Wednesday, June 20th, 2012


Justice Scott Bales

Gazing at the packed-to-the-gills Grand Ballroom at the Arizona Biltmore, it occurs to a lawyer that there may be no better way to kick off a Bar Convention committed to education for the future than to look back at legal pioneers.

That must have been the thinking of Convention organizers driven by the motto “100 Years of Lawyers Serving Arizona.”

That concept gave us Wednesday’s lunch, which included a witty and insightful panel led by Justice Scott Bales (and introduced by Bar President Joe Kanefield). Accompanying him in a triumvirate of value-laden remarks were Roxie Bacon and Grant Woods. Bravo to all.

The event was comprised of fascinating video clips—eight minutes in all—featuring Justice Bales interviewing retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Her memories were crisp, direct, funny and—given her experience as a woman lawyer pioneer—occasionally startling.

Those clips were pure gold. But they were complemented by being punctuated by the panel’s own remarks.

Roxie Bacon and Grant Woods

In those remarks, Roxie and Grant shared names of others, in addition to Justice O’Connor, whom they count as their own pioneers and mentors.

Grant reminded the audience that Justice O’Connor was the most powerful and influential woman in the country for a long time. But he added his own debt to retired Justice Stanley Feldman, who brought many others to his side “by the force of his argument and the power of his intellect.”

Justice Scott Bales

Roxie spoke warmly about retired Arizona Chief Justice Charles “Bud” Jones. Politically and in other ways, she said, they could not have been more different. “He was the most unlikely mentor you ever could have imagined for me.”

And yet, she said, he was caring and compassionate toward her as a younger lawyer. “With dignity and humor he brought me into the big leagues of employment and labor law.”

The audience clearly enjoyed a lunch committed to Arizona’s legal history. And the biggest laugh of the day may have come on the heels of a story Grant Woods told about a judge who was well known for always following her own tune.

In a high-profile case, an older man—Grant suggested he was 68 years old—was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Clearly upset, the man sputtered to the judge, “Your honor, I’m 68 years old. I don’t think I can do 40 years!”

Ever polite and charming, the judge leaned over her bench and gazed down at the convicted man.

Joe Kanefield

“That’s all right. You just do as many as you can.”

Well done.

Have a great conference.

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Steve Tully

A panel Wednesday morning at the State Bar of Arizona Convention examined a relationship often in the news—the one between the legislative and judicial branches. Speakers with experience as elected officials, lobbyists and think-tank leaders wrestled with a topic on which many find disagreement common.

“Striking a Balance: Relations Between the Legislature and the Courts” included moderator David Earl and speakers Steve Tully, Clint Bolick, Sally Rider and Jerry Landau.

Panelists opened by sharing their initial thoughts on the challenges that a good working relationship faces.

For example, Sally Rider of the UA’s Rehnquist Center said that the tension between branches is exacerbated by a failure to communicate. Jerry Landau agreed: “When one branch doesn’t understand the role of the other, we have problems.”

Bolick, of the Goldwater Institute, was more pointed in his opening remarks. After praising the Arizona Constitution, he continued.

In regard to ballot referenda, “Courts have used the single-subject rule so much as to prevent the Legislature from presenting various important issues to the people. And that is discomforting. If there is one value that our Constitution elevates above all, it is the right of the people to control their government.” Limiting referenda too strictly restricts that power. “Courts have overstepped.”

Things quickly got interactive, as attendees would have predicted on such controversial topics.

L to R: Clint Bolick, Sally Rider, Jerry Landau

Among those hot-button issues discussed was merit selection, especially as embodied in a November Arizona ballot referendum titled Prop 115. In a conference at which at least two other panels will focus on merit selection, this morning seminar grew into a significant conversation on the ballot proposition.

In fact, it was not the panel but an audience member who raised merit selection. Lawyer Tom Ryan enlivened the debate when he stood at the microphone.

“The idea that the Legislature respects the court system is a fallacy. We have a supermajority of Republicans in the House and Senate. … [The Legislature is] controlled by ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council], and they have an agenda: to close the courthouse doors. The idea that Prop 115 will improve merit selection is a fallacy; it simply gives the Governor the unfettered ability to choose judges.

David Earl

Bolick responded, agreeing that under Prop 115 the Governor “will control far more of the system” than ever before. But he added that the State Bar currently “has a monopoly over picking the lawyer members” of the judicial nominating commissions. And Bolick said he believes that the Bar, which takes positions on many public policy issues, should not have any role.

And even under the new possible regime, Bolick added, “The system should not be controlled entirely by the Governor and the State Bar. That upsets the checks and balances system.”

Bolick said that, personally, he will probably vote yes on Prop 115, but the Goldwater Institute has decided not to take a position.

Audience member and former State Bar President Mark Harrison rose to vociferously oppose Prop 115.

“This was a compromise that did not need to happen, and which is a solution in search of a problem. Justice O’Connor supports the current system, and the Arizona Town Hall called it ‘the best functioning part of our state.’”

He concluded by saying (with a smile), “I urge everyone to vote no—as many times as you can.”

Bolick responded: “I share a lot of your concerns, but I don’t think the system is as good as it can be.” He said that lawyers may know a lot about judicial candidates, and they should provide input. “But the State Bar should not choose them.”

Former Judge Noel Fidel spoke briefly.

“It would have been better to fight than compromise. This destroys merit selection from within.”

Among the audience-speakers on the topic was Whitney Cunningham, currently the State Bar’s First Vice President (and President-Elect at the close of Convention). He rose to explain the State Bar’s role, and why it decided to support the compromise that led to Prop 115.

“What people should understand is that not preserving merit selection was a real possibility that was on the table. If this passes, the State Bar will still have a role, and a formidable role.”

“The Bar was at the negotiating table, and we did what we thought was necessary to preserve merit selection in our state.”

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State Bar Convention Celebrates 100 Years of Service by Arizona Attorneys

Event will provide forum for attorneys to reflect on advancements, discuss current issues, and plan for the future.

PHOENIX – June 19, 2012 – The State Bar of Arizona will host the 2012 Annual Convention at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, June 20-22. More than 1,600 attorneys from across the state will convene and participate in the 79th annual convention.

This year, the convention will offer more than 40 seminars, nationally recognized speakers, unique social and networking opportunities, along with a silent auction benefiting Defenders of Children. Many seminar chairs have incorporated this year’s theme of “Celebrating 100 Years of Lawyer Serving Arizona” into their programs that will better educate and enhance the legal profession.

Incorporating State Bar President Joe Kanefield’s commitment to technology, several cutting edge advances will be used to present this year’s convention, including a mobile app, and downloadable materials. All while maintaining the Bar’s commitment to “going green.”

Other convention highlights:

  • Alison Levine, the first American to complete a 600-mile journey from west Antarctica to the South Pole and who was featured in the PBS documentary Living Courageously, will deliver an inspiring keynote address at the State Bar Luncheon on Friday, June 22.
  • Honorable Medhat al-Mahmoud, the Chief Justice of Iraq and President of the Iraqi Higher Judicial Council will speak about the state of the country’s judiciary nearly a decade after the U.S. led invasion brought about regime change at a FREE CLE seminar on Friday, June 22.
  • The Bar will launch its first-ever convention mobile app that provides convenient and time-saving information including registration information, seminar schedules and presenters, sponsor and exhibitor listings, a sitemap to help guide registrants and direct access to news and social media.
  • Amelia Craig Cramer of Tucson will be introduced as incoming president of the State Bar of Arizona.