January 2013

electoral college vote program Arizona LawThere’s no better sign that the holidays are over than that calendars fill once again with compelling presentations and talks. In the coming week, I’ll share some news from two Arizona law schools about their noteworthy offerings.

Today, news from the University of Arizona Law School and its upcoming program on the electoral college. Here is how the school describes the January 24 presentation:

Vikram Amar and Michael Paulsen will discuss recent efforts to abolish the Electoral College and shift to a national popular vote for president in a presentation titled ‘The National Popular Vote: The End of the Electoral College?’ to be held at the College of Law on January 24, 2013, Noon – 1:15 p.m., Ares Auditorium (Room 164).”

Vikram Amar

Vikram Amar

“In the wake of the 2000 election, frustrated with the Electoral College, Vikram Amar and his brother, noted constitutional scholar Akhil Amar, helped to originate a plan called the National Popular Vote (NPV) Interstate Compact. They theorized that the Electoral College could be abolished without a constitutional amendment if states with a majority of Electoral College votes pledged to award their electoral votes to the popular vote winner. Because the Constitution specifically calls for states to choose the manner in which they select their electors, the Amar brothers argued that this would be constitutional. Most constitutional scholars, including Professor Paulsen, agree with this interpretation.”

Michael Paulsen

Michael Paulsen

“Since 2000, nine states representing 132 electoral votes (49% of those needed for the 270 majority) have passed NPV legislation. Two other states that represent 49 electoral votes have proposed legislation to join the NPV compact. Additionally, in the wake of the presidential election this past fall, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer proposed eliminating the Electoral College.”

“Associate Dean Amar and Professor Paulsen will discuss the history of the Electoral College, the specifics of the NPV Interstate Compact, and the implications of eliminating the Electoral College.”

Arizona Law logoYou can read more detail here. I’ll be pleased to hear from Associate Dean Amar, who was a terrific professor at my law school, UC Hastings, before he drove up the road (and the deanship scale) to UC Davis. It will be fascinating to hear speakers on the possibility of undoing an institution like the Electoral College.

“Funding Justice: Strategies and Messages for Restoring Court Funding”This month, a useful document was released by two organizations committed to a strong and fully funded judiciary. We’ll see if it makes a conceptual difference in the contentious nationwide fight over court funding.

“Funding Justice: Strategies and Messages for Restoring Court Funding” was authored by Justice at Stake and the National Center for State Courts.

The report is refreshingly detailed and focused on strategies (placing that word in a report’s title is never a guarantee that the authors will provide any; these authors do). As the authors say, “The guide is entirely based on a nationwide opinion research project that included focus groups, a poll of American voters, and interviews with chief justices, legislators, and others closely involved in debates around court funding.” And at least a portion of the recommendations arose out of focus groups held in Phoenix in February 2012 (so you may have been a part of the research).

National Center for State Courts logoYou can read and download the entire report here.

I appreciated Gavel Grab’s summary and analysis of the report. Author Peter Hardin also includes links to news stories about the courts’ budget crisis.

Hardin also points us to another post worth a look (for detail and extreme candor): this blog post out of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. There, Bert Brandenburg (Executive Director of Justice at Stake) and Jesse Rutledge (Vice President for External Affairs at the National Center for State Courts) explain their thinking in how they crafted the report. Their exposition reveals an awareness of the value of political nuance.

Justice at Stake_logoAs Brandenburg and Rutledge explain:

“[The report] advises, for example: ‘Focus on harm to taxpayers and the economy—not damage to the courts.’ It underscores the idea that ‘It’s not about you. It’s about them.’

“[It] also warns against adopting a message that ‘[c]ourts are a ‘separate and co-equal’ branch of government and thus should be treated with greater respect in the budget process’ because it ‘falls on deaf ears with the public,’ the guide says. What’s more, ‘Americans overwhelmingly felt that the courts should not get special treatment, and the judiciary should be expected to tighten its belt—like everyone else.’”

I think the report reflects a deep understanding of the crisis and the persuasive challenge that court supporters face. Feel free to pass it on to anyone who would benefit from it. And let me know whether you think this tool is likely to make a bigger impact in the conversation than approaches from the past.

State Bar goes green, paperless, no more printed CLE materialsRecently, the State Bar of Arizona made the paperless plunge—declining to provide written materials at continuing legal education seminars.

What do you think of this paperless initiative as it applies to CLEs? I’ve heard from a few attorneys who think it’s a way for the Bar to offload printing costs to members. But, in my experience, that view is in the minority. The mass of people I’ve spoken with said things like, “About time” and “No big deal.”

Do you agree? Is the Bar correct to get on the sustainability bandwagon? The move has to save thousands upon thousands of printed pages every year. Is that positive enough to offset a few inconvenient negatives?

What follows are a few of the Bar’s frequently asked questions. Be sure to read all of them here.

1.     Since there are no hard copies to pick up, how will I get my materials?

You will receive an email prior to the seminar containing a link to your materials. If you prefer to take a printed copy to your seminar, please print it before you arrive at the seminar. No hard copies will be available for pick up at the seminar. 

2.     Which email address will materials be sent to?

Materials will be sent to your email address on file with the Bar.  Please make sure your email is updated with the Bar to ensure receipt of the materials.

3. What if I want a hard copy of the seminar materials?

A limited number of hard copies will be available for an extra charge.

4. I’m already paying to attend the seminar, so why do I need to pay for printed materials?

As a cost-saving measure, as well as to move forward with the SBA’s green initiatives, the CLE department is providing registrants their seminar materials in an electronic format. The advantage of “going green” serves multiple benefits:

  • Allows the Bar to keep registration fees at the 2008 price;
  • No more lugging around materials;
  • Easy access to materials.

5. If I want to purchase a hard copy of the seminar materials, how much will it cost?

Prices for hard copy materials will be between $20 – $40, depending on the manual.

About a month ago, I wrote about a workshop on social media I will help lead. Thank you to those who provided their general insights about the topic.

cool new facebook features

But now, in a week, is when the rubber hits the social media road. And so I’m asking for your insight again, specifically on the topic of new(-ish) and advanced Facebook features that you appreciate.

That is the topic for which I’ve been tasked at the National Association of Bar Executives, and I am trying to winnow down a list of Facebook fan page features that I think bar associations should consider and maybe adopt.

Here are a few of the features I appreciate on Facebook business pages. Have you used any of them on your personal Facebook page? And would they add to your experience of bar pages?

  • Bigger Facebook profile photos
  • Improved SEO via updated Facebook URLs
  • Better using of the “About” box & “Info” tab
  • Use of “Like” boxes to increase inbound links
  • Incorporating your blog content into Facebook
  • Adding Google Analytics to your Facebook page
  • Posting (more) multimedia on your Facebook pageFacebook Like thumbs up

Of course, it’s possible there are Facebook features you love that have entirely omitted. Let me know what you think.

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

What follows is my editor’s letter from the January Arizona Attorney Magazine. It’s titled “Speech Disorder,” and I’d welcome any thought on how we address hate speech in this country—and whether a change is in order.

Harm in Hate Speech book cover Jeremy WaldronMaybe we’ve got this “hate speech” thing all wrong.

That was the basis of a fascinating debate this past fall, held at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. In October, ASU Professor James Weinstein defended the U.S. position against a view espoused by NYU Law Professor Jeremy Waldron.

Generally stated, the American antidote to hate speech is simply … more speech. Our rightful affinity for the First Amendment means that even the most vile words are often met by the phrase (and sentiment), “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” So integral to our psyche is that belief that most of us bristle at the suggestion of a “speech code.”

And yet, Waldron made a compelling argument that the harm from speech can be so poisonous that there are times when it should be stymied. Laws—accepted in many countries—may be drafted to convey an “implicit diffuse assurance” that social peace is a public good.

At ASU and in his book The Harm in Hate Speech, Waldron dissected the hate-group argument that what they are doing is merely advocating a position. No, he insists; the groups really are conveying an action-packed message: “You are not wanted.” And that message is often backed up by the threat of violence.

Morris Dees, Nov. 8, 2012

Morris Dees, Nov. 8, 2012

Those concepts were on my mind in November, at the University of Arizona College of Law annual McCormick lecture, delivered by Morris Dees. The co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Dees gave a rollicking speech that of necessity touched on his significant courtroom work on behalf of victims of discrimination. That trial lawyer’s career has been framed in many ways by efforts to end hatred and to alleviate its effects.

But how would his decades of work have differed if our approach to hate speech (which often precedes hate crimes) had taken a path accepted in many other countries? It may be worth considering.

I’m reading Waldron’s book and considering his position. But I take seriously his warning that viewing this as an academic debate may prove deadly. As he glanced around a packed law school hall at a relatively privileged audience, he reminded us that hate speech has real-world impacts.

“We can pretend to be unaffected,” he said. “But we should try to envision ourselves as somebody who has to live his life under this besmirchment, who has to live one’s life in the shadow of these insults.”

What do you think? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

It’s been a long week. Time for a laugh.

Scott Rose of the Cavanagh Law Firm, Phoenix

Scott Rose

I’ve been offering you arts-related content this week (e.g., here), and today I remind you of an event that honors the art of the wisecrack: the Second Annual “John J. O’Connor Phoenix Rotary 100 Humor Contest.”

The event will be on Friday, February 1, at noon, and is sponsored by the Phoenix Rotary 100. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will be the guest of the Club that day. As lawyer and emcee Scott Rose has described Justice O’Connor’s husband John, “He was a great lawyer, quite the raconteur and President of our Club in 1977-78.”

I wrote about last year’s inaugural event; you can read “Try the Veal, Tip Your Lawyer” here.

Some additional photos from that event are here, on the magazine’s Facebook page.

John J. O'Connor Humor Contest finalists with Sandra Day O'Connor, Oct. 2012

2012 contest finalists and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. L to R: Ryan Nelson, Matt Shorrs, Justice O’Connor, Jodi Weisberg (first place), Trevor Cox and Bob Howard

The important thing to note now, today, is that there is a deadline approaching for those among you who think you’ve got what it takes, comedically. You have two weeks to complete the application, available here. Of course, if you have hilarious friends, feel free to pass this on.

Don’t delay. Applications should be in as soon as possible because there will be preliminary judging on January 24 at the Phoenix Country Club. And as Scott says, acts “can be 3 – 6 minutes of classic stand-up comedy, funny stories, war stories, humorous anecdotes or whatever they choose.”

Prizes? Yes, there are prizes: $2,500, $1,500 and $500 to the top three contestants. And $2,000 will be paid to each of ASU, UofA and Phoenix School of Law on a rotating basis (ASU being the recipient this year).

If you’ve got the chops, it’s time to trot them out to an appreciative public. Fellow lawyers look forward to laughing along with you.

Have a great weekend.

John and Sandra Day O'Connor in their Paradise Valley home (undated photo)

John and Sandra Day O’Connor in their Paradise Valley home (undated photo). (Click for Arizona Attorney Magazine story.)

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende

Yesterday was an arts post, today’s another, and tomorrow is art of a different kind (tune in to see!). Happy artistic week!

To open today’s arts-related post, I offer … Isabel Allende.

That’s right, the great Chilean American writer who is known for The House of the Spirits and other great books. Just as I was thinking about the commitment it takes for lawyers to “fit in” art alongside their law practice (and then to submit to the Arizona Attorney Creative Arts Competition), I came across some commentary about Allende.

“On January 8, 1981, Isabel Allende wrote a letter to her dying grandfather that later turned into her first novel, The House of the Spirits. Ever since, this has been the date on which Allende starts a new work. Having started, she writes from Monday through Saturday, from 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. We wish her happy writing and hope to profit by her industrious example.”

That amazing vignette appeared on the Facebook timeline of The Paris Review.

9 to 7, writing straight through? That blew me away, and called into question my own definition of a “busy writing day.”

Mesch Clark & Rothschild logoRight on the talented heels of Ms. Allende, I received word about another arts event next week, this one arising out of the Tucson law firm Mesch, Clark & Rothschild PC.

Here is how they describe their “Artistry of Assemblage” Exhibit:

Mesch, Clark & Rothschild, P.C. is partnering with Contemporary Artists of Southern Arizona to host over 20 artists in a juried exhibit titled ‘Artistry of Assemblage’ opening January 16, 2013.”

“Dotted Still Life” by Deanna Thibault

“Dotted Still Life” by Deanna Thibault

“The Contemporary Artists of Southern Arizona is a group of about 130 mixed media artists who meet regularly to expand their knowledge of art in general and mixed media forms in particular. They exhibit together regularly with about four juried shows a year. The exhibit’s juror has selected five award winners, including: Best of Show; 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place, and Honorable Mention, to be presented at the start of the show.”

“‘Assemblage is a multi-dimensional visual art form, dating back to the early 1900s, and is created by putting together random objects,’ said Marti White, president of Contemporary Artists of Southern Arizona and one of the exhibiting artists. ‘This is an entirely new approach for our organization, and it is exciting to see what the member artists come up with.’ For more information on Contemporary Artists of Southern Arizona, visit www.casaaz.org.”

“The exhibit, at the law firm’s downtown office at 259 N. Meyer Avenue, will be on display through April. Anyone interested in viewing the exhibit, may call 520-624-8886 to schedule an appointment.”

In this post, I’ve included the beautiful work of two of the members of Contemporary Artists of Southern Arizona: Deanna Thibault and Marti White. And I tip my hat to a law firm that opens its doors and its hearts to artists. What other lawyer–artist connections have you seen?

“Basket Fragments” by Marti White

“Basket Fragments” by Marti White

The Creative Arts Competition deadline approaches!In just under a week, all submissions to the annual Arizona Attorney Magazine Creative Arts Competition are due. All of them. So get painting, writing, composing, shooting or whatever else gets your creative juices flowing. Bring it.

Just to be clear: All submissions must be received by us by the end of Tuesday, January 15. I’d love to get them by the end of the business day, but I long ago stopped arguing with lawyers over when the “day” “ends.” But I assure you, a stiff drink and I do check at midnight as the 15th turns to the 16th to see what’s arrived.

As always, winners will be published in our amazing spring issue, which features the work of remarkably talented lawyers.

Arizona Attorney Magazine Creative Arts Competition ad 2013 cropped

Here are the categories: Fiction; Nonfiction; Poetry; Humor; Photography; Painting/Drawing; Sculpture; Music (original compositions and covers)

All submissions must be e-mailed here: ArtsContest@azbar.org

Questions? Click here to read the complete rules, or contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

To see the great work that took the prize(s) last year, go here.

So there is still time. Set aside all of that law work, tell your partners to chill, set your cellphone to vibrate, and get to work. Email us a submission or two. You—and our readers, I’m sure—will be glad you did.

Here’s looking to another great competition.

In the February issue of Arizona Attorney, we will publish remarks delivered by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton at the dedication of the nation’s first Bill of Rights Monument.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton speaks at Bill of Rights Monument dedication, Dec. 15, 2012

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton speaks at Bill of Rights Monument dedication, Dec. 15, 2012

One of the reasons is that over the past year, we’ve covered the run-up to the monument, so it’s great to let you know the monoliths are finally in the ground.

But the bigger reason is that his words were well chosen and rather inspiring. Of course, you may disagree. But that’s the thing about inspiration: One listener’s wow is another’s woe.

Here is some of what the Mayor said:

“We risk shortchanging ourselves and posterity when we regard the Constitution as a closed book from which no further new insight is possible. Our flexible foundation for interpreting the Constitution has made our great country the strongest and oldest continuous democracy in the world.”

“The Founders’ genius lies not in a pretension to clairvoyant understanding of their thoughts at the time the Constitution was drafted. It lies in the Founders’ intent that we would apply common-sense understanding of whom We the People are, our shared history, and our shared aspirations. The Constitution is not a dead text that we mechanically recite. It is a mirror in which our better selves are reflected.”

“These stone monuments commemorating the Bill of Rights are magnificent. They are a fitting memorial for the real thing. But the real thing is not a stone. The real thing is a living Constitution that gives hope to the United States and the rest of the world, for today and the future.”

Ninth Amendment monolith unveiled by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton

Ninth Amendment monolith unveiled by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton

His words came to mind the other day as I read a blog post by lawyer Melinda Hightower. In it, she provided three videos that “help you rediscover your passion for law.”

Her selections are inspired, but you and I may have selected differently. She anticipates that when she asks her readers to offer their own favorite speeches. OK, I thought; let me think about it.

My first inclination was to watch a clip from My Cousin Vinny. (I know: It’s a cry for help.) But I suspect she meant a speech on a more serious plane. So although they were more recent and did not influence my decision to go to law school, I offer two. The first, recent, one is Mayor Stanton’s remarks.

The second speech is one that was uttered by Morris Dees, lawyer and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He delivered the McCormick Lecture at UA Law School recently, but I point you to “Morris Dees: With Justice for All,” the video version of a speech he delivered at Grinnell College. Here it is.

So let me repeat Melinda Hightower’s excellent question: “What speeches have inspired you to pursue your interest in law?” What speeches would you recommend to others?

Have you paid your annual bar dues yet?

Easy, easy: I’m not getting all judgmental on you; in fact, I haven’t paid mine yet either. But it occurs to me we all could use a reminder.

Every January since I first started paying bar dues in California, back in 1993, I’ve had this awful sensation that I would forget to pay those dues, which would subject me to the penalties that only the bar could inflict. And now in 2013, I continue to have the same worry, and so I have my “system” to be sure I don’t forget

  • I place numerous reminders in my electronic calendars.
  • I do the same on a few hard-copy calendars.
  • I often tack a copy of my dues statement to my office wall.
  • Finally, I set my dues-announcement envelope in a conspicuous place—usually dead-center on my desk. (See photo below for the current placement.)

State Bar dues notice 2013

I admit it: There is something rather neurotic about opting to ignore the easiest and most fool-proof of techniques, namely: Just pay the damned thing the day it arrives

Hmmm. Well, as long as I’m stretched out on your couch, I guess I’d admit that it would annoy me to pay the dues amount too early, when it arrives in December. Why send in the fee before I need to?—even though the amount merely sits in my non-interest-bearing checking account, accruing nothing in that month of nonpayment. 

Just stubborn, I guess. 

But that’s why I—and maybe you—need the reminders. In Arizona too, bar dues are due on or before February 1. And the State Bar of Arizona has a pretty handy set of resources to make sure you remember to pay, and to answer any questions you might have. 

So whether you’re paying today or January 31 (not recommended), bookmark this page. It is your portal to useful information. And when you log in as an Arizona Bar member, you can handle tasks like checking your address and paying your dues quite easily.

On that page you’ll also see a link to detailed instructions, some FAQs, membership categories and deadlines, and an easy change of address page.

I assure you: That approach far surpasses my own of staring balefully at a window envelope sitting in dominion on my desk for 60 days.

« Previous PageNext Page »