Panelists of "Lawyering Political Environment," June 19, 2013

Panelists of “Lawyering in a Political Environment,” June 19, 2013

The State Bar Convention offers a multitude of learning opportunities. But I’m only one guy, so I opted to attend a morning seminar titled “Lawyering in a Political Environment.” It was deemed a President’s Award winner, and it seemed a good way to start my own 2013 Convention experience.

L to R: Kelly Schwab, Joe Kanefield

L to R: Kelly Schwab, Joe Kanefield

Here’s what I discovered: The first seminar in the first day of the annual State Bar Convention largely had to do with a lawyer who had been disbarred by the State Bar. Quite a morning. But in that regard, the educational offering was probably unique among seminars that could be offered at bar conferences nationwide. Arizona is an interesting place.

The conversation was far ranging, but panelists and their moderator Robert Robb found themselves, more often than not, addressing ethical challenges created by former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas—now disbarred. And because of that, the seminar was a timely and relevant presentation to a packed house of attorneys who had learned firsthand about the risks of blending law and politics.

The panel was a powerhouse one:

  • Former United States Attorney Paul Charlton
  • Former Governor’s Counsel Joe Kanefield
  • Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery
  • Former Pinal County Attorney Jim Walsh
  • Attorney Kelly Schwab

Robb asked panelists to offer their general views about lawyering in a public setting.

Paul Charlton opened by saying that “Public service is a noble enterprise. Every day your one, monolithic goal is to give back.”

L to R: Robert Robb. Jim Walsh, Paul Charlton

L to R: Robert Robb, Jim Walsh, Paul Charlton

He continued by discussing his most difficult decision as United States Attorney—one that had career-changing implications.

“My most difficult decision? Whether to seek the death penalty.”

Charlton made a choice that did not square with the thinking of the United States Attorney General and so, he said, “I got fired for it.”

“How do you deal with those who take a political view of the world, or with those who think the death penalty should be sought—not pursued—in every situation?”

Bill Montgomery stepped into an office in which the top prosecutor had made politicizing legal decisions the norm. Montgomery says his focus has been on changing that atmosphere.

“It’s about knowing what’s right and wrong, not what’s right and left.”

Joe Kanefield recalled the biggest challenge faced by lawyers in state government: “resisting pressure to pursue legal remedies for political challenges.”

Moderator Robb asked the panel if elected attorneys are “special” because they serve voters first.

“Andy Thomas thought he was special,” said Robb. “But who is the client? Should the criminal and civil functions be separated” to reduce the possibility of overreaching?

No, said Charlton. “I’d say that’s a solution in search of a problem,” because instances like that are rare, “except that we do have Andrew Thomas in our recent history.”

“But that was an aberration,” he continued. “Though it was awful for anyone caught in Thomas’ crosshairs,” the legal community generally “catches” such behavior before it becomes egregious.

Robb kept the focus on specifics when spoke about Bill Montgomery’s recent legal advice to County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox that she had a conflict in regard to the county’s civil suit involving Sheriff Joe Arpaio. But the focus remained on a former prominent attorney.

Charlton said, “It was right to go after Andrew Thomas; it was right to take his license.”

L to R: Paul CHarlton, Bill Montgomery, Kelly Schwab

L to R: Paul Charlton, Bill Montgomery, Kelly Schwab

The whirlwind seminar included conversation about prosecutions of former Congressman Rick Renzi, Senator Ted Stevens, major league ballplayer Roger Clemens and others. And it extended beyond the practical challenges that prosecutors—especially elected prosecutors—face daily. It winded up with a discussion of possible changes to the Ethical Rules to accommodate the unique situations they may face. And at least one panelist recommended that young line prosecutors need a place to turn when challenges arise.

“We used to call them an ombudsman,” said Jim Walsh. “But whatever they’re called, we need someone in prosecutor offices that those attorneys can go to” when they develop the sense they are being asked to do questionable things to further political ends.

Proposition 115 is on the November ballot in Arizona, and its passage would lead to changes in the way we select certain judges (appellate court judges and superior court judges in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties).

This past month, State Bar CEO John Phelps co-wrote an article in Arizona Attorney that described the history of merit selection. The authors also explored what would change under the new law.

As John pointed out, there is a wide variety of opinion among the state’s lawyers and judges over the wisdom of passing Prop 115. The State Bar is supporting its passage and has written a ballot-pamphlet statement on its behalf.

(To read the text of the Proposition as well as all of the “For” and “Against” statements, go here.)

An event tomorrow night may allow you to hear both sides state their cases. The Maricopa County Bar Association (which wrote an “Against” statement in the voter pamphlet) is hosting a forum on the topic. It will be held at their offices at 303 E. Palm Lane in Phoenix, from 4:30 to 5:30.

More information on the event is here.

As the MCBA describes it:

“All sides of the issue will be debated by a distinguished panel moderated by Michael Grant of Gallagher & Kennedy.”

“The panelists are Hon. Ruth V. McGregor, retired chief justice, Arizona Supreme Court; Mark I. Harrison, Osborn Maledon; Peter Gentala, counsel to the majority, Arizona House of Representatives; and Joseph A. Kanefield, immediate past president of the State Bar of Arizona of Ballard Spahr.”

Admission is free, but they’ve asked people to register their attendance with bboehlke@maricopabar.org.

I may see you there.

Here’s a map to the location:

The State Bar Convention is about a lot more than merit selection of judges—but a dialogue on the topic ranged through numerous sessions.

Prop 115 panel, L to R: Grady Gammage, Jr., Peter Gentala, Hon. Mary Schroeder, Pete Dunn, Hon. Ruth McGregor (ret.)

An unscientific survey (by me in the Biltmore hallways) reveals that too few lawyers are even aware that a ballot proposition is headed our way that would alter the Arizona Constitution in a way that should be of interest to all.

Proposition 115, as it’s been numbered, will be on the November ballot. For some background on merit selection generally, see a page on the State Bar website (the State Bar supports the compromise).

A Wednesday morning seminar at Convention covered the general topic of the relationship between the Legislature and the courts. And as I noted previously, even that session ended up substantially focused on merit selection.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, a session dedicated to the topic provided a stellar panel. It included Ninth Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder; former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor (ret.); Pete Dunn of the Arizona Judges Association; Peter Gentala, Counsel to the Majority in the state House of Representatives; and State Bar President Joe Kanefield. The moderator was Grady Gammage Jr. (who has performed this task, on the same subject, before).

A slide on the judicial merit-selection compromise

Judge Mary Schroeder, in short order, explained why we have merit selection, why she opposes Prop 115 and why Arizonans should be proud of their judges. Justice McGregor then did the same.

On the other side of the issue, Peter Gentala and Pete Dunn urged support for Prop 115.

State Bar President Joe Kanefield

Dunn, however, said that even he believes Prop 115 will be defeated “because it’s a very complex proposition and people usually vote no.” But if it goes down, he added, we had better be ready for a legislative backlash. He said he would expect “a total emasculation of merit [selection] in coming sessions.”

Four audience members spoke, largely in opposition to the proposition or simply seeking clarification. Speaking for the State Bar and its support of Prop 115 were Amelia Craig Cramer and Whitney Cunningham.

Justice Scott Bales

Gazing at the packed-to-the-gills Grand Ballroom at the Arizona Biltmore, it occurs to a lawyer that there may be no better way to kick off a Bar Convention committed to education for the future than to look back at legal pioneers.

That must have been the thinking of Convention organizers driven by the motto “100 Years of Lawyers Serving Arizona.”

That concept gave us Wednesday’s lunch, which included a witty and insightful panel led by Justice Scott Bales (and introduced by Bar President Joe Kanefield). Accompanying him in a triumvirate of value-laden remarks were Roxie Bacon and Grant Woods. Bravo to all.

The event was comprised of fascinating video clips—eight minutes in all—featuring Justice Bales interviewing retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Her memories were crisp, direct, funny and—given her experience as a woman lawyer pioneer—occasionally startling.

Those clips were pure gold. But they were complemented by being punctuated by the panel’s own remarks.

Roxie Bacon and Grant Woods

In those remarks, Roxie and Grant shared names of others, in addition to Justice O’Connor, whom they count as their own pioneers and mentors.

Grant reminded the audience that Justice O’Connor was the most powerful and influential woman in the country for a long time. But he added his own debt to retired Justice Stanley Feldman, who brought many others to his side “by the force of his argument and the power of his intellect.”

Justice Scott Bales

Roxie spoke warmly about retired Arizona Chief Justice Charles “Bud” Jones. Politically and in other ways, she said, they could not have been more different. “He was the most unlikely mentor you ever could have imagined for me.”

And yet, she said, he was caring and compassionate toward her as a younger lawyer. “With dignity and humor he brought me into the big leagues of employment and labor law.”

The audience clearly enjoyed a lunch committed to Arizona’s legal history. And the biggest laugh of the day may have come on the heels of a story Grant Woods told about a judge who was well known for always following her own tune.

In a high-profile case, an older man—Grant suggested he was 68 years old—was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Clearly upset, the man sputtered to the judge, “Your honor, I’m 68 years old. I don’t think I can do 40 years!”

Ever polite and charming, the judge leaned over her bench and gazed down at the convicted man.

Joe Kanefield

“That’s all right. You just do as many as you can.”

Well done.

Have a great conference.

The May issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, online and in print now, is all about creativity. And why not? It features the winners of our annual Creative Arts Competition.

A fortune cookie that cheered me as we worked on our May issue

So with creativity a lot on my mind, and this being Change of Venue Friday, I thought I’d share my editor’s column from the issue. Scroll down for that.

First, though: As I mention in that column, State Bar of Arizona President Joe Kanefield even stepped up to showcase his drawing talents. I enjoyed his self-portrait quite a bit.

Joe Kanefield self-portrait

Joe was an inspiration, and his effort caused me look for my own self-portrait that I inked last year. Our younger daughter asked everyone in the family to draw themselves in a place they’d like to be, and this is what I came up with.

And then, as we were working on the arts issue, I happened into a Barnes & Noble bookstore (yes, there are still buildings that sell books). As I scanned the shelves, I came across a unique offering: Boxes and boxes of activities to feature your hidden talent or ability.

Much to my surprise, the target audience did not appear to be kids. And as I found myself attracted to, say, a kit that would help me make a superb paper airplane, or learn to play the ukulele, I realized how strong that yearning for creativity is. (I rather unkindly dubbed the items “hobbies for midlife”; self-knowledge can be so ugly!)

It appears that we all seek the side of ourselves that can make something, or transform something. And if we’re not sure what that “thing” is, perhaps Barnes & Noble can help.

That, I suppose, is why our arts issue is so popular with readers.

Here is a slideshow with just a small part of the boxed-creativity on offer at your local bookstore:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finally, before ending with my column, I share one more piece of encouragement. You may have seen this before; it is a letter declining a piece of submitted art. The author is the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The recipient and disappointed artist? Andy Warhol.

See! What does the world know?

Well, enough of that, Here’s my column. Have a great—and creative—weekend.

Mind the Gap

We all like to observe talented people.

That’s one of the conclusions I draw from the feedback I receive annually to this issue, our Creative Arts Competition winners month.

More evidence of that: To my surprise, two separate columnists this month opened their pages with almost the identical line: “This is my favorite issue of Arizona Attorney.” (I’m not telling you more; you have to scour our pages to see for yourself.)
I, too, have always been a fan of this issue. These people are not only talented; they’re brave to put their creative juices on public display.

But (maybe I’m the only one), my pleasure at seeing all that talent on display is salted with surprise at the wide gap between me and the huge accomplishments of all these lawyer–artists (OK, you might call it “envy”).

I suspect many readers share what I call my “supportive dismay” at how little creative work we have achieved in the past year. This magazine is printed evidence that lawyers can lead balanced lives. And if they can do it, why can’t I? What’s my problem?

Well, if the Lorax speaks for the trees, I advocate for the shrub, yearning to grow taller; I tout the lawyer who is aiming for more creative balance.

My own household offers a kick in the pants. For example, my wife, a busy university professor, took up the ukulele a few years ago—while I gazed at a dust-gathering guitar. And she and our two daughters are about to start tap-dancing class—while I consider trying a new setting on my digital camera. The talent gap widens.

The day I worked on this column, though, a waitress handed me a fortune cookie whose contents offered me—and maybe you—the encouragement we need. I share it to remind us that we all have undiscovered talents, so let’s get on it.

There—Loraxed!

(And before I forget, here are some photos I shot at our photo shoot of the Creative Arts Competition winners.)

Talent lies hidden in many places in this issue. For instance, I commend to you Joe Kanefield’s President’s Message, where he shares his self-portrait.

And deep in our story on the Bill of Rights Monument, you may miss the fact that Chris Bliss of MyBillofRights.org has wowed folks with his juggling talents for years. Watch his talent here.

Inspired? It’s time to jump into your own talent. The Lorax and I will cheer you on.

Ribbon-cutting on April 27, 2012. L to R: State Bar employee George Schader, Shirley McAuliffe, former Bar President John Bouma, Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, former Bar President Alan P. Bayham, Jr.

On Friday, April 27, the State Bar of Arizona hosted a Phoenix ribbon-cutting for its newly configured first-floor offices. Included in the event was the dedication of the new Daniel J. McAuliffe CLE Center, named for a former Bar President and ethics expert.

(Here is my 2007 profile of the inestimable Dan McAuliffe when he became State Bar President, as well as a story I wrote when he died in 2010.)

In this post are a few photos of the event (all photos are by Bob Rink). The full set is available on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Shirley McAuliffe in front of a State Bar case bearing memorabilia honoring her husband Daniel J. McAuliffe.

Last week, we got good news from State Bar of Arizona President Joe Kanefield that April has been named Access to Justice Month by Gov. Jan Brewer. Joe, as you probably know, was the governor’s lawyer (before he headed over to his partnership at Ballard Spahr). So we thank the governor, but also recognize the fingerprints of a man whose commitment to access to justice goes back decades.

(Here’s a profile of Joe I wrote last summer.)

And here is the proclamation itself (click to make the pages larger).

State Bar CEO John Phelps made the following announcement to Bar staff:

“As you all know, our mission statement was changed last year to add ‘access to justice.’ And this theme has been the primary focus of our president, Joe Kanefield. We should take pride in the State Bar’s historical commitment and recent re-commitment, under Joe’s leadership, to this important principle—that to make the promise of equal justice under the law a reality, all Arizonans must have access to the system that underwrites that promise.”

In the coming year, we at Arizona Attorney Magazine would like to tell some of the stories of Arizona lawyers who are improving access to justice. Contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Example of stonework to be used in Arizona monument to the Bill of Rights.

A May 13 comedy concert at Symphony Hall in Phoenix promises an impressive roster of nationally known comics. Tickets, expected by event organizers to sell out quickly, go on sale at 10:00 a.m. today on ticketmaster.com.

The concert aims to raise funds for the installation of a Bill of Rights Monument in Wesley Bolin Plaza at the State Capitol in Phoenix. The planned dedication this coming December would signal the first such installation in the United States. No state or other public monies are being spent on the monument; organizers say they must raise $400,000 to complete the project. (State Bar of Arizona President Joe Kanefield is on the Executive Fundraising Committee.)

Chris Bliss

Chris Bliss, executive director of MyBillofRights.org, is spearheading the monument project. He worked with event expert Danny Zelisko to develop the comedy evening. Comics slated to appear will be Lewis Black, Bill Engvall, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dick Gregory, Kathleen Madigan, Tommy Smothers and Steven Wright. Musical guests from the band Little Feat will be Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett.

Bliss says that individual ticket prices are reasonable and well worth the comedy talent that will be on display. But he urges anyone interested in a “Hall of Fame comedy experience” to consider purchasing special VIP seating. Called the Founders Circle and President’s Circle, the seats are described more fully here. According to Bliss:

“Founders Circle seats include an invitation to the artists’ reception before the concert, and a signed lithograph (by all the artists) of the event poster. The President’s Circle is available to individuals, but is also for businesses and firms of any size that want participate in this truly historic project. Individuals at the firm/business make their tax-deductible contributions to MyBillofRights.org, and both the individual and the firm/business get recognition in the concert program and on our website, along with a block of premium seats determined by the total amount. Or businesses can contribute directly through the fiscal sponsorship of the Arizona Community Foundation.”

The Monument is touted by Bliss as a historic legacy for the state, “one that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will get to visit and be inspired by.”

For more information, see my previous coverage here, here and here. And view a story by a local Fox affiliate here.

A longer story on the Monument project will appear in the May Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Poster for May 13 comedy concert

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Oct. 6, 2011

On October 6, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon declared Mediation Week, which will occur October 16-22. It was at the request of the State Bar of Arizona Alternative Dispute Resolution Section.

At the event, State Bar President Joe Kanefield delivered remarks, as did Mayor Gordon and ADR Section member Donna Williams.

A few photos more photos from the event are below. More are online at the magazine Facebook page.

President Kanefield’s remarks are available here

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, State Bar President Joe Kanefield and members of the ADR Section, Oct. 6, 2011Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and State Bar President Joe Kanefield, Oct. 6, 2011

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and State Bar President Joe Kanefield, Oct. 6, 2011

President Joe Kanefield in Arizona Attorney Magazine, July/August 2011

In the current issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we’re running a profile of Joe Kanefield (which I wrote, love it or hate it). Joe is the new President of the State Bar of Arizona, and our July/August profile is an annual feature we’ve been running for decades.

You can read the article here.

Among Joe’s many talents, he also is a formidable runner. As I write in the story:

Kanefield’s hobbies may be as interesting as many people’s careers. They range across media, from music, to photography, to running.

Joe Kanefield, center, 2006, at Leg 1 of the Baker to Vegas Challange Relay

James Schwegel, a Special Agent Supervisor in the Attorney General’s Office, recalls the young lawyer’s contribution to a unique endeavor: the 120-mile law enforcement relay race known as “Baker to Vegas.” It begins near Death Valley, goes over a mountain and finishes in Las Vegas. Schwegel says their goal is always to finish in less than 18 hours. To do that, they need 20 strong runners and 15 dedicated crew members.

“Joe was the perfect fit for the [AG's] team,” Schwegel says. “Fast, competitive, upbeat and always supportive of his teammates. This combination of qualities resulted in Joe being chosen to start the race for Team AG three years in a row. He always set the perfect tone for the rest of the team—competitive but always friendly and good-natured.”

Jim Schwegel provided me some great background for Joe’s contribution to the team. As a writer, I sure appreciate that.

But Jim went further than that: He sent me a few photos of Joe in action, contributing to his team. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to use the photos in the print story. But it gives me great pleasure to share them here.

Thanks, Jim.

Run, Joe, run!

More information on the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay is here. Click on “Race History” for a colorful jog through an event that’s been around since 1977.

2006: Joe Kanefield gets his number from Chief Agent Tina McMillion of the Attorney General's Office, while then-Assistant Attorney General Ward Parker looks on.

 

2006: Joe Kanefield on Leg 1 of the Baker to Vegas Challenge Relay

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,320 other followers