State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorSo would you like to know who won the State Bar of Arizona annual awards? Or would you rather be surprised when you settle into your luncheon seat at the annual Convention? (Don’t forget to register.)

Just in case: Spoiler alert! Stop reading if you’re in the second group.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, to be honored with the 2014 James A. Walsh Outstanding Jurist Award

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, to be honored with the 2014 James A. Walsh Outstanding Jurist Award

The State Bar of Arizona has announced the winners of its prestigious annual awards. Here is the news from the State Bar:

The State Bar of Arizona will recognize eight individuals and one state agency for their contributions to the legal profession at the 2014 State Bar of Arizona Annual Convention at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, June 11-13.

  • Member of the Year Award – Amelia Craig Cramer
  • James A. Walsh Outstanding Jurist Award – Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch
  • Tom Karas Criminal Justice Award – Stanton Bloom
  • Michael C. Cudahy Criminal Justice Award – Theodore Campagnolo
  • Sharon A. Fullmer Legal Aid Attorney of the Year Award – Ellen Sue Katz
  • Award of Appreciation – John J. Sullivan
  • Award of Special Merit – William W. Owsley
  • Hon. John R. Sticht Excellence in Disabilities Accessibility Award – Arizona Attorney General’s Office
  • President’s Award – Patricia Lee Refo

Online bios and photographs, along with award descriptions, are available here.

Amelia Craig Cramer, to be honored with the 2014 Member of the Year Award

Amelia Craig Cramer, to be honored with the 2014 Member of the Year Award

A complete historic list of award winners is here.

Patricia Lee Refo, to be honored with the 2014 President's Award

Patricia Lee Refo, to be honored with the 2014 President’s Award

access to justice lady justice scales

An Arizona Access to Justice Statewide Forum was held in Phoenix, May 1, 2014.

Law Day may be celebrated numerous ways. Legal advice may be offered; educational seminars may be staged. Or the yawning gap between aspiration and reality may be highlighted.

The third approach was selected on Thursday, May 1, at a statewide forum hosted by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education and the Arizona Supreme Court. For a variety of reasons, it was an inspired choice. And given the realistic topic of discussion, it also turned out to be a surprisingly inspiring morning.

To begin at the end: Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales announced the formation of a new Access to Justice Commission, which will be headed by Court of appeals Judge Larry Winthrop.

Justice Bales said that there have been significant successes in Arizona’s goal of increased access. But this new commission will recognize current challenges, and “It will help to focus and achieve tailored plans for success.” As an example of a possible success, he pointed to a renewed focus on a tax credit to assist the working poor.

“If just half of all Arizona’s attorneys contributed to it,” Justice Bales said, “that would amount to $2 million.”

Arizona Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales, May 1, 2014.

Arizona Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales, May 1, 2014.

He said that the Arizona Supreme Court is renewing its commitment to access issues, and its soon-to-be-released strategic plan will move that goal to be the Court’s primary strategic aim.

He recalled the way students begin their day, and reminded a packed room at the Court, “It’s not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance that defines us as Americans; it’s the progress we’ve made to achieve its ideals.”

Those ideals can be difficult to reach, Chief Justice Rebecca Berch said.

Despite significant innovations in Arizona, “Access to justice is an area in which we are not living up to our potential. It is always painful to examine areas in which you’re not as good as you should be. But it’s helpful.”

The Chief Justice then described the substantial barriers to achieving fuller access to justice: poverty, limited-English proficiency, and huge numbers of self-represented litigants.

Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, May 1, 2014.

Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, May 1, 2014.

Statistics for all three challenges are sobering:

  • The child poverty rate in Arizona is 27 percent.
  • The senior poverty rate is 13 percent.
  • Despite Arizona lawyers giving hundreds of thousands of hours of pro bono legal help (ranked sixth in the nation), the unmet need is staggering.
  • The percentage of pro se litigants rose from 24 percent in 1980 to 88 percent in 1990. Justice Berch said the number could be in the 90 percent range now.

In response, Arizona has nurtured the growth of various solutions, including self-help centers, specialty courts, attorney volunteerism, and a transparent judicial merit-selection system.

The Law Day keynote was delivered by Karen Lash, Senior Counsel for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.

She reminded attendees that legal aid can be “critical and life-changing.”

Karen Lash, Senior Counsel for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Karen Lash, Senior Counsel for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Quoting Robert F. Kennedy, she said, “Unasserted, unknown and unavailable rights are no rights at all.” A crucial development in shifting access to those rights, she said, is the formation of access to justice commissions across the country—from zero in 1993 to 33 of them today, “five in the last year.”

Reflecting on Justice Berch’s remarks, Lash said, “Arizona is doing what many states only wish they could pull off.” She admired “a State Bar that embeds access to justice in its core mission,” as well as the Court’s “appetite for new collaborations and a righteous anger” about enduring poverty.

The forum also included a panel discussion about sustainable and repeatable best practices that make justice more available. Moderated by Kelly McCullough, the panel was comprised of Gregg Maxon (veterans courts), Anthony Young (volunteer lawyer partnerships), Barbara Howe (state libraries), and Carol Mitchell (video remote interpretation project).

We will continue to track the launch of the new commission. If you have particular questions or suggestions about best practices that should be covered, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

indigent defense need-blind justice by Yarek Waszul

Illustration by Yarek Waszul

AZ Supreme Court logo

This Thursday morning, a thoughtful and experienced panel will discuss how legal services are dispensed in Arizona. Here is part of the Law Day event announcement from the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education:

“At the Forum, Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch will discuss access to justice in Arizona; Karen Lash, Senior Counsel of Access to Justice for the U.S. Department of Justice, will offer a national perspective; Hon. Lawrence Winthrop will recap the results of input from regional forums; a panel of experts will share some best practices from around the state; and Vice-Chief Justice Scott Bales will wrap up with the closing remarks.”

I will attend and report to you what was said. I am curious if any new initiatives are part of the conversation (such as an Indigent Defense Commission, which I discussed previously). And it would be helpful to hear about some successful best practices from elsewhere in the country.

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.

AJEI logo Appellate Judges Education Institute

When it comes to terrific legal events (here and here), why should we confine ourselves to Arizona—especially when the pleasures of San Diego are so close?

That’s my thinking as I pass on news of an appellate law event that really deserves your attention. What? You don’t have an appellate practice? That little fact should not dissuade you from considering attending quite an impressive learning opportunity.

The 10th annual Appellate Judges Education Institute will be held at the Marriott Harbor and Marina Hotel in San Diego on November 14-17 (next month). Organizers of the AJEI Summit say that they’ve designed the programming to appeal to appellate judges, appellate lawyers, and appellate staff attorneys—legal editors are likely to be wowed, as well.

The conference website is here. As the materials indicate, the summit will include a reception at the U.S.S. Midway on Thursday, November 14. The conference is sponsored by the Appellate Judges Education Institute (AJEI), the Appellate Judges Conference of the American Bar Association’s Judicial Division (AJC) and by the SMU Dedman School of Law.

The complete agenda is here.

I have been told that the summit is typically attended by more than 200 state and federal appellate judges, lawyers and staff attorneys. And although the program focuses on appellate law, many of the sessions will be of general interest to lawyers.

I’d have to agree with that last point. The speakers will include Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (Ret.), U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., more than a dozen appellate judges, including Chief Justice Rebecca Berch, and many nationally recognized appellate advocates and legal scholars.

The event also will include a Supreme Court civil case round-up by Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California, Irvine School of Law (whom I interviewed when he visited Arizona; excerpts from our conversation are here).

Presenters include even more Arizona notables:

  • Hon. Scott Bales, Vice Chief Justice, Arizona Supreme Court
  • Hon. Ruth V. McGregor, Supreme Court of Arizona (Ret.)
  • Professor Jane Bambauer, University of Arizona Rogers College of Law

(Our own Justice Bales serves as the summit’s Program Chair. Just yesterday, we received the Supreme Court Order noting that Chief Justice Berch’s five-year term as Chief will end in June 2014, and Hon. Scott Bales has been elected by his peers to serve as Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court for a five-year term, beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Congratulations!)

Appealing as the summit is, I will be unable to attend. So if there is a lawyer or judge planning on attending who would like to author a blog post (or perhaps a magazine article) on the event, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. I’m not seeking an overview of the whole multi-day event so much as some cutting-edge appellate topics or takeaways that would be of help to the appellate practitioner—or lawyers generally.

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.

The 2013 luncheon of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education once again recognized some of the finest lawyers in the state for their commitment to access to justice in Arizona.

Attorney Barbara Dawson accepting the Foundation's 2013 Walter E. Craig Award, June 20, 2013, Arizona Biltmore Resort.

Attorney Barbara Dawson accepting the Foundation’s 2013 Walter E. Craig Award, June 20, 2013, Arizona Biltmore Resort.

The following attorneys were honored:

  • Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch: Hon. Mark Santana LRE Award
  • Ellen S. Katz: Foundation for Justice Award
  • Stanley Friedman: William E. Morris Award
  • Barbara Dawson: Walter E. Craig Award

Congratulations to all the recipients.

The State Bar was also represented at the luncheon. Chief Communications Officer Rick DeBruhl led a conversation with CBS5 reporter Dave Cherry. They illuminated the audience on media and law.

And Incoming Bar President Whitney Cunningham brought the specifics when he urged five strategies on attendees who want to give back but are not sure how to begin:

  1. Take a pro bono case via one of the established legal aid organizations.
  2. When you cannot take on an entire case or matter, provide limited-scope representation.
  3. Ghost-write legal papers for an unrepresented person.
  4. Sign up for the Modest Means Program.
  5. Become a Foundation Fellow.

    Incoming State Bar President Whitney Cunningham, June 20, 2013.

    Incoming State Bar President Whitney Cunningham, June 20, 2013.

Cunningham included two fascinating statistics in his presentation:

  • If every lawyer in Arizona provided only half of the pro bono time recommended by Rule 6.1, its value would be greater than the $80 million cut from the Legal Services Corporation budget.
  • Becoming a Foundation Fellow (which nonlawyers may do too) will cost you $16.67 per month. That is approximately equal to one double-shot soy latter per day. Cunningham claims to have lost 20 pounds since he signed on.

The luncheon remains a high point in the Convention. Well done to all involved.

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