Bill Klain AZBAR member of the year 2013

Bill Klain, State Bar of Arizona 2013 Member of the Year

’Tis the season … to honor someone who deserves it.

I’m pleased to report that you still have a few days left to nominate an Arizona attorney for a prestigious award from the State Bar of Arizona. The awards will be given at this June’s Bar Convention in Tucson, and there may be no better way to recognize the highest commitment to the legal profession.

To give an idea of how moving the awards can be, here are the words of Bill Klain, who was the Bar’s 2013 member of the year:

“Receiving the Member of the Year award was both gratifying and humbling. While I greatly appreciate the Bar’s recognition of my work to improve civil practice and procedure through my committee service and involvement with continuing legal education, the award results from the collective efforts of a large number of people devoted to improving our justice system and with whom I have had the good fortune to collaborate. I am proud of the work we have accomplished and appreciative of the opportunity to contribute to these group efforts.”

In your own life and practice, you have likely come across an attorney or two worthy of recognition. Here is a description of what the Bar seeks:

“Each year the State Bar of Arizona honors members of the legal profession who go above and beyond. We want to know who you think should be recognized this year. Take a look at the awards listed below and think about lawyers you know who make a difference. There is even an award for a non-lawyer who helps the public understand justice and the legal profession.”

The deadline to submit nominations is March 26th at 5 p.m. That’s this Wednesday. Nominating is simplicity itself. Just write a letter telling the Bar about the person’s achievements and why they deserve the award. Send it to:

State Bar of Arizona

Awards Committee

c/o Nina Benham

4201 N. 24th St., Suite 100

Phoenix, AZ 85016-6266

Or email it to her at

The Bar has created a helpful page that provides detailed descriptions of the nine awards. It also includes a link to a list of previous winners.

Now the ball is in your court. You have two days to write a letter (brief or otherwise) nominating someone for an award. Get to drafting.

Amelia Craig Cramer opens her gift of a bound volume of Arizona Attorney Magazine, while State Bar CEO John Phelps looks on, June 18, 2013.

Amelia Craig Cramer opens her gift of a bound volume of Arizona Attorney Magazine, while State Bar CEO John Phelps looks on, June 18, 2013.

On the Tuesday before the State Bar Convention begins, the Board of Governors holds its June board meeting. It takes most of the afternoon (OK, the whole afternoon), but it does have its charms.

First of all, it’s the last board meeting over which the outgoing President presides. That means Tuesday was Amelia Craig Cramer’s last meeting. She was a pleasure to work with, and we were lucky to have her lead the Bar in the past year.

Others, too, cycle off the board at that meeting. And it is always great to hear the warm best wishes uttered among people who work hard together and often do not have a free minute to commiserate and visit as friends. The June meeting provides that opportunity.

The passing of the gavel includes a few gifts to the outgoing President. Amelia wanted the Bar to donate to the Foundation the money they would have spent on her gift—and so they will. But she still receives (whether she likes it or not) a gift of a leather-bound year of Arizona Attorney Magazine. She opened the gift, smiled, and then mentioned that with the Bar’s green and paperless initiative, this may be the last year the gift will be possible. Gulp. I’ll take that as being part of her great sense of humor!

Another tradition that’s arisen is the oh-so-brief crowning of the Incoming President. And so we got to view the already-tall Whitney Cunningham achieve a truly regal height. He generously allowed a photo or three as Amelia placed the velvet and ermine piece on his head, but then declined to wear it further—being a man of the people, I suppose (me, I would have worn that around the Biltmore throughout the Convention’s duration!).

Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer crowns her successor, Whitney Cunningham, June 18, 2013.

Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer crowns her successor, Whitney Cunningham, June 18, 2013.

The reveal: Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer displays her crowned successor, Whitney Cunningham, June 18, 2013.

Congratulations and thanks to Amelia, Whitney and all those others who offer their time and more in service to Arizona’s lawyers.

Booker T. Evans is in the house -- as he emceed (and sang) for the Battle of the Lawyer Bands, June 20, 2013.

Booker T. Evans is in the house — as he emceed (and sang) for the Battle of the Lawyer Bands, June 20, 2013.

The Thursday night party has become a loud and raucous staple of the Bar Convention. As I write this late Thursday night, my ears still ring as testament to that fact.

I did not get photos of all the bands in action—I must confess I was enjoying conversation too much to snap pictures. But I did get a shot of one band (Guilty as Sin) while on stage. Expand your imagination to place your own favorite band in that space.

Guilty as Sin on stage at the Biltmore for the State Bar of Arizona Battle of the Lawyer Bands, June 20, 2013.

Guilty as Sin on stage at the Biltmore for the State Bar of Arizona Battle of the Lawyer Bands, June 20, 2013.

The evening’s host was lawyer Booker T. Evans, and he took a few moments between acts to serenade the appreciative crowd. Quite the crooner, that one.

Battle of the Lawyer Bands big check

Yes, that’s a big check, destined for those with a big sound.

When it comes to the band-battle portion of the evening, I had a surprise in store. Because I pay attention too little, I did not realize that real cash-money is at stake. I understood that the audience voted, but I had guessed that bragging rights were at stake, not dollar signs. But as I sat with colleagues just outside the Grand Ballroom (so that we could hear each other), I saw staff gathering up three of those Publishers Clearinghouse-type checks.

I immediately thought two things: I must take my voting privilege seriously. And I should have been far more diligent in my sixth-grade guitar instruction. Live and learn.

All the bands were great, and here are photos of the third, second and first-place winners.

Leon Silver accepts the third-place check for Guilty as Sin.

Leon Silver accepts the third-place check for Guilty as Sin.

Second-place winner Los Big Grandes

Second-place winner Los Big Grandes

First-place The Gotes

First-place winner The Gotes

And let me end with another shot of the inimitable Booker Evans.

Booker T. Evans

Booker T. Evans

Rock on.

The Arizona Attorney Facebook page sports a new button on June 21, 2013.

The Arizona Attorney Facebook page sports a new button on June 21, 2013.

Happy Friday at the State Bar of Arizona Convention.

In case you haven’t wandered over to the magazine Facebook page recently (whaaat?), take a look at our wide profile photo. Here’s how we describe it there:

“In honor of the annual breakfast (on June 21) of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association at the State Bar of Arizona Convention, we’ve changed our profile picture. The vintage button was purchased from an exhibitor at this year’s Bar Convention at the Arizona Biltmore!”

Well, THAT sure sounds like a page worth Liking, doesn’t it?

AWLA Arizona Women Lawyers Association logoAs you read this, I may be tucking into some delicious scrambled eggs and even better fellowship with fellow members of the AWLA. The annual breakfast is the occasion of the granting of the Sarah Herring Sorin Award (past recipients are a who’s who of amazing Arizona lawyers). And funds from the breakfast go toward law school scholarships.

If you missed this year’s breakfast, consider buying a ticket for next year. It’s well worth it.

Twitter on wallKeep 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:

For more detail click on the image below to enlarge.

Twitter at Convention flier 2013

State Bar of Arizona logoWhat follows is a great summary of this week’s State Bar of Arizona Convention, as written by my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

The State Bar of Arizona today kicks off its 2013 Annual Convention at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix. More than 1,700 attorneys from across the state will convene and participate in the 80th annual convention on June 19-21.

This year, the convention will offer more than 45 seminars, nationally recognized speakers, unique social and networking opportunities, along with a silent auction benefitting the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education.

The State Bar of Arizona’s ongoing commitment to technology has lead to several cutting-edge advances. Among them, the popular mobile app that provides convenient access to seminar schedules and speakers, social events and locations, as well as a sitemap to help attendees navigate through the convention with ease. 

Convention Highlights:

  • Hon. Alan C. Page, Minnesota’s first African American Supreme Court Justice and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, will deliver an inspiring keynote address at the State Bar Luncheon on Friday, June 21 from noon to 2 p.m.
  • A distinguished panel including Hon. Ruth V. McGregor, Retired Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; Hon. Mary Murguia of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Hon. Scott Bales, Vice Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; and Debra Erenburg, Director of State Affairs for the Justice at Stake Campaign will explore the history of judicial independence and current trends developing on the national stage and Arizona. They will prompt discussions regarding attacks threatening the independent administration of justice on Friday, June 21, 2013 from 8:45 a.m. to 12 noon.
  • Whitney Cunningham of Flagstaff will be introduced as incoming president of the State Bar of Arizona.

Last year, I explained all of the materials I had to schlep around to cover the State Bar Convention. You can read about that here. And here’s a shot of what I schlepped.

Tools 2 w legend

Covering last year’s State Bar Convention (no legend needed; I’ll let you guess what these are).

I don’t want to sound lazy, but I plan to mount a more stripped-down operation this year. Here is a photo of what I’m carrying at the Biltmore this week (followed by a legend):

Packing for Convention 2013 w legend

Covering this year’s State Bar Convention: stripped-down

A. Droid Smartphone (the workhorse)
B. Notepad
C. Camera (smaller and updated from last year, for when I really need a slightly better shot than the cellphone can provide)
D. Heavily annotated Convention brochure
E. Cables/cords
F. Pen
G. Pencil (for when the pen inevitably dies)
H. Business cards
I. Mints and Advil

Let’s hope that all does the trick.

Please stop by the Arizona Attorney table just outside the Exhibitor Hall. If I’m not there and you have a question or idea; I’m probably only 5 minutes away. Call me at 602-908-6991.

State Bar of Arizona Board officers 2013-2014

State Bar of Arizona Board officers 2013-2014: L to R: Lisa Loo, Richard T. Platt, Whitney Cunningham, Bryan Chambers, Alex Vakula

At its regular annual meeting at the State Bar Convention this afternoon, the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors confirmed its slate of officers for the coming year. The new roster includes the newest officer, Secretary/Treasurer Alex Vakula, elected today: 

  • President: Whitney Cunningham
  • President-Elect: Richard T. Platt
  • First Vice President: Bryan B. Chambers
  • Second Vice President: Lisa Loo
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Alex Vakula

Following board bylaws, the new slate of officers assume their positions at the close of the annual meeting.

State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors 2013-14

State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors 2013-14

Follow more news via this Convention Daily and on Twitter, hashtag #azbarcon

Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa 1

Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, site of the annual State Bar of Arizona Convention, June 19-21, 2013.

This is annual Convention week at the State Bar of Arizona. As always, a dizzying array of educational seminars (and fun activities) are packed into the three-day event held in Phoenix at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa.

More detail about the Convention is here.

Over the years, Arizona Attorney Magazine staff have covered the heck out of the annual event, and this year will be the same. In a later post, I’ll detail some of the tools I lug about to do just that.

As in the past, we will not print a once-a-day hard-copy “Convention Daily.” Instead, we will cover Convention news closer to real time. We will use multiple channels to communicate what’s going on. But the surest way to be sure you see everything is to follow us on Twitter. My name in Twitter is @azatty. You can view all the evolving content here (or at, to be specific). I will be tagging everything with the hashtag #azbarcon – so be sure to search for that.

Want to participate? Send me brief stories or story suggestions. Or if you have convention photos, we’d be glad to share them with readers.

And don’t forget to tweet from convention. Use the hashtag #azbarcon.

Questions or suggestions? Reach the Editor, Tim Eigo, on-site at the Biltmore, at 602-908-6991.

And always feel free to stroll up and say hello. I’ll be hiking all over the Biltmore to cover the goings-on. Or you may catch me at the Arizona Attorney table in the Exhibitor area. If you miss me there, leave your card or a note.

Through planning or happy coincidence, the State Bar of Arizona Convention last week concluded with a focus on the big concepts that drive law and make attorneys and judges worthy of the label “professional.”

If any profession is to tease out and examine the necessary concepts that underlie it, a fine way to do that is to observe the profession under stress. For that reason alone, the remarks of the Iraqi Chief Justice were a superlative end to Convention.

Iraqi Chief Justice Medhat Al-Mahmoud

I wrote before about the visit to Arizona of Chief Justice Medhat Al-Mahmoud. If anything, his insights surpassed attendees’ expectations.

He was introduced by ASU Law School Dean Doug Sylvester, who reminded us that Iraq and its environs are not merely the cradle of civilization; they are the cradle of our legal system.

And then the Chief Justice, his Farsi translated by a dedicated assistant, explained what it was like to have that cradle overturned—and smashed to bits.

When the coalition powers dissolved the Iraqi security agencies, he said, those powers aimed to loosen the grip the agencies had on the people. To an extent, they succeeded. But the rule of law was eliminated, as well.

One of the most concrete examples of that elimination was the destruction of the Ministry of Justice by fire.

“But,” said the Chief Justice, “the judges wanted to go back to the court, sit at their desks and perform their duties.”

“The judiciary realized its role in bringing back the rule of law to Iraq, especially in the capital.”

This realization occurred, of course, when the nation was at war and risk was everywhere. Given that, a courageous focus on the rule of law defies belief.

“We had a willingness to rebuild this house, because we consider it ours as Iraqis; [it is] not the government’s.”

That will to rebuild came in the face of terrible personal sacrifice. The Chief Justice noted that in the process of rebuilding the judiciary, 49 judges were killed, and 132 other employees—prosecutors, public lawyers and others—were assassinated.

On June 12, 2003, the Chief Justice was named the Minister of Justice. His charge was to reestablish the judicial institutions.

That restoration is demonstrated by the numbers: In November 2003, he said, there were 575 judges in Iraq. In 2012, there are 1,328. And his first decision in the rebuilding? Bring back to the court women judges. Their numbers have jumped from 7 in 2003 to 76 today.

What drives an individual to face down danger in order to adhere to an ideal? For the Chief Justice, it comes down to each judge.

“The judge himself must believe in the independence of judges. He must believe in the principle of separation of powers. Without that, he cannot deliver justice.”

The Chief Justice concluded: “Success for justice in Iraq is success for justice all over the world.”

ASU Law School’s Daniel Rothenberg then spoke of the Chief Justice’s willingness to share credit with others. Yes, Rothenberg said, we should admire the “extraordinary quality of patriotism of all Iraqis who put their life on the line” in the pursuit of justice.

But, he added, we also must grasp how important the Chief Justice was to the rebuilding of justice.

Also speaking at the session was Tom Monaghan, a former United States Attorney for the District of Nebraska. His focus that afternoon was on his work from 2003 to 2005 in Kosovo as the U.N.-appointed director of justice.

For those lawyers who are interested in assisting in rule of law initiatives around the globe, panelists suggested they look here.

The day after Convention, I heard from an Arizona lawyer who was beyond pleased at the Chief Justice’s appearance at the event. I’ll end by letting her speak for herself:

“I decided at the last minute to attend the bar convention this year. I drove three hours to Phoenix, mostly to see this man speak, but not knowing what to expect. Well, I was in tears for a good part of his talk—something to do with his passion and sincerity and the beauty of spoken Arabic. But what really enthralled me was the realization that this little guy was a great big hero, because he resurrected the justice system in Iraq. I realized that you can live without electricity, or sanitation, or any of the other necessary amenities of civilized life for a lot longer than you can live without a system of administering justice. These two hours were really all I came for, and it was all I needed. Now I can go back to the practice of law, knowing that it really does make a difference, no matter how much money I make, no matter how tedious and frustrating. Thanks, state bar, for the inspiration. I needed that!”


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