Ornament on historic Tucson, Ariz., courthouse

Ornament on historic Tucson, Ariz., courthouse

Just a short item today pointing you to a long article—but you didn’t want to work too much today anyway, right?

I recently was sent a story by Tucson Judge José Luis Castillo Jr. He has penned an essay online that tells us much about legal history and what preservation really is (and what it is not).

He writes about the history of Arizona’s oldest working courtroom. Read his article here.

“Working” is an important word, because much of what makes it vital as a teaching tool may be endangered. Jump to the closer paragraphs of his piece, if you must, to read his insightful conclusion.

But give yourself the time to read the whole thing. There, you will see the role a room has played in our history—and even in Hollywood.

Have a great weekend.

 

ASU hosts American Moot Court Tournament

Are you ready to pick up the gavel and give back to legal education at the same time? Does ASU Law School have a deal for you!

On January 17 and 18, the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law will host the American Collegiate Moot Court Association’s national championship tournament. This is quite an impressive honor, and it will see undergraduates from all over the country traveling to Arizona to compete by mooting an issue in our Supreme Court.

That’s where you may come in. The law school is in need of JDs who are willing to volunteer as judges (I’ve been told they need about 250 total).

Hesitant? Well, the school is willing to sweeten the pot for those on the fence: If you sign up with a lawyer–friend, the organizers will aim to pair you together as a judging team.

Whaaat? A judging team? I don’t know about you, but nothing binds a friendship more than judging others. Come on out!

More detail is below. And to volunteer as a judge, sign up here.

ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law logo“The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is proud to host the American Collegiate Moot Court Association’s national championship tournament on January 17-18, 2014. 80 undergraduate teams from across the country will come to the law school to compete in this prestigious tournament to determine this year’s national champion.  The College of Law is excited to be this year’s competition host, and we hope that you will join us in making this a memorable experience for competitors.  Volunteer judging is a great way to contribute to the education and training of future legal professionals as well as showcase the strength and involvement of our local bar.”

The College of Law is looking for attorneys to volunteer as judges for the following times:

Friday, January 17:

  • 4:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
  • 5:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

Saturday, January 18:

  • 8:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
  • 9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
  • 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

Bring a buddy—sign up to judge with a friend and we will pair you to judge oral arguments together.

If you would like to volunteer but the above scheduled time blocks do not match your availability, please contact Adam Almaraz at aalmaraz@asu.edu.

To volunteer as a judge, click here.

The Creative Arts Competition deadline approaches!In just under a week, all submissions to the annual Arizona Attorney Magazine Creative Arts Competition are due. All of them. So get painting, writing, composing, shooting or whatever else gets your creative juices flowing. Bring it.

Just to be clear: All submissions must be received by us by the end of Tuesday, January 15. I’d love to get them by the end of the business day, but I long ago stopped arguing with lawyers over when the “day” “ends.” But I assure you, a stiff drink and I do check at midnight as the 15th turns to the 16th to see what’s arrived.

As always, winners will be published in our amazing spring issue, which features the work of remarkably talented lawyers.

Arizona Attorney Magazine Creative Arts Competition ad 2013 cropped

Here are the categories: Fiction; Nonfiction; Poetry; Humor; Photography; Painting/Drawing; Sculpture; Music (original compositions and covers)

All submissions must be e-mailed here: ArtsContest@azbar.org

Questions? Click here to read the complete rules, or contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

To see the great work that took the prize(s) last year, go here.

So there is still time. Set aside all of that law work, tell your partners to chill, set your cellphone to vibrate, and get to work. Email us a submission or two. You—and our readers, I’m sure—will be glad you did.

Here’s looking to another great competition.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch receives MCBA Hall of Fame Award

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, left, receives an MCBA Hall of Fame Award from President Jennifer Cranston, Oct. 30, 2012.

Congratulations to all those who were honored at Tuesday’s Maricopa County Bar Association annual Hall of Fame Induction. As always, the selections made by the MCBA’s committee were superb.

Hon.Glenn Davis was named the Member of the Year.

The 2012 Hall of Fame inductees are:

  • Pioneers: Hon. Ernest McFarland and Jubal Early Craig
  • Modern Era: Hon. Rebecca White Berch, Walter Cheifetz, Hon. Robert L. Gottsfield, Hon. Michael Daly Hawkins, William R. Jones, Jr., Alan A. Matheson, Hon. Janet Napolitano, and Hon. Robert W. Pickrell 

As the MCBA describes the honor:

“Through the Hall of Fame, created in 2008, the MCBA seeks to honor in perpetuity those remarkable individuals who have built the legal profession in this country and beyond, who have made extraordinary contributions to the law and justice, and who have distinguished themselves at the highest levels of public service. The Hall of Fame’s goal is to preserve and foster the legal profession’s history in our country and to showcase the best and brightest lights to the larger community.”

MCBA Hall of Fame honoree William R. Jones, Jr.

MCBA Hall of Fame honoree William R. Jones, Jr.

The bios and photos of all the honorees are available at the recently opened Maricopa County Justice Museum and Leaning Center (which I wrote about here).

William R. Jones, Jr., one of Tuesday’s honorees, opted to use his 60-second remarks to highlight the value of merit selection, much in the news this year and this election season. In so doing, he lived up to the MCBA’s wish to recognize those who “distinguish themselves at the highest levels of public service.” I end with Bill’s remarks:

“The courts and our profession are under attack, and we have been given the fiduciary duty to be protectors of the legal system. How we ultimately perform will say much about us. We are at a crossroads when we need to stand up and protect the court system and the judicial selection system. Now is the time to put our money where our mouth is and to say we have the greatest dispute resolution system in the world.”

Here are a few other photos from the event (thank you to the MCBA’s Isolde Davidson for sharing them; photos and more can be found at the MCBA Facebook page).

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AZ Supreme Court logoI began an earlier draft of this blog post with the encouraging message: We all should go to judicial investitures. That followed on the heels of two great judge swearings-in—for Court of Appeals Judges Randall Howe and Sam Thumma. For my time and money, there may be no events that provide more insight into what makes judges tick than those events. And I believe that is true for all attendees, whether they are a lawyer or not.

But then I read a news story this week that reminded me it will take more than a heartfelt gathering to remind Arizonans that we have a terrific judiciary (perhaps the finest in the country). Being cynical and all, I’m not convinced we voters are up to the task of understanding and preserving what we’ve got. But I’m hoping I can be proven wrong.

The news story was penned by longtime reporter Howard Fischer, of Capitol Media Services, and it’s titled “Groups Campaign To Oust Supreme Court Judge.”

Right off the bat, let me assure you I’m not urging a vote one way or another on the Justice’s retention. That is between you and whatever data you have available. This post is about the data.

Anyway, as Howie describes it:

“A loosely organized effort to oust a state Supreme Court justice is forcing him to consider an unprecedented campaign to keep his post. … The anger is focused on [Justice John] Pelander because the Supreme Court earlier this year ruled that Proposition 121 can be on the ballot. That measure, if approved, would amend the state Constitution to create an open primary system where all candidates run against each other regardless of party affiliation, with the top two advancing to the general election.”

Hon. John Pelander

Hon. John Pelander

Again, you should vote in the retention election however you’d like. But this whole dustup is about … Prop 121?

Really? REALLY?

For a treatment of the subject that is far more compelling and eloquent than my two-word screed, you should read Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch’s commentary in the Arizona Republic from this past Monday. She also is careful not to urge any particular vote, but she does point us all to some sources of actual data that might inform our ballot choice: The Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review, and the Arizona General Election Guide, which is mailed to each registered voter.

As always, the Chief is judicious (part of the job title, I think). But the op-ed does reveal some raised hackles:

“[U]nfortunately, in this age of social media, blogs and e-mail, anyone can post anything concerning a judge without regard to accuracy. Judges may be unfairly portrayed or information about rulings may be misrepresented by people who have an agenda or have simply misunderstood an opinion.”

That takes us back to Howie’s article, which you can read here.

So let’s examine that “Top 2” primary issue, which is ostensibly the sole source of upset against a Supreme Court Justice. You may recall that it was just back on September 6 that the Court ruled that the item could be on the ballot.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch

I would urge the following for anyone “on the fence” due to this ruling: As the Chief says, review the data at the website of the Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review, and read your own voter pamphlet.

And then, go the extra step: Read the ruling itself.

I’m confident that my lawyer–readers will not moan about having to read a 6-page ruling. But if you have non-lawyer colleagues who ask about this issue, urge them to read it, too.

I can suggest that for one big reason: It’s well written (by Justice Bales, the order’s author), which means it is accessible to many, not merely to lawyers.

I also can suggest it because reading the actual ruling will remind us all that the Court (and Justice Pelander) did not affirm or deny the merit of Prop 121; it handled the election question—judiciously—as it does with countless other ballot-measure cases, year after year.

As a voter service, I’ve posted the ruling here. But because I have no interest in creating a firestorm of partisan claims, I’ve also posted the appellant and appellee briefs. I suppose if you want the full picture, you may want to read those too. But do start with that ruling.

That’s in the short term. But in the long term, one wonders what kind of Pandora’s box has been opened. We need only look to Texas, or Iowa, or numerous other states to see the insertion of political pressure into judicial retention elections. In those places, justices may sit stonily and ethically silent amid an onslaught of public critique. But the result may be the ouster of good people, along with a further coarsening of the discourse.

Many, many people in Arizona (including a majority of the voting public) support Arizona’s current system of merit selection for certain judges and justices. But even if that system is retained going forward, how will it be altered if groups—“loosely organized” or not—mobilize to transform retention elections into a shouting match? How many people will be interested in the job of judge when the quality of their work is assessed not on the swath of legal output that fills volumes like sea foam covers a beach? Instead, it could be upended by a single, particular ruling in which you’ve joined, a ruling that grabs the popular imagination for misunderstood reasons—a single seashell on a vast coral reef.

Arizona, at a turning point.

L to R: Joe Kanefield, Peter Gentala, Hon. Ruth McGregor (ret.), and Mark Harrison.

Well done to the panelists in Tuesday’s Maricopa County Bar Association discussion of Proposition 115, this fall’s ballot issue that would alter the way we select and retain some state court judges.

Each side did their best to describe the merits of their position—as well as the one-hour format would allow.

The panel, moderated by Michael Grant (of Gallagher & Kennedy), was: former Arizona Chief Justice Ruth McGregor; Osborn Maledon attorney (and former State Bar President) Mark Harrison; Peter Gentala, counsel to the majority, Arizona House of Representatives; and Ballard Spahr lawyer (and immediate past president of the State Bar) Joe Kanefield.

More photos are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

The challenges that solo practitioners face are legion. And although the playing field may have been somewhat leveled over the past decade through widespread access to technology, the sledding may still be rather tough.

One Arizona development aims to make things a little easier, for solos or for any lawyer who may require access to legal research. This week, the Phoenix School of Law announced its Law Library Bar Access Program. Through it, lawyers and judges may gain “access to [the school’s] physical and online collections,” both at its downtown Phoenix location or via their own computers.

More detail on the Bar Access Program is here.

And here is a list of those who may apply for membership in the program:

  • Active members of the State Bar of Arizona
  • Active members of any tribal bar
  • Inactive members of any state or tribal bar engaged in pro bono service or scholarship
  • Employees of active members of the State Bar of Arizona under supervision per Rule 5.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

There are some modest fees involved: an annual registration fee of $120, and $30 “to defray the cost of the identification card.”

Phoenix School of Law Dean Shirley Mays said, “We are quite proud and excited to offer such an incredible resource such as our Law Library Bar Access Program housed here at Phoenix School of Law to the legal community in Arizona and beyond.”

Is this a benefit you may use? When I had my own law practice, I definitely would have made use of this, both for the resources and the support and insight a law librarian can provide. Today, however, is that still the case? Librarians, of course, can still be worth their weight in gold. But are the legal resources far more available than ever before—and at a good price?

Please let me know what you think of this offer. Or send me your own story about using it.

If you have questions about the program, contact Lidia Koelbel, Access Services Manager, at (602) 682-6899. The complete list of available resources and materials for on-campus and off-campus access is here.

Finally, don’t forget to bookmark the PhoenixLaw Library Blog, called Footnotes.

Phoenix School of Law Library

 

Arizona Superior Court for Pinal County

Yesterday, a press release came to my inbox, and it took me a moment to realize that it signaled a historic event.

Typically, when the State Bar of Arizona seeks lawyer applicants for an appellate court or trial court appointment commission, it is a routine event (though it is a prestigious appointment). For example, the Maricopa and Pima County Trial Court Appointment Commissions have been around a long time. In the decades since the merit-selection and retention system was instituted in 1974, many lawyers have served the state by participating in the work of those boards.

(For more detail on merit selection, go here.)

So when something’s been operating for almost four decades, I hope you’ll forgive me for almost missing a related press releases as it sails by me. To my surprise, I spotted the fact that this is not more of the same, but it is about a new commission entirely: the Pinal County Commission on Trial Court Appointments. With that commission, Pinal County joins the ranks of more-populous Arizona counties in their manner of selecting state court trial judges.

The notion of extending the merit-selection system is not without controversy, but the change comes simply through an increasing population. Once the county exceeded 250,000 people, a commission would be formed, as required by the Arizona Constitution.

In the September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will have a great article on merit selection’s history and new developments, written by the State Bar’s CEO John Phelps and lawyer Kellen Bradley. In the meantime, read about this historic development in Pinal County. And if you are a lawyer in Pinal, you should consider applying to be part of the inaugural panel of this commission. There’s only one first.

Here’s the release:

Applications Being Accepted for Newly Forming Pinal County Commission on Trial Court Appointments

PHOENIX – Aug. 21, 2012 – The State Bar of Arizona, the State’s attorney regulation and consumer protection organization, is currently accepting applications to fill five lawyer openings on the Pinal County Commission on Trial Court Appointments. Results from the 2010 U.S. Census, which reported that the population of Pinal County now exceeds 250,000, triggered the constitutional requirement to create a trial court commission.

The newly forming sixteen-member commission will be responsible for screening, interviewing and selecting judicial nominees for submission to the Governor of Arizona for her appointment of superior court judges in Pinal County. It will be chaired by the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court (or her designee).

Applicants must be active members of, and in good standing with, the State Bar of Arizona; shall have resided in the state and been admitted to practice before the Arizona Supreme Court for no less than five (5) years; and must have resided in Pinal County for at least one year. There are no applicant restrictions with regard to one’s political party affiliation for these openings. 

Applications can be obtained at the State Bar of Arizona’s Appointment Committee webpage at http://www.azbar.org/sectionsandcommittees/committees/appointments. Completed applications must be submitted to Nina Benham at the State Bar of Arizona by 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. Applications can be delivered in person to 4201 N. 24th Street, Suite 100, Phoenix, Arizona 85016-6266; or faxed to 602.416.7529; or submitted electronically via email to nina.benham@staff.azbar.org.

About the State Bar of Arizona Appointments Committee

The mission of the committee is to recommend to the Board of Governors the appointment of members to fill openings on state-wide boards, committees and commissions. Achieve a “balance” in all appointments as they relate to each voluntary professional activity, i.e., age, gender, geography, ethnicity, area of practice. The Committee and the Board of Governors consider all aspects of diversity in their recommendations and appointments.

About the State Bar

The State Bar of Arizona is a non-profit organization that operates under the supervision of the Arizona Supreme Court. The Bar includes approximately 17,000 active attorneys and provides education and development programs for the legal profession and the public. Since 1933 the Bar and its members have been committed to serving the public by making sure the voices of all people in Arizona are heard in our justice system.

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.

Steve Tully

A panel Wednesday morning at the State Bar of Arizona Convention examined a relationship often in the news—the one between the legislative and judicial branches. Speakers with experience as elected officials, lobbyists and think-tank leaders wrestled with a topic on which many find disagreement common.

“Striking a Balance: Relations Between the Legislature and the Courts” included moderator David Earl and speakers Steve Tully, Clint Bolick, Sally Rider and Jerry Landau.

Panelists opened by sharing their initial thoughts on the challenges that a good working relationship faces.

For example, Sally Rider of the UA’s Rehnquist Center said that the tension between branches is exacerbated by a failure to communicate. Jerry Landau agreed: “When one branch doesn’t understand the role of the other, we have problems.”

Bolick, of the Goldwater Institute, was more pointed in his opening remarks. After praising the Arizona Constitution, he continued.

In regard to ballot referenda, “Courts have used the single-subject rule so much as to prevent the Legislature from presenting various important issues to the people. And that is discomforting. If there is one value that our Constitution elevates above all, it is the right of the people to control their government.” Limiting referenda too strictly restricts that power. “Courts have overstepped.”

Things quickly got interactive, as attendees would have predicted on such controversial topics.

L to R: Clint Bolick, Sally Rider, Jerry Landau

Among those hot-button issues discussed was merit selection, especially as embodied in a November Arizona ballot referendum titled Prop 115. In a conference at which at least two other panels will focus on merit selection, this morning seminar grew into a significant conversation on the ballot proposition.

In fact, it was not the panel but an audience member who raised merit selection. Lawyer Tom Ryan enlivened the debate when he stood at the microphone.

“The idea that the Legislature respects the court system is a fallacy. We have a supermajority of Republicans in the House and Senate. … [The Legislature is] controlled by ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council], and they have an agenda: to close the courthouse doors. The idea that Prop 115 will improve merit selection is a fallacy; it simply gives the Governor the unfettered ability to choose judges.

David Earl

Bolick responded, agreeing that under Prop 115 the Governor “will control far more of the system” than ever before. But he added that the State Bar currently “has a monopoly over picking the lawyer members” of the judicial nominating commissions. And Bolick said he believes that the Bar, which takes positions on many public policy issues, should not have any role.

And even under the new possible regime, Bolick added, “The system should not be controlled entirely by the Governor and the State Bar. That upsets the checks and balances system.”

Bolick said that, personally, he will probably vote yes on Prop 115, but the Goldwater Institute has decided not to take a position.

Audience member and former State Bar President Mark Harrison rose to vociferously oppose Prop 115.

“This was a compromise that did not need to happen, and which is a solution in search of a problem. Justice O’Connor supports the current system, and the Arizona Town Hall called it ‘the best functioning part of our state.’”

He concluded by saying (with a smile), “I urge everyone to vote no—as many times as you can.”

Bolick responded: “I share a lot of your concerns, but I don’t think the system is as good as it can be.” He said that lawyers may know a lot about judicial candidates, and they should provide input. “But the State Bar should not choose them.”

Former Judge Noel Fidel spoke briefly.

“It would have been better to fight than compromise. This destroys merit selection from within.”

Among the audience-speakers on the topic was Whitney Cunningham, currently the State Bar’s First Vice President (and President-Elect at the close of Convention). He rose to explain the State Bar’s role, and why it decided to support the compromise that led to Prop 115.

“What people should understand is that not preserving merit selection was a real possibility that was on the table. If this passes, the State Bar will still have a role, and a formidable role.”

“The Bar was at the negotiating table, and we did what we thought was necessary to preserve merit selection in our state.”

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