folks were clearing out of work and looking forward to a holiday weekend, staffers at the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education were putting the final touches on a new website—one dedicated to aiding veterans and their families.

LawforVeterans.org is a creation of the Arizona Supreme Court, in cooperation with the AZFLS&E and the Military Legal Assistance Committee of the State Bar of Arizona.

The site aims to be a “one-stop clearinghouse for access to legal and other important veteran benefit information,” providing legal information, articles, resources and forms.

The Court explains that the site features 10 specialty subject areas “ranging from identity theft to employment law. There are sections with helpful Q&A topics as well as a place to ask legal questions, find a lawyer, or locate other resources veterans might need.”

The site “will be the public face of a broader support network.” The Court announced that more than 270 volunteer legal professionals will “respond to questions and help match veterans with the resources they need.”

Hon. Rebecca White Berch

Hon. Rebecca White Berch

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch says, “Veterans Day 2013 marks the initial public launch of the site, but we realize the site itself is a platform upon which we will build and add content, based on the needs and input of veterans and service providers that stand ready to assist them.”

Polsinelli attorney Kris Carlson is cheered by the website’s creation. He is a former Green Beret and co-chair of the Military/Veterans Group of the American Health Lawyers Association Behavioral Task Force. He views the site as a great resource.

“‘Law for Veterans’ is absolutely fantastic,” Carlson says. “This resource was badly needed.  Transitioning from the military into civilian life can be difficult. Behaviors that kept the service member alive during time of war are not easily forgotten, and some can leave veterans at a disadvantage when re-integrating into civilian life.”

Carlson continues, “The site’s comprehensive approach can provide assistance to Arizona’s men and women veterans in many critical areas as they struggle to leave the war behind them.”

Many veterans struggle with reintegration into civilian life, which can be difficult. As a result, some may become involved in the criminal justice system; claims denials; insurance problems; family law issues; or physical, mental or substance abuse challenges.

Kris Carlson, Polsinelli

Kris Carlson, Polsinelli

AZFLS&E CEO Kevin Ruegg says, “The Foundation is thrilled to have the Supreme Court entrust us with this project and very grateful for the partnership with the Bar’s Military Legal Assistance Committee. We hope to accomplish two things: furthering our mission of promoting access to justice for all Arizonans, and assuring our veterans know that we understand that our justice system would not be here without their fight for this country’s freedoms.”

Staffers at the Foundation who led the rollout effort included Public Legal Information Manager Kim Bernhart and CTO Al Flores, along with Lara Slifko and Dan Hall. Bernhart points to this effort as another in a successful line of sites launched by the Foundation, including Law for Seniors and Law for Kids.

Brigadier General Gregg Maxon (ret.) is a special adviser to the Administrative Office of the Courts, where he assists jurisdictions in their efforts to create veterans courts. The Supreme Court said he was “a key advocate in the planning and development” of the new website.

Among the data he gathered:

  • 2.4 million men and women served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • 1.44 million are now eligible for V.A. health care.
  • 774,000 have obtained V.A. health care.
  • Of those receiving treatment, 52 percent are diagnosed with mental disorders such as PTSD, depression and substance abuse.

“A unified treatment and rehabilitation approach brings better results,” says General Maxon. “Through partnerships with the Department of Veterans Affairs and local, state or national non-profits and community-based organizations, we can honor our veterans with the resources they deserve.”

Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales adds, “Courts and the legal community are recognizing that we can better serve certain populations by tailoring website content and court services to meet their needs. Our veterans deserve this help. We don’t want them hurting, alone or in trouble with nowhere to turn.”

The Court encourages businesses, government agencies, chambers of commerce, associations, and non-profits to add a link to www.LawForVeterans.org.

2013 Arizona Judicial Branch Awards logo

First, the apology: Sorry about the late notice.

That out of the way, I can tell you that the deadline is today, September 18, to submit nominations for Arizona Judicial Branch Achievement Awards.

Who receives those? Chief Justice Berch describes the group categories as:

  • Probation
  • Limited Jurisdiction Courts
  • General Jurisdiction Courts
  • Individual Achievement in Accomplishing the 2010-2015 Vision
  • One At-Large Award for outstanding contributions in meeting the goals of Justice 2020 A Vision for the Future of the Arizona Judicial Branch 2010-2015, as outlined in the Judiciary’s plan for continuing to improve public trust and confidence in the Arizona court system

More information on the awards and their criteria is here.

The online form is simple to complete; it may just take you a few minutes.

To get an idea of the kind of excellence we’re talking about, here are the 2012 winners.

Many Arizona lawyers work extensively with judicial officers and staff. I’m very confident that someone out there has spotted excellence worth recognizing. Today’s your chance.

Stars and Stripes logoChange of Venue takes a military turn today.

Yesterday, I reminded you about a State Bar of Arizona effort to get more attorneys involved in providing legal help to formerly deployed military servicemembers.

Today, I point you to a news story about a sea change in the Army JAG Corps (I know, I’m missing my military metaphors, but bear with me).

This week, for the first time in history, the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corp (the Army’s attorneys) is led by a woman lawyer. As Stars & Stripes reports, Brig. Gen. Flora D. Darpino took over as Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army on Wednesday,

Brig. Gen. Flora D. Darpino

The JAG’s new top lawyer: Brig. Gen. Flora D. Darpino

The article goes on to point out what a significant time in history this is for the Corps.

“Significant bills [are] circulating that would give the JAG far more power over prosecutorial decisions. She’s slated to take command at a time of increased scrutiny of the military’s handling of sexual assault cases, with legislators in both houses of Congress trying to strip commanders of authority over serious criminal prosecutions. That authority would then flow to prosecutors.”

Meanwhile this week, I heard from Ann Murphy at the Bar Association of San Francisco, who mentioned the plight of the lawyer spouses of military personnel. As you might guess, state-by-state admission is no picnic for folks who move with their spouse often. State bar admission can be severe impediment to maintaining a lawyer career.

Ann suggested I look at the Facebook page of the Military Spouse J.D. Network, which aims to be a support network for these folks.

Meanwhile, on the legal front, some states, including Arizona, are trying to take the barriers down.

Just this past January, Arizona Supreme Court Rule 38(i) went into effect. It allows qualified attorneys married to servicemembers to apply for admission without examination. So it’s admission on motion for otherwise-qualified attorneys who are married to servicememebers.

You can read the order on Rule 38(1) here.

Do you see a story here? Should Arizona Attorney cover it, and what questions would you want answered?

Have a great weekend.

State Bar of Arizona logoHere is some news from the State Bar of Arizona. You may want to consider some non-attorney colleagues or friends you have whose judgment you trust. They may be terrific applicants for this important task.

The State Bar of Arizona is accepting applications for two non-attorney vacancies on the Arizona Supreme Court’s Committee on Character and Fitness, which is responsible for the investigation and recommendation of applicants for admission to the practice of law in Arizona.

Applicants must have the time, skill and patience to review confidential detailed reports of background investigations into financial, criminal, civil, employment, disciplinary and academic matters. Committee members review approximately 1,200 applications each year.

Pima County residents are encouraged to apply to enhance the statewide make-up of the Committee.

Arizona_Supreme_Court_SealApplication forms can be obtained by contacting Carrie Sherman at the State Bar of Arizona at 602-340-7201 or at Carrie.Sherman@staff.azbar.org. Online forms can be downloaded at www.azbar.org/appointments.

Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Friday, August 23, 2013.

The State Bar of Arizona will review the applications, interview selected candidates,  and nominate a pool of three candidates per opening to the Arizona Supreme Court. The Court will appoint two new members to the Committee on Character and Fitness.

Justice Ann Scott Timmer speaks at the luncheon of the North Phoenix Bar Association, June 12, 2013.

Justice Ann Scott Timmer speaks at the luncheon of the North Phoenix Bar Association, June 12, 2013.

“Understand your audience” is a lesson that is often ignored by speakers, who may address attendees with all the particularity of a spam email. But when the lesson is taken to heart, great things can happen.

That was the case yesterday, when Arizona Justice Ann Scott Timmer addressed the North Phoenix Bar Association. Spammers—and bad public speakers—take note.

Justice Timmer’s topic was writing, and she titled it “Convince Me: Writing To Persuade.”

Supreme Court Justices are on-the-ball kind of folks, so I knew the event would be fine, just fine. But as much as I enjoy writing (and talking about it), I have sat through speeches on writing that were drafted for everyone rather than for the particular audience. Such talks are peppered with truisms that we’ve all heard since middle school, containing few if any lessons you can take to heart.

As the NPBA folks took their seats, I scanned the menu for the luncheon at the Marriott at Desert Ridge. Was the Tahitian Vanilla New York Cheesecake really going to be that good, or was it mundane and geographically confused (as speakers can be). Perhaps I could skip it and get back to the office sooner?

Justice Timmer opened with that most basic of suggestions, with which I began this post: Know your audience. The cheesecake began to look like it would be omitted from my lunch.

But then Justice Timmer continued. She took all of those writing do’s and dont’s that we already know, and extrapolated them into lessons vital for practicing lawyers to understand.

Clarity is all. (We know.) And your motion’s clarity may be improved by an appendix. (Hmmm.) But how should the appendix be structured? (Pens out.) What kind of appendix is most helpful to the judicial officer—you know, the decider? (Scribbling furiously.)

Justice Timmer offered not an agglomeration of good but tired writing pointers, but valuable takeaways for lawyers to understand.

The value-added talk continued. It included a discussion of:

  • What judges find helpful when counsel appear opposite pro pers. (If their motion is a jumble, judges really don’t mind when the lawyer restates and clarifies it in their own response. Help a judge out.)
  • Words to avoid ($100 words when simpler ones will do.)
  • Block quotes that undermine a pleading, as the readers’ eyes pass over them seeking the analysis and guidance.
  • Lawyer waste-of-space phrases, such as “undoubtedly” or “it goes without saying.” Those, said Justice Timmer, signal the judge that you probably have no authority for your proposition (although a wise member of the NPBA mentioned to me later that lawyers may believe the same of courts when they rest their decision on “the court’s inherent power”—touché).

And so on.

Besides specifics to improve our writing, there were larger lessons. Here are two that I took away from the luncheon:

  • The success of a talk may be directly related to how well it does not fit every possible audience. Or, stated less clumsily, the best speech is the one aimed at this audience at this time and in this place. It is not for everyman.
  • The goal of the writer—and of the lawyer seeking a judicial result—is to avoid the use of anything that distracts the reader (or judge) from your argument or position. Expecting that a neutral third party (or a busy blog reader) will invest the time to decipher your poorly wrought puzzle is folly. Misunderstanding or worse will be the outcome.

In case you were wondering, I stayed for the cheesecake and finished every bite (it was wonderful, and I tip my hat to the Tahitian New Yorkers, or at least the pastry chef). And for my remaining for that indulgence, I blame Justice Timmer and her adroitly delivered remarks.

Thanks to the North Phoenix Bar Association, and to its president, Pouria Paknejad, for alerting me to the luncheon. I often find that the most robust conversations occur when groups of lawyers gather, and the NPBA proved that once again.

At the luncheon, the bar association also tendered a donation to the Children in Need Foundation. Read more about their work here.

Attorney Pouria Paknejad, right, delivers a check to a representative of the Children in Need Foundation, June 12, 2013.

Attorney Pouria Paknejad, right, delivers a check to a representative of the Children in Need Foundation, June 12, 2013.

Yesterday, I was looking for something on the CNN website (good luck) when I came across their recently omnipresent viewer-discretion warning about the Jodi Arias trial. Here’s a screen-grab (the big honking arrow is mine, though the station bosses might decide they like it).

CNN's Jodi Arias trial viewer-discretion warning

CNN’s Jodi Arias trial viewer-discretion warning

I’ve watched a bit of the Arias trial, but not much. Given the questions I’ve received from friends and colleagues around the country (usually beginning, “Let me get this straight …”), it’s helpful for me to know something about the case facts.

Long after those facts are adjudicated, though, the complex legal issues will be debated (probably with no viewer-discretion warning required). And even beyond that, we’ll assess the effectiveness of juror questions.

Yes, there have been a few tawdry inquiries from those colleagues around the country. But more often, I have been surprised at the number of them who have asked about juror questions: “You allow that in Arizona?”

Arizona Attorney Magazine cover, February 2001

Arizona Attorney Magazine cover, February 2001

Indeed we do, as well as note-taking and some other semi-unique elements.

The number of juror questions posed in this trial may be remarkable, but the fact that they may inquire at all has been a part of Arizona jurisprudence for a long time now.

For some background on that, you should read “O Pioneer,” our 2001 article about then-Judge Michael Dann. He and others were leaders in initiatives to transform the jury process. Other states have participated, but Arizona was (and is) a leader.

Posted on their website, the Arizona Supreme Court has the remarkable original report (from 1994 and 1998) called “The Power of 12.” It’s in two parts, here and here. It was drafted by the Court’s Committee on the More Effective Use of Juries.

For more recent coverage of courts that permit juror questions, go here. As the story opens:

“A small number of states have changed their laws and court rules to allow jurors to ask witnesses questions, either orally or in writing through the judge. Written questions submitted in advanced allow attorneys for both sides to make objections based either on the ground they would violate the rules governing the admission of evidence or would result in prejudice against their clients.”

Michael Dann, former Judge on the Superior Court for Maricopa County

Michael Dann, former Judge on the Superior Court for Maricopa County

“The states that expressly encourage judges to allow jurors to question witnesses are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada and North Carolina. Out of these jurisdictions, Arizona, Florida, and Kentucky require that judges allow jurors to ask written questions. The respective highest state courts of Indiana and Kentucky have ruled jurors have a right to ask questions of witnesses.”

But changes like this can lead to unpredictable results. You should read this Washington Post story from 2007, titled “Jurors’ Queries Yield Insights—and Laughs,” which opens with a humorous anecdote showing that jurors may focus on areas that counsel may find irrelevant:

“Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller was on the witness stand yesterday and a juror wanted to know why she had decided to go to jail for 85 days before agreeing to testify about her conversations with I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.”

“Another juror had a different kind of question for Miller about her notes from a conversation with Libby: Was storing notebooks in a large shopping bag under her desk her standard method for saving her notes?”

“So the jurors asked.”

For trial lawyer readers, have you found juror questions to be a feature that improves the process? Have you found queries annoying? Or have they given you an opportunity to clarify issues that may be blocking a jury decision?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

AZ Supreme Court logoToday, I share some news and request for comment from the Arizona Supreme Court. Your input could have an impact on the disposition of future cases as they proceed through Arizona courts.

Here is the news from the Court:

In 2011, the National Center for State Courts published the “Model Time Standards for State Trial Courts.” These standards for the disposition of cases in the state courts were developed and adopted by the Conference of State Court Administrators, the Conference of Chief Justices, the American Bar Association House of Delegates, and the National Association for Court Managers.

Model case processing time standards provide a reasonable set of expectations for courts, lawyers and the public. Part of the vision for Arizona’s Judicial Branch, as set forth in its Justice 2020 Strategic Agenda, is to strengthen the administration of justice. Timely justice promotes public trust and confidence in the courts. The establishment of case processing time standards emphasizes the need for judicial officers and court personnel to renew focus on this essential part of their work.

The Arizona Supreme Court Case Processing Standards Steering Committee is gathering input and feedback from all key justice partners regarding the establishment of case processing standards for Arizona courts.

Steering Committee Preliminary Recommendations

The Steering Committee has completed a review of the national time standards, statutory requirements, court rules, court jurisdiction and other relevant factors in the development of case processing standards for Arizona. The preliminary recommendations for case processing standards in the superior, justice and municipal courts have been posted on the link below and you are invited to post your comments. Please feel free to share this website with members of the legal community in your jurisdiction.

Comment Period

The comment period runs through March 29, 2013. The Steering Committee will review the comments posted on the website and make the appropriate revisions to the proposed case processing standards. A final draft of the proposed case processing standards will be presented to the following standing committees for recommendation to the Arizona Judicial Council: Committee on Superior Court; Limited Jurisdiction Committee; Committee on Juvenile Courts; Commission on Victims in the Courts; and Committee on the Impact of Domestic Violence in the Courts.

Submit Your Comments Online Here.

The link above will take you to the registration page. To view the case processing standards webpage you will need to register first. Click on register and complete the information on the page. If you have previously registered on the website enter your username and password.

For more information contact:

Committee Staff:

Cindy Cook at ccook@courts.az.gov

Hon. Ann Scott Timmer

Hon. Ann Scott Timmer

I was out of town last week, and so I missed sharing the news (old now) that a new Justice was named to the Arizona Supreme Court. As the days passed, I thought I would let the event go unremarked, and simply move on to other topics.

Ultimately, though, it’s difficult to leave aside an ascension to the state’s highest Court. Therefore, I share the opening from Chief Justice Berch’s remarks:

“We are pleased to welcome Ann Scott Timmer as the 43rd Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. She will be only the fourth woman ever to have served in that capacity since statehood. The Governor selected Judge Timmer from among a group of truly outstanding candidates.

“I know Judge Timmer’s background as a court of appeals judge, her excellent writing and analytical skills, and her innate sense of fairness will well serve the justice system of Arizona.”

That and more are on the Court’s own website. And you can read Gov. Jan Brewer’s remarks there too. The Governor’s press release is here.

All of that, of course, is praiseworthy. Closer to law practice, I have to recognize Justice (nee Judge) Timmer for another honor: Her Arizona Attorney article on proper dress and demeanor in the law office garnered some of my nastiest reader remarks ever. Now, that’s praiseworthy!

Arizona Attorney, Feb. 2008

Arizona Attorney, Feb. 2008

Her February 2008 article was our cover story, and it was titled, Working Class: What Seasoned Attorneys Will Never Tell You.”

Her article explored modes and methods that could lead to law office success—or its opposite. But what I had found to be a helpful and candid article was deemed less than that by some of our vocal readers—two of whom sent letters, and another (loud) few who phoned me on the topic.

When I heard last week’s Justice news, I hauled out the 2008 article and re-read it. Ultimately, I was pleased that I still enjoyed it and that it continues to provide valuable guidance. Avoiding boorish behavior and dressing well are both important, and neither necessarily leads to being uptight and stuffy.

But, I must admit, I did find myself cinching up my tie as I turned the pages.

Congratulations, Justice Timmer. Here’s hoping your writing continues to inspire democratic debate.

(For some more insight into the historical significance of selecting Judge Timmer, read this blog post at the Mandel Young Appellate Lawyers website.)

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