June 2012

I wrote on Monday about a New York Times op-ed written by Dean Frank Wu of the Univ. of California, Hastings College of Law. But on Change of Venue Friday I wanted to add a postscript that says more about social media than it does about the historic Vincent Chin case.

I was struck by the op-ed, but I was also struck by a strange social media coincidence. (Prepare for a meandering sidebar.) To understand it, you’ll have to bear with me and a brief history lesson.

UC Hastings has long been proud of something called the 1066 Foundation. It provides funding to bring on stellar faculty from around the country, some of whom may have been precluded from continued teaching at their top-ranked schools due to mandatory retirement. And the 1066? It emanates from the famous Battle of Hastings in that same year (witty, huh?)

The oddity arose when I noticed that Dean Wu’s NYT op-ed was tweeted by Hastings on the same day I happened to have 1,066 Twitter followers. I “favorited” the tweet, so you can see a screen shot of the confluence.

And speaking of Twitter realities, below is a shot the day I hit 1,000 followers. I agree that’s pretty random, but I was struck by the tweets at the top of my stream when I noticed I had reached that milestone in mid-April: A hilarious post by comic Jim Gaffigan, a thoughtful post by LexBlog CEO Kevin O’Keefe, and a determined-at-all-costs-to-appear-normal post by an Arizona legislator who had just been forced to resign from the Assembly amidst a criminal and ethical scandal. All in all, that demonstrates pretty well the chaotic creativity available in Twitter!

So in honor of Twitter mashups and today’s Social Media Day celebration (which I wrote about yesterday), send a tweet or write a blog post. It’ll make you feel better.

Have a great weekend.

Today, I offer a brief shout-out for an event that offers education and interaction—even for attorneys seeking to build their law practice.

Tomorrow is the national annual event called “Social Media Day.” It is an opportunity to hear about some best practices that may help you and your business.

This year, the Phoenix location is the Ritz-Carlton, 2401 E. Camelback Road. It will include education and more.

Workshops include “getting the most out of your website” and “growing your blog.”

But social media is a bit of jaunty fun too, as evidenced by the schedule: 

  • Marketing Workshops: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
  • Carnival Event: 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
  • 1st-ever Social Media-Inspired Fashion Show: 7:00 p.m.

(I wrote about last year’s Phoenix event, held at the downtown Sheraton Hotel.)

The general page describing this year’s Phoenix festivities is here. And you may read a news story on the day here.

And for more detail on the educational seminars, go here. You may RSVP to the workshops on the same page.

Through planning or happy coincidence, the State Bar of Arizona Convention last week concluded with a focus on the big concepts that drive law and make attorneys and judges worthy of the label “professional.”

If any profession is to tease out and examine the necessary concepts that underlie it, a fine way to do that is to observe the profession under stress. For that reason alone, the remarks of the Iraqi Chief Justice were a superlative end to Convention.

Iraqi Chief Justice Medhat Al-Mahmoud

I wrote before about the visit to Arizona of Chief Justice Medhat Al-Mahmoud. If anything, his insights surpassed attendees’ expectations.

He was introduced by ASU Law School Dean Doug Sylvester, who reminded us that Iraq and its environs are not merely the cradle of civilization; they are the cradle of our legal system.

And then the Chief Justice, his Farsi translated by a dedicated assistant, explained what it was like to have that cradle overturned—and smashed to bits.

When the coalition powers dissolved the Iraqi security agencies, he said, those powers aimed to loosen the grip the agencies had on the people. To an extent, they succeeded. But the rule of law was eliminated, as well.

One of the most concrete examples of that elimination was the destruction of the Ministry of Justice by fire.

“But,” said the Chief Justice, “the judges wanted to go back to the court, sit at their desks and perform their duties.”

“The judiciary realized its role in bringing back the rule of law to Iraq, especially in the capital.”

This realization occurred, of course, when the nation was at war and risk was everywhere. Given that, a courageous focus on the rule of law defies belief.

“We had a willingness to rebuild this house, because we consider it ours as Iraqis; [it is] not the government’s.”

That will to rebuild came in the face of terrible personal sacrifice. The Chief Justice noted that in the process of rebuilding the judiciary, 49 judges were killed, and 132 other employees—prosecutors, public lawyers and others—were assassinated.

On June 12, 2003, the Chief Justice was named the Minister of Justice. His charge was to reestablish the judicial institutions.

That restoration is demonstrated by the numbers: In November 2003, he said, there were 575 judges in Iraq. In 2012, there are 1,328. And his first decision in the rebuilding? Bring back to the court women judges. Their numbers have jumped from 7 in 2003 to 76 today.

What drives an individual to face down danger in order to adhere to an ideal? For the Chief Justice, it comes down to each judge.

“The judge himself must believe in the independence of judges. He must believe in the principle of separation of powers. Without that, he cannot deliver justice.”

The Chief Justice concluded: “Success for justice in Iraq is success for justice all over the world.”

ASU Law School’s Daniel Rothenberg then spoke of the Chief Justice’s willingness to share credit with others. Yes, Rothenberg said, we should admire the “extraordinary quality of patriotism of all Iraqis who put their life on the line” in the pursuit of justice.

But, he added, we also must grasp how important the Chief Justice was to the rebuilding of justice.

Also speaking at the session was Tom Monaghan, a former United States Attorney for the District of Nebraska. His focus that afternoon was on his work from 2003 to 2005 in Kosovo as the U.N.-appointed director of justice.

For those lawyers who are interested in assisting in rule of law initiatives around the globe, panelists suggested they look here.

The day after Convention, I heard from an Arizona lawyer who was beyond pleased at the Chief Justice’s appearance at the event. I’ll end by letting her speak for herself:

“I decided at the last minute to attend the bar convention this year. I drove three hours to Phoenix, mostly to see this man speak, but not knowing what to expect. Well, I was in tears for a good part of his talk—something to do with his passion and sincerity and the beauty of spoken Arabic. But what really enthralled me was the realization that this little guy was a great big hero, because he resurrected the justice system in Iraq. I realized that you can live without electricity, or sanitation, or any of the other necessary amenities of civilized life for a lot longer than you can live without a system of administering justice. These two hours were really all I came for, and it was all I needed. Now I can go back to the practice of law, knowing that it really does make a difference, no matter how much money I make, no matter how tedious and frustrating. Thanks, state bar, for the inspiration. I needed that!”

Alison Levine

First of all, I make no apology for what is about to follow: a Convention-related blog post.

Yes, I know, Convention was last week, and if you’ve been following the coverage, you may be Biltmore-d out. Nonetheless, today I must share a report from a great Bar event—the Friday luncheon and its inspired speaker.

(Fair warning: Tomorrow I plan to post a final Convention item, that one about the visit by the Iraqi Chief Justice. But if you’re all full up on inspiring stories about bravery in the face of danger and about the defense of a strong judiciary against the forces of chaos and about the triumph of ideals over brute strength, by all means, skip it. Angry Birds, anyone?)

I had intended to give you some insight into the keynote speaker’s message. Her name is Alison Levine, and she was billed as an inspirational speaker. A photo, a nice quote or two, maybe an anecdote to help remind us to try harder. In, out, done.

But then I sat through her presentation.

Ask anyone: I’m not an inspirational-speaker kind of person. But despite myself, I came away impressed and (gulp) inspired.

Junko Tabei

So I do apologize for reporting out so much of her message. If it’s too much for you, just skip to the bottom for a handy takeaway. Get ready, though: You may be inspired.

So who is Alison Levine? The short answer is that she’s a daughter of a member of the Board of Governors. That may have dampened my expectations, but it also became fodder for the witty and insightful Levine, who made great use of self-deprecating humor.

Jack Levine, pere, introduced his daughter. So right off the bat, you had a moment that could go horribly wrong, like cute-kittens-and-puppies-syrupy-sweet-please-stop moment. But Jack hit it out of the park.

Ever the lawyer, he set out the case for why Alison was qualified to inspire anyone: From birth through age 30, she suffered with a life-threatening heart condition that kept her from physical activity; even climbing stairs was beyond her. But after a newly developed surgery, “All of the energy she had bottled up for all those years poured out.”

That’s for sure. She then: climbed the highest peak on every continent, skied across the North Pole and South Pole—a more than 600-mile trek—as the first American to travel the route. She served as Team Captain for the American Women’s Everest Expedition. And, oh yeah, she’s an adjunct Professor at West Point.

(All of this was recited as I scanned the banquet table for those delightful little butter spheres; perhaps I should re-explore my priorities.)

American Women’s Everest Expedition, at the N.Y. Auto Show

Alison Levine then rose and offered her insights that would help in business and law practice—or, hell, in just about any endeavor. She salted her talk with images from her journeys.

Absent Levine’s compelling commentary, her lessons that I share here suffer from being “All law, no facts.” But messages such as “Do more with less” and “Progress doesn’t mean having to go in one particular direction; sometimes you backtrack” riveted an audience who were led to care what happened on an Asian mountain half a world away.

Levine gave a generous nod to a pioneer, Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the peak of Everest. The speaker reminded us of Tabei’s words: “Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top; it is the will power that is the most important. This will power you cannot buy with money or be given by others. … It rises from your heart.”

Despite the seriousness of the subject, Levine’s approach was the opposite of somber. The audience was kept laughing relatively nonstop. But how did she steer a business-advice lecture toward the lighter side? A few examples:

  • The women’s team name included the word “Expedition” because Ford was the underwriter, and their journey coincided with the launch of Ford’s new full-size SUV of the same name. The team dodged a bullet she said, given the possibility of being named for the Chevy Avalanche.
  • The sudden movement of an ice-field led her and another woman to a near-death experience, which was “real scary—like cleanup-in-aisle-4 scary.”
  • “How do you go the bathroom?” is a common question Levine gets, so she decided to show us the tool that allowed the women to pee standing up. And she got a big laugh for revealing that, yes, they did write their names in the snow. But her subsequent PG-13 commentary got an even bigger laugh in the staid old Biltmore.

Finally, after all the funny and inspirational stories, it came down to a few things we like to think we already know (though rarely exhibit it in our lives and careers):

  • Aim to be more tolerant of failure, in ourselves and others. Risk-taking and innovation often come with a stumble or three.
  • Fear is OK. Complacency is what will kill you.
  • Take action based upon the situation you face, not according to some plan.
  • It’s not just about being at the top; it’s about the journey and the lessons we learned on the way.
  • You must weather storms to land in a place where you can have the best view.
  • There are always more mountains to climb. And tomorrow, I have to be even better.
  • Getting to the top is optional; getting back down is mandatory.

More about Alison Levine is here. And you should also follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/levine_alison

Props to the Bar for selecting such a riveting speaker. Now, where’s that butter?

Alison Levine

Vincent Chin

This past weekend, I read a moving op-ed piece in the New York Times. It was in regard to the brutal slaying of a Chinese American man in 1982. Significantly, his death and the legal events that followed so angered the Asian American community that it demanded substantive changes.

The author, I happily noted, was Frank Wu, who is an accomplished scholar—and the Dean of my alma mater (UC Hastings College of Law). His piece is titled “Why Vincent Chin Matters.”

I previously wrote about the Vincent Chin case here and here. It was brought to my attention by great Arizona lawyers, who featured a documentary about the case at the 2011 Minority Bar Convention.

Here is how Dean Wu opens his editorial:

“On June 23, 1982, in Detroit, a young man named Vincent Chin died. Four nights earlier, he had been enjoying his bachelor party with friends at a local bar when they were accosted by two white men, who blamed them for the success of Japan’s auto industry. ‘It’s because of you we’re out of work,’ they were said to have shouted, adding a word that can’t be printed here. The men bludgeoned Mr. Chin, 27, with a baseball bat until his head cracked open.

“I was a Chinese-American teenager growing up near Detroit then. I remember the haunting photograph of a smiling, fresh-faced Mr. Chin, shown repeatedly in newspapers and on TV, and the tears of his mother, Lily Chin, who lamented that his killers had escaped justice. Mr. Chin was buried on the day he was to have been married.”

So congratulations to my dean for writing on a matter of great importance—and in the New York Times, no less. Well done.

Later this week, I will share two remaining posts arising from the State Bar Convention last week. Both were phenomenal speaker opportunities, the kind that stay with you long after the applause fades.

Here is a photo, which reveals a lot about the choices made in the planning for this year’s State Bar of Arizona Convention, which ends this afternoon.

Any guess about what you’re looking at?

Let me give you a hint. It was sent to me by Jennifer Mott. Jennifer is a favorite person of mine, for a lot of reasons. But you may know her best through Arizona Attorney Magazine, in which she reported and wrote some great articles on green law practice.

Does that help you guess?

The photo shows the printed materials for this year’s Convention.

No, I don’t mean sample of the materials, or the materials for the Wednesday afternoon sessions. I mean all of the printed materials.

In past years, that stack would be a mountain. But in a great initiative, the Bar has provided materials to attendees on a flash drive. If they want to print, they could, I suppose. But most lawyers I spoke with this week appreciated the green effort—and not having to schlep binders of materials with them through 108-degree heat.

Well done.

News from the State Bar about what looks to be a great event at 2:00 Friday afternoon: 

Rule of Law Reform in a World of Conflict Featuring a Presentation by the
Honorable Medhat al-Mahmoud, Iraq’s Chief Justice

 State Bar Convention
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
Friday, June 22, 2012
2 – 4 p.m.
No Charge

This program is open both registered attendees and lawyers who will not be attending the convention. This program may qualify for 2 hours of MCLE.

About the Session

All too often we take for granted the solidity and stability of our legal system. Yet, what of countries emerging from dictatorship and war? How do they develop laws and create a legal order that defends basic rights and enables due process protections? Can they base a new system on prior structures? Can outside assistance from the U.S. and the international community support these changes? How do the experiences of other countries help us understand legal challenges within our own communities? This panel explores the role of law in the reconstruction of Iraq following decades of brutal authoritarian rule and Kosovo following years of devastating conflict. The panel features a talk by the Honorable Medhat al-Mahmoud, the Chief Justice of Iraq and President of the Iraqi Higher Judicial Council about the state of the country’s judiciary nearly a decade after the U.S. led invasion brought about regime change. It also includes a presentation by Tom Monaghan, a Nebraska judge who led legal reform projects in Kosovo. The panel is introduced by Douglas Sylvester, Dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and moderated by Daniel Rothenberg, also of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

About Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud

Iraq is known as the land of two rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates – and many first learned of this part of the world as “the cradle of civilization” where writing, agriculture and other early signs of complex society began. For Iraqis, their land is also known as the birthplace of law through the Code of Hammurabi which defined key aspects of social order, including criminal punishments and rules for contracts, almost 4,000 years ago. Over the last several decades Iraq has been known to Americans as a zone of conflict, an oil-rich nation that was the focus of two major U.S. military actions, the Gulf War of 1991 and the invasion of 2003 and subsequent multi-year, large scale military and civilian presence.

The regime of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party used law as a key tool for repression, creating special courts and legal proceedings that linked surveillance, abuse and the brutal targeting of those seen as enemies of the state. Yet, even under the dictatorship, the country’s regular courts and legal processes continued to function, reflecting Iraqi society’s longstanding respect for law and the judiciary. Following the fall of the prior government, Iraq experienced a political transformation to a democratic system, the significant rebuilding of state institutions and a period of sustained and devastating violence.

The Honorable Medhat al-Mahmoud, Chief Justice and President of the Iraqi Higher Judicial Council has played a central role throughout the reconstruction process. He has been directly involved in virtually every major rule of law reform initiative in Iraq, overseeing the interpretation of new laws, the development of revised court procedures and multiple efforts to strengthen the legal system. Many of these initiatives have been supported by our government as well as the international community. While most Americans are aware of U.S. military actions in Iraq, training for local security forces and support for elections, few know that the American government has invested over a billion dollars on rule of law reform in the country. The goal of this funding has been to support the Iraqi legal system with the understanding, shared by most Iraqis, that a clear sense of law and a functioning legal system are essential for democracy, economic growth and stability.

Like most countries in the world, Iraq’s legal system follows the civil law tradition, as opposed to the common law tradition that our system is based upon. Judges in Iraq participate in a special career track that involves specific training in judicial institutes and is deigned to highlight their role as members of a distinct profession. The Court of Cassation is the highest judicial body in Iraq and renders the final decisions on unresolved legal issues from the country’s lower courts which operate through fourteen judicial regions, each of which has an appellate court as well as various lower courts, including a number of specialty courts.

In 2004, at an early stage in the nation’s reconstruction process, the Chief Justice wrote, “Judges enjoy a highly revered stature in the people’s minds . . . due to the role they play in preserving social equilibrium . . . Being the custodians and guardians of the people’s rights, freedom and dignity, they deserve the great veneration and esteem the people bestow on them.” It is an honor and privilege to welcome the Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud of Iraq to Arizona.

The annual award breakfast of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association was held Friday morning. At the event, the AWLA recognized Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch with the Sarah Herring Sorin Award, the group’s greatest honor.

A recurring theme of the event’s comments focused on why groups like AWLA are still vital and needed in 2012.

AWLA President Kim Demarchi took that question on head-on when she looked back at Arizona history. She noted that Sarah Herring Sorin was admitted to the Bar—the state’s first woman lawyer—in 1892, 22 years before Arizona became a state. And then in 1951, Mary Anne Richey—for whom the annual breakfast is named—was the only woman admitted to the Bar that year. Thirty-seven years after statehood, the only one admitted.

“What AWLA is about today,” Demarchi said, “is support for each other, service to the community and a willingness to collaborate and build coalitions.”

Longtime AWLA member (and past President) Paige Martin echoed that mission. She also reminded attendees the reason the Chief Justice was receiving the award: not for being Chief or her work on the Court of Appeals before that, “but for her day-to-day acts of being a mentor.”

Martin also read a wonderful tribute to the Chief from Justice Berch’s daughter, who could not attend due to a conflict in her work teaching at Southwestern Law School. Among her remarks: “My mom is the glue that holds our family together. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.”

L to R: Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, Kim Demarchi, Paige Martin

Chief Justice Berch then spoke movingly about mentoring, which she called “the work of everyone who cares about our profession.”

She then encouraged a new generation of women lawyers to advance to leadership positions, especially as part of the judiciary.

“I know we’re all balancing a lot, but you have to apply for those positions.”

Although more and more lawyers may be women, she said, “Look at who are the associates and who are partners. At law schools, look who are tenured faculty and who is teaching legal writing.”

The Chief demonstrated her down-to-earth advice when she urged attendees to focus on what’s important and to sometimes push other things down the to-do list.

Let your house go another day without dusting, she said. “I’ve served Grape-Nuts for dinner,” she laughed. “I am fond of popcorn and a glass of wine for dinner.”

“Get up and do the things we need to do that will have a lasting effect.”

To emphasize that drive, AWLA Vice President Janet Hutchison announced the winners of the AWLA Mary Anne Richey Scholarships: ASU Law student Ashlee Hoffmann and UA Law student Judith Davila.

Congratulations to the AWLA for another great event. More photos are available at the Arizona Attorney Facebook page.

Track down an AWLA Board member at the State Bar Convention. Any one of them will give you the little indicia of support for the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, a great organization.

Here’s a shot of my sticker. Jealous? Get one for yourself.

The annual awards luncheon of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education always highlights the lawyers and judges who have stepped up to make a difference. Thursday’s event was no different.

The event had moving remarks by all the speakers: AZFLSE Executive Director Dr. Kevin Ruegg, Hon. Roxanne Song Ong and soon-to-be Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer.

Out of those remarks, let me share just two quotes that helped define the great work the Foundation does. 

Amelia Cramer quoted Cornel West: “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

And Todd Lang: “Our democracy is an illusion to those who find out courthouse doors closed.”

Here are photos of the winners.

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