February 2013


Mark Harrison

Mark Harrison

Last week we heard some great news about an Arizona lawyer from the national organization Justice at Stake.

Mark Harrison is a member at Osborn Maledon, as well as the board chairman of Justice at Stake. On February at the midyear meeting of the American Bar Association in Dallas, he was given the 2013 Burnham “Hod” Greeley Award.

As a press release indicates, he was honored “for making a significant, positive impact on public understanding of the role of the judiciary in a democratic society.”

Justice at Stake is committed to aiding the judiciary. It “promotes increased public awareness of the need for a fair and impartial judiciary.” As the organization describes itself:

“Justice at Stake is a nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign working to keep America’s courts fair and impartial. Justice at Stake and its 50-plus state and national partners educate the public, and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom—so judges can protect our Constitution, our rights and the rule of law.”

Gavel Grab adds a mention that Harrison “has worked as president of Justice for All, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving a strong and impartial judiciary in Arizona.”

But … am I missing something? Unmentioned in the accolades is the fact that Mark was once the President of the State Bar of Arizona. Sure, Justice at Stake writes that he “led the local Bar with distinction,” but who the heck is that “local bar,” anyway? It was the SBA.

Maybe the omission signals a reduced “wow” factor associated with being a state bar president. But that would surprise me. I know that folks at Mark Harrison’s level have a drawerful of accolades and high-level experience. But even given that, bar president on the state level usually merits a mention.

And why not mention it? Isn’t the mentioning the only real payoff for the work of leading a bar? Remember, the days of a bar president are littered with meetings regarding section revenues, and lunches with tiny civic organizations, and information-sharing trips to exciting venues like Dallas or Duluth or a legislative grilling chair. After all that work, why not drop the title occasionally?

In any case, congratulations to Mark Harrison. We at the local bar look forward to continuing to collaborate with him on important issues.

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Dean Erwin Chemerinsky

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky

At noon today, the annual Willard Pedrick Lecture will be delivered at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The speaker will be Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC–Irvine School of Law. His topic will be “Rethinking Privacy and the Fourth Amendment.” It’s likely too late for you to reserve one of the free seats, but it may be worth a shot to drop by anyway (many of the seats reserved for students are still not taken).

I had the chance to interview Dean Chemerinsky early in 2012 for a Q&A in Arizona Attorney. I’m confident his lecture will be worth hearing.

That’s why I’m disappointed to note that I’ll be unable to attend today’s lecture. But I’d love to hear from someone who was there. If you do attend and are interested in guest-writing a blog post about his remarks, please write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Here is some background about the dean, as provided by ASU Law School:

“Chemerinsky is one of the nation’s top experts in constitutional law, federal practice, civil liberties, and appellate litigation. He is the author of seven books, the latest being The Conservative Assault on the Constitution. Chemerinsky’s casebook, Constitutional Law, is one of the most widely read law textbooks in the country. He has also written nearly 200 law review articles in journals, such as the Harvard Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Stanford Law Review and Yale Law Journal.”

“Chemerinsky frequently argues appellate cases, including matters before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals, and regularly serves as a commentator on legal issues for national and local media. He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.S. from Northwestern University.”

Chris Bliss speaks at the dedication of the nation's first capitol-city Bill of Rights Monument, Dec. 15, 2012

Chris Bliss speaks at the dedication of the nation’s first capitol-city Bill of Rights Monument, Dec. 15, 2012

In the current Arizona Attorney Magazine, I took the opportunity to channel our inner James Madison. Who wouldn’t like to do that?

The occasion was my editor’s letter in which I praised the recent dedication of a Bill of Rights Monument in Phoenix. (detail is here).

It was an impressive event, as was the concept itself. I’m still stunned at the commitment and success of Chris Bliss, Executive Director of mybillofrights.org.

So in case you missed it, here is my own riff on one of this nation’s most important documents. And tell me: How you would have transformed the Bill of Rights? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. And have a great weekend.

Here is my column:

There are few events for which Arizonans will stand in the drizzle. We may be a hardy people, but precipitation strains our resolve.

In December, the presence of a light rain simply added to the noteworthy nature of a historic and well-attended event: the dedication of the nation’s first capitol-city monument to the Bill of Rights.

Congratulations to organizer Chris Bliss, generous Arizona lawyers, legislative leaders and others who made the limestone monoliths a reality.

Our Last Word this month includes the eloquent remarks by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton that day (more background and photos are here and here).

In honor of the achievement, I offer—à la the Bill of Rights itself—10 ways that the ceremony and the accomplishment impress:

I. The Weather shall make no drizzle that keeps a committed People from their celebration of a unique Bill of Rights, as they enjoy gathering, assembling, speaking and sharing space with chilly members of the Press.

II. A well-organized Program, being necessary to the success of an early-morning event, the right of a cold and coffee-deprived people to be exhilarated by concepts of liberty, shall not be infringed.

III. No Speaker did, without the at-least-grudging consent of the assembled People, go on and on in a Tyrannical manner or in a style proscribed by Common Sense.

IV. The right of the People to be reassured that their elected leaders of all Parties support and defend liberty shall not be violated.

V. No monument to our own Bill of Rights shall be relegated to a back corner of our State’s Capitol plaza, but shall be given a place of Prominence and Respect, where viewers may appreciate the Liberties espoused, sited hard against a monument to brave servicepeople who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of those liberties.

VI. In the development of public Monuments, Arizonans shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public process, yielding an awe-inspiring setting achieved through the impartial efforts of many people, and with the assistance of Counsel—Arizona attorneys who stepped up in amazing ways.

VII. In Monuments to which we have grown accustomed, where the cost has skyrocketed beyond Imagining, the right of the People to have a Monument erected with the expenditure of no Public Monies, at a modest cost and with a noteworthy portion of donated contributions, shall be preserved.

VIII. Excessive verbiage or sponsor names shall not be required, nor excessive ornaments imposed, for the simple words of the Bill of Rights are sufficient, and the sculptor’s stunning simplicity of vision shall foreclose the possible infliction on succeeding Generations of a cruel and unusual Artifice.

IX. The enumeration in this Monument of certain rights arose as the vision of a single man, who brought humor, drive and equanimity to the challenge of delivering a limestone embodiment to the people of Arizona, and in the process helped present what may be the best comedy concert fund-raiser in the history of these United States.

X. The power of this dedication Ceremony shall remind all present or hereafter standing in silent appreciation of the Monoliths that these rights, like the final word of the Bill of Rights, reside in and end with “the People.”

Arizona Attorney Magazine Editor Letter Feb 2013 Bill of Rights

chocolate gavel and Scales_of_Justice Valentine

Justice has never been so sweet.

Short and o so sweet today, just to remind you that it is Valentine’s Day, and to be sure to love the one you’re with. And if that someone is a lawyer, here are a few messages that may help you on the path to legalistic bliss.

First, head over to the occasionally cheeky Washington State Bar Association “Sidebar.” There, you will spy a few ideas that may put you in the canoodling mood.

OK, perhaps the object of your affections can resist your offer of a chocolate gavel, or collar stays etched with sweet nothings.

If their resistance is firm, then snark may win the day. At least, that’s how it works with journalists. I hope you enjoy some of the humorous paths to the heart as crafted by reporters and editors. (Yes, one of them says, “You’ve scooped my heart.” Don’t judge.)

editor Valentine wish
Enjoy your evening. Here’s hoping you decide to sleep in on Friday.

English judge stuffy corporate

NOT how you want the public to view our courts.

“Comes now the blogger.”

Odd, right? Completely foreign?

Now you know how lay people feel when they have the misfortune to wander into an American courtroom when lawyers channeling Shakespeare decide to hold forth. Methinks it’s annoying.

That’s why a recent news story out of Tucson is so refreshing. As the Daily Star reports, a new project at the Superior Court for Pima County strives to make the legal process understandable to the public.

The project was spearheaded by Commissioner Dean Christoffel. In his job, he saw people “struggling to fill out forms dealing with divorce, child custody issues, child support, paternity and spousal maintenance.”

So Commissioner Christoffel sought out University of Arizona students “who could rewrite dozens of instructions provided to people representing themselves.”

Among the experts who helped with the “Simpla Phi Lex” project was Barbara Atwood, the Mary Anne Richey Professor Emerita of Law at the UA Law School.

The complete story is here. (And the University’s story is here.)

Here at Arizona Attorney, I still smile every time I re-read the two articles we were privileged to publish that Dean had written. (Read “A Ripping Good Yarn Told With Verve” and “Algebraic Apoplexy.”) This is a lawyer and court official who knows how to write!

Maybe it’s my own fascination, but we run a good number of articles about improving legal writing. Last month, we published a news story about an initiative to simplify the Justice Court rules. And our February issue had a cover story urging clarity rather than ornate language.

Congratulations to Dean Christoffel, as well as everyone affiliated with this new great project.

Mark Hummels with his children at the Grand Canyon

Mark Hummels with his children at the Grand Canyon

I did not intend this week’s posts to focus entirely on violence against lawyers and in the legal profession (and they won’t). But I could not let a heartfelt tribute to lawyer Mark Hummels pass without comment.

A few days after Mark was gunned down along with a client, I wrote about the tragedy. And then, yesterday, I wrote about an Arizona Republic op-ed by John Phelps, State Bar of Arizona CEO.

And even as I write this, we are learning more about a tragic shooting at a courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware. Violence related to the legal profession is an ongoing story.

Today, I urge you to read a moving article by reporter Jenna Greene. As the essay indicates, she attended journalism school with Mark Hummels, and so her insights even precede his work as a lawyer. For the article, Greene interviewed State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer.

State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer

State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer

(I wrote just last Thursday about more coverage by Jenna Greene.)

Here is how she opens her article:

“In my journalism school class at the University of California, Berkeley, there were a few in-your-face, abrasive people, the type who seemed to enjoy confrontation.”

“Mark Hummels was not one of them. I remember him as unflappable, sunny and kind, someone who listened more than he spoke. He rode a unicycle and played the ukulele.”

“He was possibly the last person I would expect to be the victim of a murderous rampage.”

Read her complete tribute here.

Follow all Jenna Greene’s updates here.

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorLast Thursday, John Phelps wrote candidly about violence against lawyers in an Arizona Republic op-ed.

John is the CEO/Executive Director of the State Bar of Arizona. Here is how he opened his editorial:

“The murders of Phoenix attorney Mark Hummels and his client Steven D. Singer are part of an unsettling trend in the legal world. Threats and violence are on the rise.”

John Phelps headshot

John Phelps

“In the same week that Hummels was murdered, a prosecutor in Texas, Mark Hasse, was also gunned down. Last year, an attorney in Yuma, Jerrold Shelley, was shot and killed by a man upset over a divorce.”

You can read his complete editorial here.

John goes on to discuss Steve Kelson, a Utah lawyer who has researched instances of violence against lawyers all across the country. (He is in the beginning steps of his process to do the same in Arizona in 2013.) The statistics Keslon reports in John’s op-ed are startling and should give us pause.

In his conclusion, John reminds us of attorneys’ highest duties: “Mark Hummels died after leaving a mediation. His death was the result of trying to find resolution. He died fulfilling Cicero’s belief that ‘we are all servants of the laws in order that we may be free.’”

“Our thoughts and prayers go to Mark and Steve Singer’s family, friends and co-workers.”

John Phelps op-ed re Mark Hummels

News screen grab (referring to shooter Arthur Harmon)

UPDATE: This morning, a shooting in Delaware highlighted the flash point that the legal system can be. News reports indicate that multiple people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a security checkpoint in a Wilmington courthouse. Identities of those killed and hurt have not yet been announced. But the final paragraph of the news article is revealing: “Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning, attending a roundtable on gun violence with Vice President Joe Biden and other law enforcement officials in Philadelphia, declined comment on the shooting and deferred to officials on the scene in Wilmington.”

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