debate microphoneEvent images have been added to the bottom of this post.

At 11:15 this morning, the one and only forum of candidates for Maricopa County Attorney will occur. I encourage you to attend.

First of all, I have to divulge: I will be moderating the forum. But as we know, the moderator’s main job is to speak little and to let the candidates do most all the talking. Though that may not always work well (yo, Jim Lehrer), that is my plan and I’m stickin’ to it.

The more important reason to attend is that this is an incredibly important elected office. Even if there is little doubt about the race’s outcome between Libertarian Michael Kielsky and Republican Bill Montgomery (no Democratic candidate was fielded), I still think that hearing what people stand for counts for a lot.

The topics themselves are some of the most noteworthy in our communities: charging, sentencing, immigration, drug use, medical marijuana, campaign finance, prison alternatives, capital punishment, identity theft. And those are just a few of the things we may cover.

Phoenix School of Law logoYou and others may participate in a few ways. First, of course, you can come to the forum. It’s from 11:15 a.m. until 12:15 p.m., at the Phoenix School of Law, One N. Central Ave., Room 1715. Your questions will be welcomed at the end of the hour.

The other way to be a part of the process: Send me a suggested question. You can post it below, or email it to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. I will check my email right up until we begin at 11:15, so fire away.

I hope to see you there.

Here are some images from the debate panel:

L to R: Candidate Bill Montgomery, Phoenix School of Law Professor Keith Swisher, candidate Michael Kielsky

L to R: Candidate Bill Montgomery, Phoenix School of Law Professor Keith Swisher, candidate Michael Kielsky

L to R: Candidate Bill Montgomery, Phoenix School of Law Professor Keith Swisher, candidate Michael Kielsky

L to R: Candidate Bill Montgomery, Phoenix School of Law Professor Keith Swisher, candidate Michael Kielsky

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

At first glance, “law” and “camp” appear to be an odd couple. But the State Bar of Arizona has combined them into what promises to be a cool event this Friday.

At the 2012 Summer Law Camp, about 60 high school students will explore the law and possible legal careers. It is designed to expose high school students to the law in a fun and interactive way.

The Law Camp will be staged in two places—Phoenix and Tucson. The first event will be in Phoenix this Friday, June 15, at the Phoenix School of Law. (More on the June 28 Tucson event later.)

Organizing the Law Camp is the Bar’s Diversity & Outreach Advisor, Elena Nethers.

To guide the students, a large number of Arizona lawyers signed on to donate their time. I’ll provide a list of the generous lawyers when it becomes available.

Here are some of the activities planned for the day:

  • Should It Be a Crime?
  • Identifying and debating laws that are relevant to youth (curfews, uniform, school searching lockers etc.)
  • What students can do now to prepare for college
  • An attorney panel discussing their background and why they chose a career in law
  • The ever-popular mock trial exercise 

If you or anyone you know is participating as a volunteer lawyer at this event, I’d love to hear your thoughts after Friday’s Law Camp. And congratulations on your decision to contribute.

Ray Krone

Last Friday, a Phoenix School of Law lecture hall was the site for a panel presentation including Ray Krone, famously convicted twice and delivered to death row for murder—until DNA testing proved his innocence.

If there is one thing the panel illustrated, though, it’s that the previous sentence is a huge understatement. Ultimately, DNA freed Krone. But an amazing amount of commitment and shoe leather went into his exoneration.

The event came almost exactly 10 years after Krone’s exneration, he and others told the tale of missteps and worse that led to his plight.

Featured at the Arizona Justice Project event were: 

  • Ray Krone: death-row exonoree and spokesman for Witness to Innocence
  • Chris Plourd: Krone’s defense attorney in second trial (now a California state court judge)
  • Alan Simpson: Krone’s attorney in post-conviction and civil suit against the state
  • Bill Culbertson: Former deputy county attorney
  • Don “Joe” Hedgecock: Juror in first trial in 1992
  • Kelcey Reed: DNA analyst with Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab
  • Kim Kobojek: DNA analyst with Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab
  • Steve Junkin: Witness at Krone’s trial; colleague from U.S. Air Force

Moderated by former Channel 12 news reporter Rich Robertson, the panel walked viewers through the investigation and trials.

L to R: Bill Culbertson, Kelcey Reed, Kim Kobojek, Christopher Plourd, Alan Simpson

Krone displayed his reputation for remaining upbeat (as well as quite a bit of charm) when he offered listeners his greatly abbreviated bio: “I’m Ray Krone, and I didn’t do it.”

That is a statement from which Krone never wavered, said Chris Plourd. In fact, when Plourd first visited his new client on death row, a prison guard told the lawyer, “I hope you can help this guy. He doesn’t seem to belong here.”

Plourd added, “It was hard for Ray to breathe prison air when he knew the killer was breathing his free air.”

Former prosecutor Bill Culbertson finally said that he participated in the panel for two reasons: “to honor a man who has the courage not to be angry, and to try to ensure this never happens again.”

An excellent goal, and yet not three days later we see news out of Colorado that a man imprisoned for 16 years for a murder has been exonerated by DNA. Clearly, there is more work to be done.

Here is another story on Ray Krone and the panel at Phoenix School of Law. More photos are available on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to visit with a group of law school professors. I talked about Arizona Attorney Magazine—and not so subtly urged them to consider writing for us.

My appearance was at the invitation of Keith Swisher, a Phoenix School of Law Professor and a member of the magazine’s Editorial Board. He had slotted me in to a lunch & learn kind of spot—and I sure appreciate it.

Talking about the magazine is something I enjoy. Besides getting our word out, it also forces me to recommit to the goals set out in our mission statement. I mean, you can’t say them aloud numerous times if you don’t believe them (I mean, assuming you’re not a politician).

Here are a few photos I took as folks were sitting down.

Here, by the way, is that Mission Statement. As I told the assembled professors, the important thing to note is that every one of the bullets is focused on lawyers and their practice:

  • Arizona Attorney helps our readers do their job better—more efficiently and profitably—through editorial content that is analytical and topical.
  • Arizona Attorney is a practical resource and a valuable tool for Arizona lawyers on matters related to their practice, the justice system, the regulation of the legal profession and the improvement of the quality of legal services.
  • Arizona Attorney magazine strives to be the number-one source of legal news and information and the best forum for Arizona lawyers.
  • Our content sparks stimulating discussion through the presentation of challenging and thoughtful ideas.
  • We take an active role in creating a community in which lawyers can better connect with each other.

My payment for the lunch talk was a delicious sandwich; that was expected. But what I didn’t expect was the breadth and variety of ideas that came my way once I was done speaking. All I had to say was, “That’s what I’ve got, but do any of you have any story ideas you’d like to share?”

Did they ever! I wrote them all down, and I’ll be slotting a good number of them for future coverage.

Thank you again, Keith!

Would you or your organization like to hear more about Arizona Attorney? Would you like to discuss how to get yourself or your ideas into the publication, either via an article by you or via a story that contains your idea?

Feel free to write me anytime at arizona.attorney@azbar.org, or call me at 602-340-7310.

On this Change of Venue Friday, I have to share with you what is quickly becoming one of the hottest tickets in town: State Bar parties.

No, that is not the set-up for a bad joke. These events have become the sleeper hit of the season. And another one is in the offing, this one for the Mentor Committee Kick-Off.

These gatherings have sometimes been sponsored by a State Bar group, or by the Young Lawyers Division, or by the Solo and Small Firm Section, or by a cool new collaboration of multiple groups. These events have grown to be dynamic, packed affairs.

I have attended a few in the past year. One at Macayo’s on Central Avenue and another at Morton’s Steakhouse surprised me with the crowds and the excitement. The many organizers have been diverse, including the Inns of Court, the Arizona Women Lawyers Association and others. Clearly, lawyers, judges and vendor service providers enjoy gathering, talking and networking. And you should join them.

The next big event is on Thursday, September 22. It’ll be at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Phoenix (yes, there are three hours of complimentary valet parking). It will be in the hotel restaurant, District American Kitchen. More detail is available on the flyer to the right (click to make it larger).

And help us spread the word: We’ve created a Facebook event pageplease share it with anyone you think is interested and could benefit from great conversation and refreshments!

Have a great weekend. And I’ll see you at the Sheraton.

Some great national kudos came the way of an Arizona law school this past Saturday. That’s when the Phoenix School of Law was honored for its remarkable commitment to diversity efforts.

After the school took home the 2011 Law School Admissions Council’s Diversity Matters Award at the organization’s annual meeting in Los Angeles, PSL described the recognition as being for “the top law school in the country for its diversity efforts.” Other schools may disagree with that sweeping characterization, but the LSAC does monitor roughly 215 law schools nationwide and then converts their minority outreach efforts to a numerical scale. Whatever you call them, PSL’s accomplishments are noteworthy.

Read their complete press release down below.

The PSL news follows on the heels of a few other pieces of optimistic news. The first is the graduation of another class of the State Bar of Arizona Bar Leadership Institute this past Friday. That initiative has yielded quite a large field of lawyer-leaders over the years, and it’s great to see the program going strong.

Law School Admissions Council logo

The other news is more nuanced, but optimistic nonetheless. Some recent data show that an accelerating slide in the hiring of minority lawyers appears to have slowed.

As The American Lawyer reported on June 1:

“It’s not much, but it’s enough to make diversity advocates in the legal profession let out a collective ‘phew!’ According to our latest Diversity Scorecard, in 2010 big firms increased their percentage of minority attorneys by 0.2 percent, to 13.9 percent. This small jump is noteworthy because it halts the dip seen last year, when law firm diversity dropped for the first time in the decade that we’ve collected these numbers.”

But a companion news story demonstrates that we still have a ways to go. Data in the same month reveal that the elevation of women to partnership positions in law firms essentially stalled in 2011: “At a time when associates are chasing fewer spots as partners, women lawyers continue to lag behind their male peers in becoming partners, according to the latest data from the Project for Attorney Retention.” (read the complete story here).

Congratulations to the Phoenix School of Law and all in the legal profession who are seeking to make a difference.

Phoenix School Of Law Honored As The Top Law School In The Country For Diversity

LSAC’s Diversity Matters Award Recognizes Commitment To Valuing All Individuals

Phoenix, Arizona (June 6, 2011) –  Phoenix School of Law was honored as the top law school in the country for its diversity efforts with the 2011 Law School Admissions Council’s Diversity Matters Award at the organization’s annual meeting in Los Angeles on Saturday. PhoenixLaw was among the more than 200 LSAC member schools that were considered for the award.  The award is given to schools that are seriously committed to diversity, and who demonstrate this by their recruitment efforts directed toward underrepresented minority candidates.

Phoenix School of Law Dean Shirley Mays on our April 2011 cover

“We recognize that students of color have long been underrepresented in legal education and we are pleased that our efforts in this area have been acknowledged by LSAC,” said Shirley L. Mays, Dean of Phoenix School of Law.  “Our fall 2010 class of 31% diversity students and our spring 2011 class of 40% diversity put us at the forefront of diversifying the legal academy.  As diversity increases in our country and throughout the world, we are proud to reflect in our student body the skills, exposure, and preparation that these future leaders will exemplify in the legal profession.”

According to a 2009 Columbia University Law School study, African American and Mexican American representation in law school has decreased in the last fifteen years.  Applicants from these groups are also denied acceptance by all the schools to which they apply more often than Caucasians.  One of PhoenixLaw’s missions is a commitment to valuing and achieving diversity among students, staff, faculty and administration, so that the school can provide and impart a deeper understanding of the needs of all individuals, especially those who have been underserved.

Phoenix School of Law has made diversity an integral part of its mission through the creation of the Diversity Committee and Dean’s Diversity Council which provide opportunities to identify and resolve challenges facing the school’s diverse community.   The faculty has a 37% diversity rate, and is an integral part of these two committees.  The goals of the Diversity Committee and Dean’s Diversity Council are to promote programs that influence and effect social change at the school, as well as the community, and to promote and advance the goal of diversity in the legal profession. 

PhoenixLaw also hosts an annual High School Law Day and Diversity Day to educate high school students, college students and working professionals about law school preparation and careers in law. 

In 2009, Phoenix School of Law began a partnership with the Arizona State Bar’s Diversity Section for the Diversity Pipeline Project. The State Bar adopted Cloves C. Campbell, Sr. Elementary School (7th and 8th grades) in South Phoenix to start the project. With more than 10 student volunteers from PhoenixLaw, the pipeline project exposes students from diverse backgrounds to the benefits of higher education in an effort to encourage them to attend law school, pass the bar, and become attorneys. Project volunteers mentor the youngsters and guide them through the pipeline from entry to advancement in the legal profession.

About Phoenix School of Law

Phoenix School of Law is Arizona’s only law school offering full-time, part-time day, and part-time evening programs. The School received full approval from the American Bar Association in June 2010.  PhoenixLaw’s mission pillars are to provide student outcome-centered education, produce professionally prepared graduates, and serve the underserved. For more information about PhoenixLaw, visit www.phoenixlaw.edu or call 602-682-6800.

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