Judge George Anagnost moderates the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014. He gestures toward panelists Bob McWhirter and Doug Cole.

Judge George Anagnost moderates the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014. He gestures toward panelists Bob McWhirter and Doug Cole.

Last week, I attended the annual “We the People” CLE program, which gathers smart folks and lets them loose on the most recent High Court Term. The follow-up was complete and often enlightening.

Paul Bender, Doug Cole and Bob McWhirter offered insightful and often humorous takes on a wide variety of the cases taken by SCOTUS. Led by moderator Judge George Anagnost, they were a formidable intellectual team.

(I appreciated Professor Bender’s unintended error when he misquoted the opening words for the Court’s day: “God save the United States from this honorable Court.” Who doesn’t agree with that occasionally?)

And yet I continue to wonder about the marrying of content with the panelists who discuss it. I have covered this topic—diversity—before, and so let me mention it again.

As always, the cases explored by the panel touch on nearly all areas of human experience. But, as an example, how would the treatment of even one case—Hobby Lobby—have varied had there been even one woman scholar on the panel? Some closely held businesses apparently are untroubled by any medical product or procedure save one—and that one affects women most of all. Would a woman scholar’s view have offered a different, compelling vision?

Of course, I do not believe that all women—or all of anyone—think the same way about legal topics. But, conservative, liberal or in between, a woman panelist may have taken more than an academic interest in the issue.

Professor Paul Bender, seated, at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Professor Paul Bender, seated, at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

The same is true of the Shelby case regarding the Voting Rights Act, or the Schuette case regarding affirmative action, or the McCullen case regarding abortion-clinic buffer zones, all ably examined. A mandatory number of African American scholars, or women, per panel is not what I’d expect. But their complete absence is surprising. (Imagine attendees’ surprise if they walked in and saw an all-woman panel, or an all-Black panel. THAT would be news!)

Adding to the oddity of the absence of diversity was the extended discussion on that very topic by the panel. Professor Bender, for example, took pains to note that all of the current Supreme Court Justices have had professional lives as professional judges, rather than some form of law practice (except for Justice Kagan). And he and others noted that the Court may be diverse in some ways, but not in socio-economics, or geography, or even religion (currently, the Court has no Protestants, six Catholics and three Jews).

An attendee could be excused for feeling some disconnect, sympathetic to the desire to see a diverse bench, while at the same time looking around the very room in which we sat …

Bob McWhirter presents at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Bob McWhirter presents at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Again, and in advance of the usual commenters who will say this is window-dressing (or worse): This is about excellent legal education, and a topic on which the State Bar of Arizona has pledged its focus. I found the discussion to be first-rate, but how can we know all of the excellent diverse commentary we are missing? A consistent absence of diverse voices on legal topics that disproportionately affect those very voices is odd, at best. And it makes you wonder if you are getting a full and complete examination of the issues underlying a Supreme Court docket.

That, after all, is what is promised.

OK, have at it in the comment box below.

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.

State Bar of Arizona Bar Leadership Institute bannerHere’s where the rubber hits the road: You know an attorney whom you think is going to tear up the profession (in a good way). Or you suspect you’ve got the leadership DNA within yourself. But how to channel it?

An ideal development tool is on offer by the State Bar of Arizona, which is seeking applicants for its 2014-15 Bar Leadership Institute class.

For my money, this has been one of the Bar’s programs that has had the most impact on ensuring the profession’s future.

But get off the stick, leaders: The application deadline is tomorrow, June 20.

No worries: The Bar makes the process pretty easy. Here’s some more background.

As the Bar describes it, the Bar Leadership Institute is an award-winning nine-month professional development program. Since its inception in 2007 the BLI has prepared more than 100 attorneys for leadership positions within the Bar and the community-at-large. Program sessions cover a variety topics ranging from leadership, ethics and career development, to conversations with judges, government attorneys, in-house counsel and executives. Sessions occur monthly starting with a weekend retreat in September.

Attorneys selected to participate receive:

  • Up to two years of CLE credit
  • Leadership and related education and training in an experiential and mentoring learning environment
  • Opportunities to foster relationships with the State Bar of Arizona, partner bar associations, government and community leaders

Applications—available online here—will be accepted through June 20, 2014.

For questions or additional information, contact Elena Nethers, the State Bar’s Diversity and Outreach Advisor: Elena.Nethers@staff.azbar.org

It’s been my pleasure to work with BLI students and graduates, and I’ve always been impressed. Here’s hoping you offer up a name (maybe yours!) to participate.

old classroom photo students: Over the years, we students of legal education have changed. Have the teachers changed?

Over the years, we students of legal education have changed. Have the teachers changed?

Yesterday, I mentioned a terrific educational program that explored recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Assuming it’s offered again next year, I would recommend you attend.

I tend not to immerse myself in the mechanics of event planning. After all, what I don’t know about that topic is a lot, and those issues may not be of great interest to attorney and other legal readers.

But on this Change of Venue Friday, I do pass on a few notions that implicate the quality and attractiveness of programs.

One of those suggestions I heard from multiple attendees, and it boiled down to: If attorneys have to forego a day of work to attend a 9:30 to 3:00 seminar, couldn’t it be extended slightly so six or so hours of CLE would be available? Traveling to a location (whether in Peoria or in Scottsdale) to get four hours makes the decision to attend a tough one.

I know CLE staff heard that suggestion too, so I leave that to them to consider.

The second issue is a bit touchier, but it is a topic that has struck me at numerous educational events, whether hosted by the State bar or anyone else: Where is the diversity on the speaker panel? Wednesday’s event had none. (In fairness, the keynote speaker is from Pinal County, so there was that geographic diversity.)

I anticipate and acknowledge the fact that in past years, this particular program had some gender and geographic diversity.

So my remarks here are not aimed at one program, but they frame a general question:

As we attend seminars that touch upon virtually all areas of life’s experience, and those programs have non-diverse faculty, how is our educational experience not harmed?

Every one of us has sat through CLEs that touch on all elements of the human condition. The Supreme Court itself regularly passes on the constitutionality of laws that disparately affect significant portions of the population. Can all of those topics be discussed comprehensively by a faculty lacking in diversity—whether gender, race, ethinicity, geography, or anything else.

The State Bar has a real commitment to diversity; it’s even in its core values. And it faces a challenge to effectuate that mission. But for all associations, the pace needs to accelerate. We often are reminded that all associations are in a battle for relevancy, and relevancy is related to accurate and cutting-edge industry information. Our industry is legal, and we count on education that explores cases, laws and policies in a robust, vibrant and diverse way. Anything less is short shrift.

To suggest the seriousness of the issue, I point to a Twitter stream I recently followed as the annual meeting of the Online News Association occurred. As that meeting progressed, I was intrigued by a dialogue that sprang up there.

Megan Finnerty, an Arizona Republic reporter, was tweeting about the ONA meeting, and she retweeted the following about feminist writer Jessica Valenti:

.@jmfbrooks: #ONA13 MT @NABJDigital: .@JessicaValenti & others refuse all-white panels. Individual actions make a difference #mediadiversity

— Megan Finnerty (@MeganMFinnerty) October 19, 2013

So here was a national speaker who indicated a panel’s diversity—or lack thereof—could be a deal-killer for her. She apparently would decline to sit on panels that did not represent the organization’s makeup.

I’m sure some readers will note that the original post was made via the Twitter feed of the National Association of Black Journalists (who are here and here), and it was re-posted by a feminist writer. So doubters may pooh pooh the importance of this whole issue and say, Consider the source. But they’d be mistaken.

I have heard similar critiques from Arizona lawyers—and not just those from the “sister bars.” More and more, non-diverse panels are an arresting vision, ones that attendees connect to a tone-deaf and declining viewpoint.

This week, a colleague shared with me a great article that touches on this topic. It was written by Jan L. Jacobowitz, Director of The Ethics and Professional Responsibility Program Center for Ethics and Public Service at the University of Miami School of Law. And she wisely connects two things that many would keep separate: professionalism and cultural competency.

You can read her whole article here, but it contributes to a conversation about how the quality of education is connected to diversity. And we must wonder: Can we ever achieve (or even approach) cultural competency if multiple viewpoints are not welcomed as participants?

What is your view? Does a diverse panel add value to the information you receive?

Have a great—and diverse—weekend.

State Bar of Arizona logoHere is some great news I pass on from the State Bar of Arizona. Congratulations to all the lawyer–leaders of the Bar Leadership Institute.

Sixteen attorneys from across the state have been selected to participate in the State Bar of Arizona’s 2013-14 Bar Leadership Institute (BLI).

For the seventh 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.

2013-14 Participants:

  • Jason Barraza, Veridus, LLC
  • Brandon Brown, Pima County Attorney’s Office
  • Patrick Camunez, Solo Practitioner
  • Thomas Chiang, Maricopa Public Defender’s Office
  • Charity A. Collins, Goodyear City Prosecutor’s Office
  • Joni Lawrence, Thermo Fluids Inc.
  • Francesca Montenegro, Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP
  • Nora Nuñez, Federal Public Defender’s Office
  • Javier Puig, Schiffman Law Office PC
  • Andrew Reilly, Office of the Attorney General
  • Denise Ryan, Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community
  • Brenda Sandoval, Federal Public Defender’s Office
  • Laura Schiesl, Farhang & Medcoff
  • Natalya Ter-Grigoryan, Tiffany & Bosco PA
  • Michael Valenzuela, Office of the Attorney General
  • Janina Walters, Pinal County Attorney’s Office

Bar 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 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.

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

Here is a photo of the BLI’s recent graduates from the 2012-13 class, whom I reported on here.

State Bar of Arizona BLI graduates 2013

2013 BLI Graduates—Back row, L to R: Brad Martin, Blair Moses, Elizabeth Kruschek, Buck Rocker, Doreen McPaul, Ray Ybarra Maldonado. Front row, L to R: Chris Tozzo, Tabatha LaVoie, Nicole Ong, Laura Huff, Annamarie Frank, Cid Kallen, Jessica Sanchez. Not pictured: Heather Baker.

State Bar of Arizona BLI graduates 2013

2013 BLI Graduates—Back row, L to R: Brad Martin, Blair Moses, Elizabeth Kruschek, Buck Rocker, Doreen McPaul, Ray Ybarra Maldonado. Front row, L to R: Chris Tozzo, Tabatha LaVoie, Nicole Ong, Laura Huff, Annamarie Frank, Cid Kallen, Jessica Sanchez. Not pictured: Heather Baker.

The newest class of the State Bar of Arizona Bar Leadership Institute graduated last Friday. As always, it was a noteworthy event marking the accomplishments of a talented group of lawyers.

You may already know about the BLI, but here is a description of the program:

BLI graduation 2013 1 sign“The Bar Leadership Institute is a nine-month program designed to foster the professional growth and enhance the leadership skills of a diverse group of Arizona attorneys. The purpose is to increase participation and visibility in the State Bar and the community-at-large among historically under-represented groups, with an emphasis on racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability and geographic diversity. In 2009 the Bar Leadership Institute was selected by the American Bar Association to receive its prestigious Partnership Award.”

More detail is here.

Speakers at the graduation stressed the qualities of leadership exemplified by the attorney graduates.

State Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer praised the attorneys, and she thanked them for their continued participation in the work of the Bar.

State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, May 10, 2013

State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, May 10, 2013

CEO John Phelps urged the graduates to value the friendships and connections they forged through the BLI program.

“That network of leaders is something special,” he said. “Take advantage of that friendship; nurture it. You’ve had the opportunity to connect with others in this special program.”

State Bar of Arizona CEO John Phelps, May 10, 2013

State Bar of Arizona CEO John Phelps, May 10, 2013

With a laugh, he concluded, “You’re part of the club now. Be sure to use your club membership.”

Elena Nethers, the Bar’s Diversity and Outreach Advisor, reminded graduates, their families and supporters that the BLI is designed to “enable people to attain their full potential.”

This year, she reported, the 14 graduates arose from a pool of 60 applicants.

Bar Governor Lisa Loo praised the program and the attorneys, taking the time to introduce audience member Henry Ong, a Bar member since 1972. He has been an active participant in the activities of multiple bars, Lisa pointed out. And for good measure, he is the father of Nicole Ong, one of this year’s BLI grads.

Also attending the event was BLI chair and attorney Booker Evans, Jr.

If you are interested in being part of this successful initiative (for yourself or someone else), be sure to share and complete the Bar Leadership Institite application for the coming year’s class. The application is due by June 28.

State Bar Governor Lisa Loo and BLI chair Booker Evans, Jr., at the 2013 BLI graduation

State Bar Governor Lisa Loo and BLI chair Booker Evans, Jr., at the 2013 BLI graduation

Are you still on the bubble as to whether to attend this week’s Minority Bar Convention? Well, let me tell you about a rousing lecture delivered last night. It was by a journalist, not a lawyer, but it communicated eloquently the value to a profession of a focus on diversity and inclusion.

Gwen Ifill speaks at the ASU Cronkite Journalism School, April 1, 2013.

Gwen Ifill speaks at the ASU Cronkite Journalism School, April 1, 2013.

Gwen Ifill, managing editor and moderator of the PBS news show “Washington Week,” gave a public lecture last night at the downtown Phoenix Arizona State University campus. Her topic was “Diversity and Inclusion in the News.”

Last year, I had the opportunity to view Ifill in action as she covered the GOP Presidential Debate in Mesa. Moving from speaker to speaker in the spin room, she asked pointed queries, always seeking to illuminate her audience with the content, rather than with her own presence. (See more of my debate-followup photos here.)

Gwen Ifill interviews Gov. Jan Brewer following the GOP debate, Mesa, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2012

Gwen Ifill interviews Gov. Jan Brewer following the GOP debate, Mesa, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2012

As I listened to Ifill’s remarks at ASU last night, I was thinking about the State Bar’s own Minority Bar Convention, slated for later this week. Ifill aimed her speech to the mass of Cronkite Journalism School students in the room. Clearly, the legal profession is not the only one in which the topic is a welcome consideration. Her presentation was the perfect entrée to a lawyer event dedicated to diversity and inclusion.

First, some background about Ifill and her work.

“Washington Week” is the longest-running prime time news and public affairs program on TV. Ifill also is senior correspondent for “PBS NewsHour.” She also appears frequently as a guest on “Meet the Press.” As the ASU Cronkite website continues:

“Her appearance is sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication as part of an ASU award given to the school last year in recognition of its efforts to advance diversity and inclusion. The inaugural Institutional Inclusion Award included a grant to fund the visit under the university’s Diversity Scholar Series, a biannual event designed to stimulate conversations about diversity, social justice and policy making.”

At ASU on Monday, Ifill described her own path to the highest-profile newsrooms in America. She explained how she grew up to be someone who believes diversity and inclusion are “needed for the profession, for politics, for society and for our general national health.”

But “how in the world did a little black girl get it in her head to be a journalist?” Ifill mused. Well, she liked to write, and early on was drawn to believe that news organizations had an obligation to present the truth. That belief played out in her own relationship with a nonjournalist—St. Nick.

She was 9 years old and had grown skeptical about the reality of Santa Claus. Seeing her waver, Ifill’s dad presented her with their daily newspaper, on the cover of which was a wire story purporting to show Santa Claus himself winging his way to their community. That was enough for her.

“I believed again. It was in a newspaper; how could it not be true?”

The reality of news organizations was a different animal entirely. She recalled approaching her desk as an unpaid worker at a major daily newspaper, where she found a piece of paper with the scrawled words, “Nigger go home.”

So surprised was she that she reported her first reaction as thinking, “I wonder who this is for?” But then she took it to her bosses and let them know that it was unacceptable. Though they knew which aging newspaperman had written the message of hate, he would remain in the newsroom. But they offered Ifill a job.

“It’s not how you get in the door,” said Ifill. “It’s what you do when you get through it.”

Gwen Ifill at ASU title cardShe said that her entire career is based on the belief that journalists have a special responsibility to “get it right.” And doing that is near-impossible, she said, if you decide it’s unimportant to hear from multiple voices.

She recounted her interview with a young senator from Illinois after he delivered a major Democratic Convention speech. And she admitted that the historic nature of the moment escaped her as she wrangled the questions, the timing and all the technology that goes into a modern convention interview—this one with a younger Barack Obama.

“Change happens while we’re not paying attention,” she said. “Transformation occurs under our noses.”

On the topic of race—and of diversity and inclusion generally—Ifill saw it often in presidential politics.

“Sometimes race helps, and sometimes it hurts. But race always matters.”

Ifill stressed the value of diversity to the journalism profession. For her, it is not an “add-on” or a luxury.

The job of the reporter, she said, aligns with the goals of diversity: Open the doors wider. Listen harder.

When she covers a story, Ifill said, “I feel responsible to hear as many points of view as possible. And I want a newsroom with as many different points of view and understandings as possible.”

“Diversity is not just about race or any subset of the population. It’s how you tell the story more fully.”

 “What we get by welcoming diversity and inclusion, by rewarding difference, is simply our salvation as a profession.”

Finally, Ifill said that she is as disappointed as anyone by the rancor in public debate. In contrast, she said that a PBS segment in which Mark Shields and Paul Gigot disagree amicably is one of the most popular segments of the “PBS News Hour.” People clearly yearn for that.

“I am discouraged by the way we all retreat to our corners and only listen to those who agree with us. That’s not healthy. We’re all longing for civility in public conversation, even when there’s disagreement.”

“That, too, is diversity.”

The profession of journalism is not the profession of law, so strict parallels cannot be drawn. Nonetheless, I am struck by alignments, such as: professions in crisis; declining trust among and little perceived relevance to outsiders; declining interest among those choosing professions; occasional tone-deaf leaders who prefer to hear from only traditional voices.

Those characteristics cannot be the path to salvation—for any profession.

Once more, then, here is the link to the Minority Bar Convention.

And here is a link to photos of Ifill’s visit, via the Facebook page of the the National Association of Black Journalists–Arizona State University Collegiate Chapter.

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