September 2013

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorIf the mark of a great blog post is a gorgeous graphic, I’m starting off the week with an epic fail.

But gauging posts by their relevance and praiseworthy content, this kind of offering is among my favorites.

Once again via my colleague Alberto Rodriguez, I pass on the great news of Arizona attorneys who stepped up to offer free legal advice. (As I’ve said before, no other profession that I’m aware of does so on such a routine basis.)

On Thursday, September 26, the State Bar of Arizona joined with Univision 33 to host the consumer call-in program Abogados a Su Lado. This most recent public service program covered bankruptcy and foreclosure issues.

Congratulations to the lawyers who stepped up to participate:

Those generous lawyers—all four were first-time participants—answered 67 calls during the two-hour phone bank. The following is a sample of the questions received:

  • Do I qualify for bankruptcy?
  • How does bankruptcy work?
  • Do I need an attorney to handle my bankruptcy or can I file on my own?
  • I’m behind on my house payment, how long before the foreclosure process begins? Can I save my home from foreclosure?
  • Am I automatically entitled to half of our assets if I file for divorce?
  • How do I qualify for a home loan modification?
  • The home I rent is being foreclosed on. What are my rights?

Congratulations and thanks to all the attorneys.

NABECOM Portland 2013

Put a bird on it and other Portlandisms have governed my week.

I mentioned yesterday that I’m in Portland, and enjoying every minute. But in my post yesterday, I uttered the odd phrase “Put a bird on it.”

But many readers may be too busy with wills, trusts, mergers, acquisitions and the like to grasp the pop culture reference.

If you do not speak hipster, you should read this super definition at Urban Dictionary.

It even includes a sample dialogue to help you understand:

Hipster 1: Oh my god, I LOVE your tote bag, where did you get it?

Hipster 2: Oh this thing? I just bought it for $75 at Brooklyn Flea but it was so boring until I put a bird on it!

Hipster 1: You should sell it on Etsy!

In Portland this week, I’m attending a great communications conference. And those terrific conference organizers indulged their quirky humor by putting birds on the event graphics. Nicely done!

NABECOM Portland 2013 wider cropped 2But to be sure you get it, here is a clip from the great program Portlandia, which coined the phrase.

Have a great—and flannel-filled—weekend.

Oregon State Bar Bulletin rural practice spread

Does rural law practice beckon? Two different bar association magazines say yes.

This week I am in Portland, Oregon, for the first time. Quite an amazing place.

I am learning and presenting at a conference of communications folks. (Here’s what I’m doing.) And I’m working hard to get out of the hotel occasionally to enjoy a terrific city. Well, whatever I do, I’ll put a bird on it. (More on that tomorrow.)

As I like to do, I point you today toward some law content connected to the place I’m visiting. And up here in the state whose motto is “She Flies With Her Own Wings” (explanations welcome), I recommend to you some work of the Oregon State Bar Association—specifically an two articles in their current Bar Bulletin.

In an article by writer Melody Finnemore, we get to hear from lawyers who are in the courtroom—as jurors. The picture they paint is not always a good one.

That ranks up there with other great story ideas I should emulate for Arizona Attorney Magazine.

You can read the complete version here. Here is the opening of the insightful article:

“Channing Bennett has seen his share of time in the courtroom, first as a litigator representing clients in civil cases and later as a volunteer judge pro tem in Marion County Circuit Court. The Salem attorney is a hearings referee for the Oregon Judicial Department. Now, he knows firsthand the emotional anguish many of his clients have experienced during a trial.”

Oregon State Bar logo“‘I’ve gained a lot of empathy for my clients going through the trial process. You feel very helpless and you get frustrated with the courts, even as an experienced observer,’ he says.”

“Bennett is one of the scores of Oregon attorneys who have been plaintiffs in a case, had to hire an attorney, been the victim of a crime or witnessed a crime, or participated in the Oregon State Bar disciplinary system. Some have experienced the state’s legal system from multiple perspectives — all from a very different place than where they are used to sitting during the legal process.”

“Like Bennett, most of the attorneys who shared their stories with the Bulletin didn’t exactly enjoy a positive experience. Yet they overwhelmingly said they learned something from it, ranging from greater empathy for clients to a broader understanding of what it means to be a good lawyer.”

Just as intriguing is their current cover story for the August/September issue. Written by Cliff Collins, it is titled “Opportunity Knocks in Rural Oregon: Small Towns Beckon Job-Seeking Lawyers.”

That was well written, but it also hit home because it reminded me immediately of an essay that resides in a recent issue of Arizona Attorney. Penned by lawyer Laura Cardinal, it makes a similar point about the good and successful life attorneys may find outside the big cities. And while you do that, the authors argue, you’ll be helping many people.

You can find Laura’s article here. Let me know what you think of both pieces.

Laura Cardinal writes on rural law practice, Arizona Attorney Magazine

L to R: Clint Bolick, Goldwater Institute;  Professor Melissa Murray, UC-Berkeley School of Law; and Judge Neil V. Wake, U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

L to R: Clint Bolick, Goldwater Institute; Professor Melissa Murray, UC-Berkeley School of Law; and Judge Neil V. Wake, U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

Constitution Day was celebrated at the University of Arizona Law School as it has in the past—with a panel of smart people discussing compelling cases from the recent U.S. Supreme Court Term.

Due to conflicts in my schedule, I was unable to attend. Happily, a law student—who also is a great writer—offered to summarize the afternoon’s conversation.

The scribe’s name is Logan Rogers, and here is his background:

“Logan Rogers has a B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in U.S. history. He is a 2L student at the University of Arizona College of Law and a member of Arizona Law Review. He can be reached at

What follows is Logan’s reporting. If other lawyers and law students would like to contribute guest blog posts, please contact me at Together, we may be able to cover a state’s worth of legal happenings.

Here’s Logan:

Voting rights, same-sex marriage, and consumers’ access to class action lawsuits were among the issues dissected on Monday at the James E. Rogers College of Law.

Con Law enthusiasts gathered at the University of Arizona to hear an expert panel discuss recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions during the 15th Annual Constitution Day program, sponsored by the William H. Rehnquist Center. Four controversial rulings provided the panelists with plenty of grist for a lively discussion.

The panel consisted of moderator Professor David Marcus, a specialist in international law and civil procedure at Arizona Law; Clint Bolick, an award-winning litigator who currently serves as Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix; Judge Neil V. Wake of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix, an alumnus of Arizona State University and Harvard Law School; and Professor Melissa Murray of UC Berkeley School of Law, a family and constitutional law expert and former Yale Law School classmate of Prof. Marcus.

Rehnquist Center Director Sally Rider

Rehnquist Center Director Sally Rider

Marcus argued that Shelby County v. Holder “demolished” the Voting Rights Act. The Court’s decision specifically invalidated § 4(b) of the Act as unconstitutional. That section used a formula to identify jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory practices. Another section of the Act required these jurisdictions to get federal pre-clearance before changing their election laws.

Bolick and Wake contended that Marcus overstated the ruling’s damage to the Voting Rights Act. They emphasized that other sections of the Act still protected racial minorities from discrimination. Bolick agreed with the Shelby County ruling, and contended that § 4(b) unfairly punished jurisdictions for discrimination that took place several decades ago, despite that fact that voter turnout has reached racial parity in many of these jurisdictions. Wake and Bolick emphasized the financial and administrative burden the preclearance requirement imposed upon state and local governments.

Marcus countered that the progress toward voting equality in these regions was in large part due to the Voting Rights Act, including § 4(b). Murray agreed with Justice Ginsburg’s dissent, which suggested that recent actions by officials in some of these jurisdictions had discriminatory intent. She argued these facts demonstrated the necessity of upholding § 4(b).  Marcus emphasized that Congress renewed the Act several times, including as recently as 2006. He stated that the Court engaged in “judicial immodesty” by overturning part of the Voting Rights Act.

The panel discussed the Court’s two big cases involving same-sex marriage, United States v. Windsor, which invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which declined to rule on a California initiative banning gay marriage because the parties lacked standing.

Marcus called Windsor a “doctrinal mess” because its rationale for overturning a federal ban on same-sex marriage contained disparate elements of federalism, equal protection, and substantive due process. Bolick said he personally supported same-sex couples’ access to marriage (although he emphasized that this was not an official position of the Goldwater Institute), but he thought the opinion was a poorly reasoned “mish-mash.”

Marcus said that although Windsor provided “no immediate aid” for same-sex couples in Arizona, the opinion paved the way for an eventual Court ruling striking down state bans on gay marriage. Both Murray and Marcus thought some supporters of same-sex marriage on the Court tried to avoid legalizing it across the U.S. in this opinion. Murray suggested these justices feared a backlash if they got too far ahead of the public on the issue.

In Hollingsworth, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs had no standing, because only California state officials could defend the initiative that banned gay marriage, but they refused to uphold the law, leaving the private citizens who supported the initiative as the only possible litigants. The California Supreme Court held that grassroots proponents could have standing to defend initiatives in court, but the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed.  Because the Court refused to take action in the case, a 9th Circuit court ruling that invalidated the initiative banning gay marriage on 14th Amendment grounds remained in effect. Therefore, same-sex marriage remains legal in California.

Wake and Bolick agreed that the Hollingsworth decision on standing was incorrect, in part because it allows state government officials to ignore the public’s wishes by refusing to enforce initiatives. Wake called this an “affront to the initiative process,” which he argued is an essential part of democracy in western states such as Arizona.

Murray said the fourth case, American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, had less obvious appeal to people interested in “social justice” issues, but she said its importance had been underestimated by the national media. Marcus characterized the ruling as one of many examples of the pro-business leanings of the Roberts Court. The opinion upheld a contract containing a class-action waiver in the form of a mandatory arbitration clause. Marcus said this waiver made it difficult for consumers and small businesses to sue large corporations, because without the option of a class-action suit, the costs of litigation are often prohibitive for these parties.

Professor David Marcus, right, and the Constitution Day panel.

Professor David Marcus, right, and the Constitution Day panel.

Wake said that although he thinks class-action lawsuits can sometimes be problematic and excessive, he believes the Court should not have allowed companies to contract their way out of class-action liability without offering other options besides arbitration. On the other hand, Bolick argued that enforcing contracts is “essential to a free society.” He contended that class-action lawsuits are bad for the public because the costs they impose on corporations lead to higher consumer-goods prices.

The event concluded with a discussion of whether the Court is too influenced by politics and popular opinion. Bolick suggested the Court should act on principle, with little concern for political implications, but other panelists emphasized the importance of the Court maintaining its legitimacy with the public.

The panelists disagreed on much, but all would likely agree on the importance of educating the public about the Court and its impact upon key social and political issues. Events such as Constitution Day at Arizona Law help shed light on the often-mysterious workings of the highest court in the land.

Questions and dialogue? Remember to contact Logan at

Punctuation Day 2013Today, as I and all time-wasters know, is National Punctuation Day. Hail, caesura.

I don’t often cover punctuation here (though I praised the hyphen here). But I was pleased to see that the oh-so-valuable punctuation is connected to lawyers.

Yes, lawyers. For as Wikipedia explains to us, the development of punctuation use—primarily its dearth in places—was affected by law practice:

“One aspect of archaic legal drafting—particularly in conveyances and deeds—is the conspicuous absence of punctuation. This arose from a widespread idea among lawyers that punctuation was ambiguous and unimportant, and that the meaning of legal documents was contained only in the words used and their context. In modern legal drafting, punctuation is used, and helps to clarify their meaning.”

Read more here. And the next time you get annoyed at a surplus of unnecessary punctuation, thank an Old English lawyer (we all know one or two.)

Punctuation Day meatloaf question mark

“I have a question,” the meatloaf appears to say.

If you’re the type who wants to really dig into your punctuation, here is a webinar in honor of the big event. It is hosted by the Poynter Institute, which puts on marvelous educational webinars for journalists—and others! The webinar is at 2:00 Eastern time today—which means it’s 11 a.m. here in Arizona—still time to register for this $9.95 class (pretty inexpensive, eh?).

And if you were hankering to celebrate National Punctuation Day (or NPD, as aficionados call it), here’s how.

Finally, here is an entry that bridges that gap we’ve always wanted to see closed—between punctuation and food. (Hmmm?) Yes, it’s true; you too can have a recipe for a Punctuation Meatloaf.

I don’t want to be a nudge, but I’m not sure I want the word semi-colon—or colon at all—in a sentence discussing meatloaf. But as long as we’re enjoying this, wouldn’t a colon simply be two hamburger patties?

Get cooking.

PF Chang's Marathon logo 2014Happy Monday morning! If you meet your work-week head-on, ready to take on the world, today’s post is probably aimed right at you!

I yield the floor to State Bar Counsel David Sandweiss, who also happens to be the team captain of the Bar’s marathon-running team. Interested? Want to get involved? Here’s David:

As in years past, the State Bar has entered a team in the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon “Get Fit Challenge,” this year to be held January 19, 2014. All State Bar of Arizona members and their employees, and Arizona law students and faculty members, are eligible to join Team “Bar Flys” for this event. The Get Fit Challenge is a friendly competition not for which team has the fastest time but, rather, the highest participation. As an incentive to join our team, the State Bar is subsidizing half of the registration fee to the first 65 people to sign-up for either the full or half marathon.

For information about the event and to register, click here.

Follow the links through “Register” and “Join a Team,” then select “Bar Flys” when prompted. When it comes time to pay, enter RCBARFLYS14 in the promotional code box. Please do not share this code with anyone other than those whom you know to meet Bar Fly eligibility criteria.

This year, we are adding a charitable endeavor initiated by the 2013 Bar Flys. We are inviting all Arizona lawyers to choose a Bar Fly runner and pledge some amount of money per mile completed of his or her chosen event. This means that if you join the Bar Flys, you agree that your name can be included on a publicly released team roster so lawyers can choose in whose name to pledge donations. Last year, proceeds went to the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law Judge John Roll Memorial Scholarship Fund. This year, we are raising money for the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, Professor Joseph Feller Memorial Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is for law students seeking a career in natural resource law/policy or environmental law/policy issues. It is both merit and financial need-based, and is given once a year to one student.

Whether you’re an avid competitive runner, a weekend warrior, or just looking for a sociable way to get some exercise, this event is fun for all. For those who have never before attempted anything like a full or half marathon, daunting though it sounds, it is do-able with proper training, commitment and setting reasonable goals. We encourage everyone to consider becoming a Bar Fly!

George H. Lyons, 1947-2013

George H. Lyons, 1947-2013

I was so sorry to learn recently that Phoenix trial attorney George H. Lyons had passed away suddenly, at age 66. You may not have received that news, but the state and the bar are far worse for his death.

His obituary is here. Like the man, the written testament to him is charming and humble. So I should add to the record by enumerating a few of his paths to legal service. Among other ways George stepped up, he was:

“President of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education (2010-2011); Member, Board of Directors of Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education (2006-2009); President of Community Legal Services (2002-2003); Member, Board of Directors of Community Legal Services (2004-2006); Member of the Civil Practice & Procedure Committee for the State Bar of Arizona (2010-2012); Member of the Hearing Committee of the Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Arizona (1982-1990); Member of the Committee on Rules of Professional Conduct for the State Bar of Arizona (1983-1989)”

That, of course, was just his legal contribution.

It was just recently that George wrote for the July/August issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine. Our cover story that month was the 35th birthday of the Arizona Bar Foundation. George joined other former Foundation Presidents in sharing his memories of his term. His contribution to that feature story begins here.

Rest in peace.

Access to justice can be golden: Arizona Attorney Magazine opening image for a story on the topic by former State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, Oct. 2012.

Access to justice can be golden: Arizona Attorney Magazine opening image for a story on the topic by former State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, Oct. 2012.

As has been reported numerous times (even in Arizona Attorney Magazine), access to justice is in a pretty sorry state in Arizona and the United States.

It’s worth noting that the problem extends beyond borders.

Thanks to a lawyer and former State Bar colleague Nedra Brown, I’m reading a report out of the Canadian Bar Association on their own challenges.

Canadian Bar Association equal justice cover 2013Titled “Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation To Envision and Act,” the 59-page report paints a bleak picture of the country’s legal access situation. Ultimately, though, the report authors provide a solid roadmap that could rectify the situation.

As a news story from Canadian Lawyer Magazine opens:

“The ‘abysmal’ state of access to justice in Canada can be turned around by 2030, according to a Canadian Bar Association report published today. But the report says hitting the deadline will require ‘dramatic’ change, and sets out 31 recommendations for the legal industry, regulators, and government. These include establishing national benchmarks for legal aid coverage, increasing federal justice spending, and drawing up clearer guidelines on alternative billing structures.”

Canadian Bar Association logoRead that story here.

The complete report is here in PDF format. (The “solutions” portion begins on page 15.)

What lessons do you think we can learn here in Arizona? Do attorneys (especially those who have been in the legal access trenches for years) see a similar positive path to a better system for delivering justice?

Do you think a similar Arizona report could cast needed light onto the problem and possible solutions?

Here is a graphic from the excellent report. How do you picture access?

Canadian Bar Association graphic from its 2013 report on access to justice

Canadian Bar Association graphic from its 2013 report on access to justice


2013 Arizona Judicial Branch Awards logo

First, the apology: Sorry about the late notice.

That out of the way, I can tell you that the deadline is today, September 18, to submit nominations for Arizona Judicial Branch Achievement Awards.

Who receives those? Chief Justice Berch describes the group categories as:

  • Probation
  • Limited Jurisdiction Courts
  • General Jurisdiction Courts
  • Individual Achievement in Accomplishing the 2010-2015 Vision
  • One At-Large Award for outstanding contributions in meeting the goals of Justice 2020 A Vision for the Future of the Arizona Judicial Branch 2010-2015, as outlined in the Judiciary’s plan for continuing to improve public trust and confidence in the Arizona court system

More information on the awards and their criteria is here.

The online form is simple to complete; it may just take you a few minutes.

To get an idea of the kind of excellence we’re talking about, here are the 2012 winners.

Many Arizona lawyers work extensively with judicial officers and staff. I’m very confident that someone out there has spotted excellence worth recognizing. Today’s your chance.

Breaking Bad actor Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman

If even Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman (played by actor Bob Odenkirk) said no to a client’s case, take a pass.

A benefit of reading and writing all the time is that you pretty regularly come across content that’s terrific and that you wouldn’t ever have imagineered yourself. Today, I’m pleased to pass on a comical and insightful piece that deconstructs the words of a potential client’s previous lawyer. Well done!

If you’ve ever listened in disbelief as a potential client explains what a previous attorney said, this post is bound to resonate with you.

Let me know what you think. Here is the Unwashed Advocate (whose hilarious “About” page is here), who opens:

“I often get calls from potential clients who’ve previously contacted other lawyers. Invariably, the following is said during these conversations. … I’d like to help … by translating what the other lawyer said. Here goes.”

Prepare to chuckle in recognition as he “translates the lawyerese.”

Keep reading here.

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