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.

Keith Swisher, Phoenix School of Law

Great news about an Arizona law professor came my way this week. Keith Swisher of the Phoenix School of Law has garnered a prestigious honor from the American Bar Association. And I am proud also to add that Keith is a wonderful member of the Editorial Board of Arizona Attorney Magazine. So, of course, to us it’s no surprise.

Congratulations, Keith. Here is the news, as sent to me by the law school.


Assistant Law Professor Keith Swisher Honored For Professionalism and Ethics

Phoenix, Arizona (May 24, 2010) –  Phoenix School of Law Assistant Professor Keith Swisher is being honored with the American Bar Association’s 2011 Rosner & Rosner Young Lawyers Professionalism Award.  This is a national award, and it honors a young lawyer’s commitment to legal and judicial ethics, lawyer professionalism, client protection and professional regulation. 

“Professor Swisher epitomizes professionalism and ethics in legal education, as well as the entire legal community,” said Shirley L. Mays, Dean of Phoenix School of Law.  “This is a tremendous honor for Keith, and I speak for the students, faculty and staff when I say how proud we are of him.” 

The award will be presented during the National Conference of Bar Presidents/National Association of Bar Executives annual award luncheon that will be held in conjunction with the ABA Annual Meeting on Friday, August 5th in Toronto.  The Rosner & Rosner Award is presented along with the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards.   PhoenixLaw received the Gambrell Professionalism Award in 2009 for its General Practice Skills Course.  

Professor Swisher joined Phoenix School of Law in 2009, and currently teaches Professional Responsibility and Torts. Prior to PhoenixLaw, Swisher was an Adjunct Professor at Arizona State University College of Law where he taught Legal Ethics/Professional Responsibility.  He also practiced law in Phoenix since 2005 with the firm Osborn Maledon.  He focused his practice on criminal defense, legal and judicial ethics, professional liability, and appeals.  Before joining Osborn Maledon, he was a judicial clerk for the Honorable William C. Canby of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Professor Swisher serves on the State Bar Professionalism Committee and was also appointed to the Ethics Committee (more formally known as the Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct). In addition, Swisher serves on the Editorial Boards of ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct (since 2008) and Arizona Attorney (since 2005).  Swisher has also been appointed to handle indigent criminal defendants’ federal appeals. 

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 practice ready graduates, and serve the underserved. For more information about PhoenixLaw, visit www.phoenixlaw.edu or call 602-682-6800.

One of the highlights of the legal year is the National Mock Trial Competition. And in 2011, that event is being held in Arizona—this week, in fact.

The host, of course, is the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, the sister organization of the State Bar of Arizona. Every event they put on is first-rate, and I expect the same will be true of this massive competition.

Partners for this week’s event are the Phoenix School of Law, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona and the American Board of Trial Advocates.

As the Foundation describes the competition:

“The High School Mock Trial program teaches students in grades 9-12 about the law and the legal system through a simulated trial. The program is a wonderful opportunity for students to engage with their fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution, for teachers to work closely with attorneys to reinforce legal concepts in the classroom, and for attorneys to share their legal skills and expertise in the law.

“The four preliminary rounds of competition will be held on Friday and Saturday in vibrant downtown Phoenix. The Courthouses are within walking distance of the host hotel, where all of the teams will be staying. The Championship Round will be held in the Special Proceedings Courtroom in the impressive Sandra Day O′Connor United States District Courthouse. The event will culminate with the Awards Banquet on Saturday evening, followed by a dance for the students.”

Read more about the competition here and here.

A press release arrived this morning form the Phoenix School of Law:

Law School more than doubles space for students, and moves closer to courts,
law firms and downtown amenities

Phoenix, Arizona (April 21, 2011) – The Phoenix School of Law has announced that it will be relocating to downtown Phoenix, in the One North Central building, located at the corner of North Central Avenue and East Washington Street. In a lease that begins August 1, the school will ultimately occupy 205,130 square feet of the building’s 13th – 20th floors and a portion of the first floor. The relocation is a result of the school’s dedication to enhancing its learning environment, commitment to improving student outcomes, and its increasing student enrollment.

“Phoenix School of Law’s announcement to relocate to downtown is great news, bringing long-term jobs that benefit the entire city,” said Mayor Phil Gordon. “By continuing to build on our knowledge based economy, we strengthen our workforce and create opportunities to reinvest in our community.”

“Phoenix School of Law is extremely excited for our move to downtown Phoenix,” said Scott Thompson, President of the school. “This strategic initiative provides the foundation for the next phase of our institution, and will build on the attainment of full accreditation granted last summer by the American Bar Association.”

The new campus will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, a fully operational mock courtroom, a legal clinic and a law library with an expansive physical collection of legal resources, and a variety of electronic databases.

“Attracting educational institutions is key to enhancing downtown Phoenix’s redevelopment and renaissance efforts,” said District 8 Councilman Michael Johnson, in whose district the school will relocate. “Students, faculty and staff will be ideally located in the heart of the state’s legal, government and business districts with convenient access to light rail, retail and other amenities.”

“Our location in the heart of the legal community and justice system maximizes our students’ ability to utilize many resources in the downtown area,” said Shirley L. Mays, Dean of Phoenix School of Law. “As a law school with nearly 1,000 students and employees, our presence downtown confirms our commitment to Phoenix and will benefit both the city and the broader community.”

The Phoenix School of Law is fully accredited by the American Bar Association, and is the only law school in Arizona where students can choose from full-time, part-time day, or part-time evening programs. The School has been recognized with prestigious awards such as the American Bar Association’s E. Smythe Gambrell Award for Professionalism, the Law Student Admission Council’s Diversity Matters Award, and was also featured in Pre-Law Magazine’s list of Best Value Law Schools. The Phoenix School of Law is unique in its model by virtue of its inclusive excellence and successful student outcomes. While the school accepts students with broader range of grade point averages (GPA) and Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores than the state’s average for law schools, its career placement rate is 97 percent, and its eventual bar pass rate exceeds 88 percent.

The Phoenix School of Law‘s mission is based upon three primary pillars: 1) an educational experience that is student outcome-centered; 2) academic and experiential learning programs that yield practice ready graduates; and 3) a commitment to serving underserved students and communities. These cornerstones reflect a program of legal education that responds positively and effectively to changes in the legal profession and the legal education environments.

The Phoenix School of Law will be leasing One North Central from its owner, Mitsubishi Estate New York, Inc. for the next 10 years, with an option to extend for an additional five years. Jay Hoselton, Senior Director of Cushman & Wakefield was the broker for the transaction, and the firm of Lewis & Roca, LLM served as the legal advisor.

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 practice ready graduates, and serve the underserved. For more information about PhoenixLaw, visit http://www.phoenixlaw.edu or call 602-682-6800.

Star Jones at Phoenix School of Law, Feb. 26, 2011

On a recent beautiful day in sunny Phoenix, hundreds of schoolkids gave up their Saturday to learn quite a bit about law and the legal profession. Accompanying them on February 26 was a handful of lawyers, who sacrificed their time to share some stories and advice with the high-schoolers.

More on this story will appear in the May Arizona Attorney Magazine. A highlight of the day had to be the remarks given by Star Jones. The lawyer and TV commentator wowed the attendees with her personal stories of accomplishment and challenge. It was a great coup to invite her to attend.

Also speaking were the son and daughter-in-law of Judge John Roll, murdered in January during the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson.

But in this post, I have to acknowledge the lawyers who gave of their time that Saturday. Thank you (in alphabetical order) to:

Also worthy of praise were the members of the State Bar of Arizona’s Diversity Department. Director I. Godwin Otu and Assistant Rosie Figueroa regularly step up to create great programs. This event was a partnership between the State Bar, DiscoverLaw.org and the Phoenix School of Law (where the event was held).

The Phoenix School of Law presented Otu and Rosie with a plaque to thank them for all their efforts. Well done, all.

Here are some more photos from the event.

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Dean Shirley Mays, Phoenix School of Law

Tomorrow afternoon, I will be meeting with a law school leader. And I’d like to know what questions you think I should ask for our Q&A, to be published in the April issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

My interview is with Dean Shirley Mays, of the Phoenix School of Law. We have written about the school and its evolution more than once (here and here and here, to start). We will discuss her own background and the school’s challenges and successes.

If you have questions or comments to suggest, post them here. Or write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org

And, Dean Mays, if you read this, feel free to post some questions too! I’m looking forward to a great conversation.

Minneapolis protest against Arizona immigrant law SB 1070 (Wikimedia Commons, Author Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA)

SB1070 is said to bring out the venom. But in some ways, it brings out the saccharine.

I was out of the office Thursday last week for Veterans Day. And that’s why I had to miss a panel discussion on Arizona’s polarizing immigration–criminal statute. It was hosted by the Phoenix School of Law and was titled “SB1070: Its Beginnings to Its Future.”

Pretty generic stuff—from the title onward, they sought not to alienate anyone scattered along the political spectrum.

And then in the press announcement, I caught two interesting points:

1.Event is NOT open to the general public.

Yes, it was underlined and in red.

Odd, I thought, that a discussion touching on a matter of massive public interest would be open to law students and media only.

The second unique feature came next:

2. “Discussion is expected to be academic and an opportunity to be the ‘voice of reason’ on what has become a polarized piece of legislation.”

I cannot remember the last time event organizers sought to increase attendance by reassuring potential attendees that the occasion would be “academic” and devoid of controversy.

But then I remembered, That’s not entirely true. The last time I saw the same behavior was … the last time a conference on SB1070 was held.

ASU Law School’s October 8 conference will be the focus of a short item we are running in the December issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine (mailed this week). But those conference leaders, like their counterparts at Phoenix Law, also sought repeatedly to douse any flames of partisanship or controversy. Attendees were assured, more than once, that they were committed to looking at the law and its effects, reasonably and rationally. They would leave aside any protests and hysterics.

As if protest and hysteria are the same thing.

I have some sympathy for that approach, because I have participated in just that kind of firestorm-avoidance therapy.

Last April, I moderated a panel discussion on SB1070. The organizers who asked me to play the role were almost painfully committed to a discussion that was reasoned and drained of any of the anger that can be felt almost everywhere in Arizona—outside academic discussions.

In at least two of these panel discussions, the participants were largely people who were opposed to SB1070 (as I did not attend the Phoenix Law event, I can’t claim a sweep). But they worked mightily to preserve the impression that there was a huge space between academics who largely opposed the law and street protestors who did the same.

I draw two tentative conclusions about this strange dynamic.

1. Based on the results of this month’s elections, there is a difference between those who stand by their partisan rabble-rousers who stake out perhaps peripheral positions that may be occasionally discourteous and loud—and those who distance themselves from those obstreperous protestors and act like they may have stepped in dog feces. There is a difference between people who understand that their grassroots base may be noisy but helpful, and those who think that the base must be discarded and dissed because elections are won in university lecture halls.

They are called, respectively, Republicans and Democrats. Or, if you’d like, winners and losers.

One group views its base as passionate activists, and the other sees them as hysterical discontents.

2. It is easy to mistake passion for hysteria, as women’s history makes clear. My wife and I just saw a play that demonstrates that in a vibrant way. “In the Next Room (Or the Vibrator Play),” by Sarah Ruhl, is a Tony Award-nominated play that is “a comedy about marriage, intimacy and electricity.” It shows behaviors that some of its Victorian characters view as deranged and even hysterical. The period piece shows that many behaviors were commonly acknowledged to be better ignored and marginalized.

Of course, we laugh now at that misguided approach, which led to entire generations that ignored women’s contributions. If this year’s election lends any lesson, it may be a reminder that ignoring the colorful and passionate side of yourself is not the path to success—of a person, a society, or a party.


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