Gavel Gap report cover-page0001This past month, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy released a report that examines diversity among state court judges. Their analysis from all 50 states and the District of Columbia revealed what the ACS is calling “the gavel gap.”

As described by the ACS:

“For most people, state courts are the ‘law’ for all effective purposes. But we know surprisingly little about state court judges, despite their central and powerful role. Unlike their counterparts on the federal courts, much of the relevant information is non-public, and in many states, not even collected in a systematic way. This lack of information is especially significant because judges’ backgrounds have important implications for the work of courts and the degree to which the public has confidence in their decisions.”

“In order to address this serious shortcoming in our understanding of America’s courts, we have constructed an unprecedented database of state judicial biographies. This dataset—the State Bench Database—includes more than 10,000 current sitting judges on state courts of general jurisdiction in all 50 states. We use it to examine the gender, racial, and ethnic composition of state courts, which we then compare to that of the general population in each state. We find that courts are not representative of the people whom they serve. We call this disparity The Gavel Gap.”

The primary report authors are Tracey E. George, Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University, and Albert H. Yoon, Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Toronto.

As they conclude, “We find that state courts do not look like the communities they serve, which has ramifications for the functioning of our judicial system and the rule of law. Our findings are particularly important given the vital role state courts play in our democracy, in our economy, and in our daily lives.”

The complete report is available here and is only 28 pages. Thankfully, it’s also written clearly and accessibly. If you’d like a deeper dive, the ACS also permits anyone to download the underlying data to examine things for yourself.

Take a look. I’d enjoy hearing what you think of the gap in Arizona, or nationwide. And here are a few of the report’s findings.

Gavel Gap infographic 1-page0001

Gavel Gap report infographic 1

Gavel Gap report infographic 3Gavel Gap infographic 2-page0001

Gavel Gap report infographic 2

Court fees are just part of the downstream penalties assessed on formerly incarcerated people. (Infographic by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights)

Court fees are just part of the downstream penalties assessed on formerly incarcerated people. (Infographic by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights)

“Families and communities are our nation’s unrecognized re-entry program.”

When it comes to our nation’s prison incarceration numbers, a truer and more startling statement may never have been uttered. And those words highlight one of the stark realities that confront communities who welcome home family and other loved ones who have ended their term of incarceration. For in a nation committed to a criminal justice strategy marked by long terms of imprisonment, “time inside” is only one part of the long-term penalty assessed on inmates and their families.

The quote above was spoken by Zachary Norris, an attorney and Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, based in Oakland, California. I spoke with him in early May, mainly in regard to a report whose creation was led by the Ella Baker Center titled “Who Pays: The True Cost of Incarceration on Families.”

Zachary Norris, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Oakland, Calif.

Zachary Norris, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Oakland, Calif.

My interview with Zach Norris, and with many others, was spurred and supported by a fellowship I received from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. More detail about the Fellowship is here and here. And you should read more about the Quattrone Center here. Material from my research supported by those organizations will appear here and in an upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

A few years ago, I was able to cover a related topic thanks to a John Jay/Guggenheim Fellowship: the possibility for sentencing reform in Arizona and nationwide. A previous article that resulted from my coverage is here. This year, I’m following the story from the sentencing and prison setting—where such sentencing changes did not materialize in Arizona—out into the community, which must address the downstream consequences of prison sentences and multiple other penalties assessed on the formerly incarcerated person—and their families.

In the coming days, I’ll report more on what Zach Norris told me, and what some of those punishing realities facing communities and families are.

In the meantime, if you or someone you know has been affected by the returnee challenges, either personally, or in your expert experience as an attorney or otherwise, I’d like to hear from you. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Infographic by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Infographic by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

 

Nepal Justice System Delegation Returns to Arizona Supreme Court 2016_opt

Representatives from Arizona and Nepal meet.

News from the Arizona Supreme Court:

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) recently sponsored a second visit to the Arizona Supreme Court with members of Nepal’s judiciary. After a 2015 visit with the Arizona Supreme Court, the Nepal Supreme Court established an access to justice commission modeled on what they learned in the United States, including the example of the Arizona Supreme Court’s own Access to Justice Commission.

Earlier this year, the Honorable Ms. Sushila Karki became the first female Chief Justice of Nepal’s Supreme Court.

Nepal Chief Justice Sushila Karki

Nepal Chief Justice Sushila Karki

As part of the UNDP project entitled Access to Justice Commission (A2JC) Study Visit in Nepal, the Nepalese judges met with Chief Justice Scott Bales and local subject matter experts to discuss such topics as: strengthening access to justice, addressing domestic violence cases, increasing representation of women in the judiciary, and meeting the justice needs of minority communities. The day-long program included the following speakers:

  • Mr. Dave Byers, Director, Arizona Supreme Court
  • Hon. Scott Bales, Chief Justice, Arizona Supreme Court
  • Hon. Maurice Portley, Judge, Court of Appeals, Chair of Commission on Minorities
  • Professor Paul Bennett, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
  • Mr. Michael Liburdi, Chief Counsel to Gov. Doug Ducey
  • Hon. Larry Winthrop, Judge, Court of Appeals, Chair of Commission on Access to Justice
  • Hon. Wendy Million, Judge, Tucson City Court, Chair, Committee on the Impact of Domestic Violence and the Courts
  • Mr. Marcus Reinkensmeyer, Court Services Division Director Case Management

“Nepal’s judicial leaders have embraced the goals of expanding access to justice and better addressing the needs of minorities, women, and victims,” Chief Justice Scott Bales said. “We shared with them how Arizona works to provide equal justice for all through court innovations and the work of our advisory committees, which are comprised of volunteers representing a wide range of perspectives.”

The representatives from Nepal included:

  • Justice Govinda Kumar Upadhya, Nepal Supreme Court
  • Justice Jagadish Sharma Poudel, Nepal Supreme Court
  • Hon. Additional District Judge Surya Prasad Parajuli, Kathmandu District Court
  • Mr. Shree Kanta Paudel, Registrar, Nepal Supreme Court
  • Mr. Kumar Ingnam, Member, Access to Justice Commission
  • Mr. Raju Dhungana, Section Officer, Nepal Supreme Court
  • Ms. Khem Kumari Basnet, Section Officer, Nepal Supreme Court

More about the Arizona Commission on Access to Justice is available here. The next committee meeting is scheduled for August 17, 2016.

Arizona_Supreme_Court_Seal

Before National #TypewriterDay ends, I share an item from last year …

AZ Attorney

A Contessa never looked so sweet (or clacked so loudly). typewriter A Contessa never looked so sweet (or clacked so loudly).

Who doesn’t love a typewriter?

Well, the world, apparently. As a whole, things may look bad for this most useful of tools.

But as individuals, many of us maintain a soft spot in our hearts for the clatter of the lettered keys. For in a digital world, it’s a blast to recall how much we once actually used our digits in a tactile way.

I got to thinking about that in February when I read a terrific essay titled “The Last of the Typewriter Men.” It tells the tale of New Yorker Paul Schweitzer and his everyday battle to help ever-older typewriters to function well.

On this Change of Venue Friday, I wonder if you, like me, still have a typewriter around the home or office.

I still hear from folks that an IBM Selectric is kept…

View original post 249 more words

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass will be the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass will be the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

 Today, I offer another post describing legal seminars at the upcoming State Bar Convention. (All the detail is here. And the complete Convention brochure is here.)

What follows are questions I asked seminar chairs, followed by their responses.

Today, I share the responses of chairs for programs this Friday afternoon, June 17.

Click on the seminar title to read more detail as published in the Convention brochure. (Note: Not all seminar chairs responded.)

Friday, June 17, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

F-48: Starting Your Own Practice: Practical Tips and Resources

Co-chairs: Roberta Tepper, Kristin Moye

Who should attend this seminar?

Newer lawyers, lawyers in transition to a solo or small firm practice, lawyers who want information about law practice management

What is the one main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

Practical information that will help them in building their practice and the assistance the Bar can provide after the convention.

How is this seminar timely? (That is: Why do attorneys need to learn more about this topic right now? What’s going on now in the world or in law practice that makes this topic important?)

This session is timely because many lawyers entering the profession now are opening solo or small firm practices; it’s always a good time to learn some helpful and practical tips that can make a law practice run more efficiently and effectively by tuning-up your practice management skills.

What is the most common misconception about this issue? In other words, what do lawyers think they know, but don’t?

Lawyers, particularly freshly minted ones, forget that running a law practice is also running a business. Lawyers sometimes focus on the substance of their practice and neglect the practical details and this session will remind them and give those just starting out tools and suggestions to help make their new practice a success.

2:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

F-49: Not Another Caselaw Review: Emerging Technology, Legal Issues, nd the Construction Industry

Chair: Matt Meaker

F-49 Matt Meaker

Matt Meaker

Who should attend this seminar?

Attorneys interested in learning about the use of drones and other technology in construction.

What is the one main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

It’s not enough to know the last twenty years of caselaw to be a good lawyer. Clients will always be growing and changing. Working with them to understand where they are heading helps a good lawyer to anticipate what the legal issues may be now and in the future.

How is this seminar timely? (That is: Why do attorneys need to learn more about this topic right now? What’s going on now in the world or in law practice that makes this topic important?)

The use of drones and BIM is becoming more prevalent in the construction industry. Understanding why clients are using this technology and what the legal implications of doing so is critical for those attorneys who want to be ahead of the curve.

F-50: Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions

Chair: Todd Lawson

F-50 Todd Lawson

Todd Lawson

Who should attend?

Criminal practitioners who want to learn what happens after a conviction, once their client gets to immigration court. Immigration practitioners who would like some insight on the decisions made in criminal courts before their clients face immigration proceedings.

What is the one main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

Criminal practitioners should be able to get some basic information which will help them so that their clients do not run into unexpected troubles in subsequent immigration proceedings.

How is this seminar timely?

The Criminal and Immigration Sections have put on this session before at previous conventions, but this presentation will be updated with new law and current procedures.

What is the most common misconception about this issue?

Criminal and Immigration lawyers think they are not skilled enough in the other’s area to offer meaningful advice across the topics without referring the client out to another practitioner. We hope to give practitioners some basic info to address the easiest topics without the need for a referral.

F-53: PTSD and Forensic Labor Market Analysis

Co-chairs: Stephen Ball, Diana Ezrré Robles

F-53 Diana Ezrré Robles

Diana Ezrré Robles

Who should attend?

Lawyers interested in workers’ compensation issues who either practice in this area or whose practices come into contact with this area should attend our seminar.

What is the one main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

The main takeaway is that workers’ compensation law is quite unique but has many overlapping issues with other practice areas.

How is this seminar timely?

PTSD is either more frequently diagnosed at present or is just more prevalent now than at other times, regardless, the effects of PTSD are being felt in great numbers and presents challenges to lawyers in many practice areas.

A record-number of legal seminars are on offer at the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

A record-number of legal seminars are on offer at the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass will be the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass will be the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

 Today, I’ll offer a few more in a series of posts describing legal seminars at the upcoming State Bar Convention. (All the detail is here. And the complete Convention brochure is here.)

What follows are questions I asked seminar chairs, followed by their responses.

Today, I share the responses of chairs for all-day programs on Friday, June 17.

Click on the seminar title to read more detail as published in the Convention brochure. (Note: Not all seminar chairs responded.)

8:45 a.m. – 5:15p.m.

F-55: Bankruptcy

Chair: Krystal Ahart

F-55 Krystal Ahart

Krystal Ahart

Who should attend?

All bankruptcy practitioners should attend this day-long event, which will cover a broad range of consumer & commercial topics, including student loans and real property issues, healthcare bankruptcies, and disgorgement of fees. Student loan issues, both in and out of bankruptcy, are quickly becoming a hot topic item, and attendees will get to hear from “THE Student Loan Lawyer,” Joshua Cohen, who is a true expert in his field. A case law update will also be included, as well as an hour of ethics in the form of a debate\hearing.

F-56: Labor & Employment Law: The Present State and the Future

Co-chairs: Kathryn Hackett King, Magdalena Osborn, Jennifer Phillips

Who should attend this seminar?

Both in-house and private practitioners who routinely deal with labor and employment law issues.

What is the one main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

A record-number of legal seminars are on offer at the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

A record-number of legal seminars are on offer at the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

Labor and employment law is constantly developing due to new administrative regulations, state and federal legislative action, the Supreme Court’s input, and of course, new judicial rules and procedures. This seminar educates attendees about some of biggest changes, and how they affect our day-to-day practice.

How is this seminar timely? (That is: Why do attorneys need to learn more about this topic right now? What’s going on now in the world or in law practice that makes this topic important?)

The “the rules of the game” in labor and employment law change from one day to the next. Staying up-to-date on these changes is the key to providing quality legal services.

What is the most common misconception about this issue? In other words, what do lawyers think they know, but don’t?

Some legal changes have a grace period allowing people time to adjust—others do not. It would be a mistake to “wait and see” before working with clients to ensure compliance.

 

The 2016-17 officers are pictured, L to R: President-Elect Alex Vakula, Second Vice President Steve Hirsch, President Lisa Loo, First Vice President Jeff Willis, and Secretary-Treasurer Brian Furuya.

The 2016-17 officers are pictured, L to R: President-Elect Alex Vakula, Second Vice President Steve Hirsch, President Lisa Loo, First Vice President Jeff Willis, and Secretary-Treasurer Brian Furuya.

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorAt its regular annual meeting at the State Bar Convention this afternoon, the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors confirmed its slate of officers for the coming year. The new roster includes the newest officer, Secretary/Treasurer Brian The 2016-17 officers are pictured, L to R: President-Elect Alex Vakula, Second Vice President Steve Hirsch, President Lisa Loo, First Vice President Jeff Willis, and Secretary-Treasurer Brian Furuya.

uya, elected today:

President: Lisa Loo

President-Elect: Alex Vakula

First Vice President: Jeff Willis

Second Vice President: Steven A. Hirsch

Secretary/Treasurer: Brian Furuya

Following board bylaws, the new slate of officers assume their positions at the close of the annual meeting.

Follow more news via this Convention Daily and on Twitter, hashtag #azbarcon

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass will be the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass is the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

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