May 2014

One of the great images by attorney Ted Grussing in the Arizona Highways blog.

One of the great images by attorney Ted Grussing in the Arizona Highways blog (click to enlarge).

Out of a difficult developing story comes a reminder of the many talented people who populate our world.

That’s what I thought as I tracked the path of a fire near Sedona, Arizona. And while numerous news sites do the story justice, Arizona Highways does it with panache and beauty.

So last week, when their always-great blog noted that they had some aerial photos of the fire, I clicked in to see.

That’s when I spotted the work of the talented photographer (and lawyer) Ted Grussing. A dedicated photog and an accomplished glider pilot, he took to the skies to document for readers the fire’s devastation.

You can see more work by Ted here on the Arizona Highways blog.

And you should take a look at Ted’s own terrific website too.

Here at the State Bar, we’ve been fortunate to feature Ted’s work a few times in the past. In a few recent years, his nature photography has graced the cover of the State Bar Membership Directory. Here are his covers.

Ted Grussing photo on the cover of the State Bar of Arizona 2011-12 Directory.

Ted Grussing photo on the cover of the State Bar of Arizona 2011-12 Directory.

Description of Ted Grussing's 2011-12 Directory photo.

Description of Ted Grussing’s 2011-12 Directory photo (click to enlarge).

Ted Grussing photo on the cover of the State Bar of Arizona 2012-13 Directory.

Ted Grussing photo on the cover of the State Bar of Arizona 2012-13 Directory.

Description of Ted Grussing's 2012-13 Directory photo (click to enlarge).

Description of Ted Grussing’s 2012-13 Directory photo (click to enlarge).

Have a wonderful weekend. And here’s hoping you are able to locate the beauty hidden among difficult moments.

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorSo would you like to know who won the State Bar of Arizona annual awards? Or would you rather be surprised when you settle into your luncheon seat at the annual Convention? (Don’t forget to register.)

Just in case: Spoiler alert! Stop reading if you’re in the second group.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, to be honored with the 2014 James A. Walsh Outstanding Jurist Award

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, to be honored with the 2014 James A. Walsh Outstanding Jurist Award

The State Bar of Arizona has announced the winners of its prestigious annual awards. Here is the news from the State Bar:

The State Bar of Arizona will recognize eight individuals and one state agency for their contributions to the legal profession at the 2014 State Bar of Arizona Annual Convention at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, June 11-13.

  • Member of the Year Award – Amelia Craig Cramer
  • James A. Walsh Outstanding Jurist Award – Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch
  • Tom Karas Criminal Justice Award – Stanton Bloom
  • Michael C. Cudahy Criminal Justice Award – Theodore Campagnolo
  • Sharon A. Fullmer Legal Aid Attorney of the Year Award – Ellen Sue Katz
  • Award of Appreciation – John J. Sullivan
  • Award of Special Merit – William W. Owsley
  • Hon. John R. Sticht Excellence in Disabilities Accessibility Award – Arizona Attorney General’s Office
  • President’s Award – Patricia Lee Refo

Online bios and photographs, along with award descriptions, are available here.

Amelia Craig Cramer, to be honored with the 2014 Member of the Year Award

Amelia Craig Cramer, to be honored with the 2014 Member of the Year Award

A complete historic list of award winners is here.

Patricia Lee Refo, to be honored with the 2014 President's Award

Patricia Lee Refo, to be honored with the 2014 President’s Award

AZ Center for Law in Public Interest squibUnbelievably, May is about to pass. Before it does, I urge you to read a great article in this month’s issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Every spring, I weigh the wisdom of putting non-arts content into our May issue. After all, over the past decade-plus, readers have grown accustomed to enjoying the amazing work of the lawyer-winners of our Creative Arts Competition in that issue. Non-arts content, I fear, may get lost in the sauce.

But when I heard from Tim Hogan about an anniversary of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, I was hooked. There may be no public interest law firm that has touched on so many vital aspects of a state’s legal health as ACLPI has.

And when I read the draft by Timothy Hogan & Joy Herr-Cardillo, I was doubly impressed. Here’s how the article opens:

Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest logo“The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The Center started from humble beginnings in 1974 to become one of the most successful public interest law firms in the country. No one could have predicted that the Center would still be an important force for justice in Arizona four decades years after the organization began with nothing more than a desk, a phone and a typewriter—with only one young lawyer to type on it. This is a story about that law firm’s journey.”

Here is the complete story. Please let me know what you think. And let me know which of the Center’s many significant cases have made the biggest impression on you, as an attorney and an Arizonan.

State Bar of AZ newsboy election results

Late Friday, results were announced from what had to be one of the most-contested elections of the State Bar board in decades. Fueling the interest was a recent dues increase passed by the board (more information is here).

To read the complete results of the election, go here (as the Bar says, the results still must be certified by the board at its June 10 meeting).

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorAnd this all caused me to wonder:

  • Did you find yourself more engaged than in the past with a board election? If so, why? (or why not)
  • Do the past year’s events (including the election results) lead you to want to be more engaged, less engaged, or about as engaged as you’ve always been?

Write to me at

John Gotti Meets Sammy the Bull in Court by Ruth Pollack courtroom sketch artist

John Gotti grimaces as Sammy “the Bull” Gravano testifies against him, the first Mafia underboss to do so. Work by Ruth Pollack.

We are accustomed to vigorous debates over the value of allowing cameras in courtrooms. (There’s even a seminar at the upcoming State Bar Convention on the topic.) But amidst the conversation, many miss a longtime courtroom element that becomes more and more rare as cameras enter.

Have you already guessed? I’m talking about the courtroom sketch artist.

Many of us (OK, us older folks) are accustomed to viewing courtroom proceedings through the eyes of such artists. But as we are increasingly able to view “the real thing” through camera lenses, fewer news outlets will shell out the expense of a pen-and-ink (or other) artist.

It’s hard to overstate the shame of that. Photography is a terrific medium, but the best courtroom artists use all their skills (and some artistic license) to convey a narrative rather than just a snap of a moment in time.

The remarkable New York Times series called Op-Docs tells the tale of one longtime sketch artist—and the diminishment of media interest in his craft.

If you’d like to see some examples of what we lose when we lost sketch artists, go here.

Finally, go here to read about (and maybe buy) a new book about some of the greatest courtroom artists. It’s called, naturally, The Illustrated Courtroom.

Illustrated Courtroom book cover sketch artist

And here’s a great post describing the work of many courtroom artists.

Do you have favorite sketch artists? Will you miss them? Let me know about the most visual trials you never attended in person.

Former Justice Ruth McGregor speaks at the 2013 State Bar of Arizona Convention -- and now in the Washington Post.

Former Justice Ruth McGregor speaks at the 2013 State Bar of Arizona Convention — and now in the Washington Post.

On Sunday, readers of the Washington Post were treated to an opinion piece co-authored by Arizona’s own Ruth McGregor, a retired Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Titled “Keep politics out of the courthouse,” the essay was co-written by Randall Shepard, a fellow retired justice of the Indiana Supreme Court.

The news hook for their salvo against improper political influence was a recent awful occurrence in Oklahoma. As they describe it:

“The chaos surrounding the execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett was not just a wake-up call on capital punishment and how it is administered. The final hours also saw political efforts to bully and weaken Oklahoma’s courts. Similar battles are playing out around the country, threatening the ability of our courts to be fair and impartial.”

“When Lockett’s attorneys filed a lawsuit seeking information about the drug mixture that ultimately failed, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a stay to grant more time for review. But the governor announced that she would disregard the court’s ruling. A legislator introduced a resolution to impeach the five justices who had voted for the stay, alleging ‘a willful neglect of duty and incompetence.’ The Supreme Court ultimately dissolved its stay and allowed Lockett’s execution to proceed.”

Did you get that? The governor looked at a court-issued stay and said, “Nope. Not gonna do it.

(You may recall reading that Lockett’s subsequent execution went terribly wrong.)

Justice at Stake logoWe cannot get into the Oklahoma justices’ heads. Perhaps they dissolved their own stay to avoid a continued head-to-head with the governor. Or perhaps they feared the impeachment resolution. But whatever their thinking, the ultimate decision did more harm to the independent judiciary than almost anything else, as it merely encouraged the further bullying of courts.

Justice McGregor and her co-author are board members of Justice at Stake, “a nonpartisan network working to keep courts fair and impartial.” You really should read their op-ed all the way to the end. Start here.

Reading the well-drafted opinion piece, I was reminded of an editor’s column I wrote back in 2009. In it, I commended to the consideration of the new U.S. President a jurist worthy of the United States Supreme Court. To my knowledge, President Obama never followed up and contacted Ruth McGregor (and he has not contacted me). But I thought you might enjoy what may be the one and only Arizona Attorney column that was also an open letter to the POTUS.

My SCOTUS recommendation opened Dear President Obama.” Keep reading here.

In the meantime, the retired justices suggest, if we needed more evidence of the real-life fallout that may come from the politicization of courts, an Oklahoma lethal injection provides it.

Below is an image of my 2009 column.

AzAt Editor's Letter May 2009 Ruth McGregor_opt

(click to biggify)

State Bar of Arizona Lawyers on Call BK 05-13-14

Volunteer attorneys participate in the Lawyers on Call phone program, May 13, 2014, on the topic of bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Here is a follow-up to a State Bar event, by my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

The State Bar of Arizona, and 12 News hosted the Lawyers on Call public service program on Tuesday, May 13.

The following is a recap of the program, which focused on bankruptcy and foreclosure issues.

The volunteer attorneys were: Anthony Clark, Diane L. Drain, Richard A. Drake, Tracy Essig, Margaret A. Gillespie, Peter Gustafson, Jeff Katz, Steven Keist, Vincent R. Mayr and Jim L. Webster.

Volunteer attorneys answered 76 calls on bankruptcy and foreclosure issues. An additional 25 consumers were assisted via social media, which gave us a total of 101 people who were helped. Although calls were plentiful, phone lines weren’t as busy as in the past. Volunteers thought it was a good indicator that bankruptcies and foreclosures are on the decline.

Here is a sample of consumer questions:

  • How do I know if I should file bankruptcy?
  • How do I file bankruptcy? Should I hire an attorney or do it myself?
  • Are there alternatives to filing bankruptcy?
  • Can I get rid of student debt if I file for bankruptcy?
  • What are the repercussions to filing bankruptcy or foreclosure?
  • How can I get rid of creditor phone calls?
  • Will I lose my car or home if I file for bankruptcy?

Social media continues to be a successful element of Lawyers on Call.  25 consumers asked their questions via the 12 News Facebook page, and attorney Diane L. Drain responded with her recommendations/advice.

Eight of the 11 attorneys were first-time volunteers.

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ landlord and tenant questions on Tuesday, June 3.

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