Yesterday, as I climbed the stairs to the office, my morning daze was interrupted by a colleague’s question.

“So the judges are upstairs in the boardroom. Are you heading up?”

Judges?

She could see my mental RAM struggling to overcome my disappearing REM.

“The judges? From Turkey? They’re meeting now.”

Office Outlook palpitations began in the back of my neck. A meeting that I had calendared—inexplicably—for Thursday was being held 15 feet skyward at this very minute.

The previous week, when I had heard that a delegation of Turkish judges was going to visit the State Bar of Arizona, I naturally requested that I be present. I mean, an awful lot happens in and around the State Bar, but judges from Turkey stopping in for a chat? Definitely once-in-a-lifetime stuff.

I had gotten the green light, but promptly got the day wrong on my calendar.

Though the meeting had already started, I decided to attend. No time like the present, I thought. But I was (I had thought blissfully) suit-free.

The Turkish delegation was led by Ministry of Justice Undersecretary Ahmet Kahraman, who is a member of the Judges and Prosecutors High Council

Understand, when I worked as a lawyer or clerked for a judge, at law firms or prosecutors’ offices, I was all about the nice suit. But since then, I have suited up only on the days that my calendar tells me it will be necessary. And Tuesday’s Outlook appeared judge-free.

Well, I plunged in anyway, and I was happy I did.

The U.S. Department of Justice was ferrying these eight judges and members of the Turkish Ministry of Justice on a whirlwind legal tour. On their trip, which runs December 2 through 11, they will visit Washington, Phoenix and Denver. Here is how the DOJ described the goal of the trip’s Arizona portion:

“In terms of purpose, if the study visit could be boiled down to one word, it would be ‘professionalism.’

“The delegates would like to understand how each section of the judicial system helps to develop, maintain, and improve the professionalism of judges and prosecutors.”

The delegates were hosted in Phoenix by Judge Daniel Barker of Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals. On their trip, they visited a variety of legal centers, including the federal court and the Arizona Supreme Court. (They also got to attend a rodeo and have lunch at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.)

So on Tuesday for about an hour, the high-level lawyers and judges spoke with the State Bar’s CEO John Phelps and its General Counsel John Furlong. Everything passed back and forth through two translators, and many topics were covered.

(The delegates were extremely friendly, even going so far as to extend me a gift: a flash drive (4GB!) branded with the Turkish Ministry of Justice name and logo. Thank you, Adalet Bakanlığı!)

One of the delegates summed up their visit:

“In Turkey we believe we have some shortcomings to ensure public trust in our legal system. That’s why we are reviewing the Arizona system, which we know has gained significant ground in that process.”

The Turkish Ministry of Justice is online here. And if you really need the English version, go here.

More on the story will appear in the February issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Last Wednesday, September 22, an event was held that invited service providers who aided undocumented victims of domestic violence. Hosted by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, it was slated for the State Bar of Arizona boardroom.

The meeting notice read:

“An interactive community forum discussion about the challenges undocumented victims in Arizona face when seeking safety and justice.”

January Contreras, Department of Homeland Security

What the flyer did not reveal was the identities of the invited guests. Two high-level officials from Washington, DC, came to listen to the providers.

They were:

  • January Contreras, the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman for the Department of Homeland Security
  • Virginia Davis, the Deputy Director for Policy at the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice

As Contreras said, the officials were there to listen to the assembled group of providers, to hear what they believed was the role of the federal government in regard to undocumented immigrants who are domestic violence victims.

Virginia Davis, Department of Justice

It is unlikely that a more delicate question could be posed by members of the current White House administration. But throughout a morning of polite conversation, barely a mention of controversial state immigration policy arose (SB1070, anyone?). Nor did any provider prod the visitors about the recent decision of the administration to decide against providing a significant grant request to Arizona, funding that would have benefited probably every provider in the room.

In the December Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will provide more detail on what was said—and what was heard—in the State Bar boardroom that day.

For more photos of the events, go to the magazine’s Facebook page.

U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, Arizona Attorney magazine, Jan. 2010

How best to come off a relaxing three-day weekend? Skim some e-mail? Return a few calls?

How about sinking your teeth into 83 pages of pleading paper?

That was my perhaps demented decision today, as I read line after line of the newest complaint filed against Arizona’s immigration regime commonly dubbed SB1070.

A number of lawsuits already have been filed against the new law. And today, the U.S. Department of Justice boarded the leaky freighter called the State of Arizona. In United States v. Janice K. Brewer, the Justice Department enumerated everything wrong with the new law—and made a motion for preliminary injunction, to boot.

The complaint advances the notion that “the federal government has the preeminent authority to regulate immigration issues.” From that foundational (we thought) principle, the DOJ says that the law must be held invalid. It relies on the Supremacy Clause, preemption under various portions of the Federal Code, and the Commerce Clause (that old chestnut).

The DOJ appears to rest its arguments on solid lawyerly stuff. For instance, I haven’t read every word of these pages scattered across my desk, but I’m betting I don’t see anything about “equal protection” or “civil rights.”

(Though the motion for the injunction is slightly more inflammatory. On page 41, it uses the phrase “civil liberties.” And some humanity is captured in the legal theories on page 27, where the DOJ writes, “Lawfully present individuals will inevitably be swept within Section 2’s broad ‘reasonable suspicion’ provision and subject to the state’s inquisitorial burdens.” That’s followed by the following footnote 23:

“Even under Arizona’s own training standards, factors that apply equally to lawfully- and unlawfully-present aliens would bring them within the ambit of Section 2’s “reasonable suspicion” standard. See, e.g., Arizona Peace Officers Standards & Training Board, Arizona S.B. 1070 Training Video, available at http://www.azpost.state.az.us/SB1070infocenter.htm (stating that inability to speak English and dress can be factors in determining reasonable suspicion).”

Maybe the lawyerly approach is a wise choice. I mean, if they feel they can win on the more esoteric aspects of the law, why not do it? The DOJ and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona want to achieve a result, but without alienating large swaths of the population who are fed up about immigration enforcement. So stick to Con Law 101, rather than Civil Rights 101.

By coincidence (?), U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke is hosting his first of a series of Community Civil Rights Forums this very evening. It does not strain the imagination to believe that the DOJ wanted to get this lawsuit filed before Burke had to stand in front of a South Phoenix crowd to talk about equal treatment under the law.

I bet he doesn’t get many questions about the Commerce Clause.

That forum is at South Mountain High School tonight, at 6 pm. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Here is the press release.

Office of the United States Attorney, Dennis K. Burke

District of Arizona

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Public Affairs

Thursday, July 1,2010 WYN HORNBUCKLE

Telephone: (602) 514-7573

Cell: (602) 740-2422

UNITED STATES ATTORNEY TO HOLD COMMUNITY CIVIL RIGHTS FORUMS FOCUSING ON OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT AND HATE CRIMES

PHOENIX – U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke will hold the first of a series of Civil Rights Forums focusing on federal civil rights laws such as official misconduct, new federal statutes on hate crimes and the investigation and prosecution of violations.

The Department of Justice has a longstanding mission to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans. The forum brings together the faith community, local elected officials, the U.S. Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to discuss the Department of Justice’s role in civil rights matters.

As such, the forum is designed to inform the public about reporting allegations of police misconduct and about the elements of a hate crime and what to do if they have been a victim. Additionally, a portion of the forum will also focus on the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act which was signed by President Barack Obama last year. The act makes it a federal crime to willfully cause or attempt to cause bodily injury to another person with any dangerous weapon because of their race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.

“The Department of Justice has a duty to investigate community matters to ensure that an individual’s civil rights are not being violated by law enforcement misconduct or by an individual committing a hate crime,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. “As the U.S. Attorney, I feel strongly that people should have the confidence to come forward to this office or the FBI if they feel their civil rights have been violated or if they have been a victim of a hate crime. To address this issue, I recently created a Civil Rights Unit within the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Unit not only plays an important role in educating and training law enforcement on civil rights matters, but it also vigorously prosecutes crimes of this nature.”

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act carries Shepard’s name, who was killed due to his sexual orientation, as well as the name of James Byrd, Jr. Byrd, an African American, was murdered in 1998 when three men in Jasper, Texas, wrapped a chain around his ankles, hooked the chain to a pickup truck and then dragged him for miles over rural roads outside of Jasper. Byrd was targeted by his killers because of his race.

The Civil Rights Forum will be held in the auditorium of South Mountain High School which is located at 5401 S. 7th Street. The forum will be held on Tuesday, July 6 at 6:00p.m.and doors open at 5:30p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.

# # #

For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/az/

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