Don’t skip the judicial investitures. It’s when you discover who hula-hoops. But more on that later.
Many people become lawyers, but only a small portion of them ever become judges. And so when someone earns that “Hon.” honorific before their name, it is worth cheering, especially if it’s a good choice.
Today, the Maricopa County Superior Court made some good choices. At a 12:30 investiture, four lawyers were sworn in as Commissioners: Alysson H. Abe, Cynthia J. Bailey, Brian D. Kaiser, and Julia M. Lopez. Call ‘em what you want, I still call them “Judge” when I meet them.
There are differences between judges and commissioners, mostly in terms of the matters they handle. But the test for me as a lawyer is the barley soup test. If I am reaching for the last barley soup at the Courthouse Café’s Barley Soup Day, and someone else reaches at the same moment, what do I do? If the acquisitive hand belongs to a judge or commissioner, I retreat. But if the mitt is a lawyer’s, reach more quickly at breakneck speed. To the speedy go the spoils, as long as your opponent can’t sanction you.
In any case, the investiture is one of the best-kept secrets of the legal community. It’s easy to skip, especially when there are a lot of them scheduled. (A year or two ago, when superior court judges were cashiering out—at an astounding rate—to recline with their pensions or to teach law school, there seemed to be a few investitures a month.) But here is why you should go: They’re brief, they’re often funny, they’re free, and they tell you a lot about the new judge and the person who introduces them—usually another judge.
And, oh yeah, they usually have cookies.
So when lawyers ask how they can learn something about law practice in a region, I always say, Go to the investitures.
But the hula hooping? Hold your horses, I’m almost there.
Today’s investiture is a good example of what you can learn. Presiding Judge Barbara Mundell got things rolling smoothly, and explained how important commissioners are to the system, handling, among other things, 175,000 filings per year. She was funny, informative and prompt—the perfect master of ceremonies.
She then introduced Criminal Presiding Judge Gary Donahoe. Judge Donahoe has been through the Maricopa County Madness Wringer this year, so he would be forgiven if he had opted to give his three new criminal department commissioners the high-five and sit down. But he didn’t. He brought it.
He poked fun, he riffed, he mocked—gently—a new commissioner’s aw shucks approach. He had the audience, many of whom may have come for the cookies or the mistaken impression that COJET credit was available. But Judge Donahoe was a hoot and a half.
And then Family Law Presiding Judge Colleen McNally introduced her new commissioner. And that’s when we learned which new judicial officer was a hula hoop maven, had won every hula hoop competition the person had ever entered, and had even hooped onstage with Don Ho.
My hopes would have been pinned on Brian Kaiser. The former Editorial Board member of Arizona Attorney Magazine had also been a Navy man, and he’s a tall drink of water, so the image was irresistible. But it was not to be.
For those who’ve had the patience to wait—It was Commissioner Alysson Abe. Now there’s a status conference that would be worth attending.
Here are some bad cell-phone pictures from the ceremony. Want a better view? Come to an investiture.