February 2014


Former Chief Justice Ruth McGregor delivers keynote remarks at panel on judicial diversity, Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 27, 2014.

Former Chief Justice Ruth McGregor delivers keynote remarks at panel on judicial diversity, Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 27, 2014.

A busy spring is kicking the butt of Change of Venue. There are just too many great events.

By way of explanation: Change of Venue is my attempt to have some lighter lifting on Fridays. A photo or two, a humorous (and maybe nonlegal) story, in, out, hello, weekend!

I mean, you like that too, right?

Well, yesterday I attended a powerful panel discussion on the topic of diversity on the bench. And I thought I should share what was said and ask for your thoughts.

Sponsored by the Arizona Advocacy Network and Justice at Stake, the event at the Carnegie Center in Phoenix was a kickoff to the groups’ efforts to address some judicial challenges in 2014. Here are a few of the day’s high points.

Judicial diversity forum 2014 3 v2

Judicial diversity forum, Feb. 27, 2014, Carnegie Center, Phoenix, Ariz.

It is always a privilege and pleasure to hear Ruth McGregor speak. The former Arizona Chief Justice was the keynote speaker, and she delivered some compelling statistics about the lack of diversity on the bench, nationally and locally.

But before you presume she’s in favor of a simple numbers game, understand that the quality of judicial decisions is her goal—and that of many engaged in the creation of diverse benches.

As Justice McGregor said, “Diverse experiences can be used in appropriate circumstances to better understand the case at hand.”

And yes, Justice McGregor has data. She cited studies from Tufts and Columbia that examined group decision-making. Here’s what they found.

In Tufts’ mock juries: “Diverse groups discuss significantly more case facts than non-diverse groups; and diverse groups exhibited significantly fewer inaccurate statements.”

Also at Columbia: The presence of even one female participant in a group increased the probability of a different decision. That’s one woman.

What are the results for judges? “Diversity may yield a more careful, more accurate and broader discussion of issues.”

“The presence of diverse voices,” Justice McGregor said, “broadens discussion and analysis.”

Would judicial results be different? We cannot say that. But “at least the discussion would be different,” she said.

Lisa Loo moderates judicial diversity panel, Feb. 27, 2014.

Lisa Loo moderates judicial diversity panel, Feb. 27, 2014.

She urged attendees to consider how certain blots on legal history may have been decided if there had been even a tiny bit of diversity on their judicial panels. Consider Korematsu, Bowers v. Hardwick, Plessy v. Ferguson. Would those rulings have been the same if one of the judges had been Japanese American, gay or lesbian, or African American? Can you doubt it?

Justice McGregor also urged listeners to try their hand at an online Implicit Association Test. Try one here!

Kudos also to moderator Lisa Loo, who strolled among the audience, tossing queries to panelists. And the panelists—Linda Benally, Judge Roxanne Song Ong and James Christian—offered excellent summaries of the challenges faced by diversity advocates.

(I reported from the event on Twitter, and you can see below how talented a moderator I found Lisa to be. Click the link to see the photo:)

At left, Lisa Loo @ASU @AZStateBar governor kicks butt as @JusticeStake moderator, strolls room, tosses Qs to panel. http://t.co/WfdTY8Knxg

— Tim Eigo (@azatty) February 27, 2014

Judge Song Ong said something that made me think of the old proverb about when it’s best to plant a tree. So here is a Change-of-Venue-style image to consider:

Plant a Tree Now revised judge

Have a great—and diverse—weekend.

magazine column dull + cats. What makes a compelling magazine column? Hmmm, let’s see. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two.

What makes a compelling magazine column? Hmmm, let’s see. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two.

I started out thinking today’s post was mainly for the lawyer readers. But now I’m not so sure.

In a few weeks, I’ll be presenting in Chicago at the American Bar Association’s annual Bar Leadership Institute. That’s where incoming leaders (often Presidents) of bar associations gather to get a crash course in numerous elements that go into guiding associations of attorneys.

My charge is to lend insight into what makes A-1 written materials—op-ds, letters to the editor, and the oft-feared President’s Message.

For the uninitiated, the President’s Message is a column-length essay published in a bar association’s magazine, newspaper or newsletter.

That message gives more agida to incoming leaders than virtually any other part of the job. And why shouldn’t it? Bar leaders are adept at many parts of the new job: They know how to run meetings, garner support and reach consensus (OK, “adept” may be a stretch). But how many of them have written a column?

Of course, most people have a good column in them. We have a powerful hankering to share the One Big Idea that has guided us, in life and practice. Without doubt, we can hit that column out of the park.

OK, that takes care of Month 1. Whatcha got for the other 11 months of your year? Gulp.

magazine column visual - Is it too much to expect bar leaders to write less and to think visually? Probably. Because law.

Is it too much to expect bar leaders to write less and to think visually? Probably. Because law.

I’ve read and edited President’s columns since 2000 (and I write my own monthly column; here’s January’s), so I have a pretty strong sense of what makes a good leader essay. But many of you read them; what do you think?

Because one of my messages to the presidents will be to crowdsource great ideas, today I am practicing what I preach. So …

In publications you enjoy (legal or not), what causes you to read a column (rather than a feature article)? What draws you in? What repels your gaze? Put another way:

  • What is the one piece of advice you would give a column writer?
  • What kind of content or approach do you find draws you in and leads you to respond?

If you have a thought that is not captured in my questions, please feel free to share that instead.

I am developing my presentation now. I’d be pleased to share your insight with the BLI attendees. And if I use your idea, I will credit you in my PowerPoint—so there; you, too, will be published!

Would I take professional advice from this woman? Um, yup, in a heartbeat. The smart and hilarious Roxie Bacon (on right) with a friend in New Zealand.

Would I take professional advice from this woman? Um, yup, in a heartbeat. The smart and hilarious Roxie Bacon (on right) with a friend in New Zealand.

What equals success? Do old measures of success still apply, especially in a tradition-bound profession like the law?

Those were a few of the questions raised recently in a brief book review by the so-very-talented Roxie Bacon.

Roxie is a great lawyer, as well as a former President of the State Bar of Arizona. She climbed the ladder of big-firm partner success, so when I spotted a book about women lawyer leaders, I thought immediately that she should review it.

So before February passes into history, I wanted to be sure you saw her review in our February issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

The book she was charged with reviewing is a publication of the American Bar Association titled Learning To Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law.

learning to lead book cover v2

Maybe it was the title’s “really” that initially set Roxie off. But she ultimately offered her not-entirely-salutary view of the book’s messages. Yes, she said that the suggestions were good, as far as they went—if you still buy in to the success measures adopted a generation ago. But Roxie points out that huge numbers of lawyers—men and women—are voting on those measure with their feet, as they decide to tread hallways other than those covered in the most expensive hand-knotted rugs.

You can read Roxie’s whole essay here.

I’m sure the review did not please the ABA. But since publication, I’ve heard from a number of people who enjoyed her view very much. They also compare the ABA book to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which some also believe sends dated messages to young women professionals.

What are your thoughts on how women (especially) may best succeed in law firms? Do the old measures of success still apply? Should they?

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Former U.S. Alberto Gonzales

Former U.S. Alberto Gonzales

A Wednesday event brings a figure of international renown to Phoenix—and with it, a pointed voice of opposition.

At the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse, former United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will speak at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute event. The keynote speaker has been involved in controversial legal matters, and it appears the local Caucus representative and Phoenix chapter president of the CHCI Alumni Association, attorney Juan Rocha, is prepared to address a number of those issues, as he wrote to me, “In so many words, I plan to ask him questions about national security, executive power, et cetera—which are highly relevant today.”

You can read more about the event here.

As the Caucus Facebook page describes the speaker:

“Attorney General Gonzales is the first Hispanic to be named United States Attorney General. From 2005 to 2007, he served as Attorney General Under President George W. Bush. Before his appointment as the country’s top lawyer, Attorney General Gonzales led the White House Office of Legal Counsel. Prior to serving in the White House, he was a partner at the international law firm of Vinson and Elkins, in Houston, Texas, and later served as a Texas Supreme Court Justice. Attorney General Gonzales will discuss national security, executive power, and Latinos in the legal profession, among other topics.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute logoTo recall a few of the reasons that General Gonzales is a controversial choice, you might read this or many articles on his tenure.

Soon after getting the event notice, I was copied on a letter of complaint from attorney Chris Ford, on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Central Arizona Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. It opens:

“I write on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Central Arizona Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which urges you to withdraw your invitation to Alberto Gonzales to speak at your event scheduled for February 26, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona, ‘A Conversation with former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.’ Alberto Gonzales presided over a truly shameful period at the Justice Department, employing contrived legal positions to justify the use of torture on wartime captives; expansion of secret overseas prisons where torture was carried out; and domestic surveillance that since his tenure has mushroomed to truly astonishing, police-state proportions.1 Moreover, Gonzales resigned in disgrace in 2007, leaving behind a Justice Department whose mission was blurred by partisan politics.2 As further explained below, Alberto Gonzales is not a legitimate choice for speaker at an event put on by a group whose trademarked slogan is ‘Developing the Next Generation of Latino Leaders.’”

National Lawyers Guild NLG logo“Gonzales was a primary architect of what history likely will record as the U.S. Government’s worst and most destructive foreign policy failure: the abandonment of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War and the resort to torture of prisoners in blatant violation of that Convention and of international law.3

__

1 See, e.g. Dan Eggen and Michael A. Fletcher, Embattled Gonzales Resigns, Washington Post, Aug. 27, 2007, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2007/08/27/AR2007082700372.html; Aaron Sankin, Daniel Ellsberg On NSA Spying: We’re A Turnkey Away From A Police State,’ The Huffington Post, June 12, 2013, at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/12/daniel-ellsberg-nsa-spying_n_3429694.html (“foundation has been set” for police state; “It could happen overnight”).

2 Dan Eggen and Michael A. Fletcher, supra note 1; Steven Lee Myers and Philip Shenon, Embattled Attorney General Resigns, New York Times, August 27, 2007, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/27/AR2007082700372.html.

3 Dan Eggen and Michael A. Fletcher, supra note 1; Alberto R. Gonzales, Memorandum to the President, January 25, 2002, at http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB127/02.01.25.pdf.

(I have pasted in below images of the five-page letter.)

I contacted the Caucus in Washington, seeking their response to this letter of opposition. Spokesman Scott Gunderson Rosa pointed me to a letter of response sent by Juan Rocha. Here is the text of his complete letter (I’ve also pasted in an image of it below):

“On behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) and the CHCI Alumni Association (CHCI-AA) of Phoenix, AZ Alumni Chapter, we appreciate your concerns about our event with former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.”

“Though we understand your opposition to Mr. Gonzales and his tenure as U.S. Attorney General; however, CHCl is nevertheless committed to the open discussion and dialogue of ideas and opinions. Just last year, we hosted author and writer, Junot Diaz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his stories on multiculturalism. Indeed, our lecture series is meant to stimulate thought and discussion, regardless of the speaker. Moreover, CHCI, as you know, is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization; as such, our sponsoring this event is in no way an endorsement of the views, opinions, or ideas of our guest speakers, nor by hosting this event is it our attempt to influence public opinion, public policy, or the law.”

“We invite you to attend this event, where you will have the opportunity to ask Mr. Gonzales his views about the issues raised in your letter.”

“Finally, if you’re interested in co-sponsoring an event with us in the future, please let us know; we would be delighted to work with you.”

Two other local organizations are involved with the event in various ways.

Los Abogados, the Hispanic bar association, was approached by organizers and asked whether they would co-sponsor the event. Los Abogados President Ed Maldonado confirmed his board’s decision: “Our board voted to not officially participate in this particular event.”

los abogados-web-logoEd added, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We respect the NLG’s comment on Gonzales’ appearance in our state.”

I asked Ed if Los Abogados’ decision to decline was based on the financial amount, or on a concern about the keynote speaker who had been invited. He responded, “Unfortunately I can’t comment any further without getting into the discussion of our board, and I cannot do that. We voted not to officially sponsor the event. We also did not join in or sign onto any letters. So the only official position I can comment on is what has been stated already.”

Meanwhile, Quarles & Brady issued a press release stating that it would be a sponsor of the Caucus’s lecture series. The February 19 release opens, “The national law firm of Quarles & Brady LLP today announced that it will be a sponsor of the Phoenix Alumni Chapter’s Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute lecture series this month. Labor & Employment Group associate Marian M. Zapata-Rossa will present the opening remarks and introduce the guest speaker, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.”

The complete press release is here.

Curious if the controversy troubled Quarles, I asked law firm leaders if they had a comment. Here are the February 23 remarks I received from the firm. Phoenix office managing partner Nicole France Stanton wrote:

NIcole France Stanton, managing partner, Quarles & Brady Phoenix office

Nicole France Stanton, managing partner, Quarles & Brady Phoenix office

“At Quarles & Brady, diversity is a part of our mission. For more than two decades, the firm has been committed to an aggressive agenda designed to promote and achieve diversity at all levels, which includes sponsoring diverse groups, speakers and topics such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (“CHCI”) lecture series this month featuring the former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as its guest speaker. In addition,  we are also engaged in several  ongoing initiatives that advance the firm’s diversity goal of greater inclusion, understanding, respect and opportunity including our Women in Leadership Program,  Attorney Recruiting, Retention and Promotion (Minority Scholarships and Internships, Tribal Law Summer Associate program) and Family-Friendly Policies (including LGBT Domestic Partner Benefits).”

“We are proud to have a founding member of the CHCI Phoenix Alumni Chapter as part of our team at Quarles & Brady, and are explicitly supporting diversity through this sponsorship.”

“We will welcome an extraordinarily diverse group to the program this week, including local leaders and attorneys, members of the Arizona Latino Caucus, the CHCI Phoenix Alumni Chapter, and Arizona District Court Judges.”

If you are planning to attend Wednesday’s event (and are not affiliated with any of the organizations or sponsors) and would like to write a guest blog post following up on his remarks, please contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

And here are the letters of oppition and the response letter (click to enlarge).

Response from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute to National Lawyers Guild letter of opposition.

AZ StandDown 2014 1 v2

I grow accustomed to learning about the great amounts of volunteerism about Arizona lawyers. That demonstrates how many attorneys recognize the value and importance of providing pro bono assistance.

But a communication I received from Bar colleague Alberto Rodriguez knocked me for a loop. Below, he reports on the volunteers who participated in the annual Arizona Veteran StandDown event. The amount of participation, by lawyers, law students and others, is stunning.

More photos from this year’s StandDown are here.

Thanks and congratulations to everyone who took part. Here’s Alberto:

On Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15 the State Bar of Arizona and 23 of its members participated in the 2014 Arizona Veterans StandDown. The State Bar and volunteer attorneys joined several service providers at the three-day event that offered a variety of health and human services to nearly 1,700 homeless and at-risk veterans in our state. Volunteer attorneys from across the valley fielded legal questions via one-on-one consultations with veterans seeking legal advice.

AZ StandDown 2014 2 v2

The “Civil Law Clinic” organized by the State Bar offered legal consultations by members who practice Family Law, Bankruptcy/Foreclosure/Tax Law, Probate/Trust Law, Elder/Mental Health Law, and Real Estate/Landlord & Tenant Law. In addition, Community Legal Services, Project Salute, and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU participated in the civil law clinic.

Volunteer attorneys provided 177 consultations during the two-day civil law clinic for the 160 veterans who were seen. In addition, many attorneys offered pro-bono legal services after the StandDown to veterans who needed representation. Adding to the legal services provided for veterans, on-site courts coordinated by Gary Kula, Director of the City of Phoenix Public Defender’s Office, saw 937 veterans who needed to address court-related issues.

The following is a list of civil attorney and logistics volunteers:

Attorney Volunteers

  • Dorothy Brogan, Law Office of Dorothy E. Brogan
  • Robert C. Brown, Dickinson Wright
  • Rebecca E. Browning, Browning Law Office, PLLC
  • Kristen Coyne, CKGH Law
  • Rachel Frazier Johnson, Rachel Frazier Johnson Law
  • Steve Gervais, Land Advisors Organization
  • Sean D. Greengard, Community Legal Services
  • Peter Gustafson, Gustafson Law Office, PLLC
  • Taylor House, Taylor House Law, PLC
  • Christine Jensen, Christine Jensen, PC
  • Billy Miller, Law Firm of William A. Miller
  • Judy M. Miller, Judy M. Miller, PC
  • Maya Milovic, Tijjani, Milovic & Phillips, PLC
  • Matt Nelson, Project Salute
  • Nicole L. Pavlik, Forakis Law Firm
  • Bret Rasner, Community Legal Services
  • Jennifer Ryan-Touhill, Touhill Law Offices, PC
  • Bree Stamper-Gimbar, Community Legal Services
  • John Starkey, John Starkey Attorney at Law
  • Nina Targomilk, Community Legal Services
  • Jim P. Webster, James Portman Webster Law Office, PLC
  • Debbie Weecks, Weecks Law
  • John Withee, Withee Law Firm, PLLC

Certified Limited Practice Students (from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU)

  • Laura Anderson
  • Tory Beardsley
  • Christine Bolton
  • Marcy Karin, Clinical Professor of Law
  • Ryan Lockner

Logistics Volunteers

  • Rodrigo Antillon, Lambda Sigma Upsilon
  • Jesus Enriquez, Lambda Sigma Upsilon
  • Jerry Herrera, Community Legal Services
  • Denise Lopez, Magellan Health Services
  • Charles Wilson, Lambda Sigma Upsilon

AZ StandDown 2014 3 v2

Book Country Lawyer by Bellamy PartridgeA recent article suggested a new path that underemployed lawyers may seek to follow. It was a great read. But it also reminded me how bar magazines are often ahead of the curve—or at least laboratories of innovation.

The essay explained how new lawyers, especially, might benefit by heading out to practice in rural areas:

“[H]ere’s an interesting countervailing trend reported last year by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and NPR. There are jobs available for lawyers in many parts of rural America. In fact, in many rural areas, there is actually a shortage of attorneys.”

The excerpt comes from the terrific Attorney at Work site, and I enjoyed Roy Ginsburg’s essay.

But as much as I appreciate the coverage to the topic lent by national heady publications, a quick glance shows that state bar magazines are already crushing it.

Last September, I wrote about the concept of practicing in rural areas, and I was happy to share the coverage in Arizona Attorney and in the Oregon Bar Journal. And some bars and their publications have been touching on this important topic for years.

Still, Roy’s is a well-written argument for the value of picking up and moving to a smaller community. The more the merrier—both in rural law practice, and in terrific law practice coverage.

Have a great—and innovative—weekend.

A compelling and charming film comes to Scottsdale on Sunday, Feb. 23.

A compelling and charming film comes to Scottsdale on Sunday, Feb. 23.

This Sunday in Scottsdale, the film Road to Eden will be shown at the Harkins Camelview. If your Sunday afternoon is still free, I urge you to see it. If it’s not, then break your other appointments and go.

When I sat down to write about it, I was just going to view the eight-minute preview available on the film’s website. But I was so taken by that clip, I decided to stay up way too late last night to view the entire film (which writer/director Doug Passon had provided to me in advance).

So I may be sleepy this morning, but that is entirely overborne by the pleasure and excitement I took away from the film.

Not knowing what to expect in a film made by someone whose day job is attorney (Doug works in the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Phoenix), I was surprised but intrigued to see the movie is an exploration of the Jewish holiday called Sukkot. Here is part of the film’s description:

“Road to Eden is a feature-length documentary film that captures the essence of Judaism’s most profound teachings about our connection to the earth, the fragility of existence, and our dream of a world perfected.”
“The spine of the film is the inspirational journey of Dan Nichols, a tour de force of modern Jewish music, who took his show on the road for the Jewish festival of Sukkot in October 2011. Dan and his incredible band Eighteen loaded into an RV and wandered through the Deep South. Each day of Sukkot brought a new town, a unique celebration, and uplifting, sometimes heartbreaking Sukkot stories.”

Before you make assumptions, this is not a movie made just for a Jewish audience. The messages it explores—about community, and ardor for a life fully lived, and about ever becoming a fuller self—are compelling ones for any viewer.

In addition, Doug told me, “Although the movie is rooted in Jewish thought, the themes of the film are universal and particularly relevant to the legal community, with a heavy emphasis on immigrant rights and social justice.”

"Road to eden" includes beautiful visual markers throughout that should be printed, framed and displayed.

“Road to Eden” includes beautiful visual markers throughout that should be printed, framed and displayed. (Here’s just one.)

Those last two elements come through strongly, especially as Dan Nichols and his bandmates travel through Alabama, which at the time had just enacted a harsh anti-immigration law (“the Arizona law on steroids,” as a Diane Sawyer describes it in a news clip). And the journey about Sukkot is masterfully capped by an extended discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr. As we hear from a fellow civil rights advocate, Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who stood next to King as he was shot in Memphis, viewers may be moved to explore their own choices and the public policies that guide us all. It is a deeply moving interview.

If you only view the movie to learn more about Sukkot, a below-the-radar holiday, it would be worth it. (The holiday requires construction of a temporary structure, largely open to the elements, recalling those who had been freed from slavery in Egypt but who had to wander before ever finding a permanent home.) Seeing the variety of creative ways people celebrate is marvelous. But it wasn’t until about 40 minutes in that I could see that all of us humans may be encapsulated in Sukkot—at least, all of us humans who are still questing and aiming to improve.

Here is Dan Nichols praising the Jewish kids camps that dot the country and that mean so much to those who attend:

“Who’s there? These living, breathing Sukkot, these children, who are in transition, who are not strong structures yet. They are still trying to figure out who they’re gonna be, what’s important to them, what they stand for.”

Open-eyed viewers may see a little of themselves in those summer camps.

The generational imperative is strong in the film, and it is emphasized finally in the civil rights advocate interview. Dan asks Reverend Kyles how he continues on, even in the face of heartbreak like the assassination of Dr. King. The answer: We still have a long way to go. But “these young people will find ways that we cannot imagine.”

Before I sign off, I must point out two additional strong elements of the film: The music (yes, it’s a band-on-the-road film) is fantastic, heartfelt, beautifully composed and sung. And the interstitial illustrations that pepper the film are remarkable, wisely chosen and perfectly evoke the path on a road to a better world. Animation was done by ZAZ Animation Studio, Israel.

The film is playing one time, as part of the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival. Tickets are available for purchase on the Festival website, or you can buy tickets at the theatre right before the screening. Students are 1/2 price.

The film screens Sunday, Feb. 23, at 3:00 pm, at Harkins Camelview Theatre, 7001 E. Highland Ave., Scottsdale 85251. I hope to see you there.

More about the film is here.

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