October 2010

Barbara Rodriguez Mundell

Yesterday’s Candidate Forum was informative—even if most of the people in the room had already mailed in their early ballot.

Despite that probability, the Arizona Women Lawyers Association packed a banquet room at the Phoenix Wyndham Hotel. Perhaps in a state where arts funding has been cut so severely, people are hungry for the only theater still yielding long runs—political theater.

The event was moderated by former Maricopa County Presiding Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell.

Attending were two candidates for Attorney General: Democrat Felecia Rotellini and Republican Tom Horne.

Terry Goddard

Also speaking was Democratic candidate for Governor Terry Goddard. Appearing for the Republican ticket was, well, no one.

That fact didn’t trouble Goddard, who opened with what must be a practiced line by now: “I’m happy to wait a few more minutes for the Governor to appear.” Today, he reminded the audience, would be the 15th public event (by his count) that Gov. Jan Brewer had declined to attend to wrestle with issues in the company of her adversary.

Felecia Rotellini

“No problem,” said Goddard with a smile. “I’ll be happy to take both sides.”

He said that job-creation had to be “Job One.” In addition, “We will never recover our economy as long as our schools are dead last in the nation.”

“We have to put all the crazy political games aside,” he continued. “We must get more result-oriented and less interested in what Fox News cares about.”

He poked fun at the Governor’s billboard ads, in which her face is superimposed over that of Rosie the Riveter, rolling up her sleeves.

“Never has Rosie been so maligned. She was getting the job done, while Jan Brewer was borrowing $200 million every month.”

Tom Horne

His largest laugh? When he said, “I promise this: To keep Arizona off Comedy Central for at least four years.”

Perhaps because the AG portion of the luncheon enjoyed the attendance of both opponents, the conversation had more law and less rhetoric.

Rotellini and Horne each detailed their goals for the office. Number 1 on both of their lists? Border security.

(Here is Mary Jo Pitzl’s far better account of yesterday’s forum, as it appears in the Arizona Republic.)

I’ll leave you with:

  • Tom Horne’s best line today: “When I appeared at the Ninth Circuit for the oral argument of Horne v. Flores, I introduced myself as schools superintendent—and as the shadow Attorney General, because our elected AG would not pursue the case.”
  • Felecia Rotellini’s best line today: “Voters don’t want the office used as a battering ram for political ideology. They want results. I am the only candidate who has prosecuted a criminal in Arizona.”

Here are a few photos from the event.


Yesterday, Robert Yazzie spoke about “The Quality of Justice From the Navajo Experience.” The former Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation walked attendees through an explanation of what comprises that quality.

This was another in a run of blockbuster programs hosted by the ASU Law School’s Indian Legal Program. (A few weeks ago, we reported about a talk by Walter Echo-Hawk on reforming federal Indian law. That story is here.)

In a talk peppered with bits—sometimes long bits—of the Navajo language—Justice Yazzie explained some of the conclusions he’s come to after law practice and judging on a trial court and the Supreme Court.

He spoke about some of the innovations the Navajo courts have developed, but said there was still a significant amount of “bad stuff,” including open disrespect from non-native lawyers “who play games with the law.”

He then tried to illustrate for the audience how Navajo law works, using a few common-to-life experiences, such as a vehicle purchase and a land dispute.

His message was that indigenous judges seek to base their decisions on consensus and respect. The alternative view—as seen in Western legal systems—imposes a hierarchy of power judgment, in which matters are placed in the hands of strangers. In that respect, the notion of judicial neutrality is suspect.

Navajo judges, he explained, encourage talking things out. But the notion is not some flighty one dreamed up by “those colorful Indians.” Instead, it arises when we “change what we mean by law.”

“You can have a law without rules,” he explained, “when you have relationships.”

In that dynamic, he said, no one will use a “nuclear option”—such as repossessing a vehicle that’s needed—without first exploring all other possibilities.

“Think of the law as relationships,” he urged the listeners. “Start with the self—who am I and what does my identity mean in relation to others?”

Because of the dual focus, Yazzie said, the Navajo way is completely free, but limited because of obligations to others—freedom of action, but a freedom with consequences.

Audience members enjoyed his description of Navajo law as “a delightful compromise between an attempt to codify and no legislative guidance at all.” Thus, a millennium of custom is still “malleable, plastic, adaptable.”

Navajo society, Yazzie concluded, is both individualistic and egalitarian.

Not a bad goal at all, I’d say.

Let me get right to the point: The State Bar’s showing of To Kill a Mockingbird last Thursday was a blast and a half.

Sure, all of you folks who had seen it before maybe aren’t impressed. But for us newbies, it was a revelation. That Gregory Peck sure can scale the moral high ground—but do it like the everyday accomplishment it’s supposed to be.

The venue was well chosen, too. Pollack Tempe Cinemas kindly donated the use of their space. The theater was perfect, but the lobby—filled with loads of movie memorabilia and character statues—was a treat in itself. (I shot some photos like I do at many legal events, but I snapped some extras just because.)

"Here's lookin' at" one of the many cool Pollack Theater statues.

I spoke with many people that night, including lawyers who had seen the movie before. Many of them talked about the movie as a watershed event in their decision to become a lawyer. Though I didn’t find anyone who had an “Atticus Finch” case experience, that didn’t dampen their ardor a whit.

I was reminded of the power of cinema when I read a news story today. In it, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor revealed how influential a “legal movie” was in her own life choices. (You can read the whole story here.)

My daughters (9 and 14) came with me to the theater to see To Kill a Mockingbird (Kathy couldn’t make it, because she had to teach a late ASU class). I wasn’t sure they would hold up after a full and busy day, followed by a serious (and black-and-white) movie. But they each hung on every word. I was pleased that they enjoyed the depiction of a moral dilemma.

(And how can you not love a movie that includes a neighbor character who tells a young girl why she should admire her dad: “He can make someone’s will so tight you can’t break it. You count your blessings.” Snap! That’s some kind of Hollywood writing!)

As for me, To Kill is one of those movies that makes me think, “Hmmm, maybe I should return to law practice, hang out a shingle, and set out to help some people.”

Of course, when my musings start to sound Atticus-like, it’s time to take a deep breath and get back to work.

The evening was focused on the movie, but there were some brief preliminary events: a door-prize raffle (presided over by Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch and State Bar Chief Communications Officer Rick DeBruhl); and a few short remarks.

The Chief told the lawyers in the audience that “Atticus does what lawyers do every day. And I think you’re all heroes. I thank you.” (She followed that with a few sentences that, frankly, should have been preceded by a spoiler alert. I’ll remember to cover my ears next time speeches precede a movie I haven’t seen.)

State Bar President Alan Bayham Jr. also praised the movie, known to be one of his favorites. The family man made special note of the movie’s depiction of the relationship between a father and his children. I’d agree; that’s a central part of the movie.

Congratulations to the joint hard work of the State Bar of Arizona and the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education that was required to pull this off (on the Bar side, a hat-tip goes to Rick DeBruhl and PR Specialist Patricia Giallanza). Bravo to all.

Need a suggestion for a future movie screening ... ?

As I told Rick DeBruhl, it would be great if he could put together that kind of event all the time (good of me to recommend work for other people, eh?).

More pictures of the screening are at Arizona Attorney’s Facebook page here.

I’ve talked before about what a mash-up modern culture has become. Most days, I get a kick out of it. But a recent movie is making me rethink my enthusiasm for medleys.

Eat Pray Love got some modest hype (guffaw) when it was released. I have not seen the flick, but that doesn’t mean I’ve managed to avoid the marketing juggernaut that surrounded it.

We’ve all seen and heard about Eat Pray Love yoga mats, and Eat Pray Love herbal tea, and Eat Pray Love vacation packages.

Yeah, yeah, you might yawn. And I agree—what did I expect, that marketers would not plunge into a breach to find an extra nickel?

But over the past few months, I’ve been disappointed to see magazines too engage in the lowest form of mimicry—of the EPL title, of all things. They alter the words slightly to fit an article’s slant, and they’re off to the races, with hijacked spiritual cred trailing from their pages like so many prayer beads.

Come on, gang; magazine folk ain’t marketers. We should be above all that.

Unless …

I did get to thinking this weekend about how Arizona Attorney might make a little filthy lucre off this scam. So like all bad ideas, let’s write the titles first, and worry about the content later.

My desk is at least as cluttered.

So here are a few approaches aimed at our audience of lawyers; let me know if you can think of more. Who knows? Maybe Julia Roberts could play me in the movie version (as you can see in this photo, I think we may have the same office organization system).








Your entry here. …

By the time you read this, I and many others of the legally interested will be tuckered out from what I bet will be a great screening of To Kill a Mockingbird. (Yesterday I wrote about this event, which was in honor of the book’s 50th anniversary.)

But it’s Friday—Change of Venue Day—so let’s get to something sort of fun and rather odd.

Today’s winner is a hoot—and it falls into the category of font humor.

I know, I know—I like font humor too much. I’ve written about it a few times (here and here). But my ears perk up when I hear, “Calibri, Garamond and Wingding walked into a bar …”

Anyway, I enjoyed this story of woe and angst among our font brethren. I hope you do too.

Thank you to Steph Abbott at the Clark County Bar Association in Las Vegas, Nev., for excavating this Serif gem.

The confession is a central icon of the law—and of the Catholic Church, come to think of it. And because I’ve operated in both of those worlds, the declaration of guilt should come easily to me—you would think.

Well, I may as well get on with it. My mea culpa for the day? I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

Yes, I know, that is a standard of the American legal literary sphere. Written in 1960, it won a Pulitzer Prize. It travels deeply into issues of racial injustice and the loss of innocence. But it never passed before my reading glasses.

Strange, I know. I even got a few English degrees, along with a law school education, and still no Kill for me. How could I have slogged through Pennoyer v. Neff but skipped the novelistic moral high ground?

All I know is, I can’t be the only one. Anyone care to share?

The timing of this emotional outpouring is related to a State Bar of Arizona event this evening—a screening of the classic 1962 film version of the novel. People like “Atticus Finch” and “Scout” and “‘Boo’ Radley”—much-loved characters in the American lexicon, I’m told—will come to life on the big screen.

(The showing will benefit the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education. I wrote about the October 14 movie screening here. And more detail is here. One thing to note: Bring cash, which is all the concession stand will take—not To Kill the Classic Movie Feeling, or anything.)

You never read it, son? I'm very disappointed.

I plan to be there in the Pollack Tempe Theater, with my daughters, as I watch and expiate for my literary sins. I’m hoping you join us too, whether you’re a Harper Lee groupie or not.

I have to admit: I’ve been overcome by a sudden crush, one that defies common sense and all reason. But there it is: I’m wowed by Prezi.

Prezi’s a looker—like any presentation software should be. It grabs a viewer like a suitor singing “I Can Show You the World” in Aladdin.

Here’s an example of what it can do.

OK, that was pretty sales-y. So how about something with illustrations?


This new tool would make anyone drop PowerPoint, and makes PP feel like the “safe” date your parents may like.

I first saw Prezi last week at the SPJ convention, when CNN’s Victor Hernandez gave his presentation on All Platform Journalism. It was a great seminar, revealing some of the cutting-edge work that their correspondents are doing. But that wow-inducing opener will likely stay with me longer than the urge to apply for a CNN gig.

Why do I say that my Prezi crush is without reason? Merely because I rarely create e-presentations. And when I have, I’ve found the industry standard to be pretty lackluster. But so strong is my Prezi attraction that I may seek out some more speaking gigs. Why should Victor get to wow everyone?

I’ll let you know how my new love and I progress.

While I’m treating you to some video tours de force from the Las Vegas convention, let me mention two others that brought a response from attendees, either applause, smiles or gasps.

The first is one you’ve probably seen. A Google representative shared a TV commercial that told a love story in 53 seconds, from a brief trip to Paris to a lifelong affair of the heart.


Yes, it was charming, and it did make many people (even mildly boiled reporters) grin like schoolkids. But the reason I share it here is because of its story-telling quality. Most of us struggle to create a full-blown world in 20 column inches. But 53 seconds, and no images? Bravo.

The last video turns us from marketing back toward the best kind of journalism.

Rob Curley of the Las Vegas Sun presented on what we sometimes still call “new media,” and he demonstrated that paper’s mastery of multimedia platforms.

But for anyone caught up with the technology, he reminded us all that it is the story and the writing that matter. As an example, he showed us a series on gambling addiction the paper did that really can’t be beat (and in fact has won an award). One of the many stories they told was captured in a video, made by a man whose life was crumbling, and then edited into a short film by the paper. (The series opening page is here. Tony McDew’s story of his own addiction is here and here.)

It’s the best marriage of tool and story I’ve seen in a long time. After you watch it, traipse around the Sun’s website for a bit—I guarantee you’ll stay longer than you planned.

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