This week, I’ll have some great news about awards to Arizona legal entities, demonstrating once again that our state is filled with people committed to justice and the pursuit of professionalism.

Today’s announcement goes out to the remarkable folks at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. This week, the American College of Trial Lawyers bestowed on the Florence Project its prestigious Emil Gumpert Award for 2012.

Arizona Attorney Magazine and I are great fans of the Florence Project, which routinely provides legal services under challenging conditions to people who often have no other recourse.

Here is the announcement from the ACTL:

PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Dennis J. Maggi, CAE, Executive Director

American College of Trial Lawyers

949.752.1801

dmaggi@actl.com

Pro Se Material Project of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project Selected as Emil Gumpert Award Recipient

“The American College of Trial Lawyers announces the Pro Se Material Project of The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, of Florence, Arizona, as the winner of the 2012 Emil Gumpert Award. The $50,000 first-place prize is funded by a grant from the Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers. The funds will enable The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project to inventory, review and redesign current pro se materials to improve and expand access to self-help materials for pro se detainees in Arizona and across the country.

“The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project provides free legal services to men, women and unaccompanied children detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona. Although the federal government assists indigent criminal defendants and civil litigants through public defenders and legal aid attorneys, it does not provide attorneys for people in immigration removal proceedings. As a result, an estimated 86 percent of immigrant detainees go unrepresented due to poverty. The grant from the American College of Trial Lawyers will support the goal of the Pro Se Material Project to ensure unrepresented indigent immigrant detainees pursuing viable claims in immigration court have access to accurate, clear and useful legal information so they may more effectively represent themselves pro se.

“The Emil Gumpert Award recognizes programs, whether public or private, whose principal purpose is to maintain and improve the administration of justice. The award honors the late Honorable Emil Gumpert, Chancellor and Founder of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Through his dedication to the legal profession for more than 50 years, Judge Gumpert’s legal career encompassed that of eminent trial lawyer, California State Bar president and trial judge.

“Previous Emil Gumpert Award winners have included The Southern Public Defender Training Center, Atlanta, Georgia (2011); the Older and Wiser Program of Neighborhood Legal Services, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2010); Pro Bono Law Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario (2009); And Justice For All, Salt Lake City, Utah (2008); The National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children, Washington, D.C. (2007); Legal Aid University, Boston, Massachusetts (2006); and Dakota Plains Legal Services, Mission, South Dakota (2005).

“The Pro Se Material Project of The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project was chosen from a wide field of applicants throughout the United States and Canada who seek grants to promote projects of global application and with potential for replication in other locations. The Pro Se Material Project meets all the College’s criteria through its ability to duplicate, encourage and extend its services beyond the jurisdiction of its existing program in Arizona.

Emil Gumpert

“The American College of Trial Lawyers is composed of the best of the trial bar from Canada and the United States and is widely considered to be the premier professional trial organization in America. Founded in 1950, the College is dedicated to maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession. Fellowship in the College is extended by invitation only, after careful investigation to those experienced trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality.”

Congratulations to the Florence Project and its staff of talented, dedicated people. More about the award is here.

On that page, you can see the groups that won this award in the past. But the online list only goes back to 2005. Travel back one more year and you’ll see that the 2004 Emil Gumpert Award went to the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. You can read about that honor in the words of then-Dean Toni Massaro.

Arizona, leading again.

I offer you a Blues-filled post on this Change of Venue Friday—of the legal kind.

As I touted last week, a Phoenix benefit concert will occur this Saturday to provide support for the Florence Project, “the only organization providing urgent, free legal defense to immigrants detained and facing deportation in Arizona. The Project will assist more than 9,000 people this year with a staff of just 16 based in the prison town of Florence.”

Headlining Saturday at the Rhythm Room will be KT & The Repeat Offenders. Yes, I told you that before. But since that post, I took the time to watch a little of their handiwork via Youtube. And they’re good—really good.

So I leave you with a few of their many clips. Enjoy. And be sure to buy a ticket—now or at the door (click here for more information). I hope to see you there.

“Help Me”

“Sick and Tired”

“Church Is Out”

“I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (the Way You Treated Me)”

Sara Lofland (left) and Tally Kingsnorth of the Florence Project at the State Bar of Arizona, Nov. 10, 2011

This morning, representatives from the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project presented at the State Bar of Arizona on pro bono opportunities (I wrote about the event earlier this week). The comments were insightful, and speakers indicated that the need for legal representation is constant.

Thanks to Florence Project lawyers Tally Kingsnorth and Sara Lofland for their presentation.

So let’s get right to the point. If you’re an Arizona lawyer and are interested in offering your time, or if you have questions about the Project, write to Tally Kingsnorth. She is the Pro Bono Coordinator and a Senior Staff Attorney there. Her email is tkingsnorth@firrp.org.

Not sure you’re quite up to sending that email yet? No problem; there is another path. Click here to read more about the Project and the work they do. You’ll get some insight into their needs in immigration and dependency, and their mission to help adults and children. It may answer many of your questions.

And then you should contact Tally. Did I mention her email? It’s tkingsnorth@firrp.org.

Finally, if you’re still not sure about dipping your toe into this initiative, then maybe it’s time to get your toes tappin‘. That’s where Music for Justice comes in.

Music for Justice is a benefit concert on November 19. But given the great venue and the act, most of the benefit will accrue to the attendees. It will be held at The Rhythm Room in Phoenix (1019 E. Indian School Road, 602-265-4842), and the headliners are KT and the Repeat Offenders (don’t you love lawyer-band names?).

As the promotional material says, KT and the Repeat Offenders “is a 12-piece, high-energy rhythm and blues band that plays blues, 60s R&B, Santana, rock, and Motown music.” Among the players will be former Judge (and current Florence Project President) Noel Fidel on trumpet.

Want to see more about the band? Click here, and go to Youtube to search for more of their work.

Tickets are $20 in advance, or $25 at the door. Proceeds from Music for Justice will benefit the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. (The Project is also on Facebook. Why don’t you go ahead and Like them? Arizona Attorney Magazine has.)

You may purchase tickets to the blues-y event here. Or you could mail a check (yup, that still works) to Florence Project, P.O. Box 654, Florence, AZ 85132 with “Nov. 19 fundraiser” in the memo line. They will mail your tickets to you.

Finally, in case I failed to provide it, here is Tally’s email: tkingsnorth@firrp.org.

And remember: There’s no groove like the Justice groove. Let’s get moving.

Here are a few more photos from today’s great CLE.

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This Thursday, Arizona lawyers have the chance to help others—and to gain valuable experience in the process.

That day, the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Arizona presents an educational program by the staff of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, the nationally known initiative that provides a wide variety of immigration services.

Last October, I wrote about the Florence Project (here and here and other places too). They deserve your support, and Thursday is all about making that happen.

Note: An RSVP is required. Read farther down for more information.

Pro Bono Opportunities to Serve Immigrants Detained in Arizona

Tally Kingsnorth and Sara Lofland are excited to introduce the Young Lawyers to the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project’s (Florence Project) Pro Bono Program. Their presentation will cover the deportation process, defenses and relief from removal, typical immigration cases selected for pro bono placement, and the level of mentoring support provided by the Florence Project’s program. In addition, Tally and Sara will give an overview of the organization’s current projects and a short history of the Florence Project, which is unique nationally in the services it provides.

Speakers:

Sara Lofland, The Florence Project

Thalassa Kingsnorth, The Florence Project

Date/Time: Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. 

Registration begins at 7:45 a.m.

Location: State Bar of Arizona, Boardroom, 3rd Floor

4201 N. 24th St., Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85016

Cost (wait for it …): FREE

RSVP by Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You can RSVP by:

Mail: State Bar of Arizona, Attn: Teri Yeates, 4201 N. 24th St., Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85016-6288

Phone: 602-340-7312

Fax: 602-416-7512

Email: Teri.Yeates@staff.azbar.org

We got word this week that a law firm has received a prestigious award.

Fennemore Craig has been given the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project’s Pro Bono Leadership Award.

I have written before about the Florence Project, including the contributions to its clients made by Fennemore Craig attorneys.

Congratulations to the firm, and to all lawyers who give freely of their time to deserving causes.

Here is the complete press release:

Fennemore Craig recognized for work with Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project

Phoenix, AZ, Jan. 31, 2011— Fennemore Craig has been given the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project’s Pro Bono Leadership Award.

The award recognizes Fennemore Craig’s volunteer work and help to develop Florence Project Programs. Fennemore Craig attorneys took eight case referrals from the Florence Project in 2010. Fennemore Craig lawyers who worked pro bono on Florence Project cases are McKenzie Brown, Jason Covault, Andrew Breavington, Todd Allison, Meredith Marder, Jake Cranston, Jason Spect and Carrie Pixler.

The Florence Project provides legal assistance to people who are detained in the United States immigration system and who cannot afford a lawyer. Many refugees have fled their countries because they fear imprisonment, torture, or death because of their ethnic identity, religion or political beliefs.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency keeps many refugees in correctional facilities in Florence and Eloy while their cases are pending, sometimes for over a year. Pro bono assistance is required because immigration detainees do not have a right to government-appointed lawyers.

Fennemore Craig is a full service law firm for businesses with nearly 200 attorneys and offices in Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, Las Vegas and Denver. For more information, visit http://www.fennemorecraig.com.

Last week was the National Pro Bono Celebration. In honor of that event sponsored by the American Bar Association, we posted stories on lawyers who have stepped up to help at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. In doing that, we got additional ideas sent our way. So this week, we will publish a few more stories about these stand-up lawyers.

Lawyers travel many paths to become someone who offers help to those in need. Often, the gap between legal services and those whose lives depend on it is brought to their attention. In other situations, the lawyer seeks out the gap and plunges in to fill it.

David Krupski, Lewis and Roca

David Krupski is a products liability lawyer at Lewis and Roca in Phoenix. In his day-to-day practice involving pharmaceutical and medical devices, it is safe to say that clients in that industry get top-notch legal service. But even before Krupski launched himself into that practice, he sought to help others.

“I wanted a strong commitment to pro bono,” Krupski says. “And I sought it out in a firm.”

That desire to work at a place with a pro bono commitment took him to Lewis and Roca.

It was two summers ago, Krupski explains, that he took on an asylum case that came from the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. (Though that case is completed, he currently has another pro bono case through the Volunteer Lawyers Program.)

Details of the two-year-old case are still fresh in Krupski’s mind—and for good reason. The facts of his African client’s life and struggle were tragic. They included a father who left the family when the youngster was about 1—and burned the family house to the ground as he left. The boy left home when he was 5 or 6, and was completely on his own since age 8. His life by that point had been marked by deprivation and abuse at the hands of his mother and siblings.

Eventually and a world away, the young man found himself in Arizona a few months shy of his 18th birthday. Krupski filed a petition for asylum for his client, which eventually was granted. Along the way, he had to address a number of issues, including the difficulty of establishing identity.

That issue is always a difficult one, the lawyer says, in cases where the client is a refugee. It was made more difficult by the young age at which his client left home, and the fact that he had absent and uncooperative parents.

Krupski doesn’t hesitate when he’s asked what he took away from the experience.

“It’s about helping people who couldn’t help themselves.”

The Lewis and Roca associate says he very much enjoys his law practice. “But getting the opportunity to help a person who is in a lot of trouble—that is on an entirely different level.”

To offer your legal services to the Florence Project pro bono, contact Tally Kingsnorth, a staff attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator, at tkingsnorth@firrp.org

Staff and Interns of the Florence Project

 

This week has been designated by the American Bar Association as the National Pro Bono Celebration. Today, we speak with a lawyer from Fennemore Craig who has taken on a client whose case came to the attention of the Florence Project. More stories on lawyer experiences will follow.

Jason Covault

For many attorneys, the law takes them to a focused area, both conceptually and geographically. There may be intellectual journeys, but they’re increasingly circumscribed as one’s practice develops. There may be opportunities to take the world atlas off the shelf, but once we locate Wilmington, Del., for our corporate clients, our search may be done.

A journey of a different magnitude was in store for Jason Covault, when he agreed to represent pro bono someone who was detained on an immigration matter. From his office at Fennemore Craig, the commercial litigator got the chance to examine affairs half a world away.

Covault did not hesitate when he was asked by his fellow associate Al Arpad to take a case that came to them from the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project.

“Florence selects cases carefully, and these are people who have a decent legal claim. But if they don’t have an attorney, it is very unlikely that they’ll win.”

Al Arpad

As a former prosecutor, Covault had experience arguing cases and questioning witnesses in an adversary proceeding. And he also was confident because of the resources available to him: The Florence Project bank of similar motions and declaration, as well as its network of lawyers and firms; online handbooks published by the U.S. Government; and his own firm’s extensive experience with immigration and detainee cases.

If the law appeared manageable, the facts of Covault’s case could be described as a curveball.

His client was a Somali man, younger than 20 years old. He had been displaced from his home when he was a child, and had been on a worldwide journey that took him eventually to ICE detention in Arizona.

Covault explains that the boy and his family had lived in Kismayo, a port town that is Somalia’s third-largest city. Their life was good, as his father was a high-level city official. But when a militant Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, took over the city, his father had to flee to Ethiopia.

The boy was “on the radar” of Al-Shabaab because of his father’s status and because the youth spoke English. He was captured and tortured, and then offered the chance to convert and fight with his captors. “In the narrow period of time he was given to think about it,” says Covault, he too escaped, to Ethiopia and to Kenya for a time. (A story in today’s New York Times reports that the Shabaab executed two teenaged girls—14 and 18—claiming that they were Ethiopian spies.)

Here in Arizona, the legal issues Covault had to address included identity (“always an issue,” he says, in cases where refugees fled and have no access to documents), whether his client would be discriminated against if he were returned to Somalia, and whether he had ever “firmly resettled” back in Ethiopia (for if he had, he may be in no danger to be returned there).

“The case took a lot longer than I expected,” admits Covault. To get through the initial hearing, he says, required only about 20 hours of legal work. But a government witness claimed that Covault’s client was Kenyan, leading the United States to want to deport him to that country. The judge continued the case, and the issue was eventually settled in his client’s favor. But the case took about 85 hours of pro bono time. The added issue also required more trips south to Florence—about six in total.

Susan Wissink

Covault is pleased to report a favorable outcome: The judge granted asylum, and the government waived its appeal.

He recommends the experience to other attorneys. He says that it was “solid litigation experience,” one he won’t soon forget. In fact, he just participated in a meeting with Fennemore’s newest associates. With Florence Pro Bono Coordinator Tally Kingsnorth, firm partner and Pro Bono Chair Susan Wissink and others, he described his experience and encouraged them to take a case.

“You definitely breathe a sigh of relief when you’re done,” he says. Because of what’s at stake, “It is more nerve-wracking than advocating for your corporate clients.” And in the process, Covault managed to earn a global education.

If you are considering offering your legal services to the Florence Project pro bono, contact Tally Kingsnorth, a staff attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator, at tkingsnorth@firrp.org

Tomorrow: Another lawyer’s story.

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