July 2011

Does William Shakespeare have a lesson for lawyers?

“It’s a long way from the bar to The Bard.”

Any news story that opens thusly will probably get my attention. And so it was in this article about poetry and the law—brought to you on this Change of Venue Friday.

An Ontario lawyer believes poetry may be the antidote to decades of verbosity in his profession. Though admittedly whimsical, condensing lengthy legal documents into limericks, couplets and other rhymes is proposed as a way of teaching attorneys not to write a symphony where a song would suffice.”

The lawyer is Jordan Furlong, and I immediately liked him, but not just for his literary ambitions for lawyers—he also was the editor of the Canadian Bar Association’s magazine National. Booya for lawyer pubs and the people who helm them!

Reactions to his rhyming notions have been mixed. Read the story here. Still interested? Jordan blogs here.

Jordan Furlong

To hear his pitch for more legal poetry—of the briefer variety—click here to read his story Shall I Compare Thee to a Summary Judgment?” Boy, does that make a litigant swoon!

But why do that at all? He argues that it will help counter lawyers’ tendency toward maddening completeness, which leads to 400-word sentences transparent to no one.

“Ask a lawyer for a tune and she’ll give you a symphony. Ask him for a snack and he’ll bring you a three-course meal.”

So as an exercise, “Have your lawyers share, once a week, a single poetic expression of legal information.”

And yes, he gives some examples. Enjoy.

Finally, as long as we’re Bard-like today, I point you to a video making the rounds. It has performer Jim Meskimen reciting Clarence’s speech from Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Dry stuff, you say? Oh no no no, for he does it as a large number of different celebrities. We’re talking George Clooney to Droopy Dog.

I beseech you: Have a great weekend.

In 2011, the State Bar continues its successful partnership with Phoenix’s 12 News KPNX TV in broadcasting Lawyers On Call. This public service has been offered for seven years, and it allows members of the public to get their legal questions answered by volunteer lawyers. And the Bar is always pleased to hear from lawyers who want to participate.

When Is It On?

Lawyers on Call is offered on the first Tuesday of every month. Lawyers answer calls from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 602.258.1212. (Attorneys will be available at that phone number only at that date and time; the number is not in service at other times.)

What Questions Are Answered?

Each month, the program features a different topic of law (see schedule below). The lawyers who volunteer for the phone bank each month have experience in that area of law.

Who Can Participate?

Anyone can call, and Arizona lawyers are invited to answer questions as part of the phone bank. The event is covered on Channel 12 on the first Tuesday of the month from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

What Is Scheduled?

August 2 …………………….. Immigration

Sept. 6 …………………………Divorce and child support

Oct. 4 …………………………. Employment law and wrongful termination

Nov. 8 ………………………… Landlord and tenant

Dec. 6 ………………………… Foreclosures and bankruptcy

2012 ………………………….. Topics to be announced

Lawyers on Call By the Numbers (2010)

    • Total number of people helped in 2010: 1,676
    • Hours of free legal advice: 194 hours
    • Approximate value of free legal advice: $48,500
    • Number of phone banks held in 2010: 11
    • Number of participating attorneys: 97

In 2011 so far, Lawyers On Call has helped more than 923 Arizonans. The program has helped more than 13,249 people in its seven years.

For more information or to participate, write to Alberto.Rodriguez@staff.azbar.org.

Tim Burr graced the magazine cover of Arizona Attorney a few years ago. That’s when he made waves as he helped to bring admission on motion (rather than by bar exam) to Arizona’s (dry) shores.

This week, I see he’s landed on another forward-thinking beachhead, this time at the ASU Law School. As the school reported, he and Mary Ellen Natale have been hired as faculty to address issues related to the foreclosure crisis.

Tim will be director of the new Foreclosure Mediation Unit, “which will provide impartial mediation services between lenders and residential borrowers facing foreclosure.”

Mary Ellen Natale

Natale directs the new Homeowner Advocacy Unit of the Civil Justice Clinic, “in which student attorneys will represent families who are at risk of foreclosure or victims of mortgage fraud scams and engage in advocacy and community outreach on foreclosure law and related issues.”

Previously, Tim Burr practiced commercial alternative dispute resolution and real estate law with Jennings, Strouss & SalmonFennemore Craig, and Morrison & Hecker. Natale was an Adjunct Professor at St. John’s University School of Law and has several years of housing law experience with legal services programs in New York and Ohio.

Here is more information on both programs. And more information about Burr and Natale is at the law school’s website. Congratulations—and good luck—to them and the school.

And here’s some more information on our 2008 photos of Tim by the terrific Karen Shell: The inside shot has him leaning over a wall map that I took down and borrowed from our family room—I think it worked pretty well there! And the cover shot—with him holding map puzzle pieces—demanded that we confirm the states he held in his hand actually were reciprocal to Arizona. After all, you and I both know someone would have noticed—and complained—if we got it wrong!

Just more than a month after U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke re-asserted his position that prosecution on Indian land is a priority, we can see significant movement on the topic.

It may have been the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington that made wide-ranging legislative proposals, but they have the fingerprints of western states’ prosecutors all over it. And that’s a great thing.

As an article describes it, the changes would “stiffen federal sentences for certain domestic violence crimes in Indian Country and expand tribes’ authority to enforce protection orders against non-Indians living on reservations.”

I’ve written more than once about the crisis confronting law-abiding people on Indian land. And this article reiterates that crimes have reached “epidemic rates”:

“One-third of all American Indian women will be raped in their lifetime, and nearly three of five have been assaulted by their partner, the Justice Department says. In addition, murder rates are 10 times higher than the national average for Native women.”

The proposed changes would be considered in congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Among them would be an expansion of federal jurisdiction over crimes committed on the reservation. The change would mean “sentences more in line with those faced by defendants in state courts who commit the same crimes, and give prosecutors better tools for deterring the offenses.”

Proposals also would allow tribal courts to enforce protection orders against non-Indians, no matter where the order originates.

If enacted, the VAWA amendments would take effect in two years.

We’ll follow the story as it develops. But this is a noteworthy step in stemming the epidemic.

Hon. Jean Williams, 1925-2011

We learned this weekend that a legal pioneer had died after a short illness. As the story says, Judge Jean Williams was the first African American Municipal Court Judge in Phoenix. In fact, she was the first to be appointed in both Phoenix and Tucson.

Jean Williams was a leader, first on the national stage and then here in Arizona. She worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., and later spearheaded efforts for a state holiday to honor him. You can read more of her accomplishments below, but ponder on this for a moment: When she enrolled as a new law student—in 1948—she was the only African American woman in her class at Loyola in Chicago.

Reading about her passing reminded me of a great event that occurred at a recent State Bar of Arizona Convention. At the 2010 event held in Glendale, a terrific group of people gathered to honor Arizona’s minority judges. Speakers included Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch and Phoenix Municipal Court Presiding Judge Roxanne Song Ong. So important were (and are) the contributions of these jurists that almost all of the members of the Supreme Court attended.

Arizona is proud to be represented by so many great lawyers and judges, past and present. But among those luminaries, many had higher hurdles to overcome than others. We are saddened by the passing of Judge Williams, but we marvel at the path she and others paved.

Here, thanks to the Maricopa County Bar Association, is more information on the remarkable life and career of Judge Jean Williams:

Honoring Minority Judges, 2010 State Bar Convention: Arizona's Justices with Hon. Lynda Howell (ret.), center

“Judge Williams is the first African American woman to be appointed to a municipal court judgeship, both in Tucson and in Phoenix. Now retired, she received her J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 1951 and passed the bar in Illinois that same year. From 1951-1970, she practiced in Chicago, representing welfare recipients and criminal defendants. She was notably active in defending protesters for civil, housing and voting rights in Chicago during the protest marches associated with Dr. Martin Luther King. She was also a legal consultant to the Chicago Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

“Judge Williams came to Arizona in 1971 to be near her retired parents in Tucson. She was admitted to the State Bar of Arizona in 1972 as only the second African American woman. After a brief stint as the executive director of a senior citizens law center in California, her parents’ deteriorating health brought her back, and she served as an attorney for the Southern Arizona Legal Aid Society.

“From 1973-74, she was a Pima County Public Defender and then was selected as a judge of the Tucson Municipal Court beginning in 1974. In 1976 accepted a judgeship in the Phoenix Municipal Court where she served until her retirement in 1996.

“Along the way, Judge Williams repeatedly confronted the double-edged sword of being both a woman and black. Described as feisty and outspoken, she was the only African American woman in her entering law school class of 200 in 1948. Throughout her career she faced both overt and subtle discrimination, which she challenged firmly but gracefully. Judge Williams has received many awards for her distinguished legal career and for the fact that she prevailed as a pioneering black woman lawyer in Arizona.”

Reviewing the past week’s news of the world, I would have to say that a pie in the face gets top billing.

And on Change of Venue Friday, why not pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy some pie. Or, at least, as the Washington Post calls it, the “history of pieing.”

It took awhile to locate a serviceable photo of newspaper monolith Rupert Murdoch getting “pied,” as they say. Ultimately all that is available are stills pulled from the video—which was lackluster to start with.

At the State Bar of Arizona, I spoke with Rick DeBruhl, who happened to be watching Murdoch’s testimony when the sweet confection was schmooshed into Murdoch’s face. He said that at the moment it occurred, “the camera pulled away and focused immediately on the wall.”

Rupert Murdoch prefers scones.

Here are a few conclusions we may draw from this:

  • The British media do indeed take their marching orders from Murdoch.
  • The cameraman forgot his job and rushed over to see what was up.
  • The channel failed to note how much we all seem to enjoy pie-in-the-face shots.

Which takes us back to the Washington Post story and slideshow.

To insert a little culture into what is otherwise a rather low-brow blog post, I point you toward the Kennedy Center. That’s right, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Impressed yet? No? Well, this’ll do it.

The Kennedy Center appears to like casual Change of Venue Friday as much as I do, and they provide a little background on the pie-in-face phenom. As they indicate:

Fatty Arbuckle takes the first pie.

“The first pie-in-the-face is thrown on film: The practice of ‘pieing’ in film got its start in the 1913 movie A Noise from the Deep. Actress Mabel Normand hit co-star Fatty Arbuckle in the face with a pie—no word on what flavor it was.”

Read the whole story here. And down below are a few more photos of the famous meeting a baked good head-on.

Have a great weekend.

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The Arizona Attorney General released this press release today in regard to the Independent Redistricting Commission:

Tom Horne

Attorney General

Office of the Arizona Attorney General

Executive Office

Amy Rezzonico

Press Secretary


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Contact:  Amy Rezzonico (602) 542-8019


PHOENIX (Thursday, July 21, 2011)  —  Attorney General Tom Horne has authorized his office to conduct an initial investigation of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission based on reports that raise questions about the Commission’s compliance with Arizona’s Open Meeting Law and procurement laws when it recently entered into a contract with Strategic Telemetry to provide mapping consultant services.

 “I need to emphasize very clearly that this is an initial investigation that will attempt to determine if any violations actually occurred,” Horne said.  “I am concerned about reports that have raised questions about some of the procedural actions taken by the commission, and I am committed to finding out whether those concerns warrant any further investigation.  If this initial investigation finds that laws have been violated, we will proceed accordingly.”

I would like to tell you that when I read a news story about rancid meat and jails, I did not immediately think of Arizona.

Of course, I have a commitment to honesty to readers, so I cannot do that.

But as I scanned this story out of New York City, I did find reason—small—to cheer. But first, the story.

I have never visited the jail at Rikers Island, but I have watched a lot of Law & Orders, so I can’t say I was surprised when I saw that facility connected to 65,000 pounds of spoiled meat.

As the story says, jail officials realized that the refrigeration had been off for days. So the contents were “off” too. But at least one of the leaders thought the problem could be solved with some spices.

(Hint to the wise: Do NOT search Google for “Rikers Island meat.”)

How many of us immediately think of the Seinfeld episode where a character remembers with horror his hubris as a young Army cook? Thinking he could salvage meat that was turning, he spiced and spiced—and made his entire unit sick.

Apparently, he has a future in corrections kitchens.

And of course, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s green bologna came to mind too. Because serving past-its-prime meat to jail inmates is not just something that happens in the Bronx. They have a lot to learn from the Grand Canyon State and Maricopa County.

Enough of that. I had promised you news that cheered me. Well, here it is:

In 115 comments that followed the story, not one—NOT ONE!—mentions Arizona and Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s notorious bologna.

In what passes for progress in Arizona’s national reputation, that fact cheers me.

And on an even more more uplifting note, I steer you toward another story, this one about the bread-baking inmates at Rikers.

As the article opens:

“Each morning, and again in the afternoon, the blades of three bread-slicing machines are counted carefully. Only then does the bakery let workers go home — to their jail cells on Rikers Island.

“Twenty inmates at one of the largest jail complexes in the United States are part of a team that bakes 36,000 loaves of bread a week to feed the city’s entire prison population — about 13,000 people. Employees in orange-and-white-striped jumpsuits and surgical caps earn $31 a week churning out whole-wheat bread. There’s not an apron in sight.”

Freshly made bread leaves the oven along a conveyer belt at the Rikers Island bakery. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Skip the protein, stick to the carbs.

Everett Dirksen

“A billion here, a billion there. Pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

Illinois senator Everett Dirksen may or may not have uttered that pithy phrase. But either way, it came to mind as I read the news yesterday afternoon that a jury had returned a $10 million verdict against Taser International.

Even in today’s inflated world, I think of that as a lot of money. And so I expected pretty solid coverage of the jury’s decision.

I needed that because I wanted to link to the news on the brand-new Arizona Attorney Magazine News Center. Taser’s an Arizona company, they came up on the short end of a legal case, it all made newsy sense.

But as I searched for a solid story on it, all I came up with were … company press releases.

The first link I saw came from a respected business weekly. The headline about $10 million grabbed me. But the story sounded like Taser’s PR department had penned it. It appeared to be factual, but the entire focus was on the number of jury verdicts they have won, and on the plaintiff arguments that the jury rejected.

Hmm, I thought. There has to be something better out there.

But after about 30 minutes of searching, I’ve come across the same release about 20 times, all posted as news by multiple publishers. I really have to hand it to Taser’s web-optimization people.

This occurred the same day that news-ish mogul Rupert Murdoch was hammered with a cream pie as he testified to Parliament. We here in the States appear to take great pride in the assertion that journalists here would never engage in such phone-hacking behavior.

Rupert Murdoch's hit a bad patch.

I think they’re right. But our web-ified news regime deserves a cream pie of its own. Passing off press releases as news was considered poor form even before the Internet. But the Web has intensified the scramble for content. And corporate PR mills appear happy to fill the gap.

As for linking to the story, I’ve decided to wait 24 hours. I’m sure I’ll find something of value tomorrow. It’ll keep.

Just as sports fans eagerly await baseball’s opening day—the crack of the bat, the crunch of the popcorn—lawyers gaze spellbound toward this Wednesday. For that is when an annual migration culminates, when our rafters and shelves are filled with the newborn, the fledgling.

On Wednesday, hundreds of new laws take effect. 357, to be exact.

A profession beams with pride as it leans over the bassinet, also known as the Arizona Revised Statutes. The nascent laws, recently no more than a few bills among many, squirm and squeeze their little fists, yearning to be fully formed.

Their creators apparently decided that the new laws’ older siblings were insufficient to the many tasks at hand. And so the nursery is full.

The laws about to become effective include a wide variety of topics. As the story says:

“The laws cover a broad spectrum of topics, from ensuring homeowners-association meetings are open to residents and giving married couples preference in adoptions to restricting charitable donations to groups that support abortion and requiring schools to develop bullying policies.

“Dozens of the bills target public-safety issues, toughening penalties for sex crimes against children, raising fees for writing a bad check, paying inmates more for hard labor and creating new crimes surrounding human smuggling.”

Just blow: Ignition-interlock device

Among the many new laws is one in regard to DUI charges and the right to a jury trial. I wrote about that before. (This one, though, has a delayed effective date until Jan. 1, 2012.)

As this news story says, there was an effort to head this law off at the pass, but it failed to garner enough signatures. We will watch this topic over the coming year as the inevitable court challenge is filed.

In the meantime, welcome to the newest toddling laws. Cigars, anyone?

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