November 2010


Today and tomorrow, I plan to attend what promises to be a helpful event hosted by the State Bar of Arizona.

The Solo and Small-Firm Conference will be at the Chaparral Suites in Scottsdale, and it includes an impressive lineup of speakers and presenters. In fact, the afternoon breakouts, which are divided into “Substantive” and “Law Practice/Technology” tracks, present me with a difficult decision.

More information on the conference, including the speaker roster, is here.

Well, since I won’t be there to garner MCLE credit, I may just hop back and forth. I’ll let you know how that goes.

The event launches Thursday morning with remarks by Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch. She’s followed by speakers, some nationally known, on topics such as surviving bad economic times and ethical marketing tips.

Friday morning includes conference co-chairs (Kathleen McCarthy, Lynda Shely, Susan Traylor and Paul Ulrich) presenting “61 Tips in 60 Minutes.” I’ll be counting—and looking at my watch—to see if they bring that in on time and under budget.

Breakout sessions will include topics such as: Internet marketing, fee agreements and getting paid, reducing paper in your law office, and small-firm financial management.

(The conference materials indicate that there will be a continental breakfast. But I have it on good authority that French toast will make an appearance one of the mornings. Attend to find out which.)

I’ll post a story and some photos next week. But I’ll also tweet from the event, using the hashtag: #SBAsolo

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Hon. Ron Reinstein (ret.) speaks at ASU Law School, Nov. 16, 2010

Yesterday, a program at ASU Law School turned a light on what may be one of the most important issues in law today.

“The White House Subcommittee on Forensic Science: Policies and Issues” was the title, and it covered developments—or the lack of them—that have followed on the nearly two years since the National Academy of Sciences issued a compelling report about the state of forensic science today.

(We covered the report’s release in Arizona Attorney in April 2009. You can read it here.)

The speaker was Ron Reinstein, former Maricopa County Superior Court Judge who now works at the Administrative Office of the Courts. His experience in the area is broad and deep, and he currently chairs the state’s Forensic Science Advisory Committee.

ASU’s Law & Science Student Association was the host, and it gave Reinstein 50 minutes to explain “what’s happening in the world of forensic science.” He did quite a job in his allotted time.

He admitted, though, that the White House Subcommittee is pretty stringent on what can and cannot be said about the group’s workings, at least until it issues its report. As he landed on his last slide, he said, “We’re only allowed to do that PowerPoint.”

Of course, he was able to explain far more than that about the world outside the subcommittee.

The takeaway message was that much work had been accomplished over the past year at the federal, state and local level. Unfortunately, that work has translated very little into changes in approach and operations in forensic labs. “To be honest,” he said, “I am not that encouraged about state government responses around the country.”

Even in terms of education, Reinstein admitted that few judges have read the NAS report, and many others are even unaware that it exists. A survey of Texas judges showed that only 22 percent knew anything about it. “That’s kind of scary,” Reinstein said.

Much that was proposed in the NAS Report is unlikely to come to pass, he said. That includes an effort to require that all forensic labs be independent of law enforcement agencies. “That was dead on arrival,” he said.

(For insight into why that is important, read an article in the November issue of the ABA Journal, titled “CSI Breakdown.” As it says, “Some police and prosecutors tend to view government-employed forensic scientists, including medical examiners, not as independent experts but as members of the prosecution’s ‘team.’” The article is here.)

Courts, too, have not taken a leadership position on forcing changes in the forensic science regimen. “Judges don’t feel comfortable taking the lead on this,” he explained, adding that there have been few challenges by defense counsel based on the NAS findings that would allow judges to rule on admissibility. (One exception he mentioned is Nancy Gertner, a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. You can read more about her here.)

The speaker showed some silver lining in terms of education. He’s been pleased at the focus on the topic at Arizona Judicial Council conferences, and at the State Bar Convention. He said that people interested in the topic are watching to see what if anything the state’s new Attorney General, Tom Horne, and the Legislature adopt in regard to forensic science. And he is confident that “The Supreme Court wants to see change occur”; he mentioned Justices Hurwitz and Bales, and former Justice Ryan, as three who have indicated a strong desire to see positive change happen soon.

In the same vein, his Forensic Science Advisory Committee has developed a six-month course that will educate prosecutors and defense attorneys—25 of each—on all aspects of forensic science. It will meet weekly from January through May.

Look for more coverage in Arizona Attorney in 2011.

Here are more photos from the event.

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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.

Nov. 2, 2010: Bill Montgomery waves to the crowd after giving a victory speech at the GOP election headquarters at the Hyatt in Phoenix. (Photo: Pat Shannahan, Arizona Republic)

The Sunday Arizona Republic ran a good profile about the man about to become the most influential lawyer in Arizona.

No, not the new state Attorney General, Tom Horne. I was referring to Bill Montgomery, who on November 22 will punch a clock as the new Maricopa County Attorney.

Arizona Attorney Magazine is a statewide publication, so we tend not to cover county-specific races and positions. Which may be a shame, because that meant we sidelined ourselves as the oddest squadron of legal types wreaked havoc over the state’s largest county over the past few years. And at the center of the maelstrom were two county positions: Sheriff and Attorney.

Michael Kiefer’s profile of Bill Montgomery managed to leave the starting gate before Montgomery even sat in the chair. Therefore, we’ll have to reserve judgment on whether the results align with the new prosecutor’s stated aims: to serve “the cause of justice and the people of Maricopa County.”

Kiefer hedges his bets by noting in the second graf that Sheriff Joe Arpaio “contributed heavily to Montgomery’s Republican primary win by bankrolling attack ads against Montgomery’s primary opponent, Interim County Attorney Rick Romley.”

It’s not easy, Kiefer suggests, to decline to dance with the one who brung ya.

Andrew Thomas

Montgomery seems to be aware of this, and went out of his way to reassure Kiefer and readers that he is his own man.

There are a lot of good reasons to do that.

First, of course, it would appear (even to a non-ethics expert such as me) that it is simply the right thing to do. As Montgomery said, “I can’t use the criminal-justice system to effect a policy outcome if I don’t have the evidence or the ability to prosecute a case ethically in the first place.”

It may be a sign of how far we have fallen in Arizona that a statement like that yields a sigh of relief in a reader; anywhere else in the country, it would cause readers to say, “Well, duh; that’s Crim Law 101.”

Second, it may be the right thing for Bill Montgomery to do—for himself. It can’t have escaped his attention that waging high-profile war with other agencies, county supervisors and even judges did not translate into fame, fortune and a life of unalloyed praise for his predecessor and the sheriff. Sure, it’s always possible that Andrew Thomas may be hosting his own Fox News show one of these days, but right now? He’s just practicing law, and continuing to stare at the possibility of formal bar charges.

And the sheriff? Well, he’s been a little quieter lately. Elections may have consequences, but so do active county supervisors, and an inquisitive Department of Justice.

You can read the entire story here.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about other leaders who are buoyed along the political current by supporters, some of whom the leaders wish would stay in the shadows. Sometimes it works, but sometimes …

(Full disclosure: I am a State Bar employee, but I have nothing to do with the Lawyer Regulation Department. And in the case of Andy Thomas, even the Lawyer Regulation Department is out of that loop. By Arizona Supreme Court order, it is being investigated by Colorado lawyer John Gleason; the probable-cause panelist is former Arizona Chief Justice Charles Jones. So far, no formal charges have been brought in the matter. So my musings are just that.)

Alec Baldwin pitches public radio

This is Friday, Change of Venue Day, when we broaden our horizons beyond the big sky of the Arizona legal community. Today, we give a nod to another media outlet—those hard-working folks at public radio.

Pledge drives are one of the more annoying aspects of a radio-listener’s life, but we have no one to blame but ourselves for the relentless pitch for dollars. If more of us contributed, that staple of the airwaves would be reduced and maybe disappear.

The NPR program This American Life knows how much people dislike the pledge drive. But instead of running from it, they embraced it. The actor Alec Baldwin stepped up and created a series of pitches that make you smile and maybe even laugh out loud. They are witty, well written and snarky.

Begin listening here.

A few examples of the eight spots:

  • If listeners really don’t care enough to pay to keep talented correspondents on their beats, maybe we should move them around. Listen to Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg after she is reassigned to sports (and yes, that’s her voice).
  • The same goes for the talented Terry Gross, taken off the award-winning “Fresh Air” and herded into the annoying “Wine Fancy.”
  • “Always Be Pledging” demands the hard-driving Baldwin, in a reprise of his sales director role in Glengarry Glen Ross (minus the cuss words): “Put that coffee down; coffee is for pledgers only.”

Just the ticket for a Change of Venue.

Listen to a few of the bits here. And then contribute to your local public radio station. And then—and only then—enjoy your weekend.

(A hat tip to my wife and fearless scourer of the airwaves, Kathy Nakagawa, for this great link.)

Our November 2010 issue, with art by Val Bochkov

For this day that honors those who put themselves in harm’s way, here are a few short items.

First: Today the ASU Law School is hosting what looks like a great program for vets and their families. I posted the item yesterday; go here for more information. But don’t delay; it starts at 1:00 this afternoon.

Second: Next Monday, a job fair in Gilbert, Ariz., aims to assist veterans—though others are welcome, too. The “Hire Veterans First” fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Monday at Sun Valley Community Church, 456 E. Ray Road. More details are here.

Finally: This month in Arizona Attorney Magazine, we feature a few stories about how members of the legal community are collaborating to launch a Veterans Court in Maricopa County.

You can read the complete news item down below. But before you do that, I wanted to talk about our art this month.

Months before we created the November issue, our Art Director Karen Holub and I talked about this evolving story. She proposed that this could be a great feature for which we could commission some custom art. We have done that in the past, but you need a good combination of ample lead time and strong concept to make it work.

I agreed with Karen, and she jumped into the challenge. After much work, she narrowed the field to about five artists. We looked over their portfolios, and we found we were both drawn to work by Val Bochkov.

Bochkov has illustrated stories for many national publications, and his past experience is broad and deep. That’s why we were confident he could create beautiful work for us. What we also were to discover was that he was a pleasure to work with. More than once, Karen praised him to me, commenting how he was less interested in billing us for every alteration or addition than he was in creating work that married perfectly with the story.

We think he succeeded; I hope you agree. More of Val Bochkov’s work is here and here.

And here is our press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Tim Eigo, Arizona Attorney Editor

Phone: (602) 340-7310, Mobile: (602) 908-6991

E-Mail: tim.eigo@staff.azbar.org

Campaign to Create Veterans Court the Focus of Arizona Attorney

PHOENIX – Nov. 10, 2010 – Prolonged and intense combat have increased the severity of harm done to U.S. soldiers, and the November issue of Arizona Attorney magazine features stories that explore how lawyers and judges are assisting those who have served in harm’s way.

Arizona Attorney’s special section “Homeland Justice for Veterans” includes stories that explore efforts to launch a specialized court dedicated to veterans and their needs. The first article was written by Craig Logsdon and Michelle Keogh, attorneys in the criminal defense group at Snell & Wilmer LLP.

Logsdon and Keogh chronicle a veteran’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its effects on his civilian life in the article “Uncommon Criminals: Why Veterans Need Their Own Court.” It leads the reader on a journey from a veteran’s time on the battlefield to the legal challenges he faces due to criminal activity attributed to his war-related PTSD. It also dissects the current justice system, reveals its disconnect with veterans, and argues why a veterans court would work.

The second article, written by Nicole Kasem and lawyer Jon Paladini, reports on the State Bar of Arizona’s commitment to addressing the legal needs of veterans through the creation of its Military Legal Assistance Committee. It is led by attorney Gregg Maxon, a retired Army General.

In the final article, Steve Gonzales, Associate Professor of Law and the Director of Experiential Learning at the Phoenix School of Law, announces two new programs housed at the law school aimed at helping veterans—the Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic and the Veterans Tax Clinic.

“Veterans have always deserved our country’s best efforts when they return stateside,” said Tim Eigo, Arizona Attorney Editor. “Conflicts in recent years have heightened the number and severity of their injuries, and the legal community is doing what it can to assist those who have served.”

The striking art for the cover and feature stories was created by nationally renowned artist Val Bochkov. It was commissioned by Arizona Attorney magazine to illustrate the November issue’s veteran-related stories.

Arizona Attorney magazine is published 11 times per year by the State Bar of Arizona. It provides articles on substantive legal issues, professional trends and feature profiles.

The full article is available here.

For Immediate Release

For more information contact:

Janie Magruder, 480-727-9052, jane.magruder@asu.edu

Judy Nichols, 480-727-7895, judith.nichols@asu.edu

Law school to host Veterans Day program on laws supporting military members and their families

A program about the laws that support service members, veterans and military families will be presented on Thursday, Nov. 11, at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

“Serving Those who Serve: Basic Civil Protections for Soldiers, Veterans and their Families,” will be from 1-5 p.m. in the Great Hall of Armstrong Hall on the ASU Tempe campus. The program is free, but registration is required here.

Sponsored by the law school’s Civil Justice Clinic, the event will include discussions about employment protections, veteran’s benefits, credit and debt obligations and lease terminations. A panel of experts will review local programs that aid this population.

Speakers include: 

  • Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • Marcy Karin, associate clinical professor and director, Work-Life Policy Unit, Civil Justice Clinic, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • Nick Barton, president, Homeless Legal Assistance Program, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • Paul Bennett, clinical professor and director, Child Advocacy Clinic, James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona
  • Steven Gonzales, associate professor and director, Experiential Learning, Phoenix School of Law
  • Brad Bridwell, Homeless Veterans Services coordinator, Arizona Department of Veterans Services
  • Tom Reade, unit chief, Crime, Fraud and Victim Resource Center, Arizona Attorney General’s Office
  • Nicola M. Winkel, program consultant/community liaison, Arizona Coalition for Military Families
  • Army Brigadier General Gregg Maxon (ret.), chairman, Arizona Bar Military Legal Assistance Committee
  • Chief Warrant Officer Lawrence “Butch” Wise (ret.), executive director, Arizona Field Office, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve  
  • Theodore C. Jarvi, attorney, Law Offices of Theodore C. Jarvi
  • Capt. Patrick Camunez, attorney-advisor, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Arizona Air National Guard
  • Chelsey Golightly, law clerk, Shaw & Lines, LLC

For more information, contact Matthew Cullimore.
Matthew.Cullimore @asu.edu

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