Lawyer kudos


An April 3, 2015, Arizona Forward event at the Arizona Supreme Court gathered advocates and legal experts to addr4ess access to justice issues.

An April 3, 2015, Arizona Forward event at the Arizona Supreme Court gathered advocates and legal experts to addr4ess access to justice issues.

Our offices will be closed for the Fourth of July holiday on Friday, July 3. But before I head for the hills, I’ll share one more post for this week, this one written by my prolific colleague Alberto Rodriguez.

His piece is in regard to a noteworthy event held earlier this spring. Arizona Forward was a gathering of people and organizations committed to access to justice. Held at the Arizona Supreme Court on April 3, 2015, speakers included American Bar Association President William C. Hubbard.

Now, the event organizers have released their report, which Alberto summarizes for us here (more event photos are at the end of this post; click to enlarge and to view them in a slideshow):

Speakers at the April 3, 2015, Arizona Forward event included (L to R) State Bar CEO John Phelps; ABA President William Hubbard; Arizona Chief Justice Scott Bales; State Bar Governor Jeff Willis; and State Bar President Richard Platt.

Speakers at the April 3, 2015, Arizona Forward event included (L to R) State Bar CEO John Phelps; ABA President William Hubbard; Arizona Chief Justice Scott Bales; State Bar Governor Jeff Willis; and State Bar President Richard Platt.

Legal professionals and community leaders are one step closer to solving the shortage of accessible legal services in Arizona. Arizona Forward, a day-long conference held in April that focused on finding new and better ways to deliver legal services, has released its findings, which included the following.

To move Arizona forward in the future delivery of legal services to its citizens, the significant changes in demographics, economies and technology must be considered by leaders from all sectors of the community-at-large.

  • (We) need to consider further augmentation of the legal services profession, beyond licensed document preparers, to include greater use of non-lawyers and paraprofessionals.
  • (We) need to communicate more effectively to those who need legal services about access to the legal system and recognize when legal advice is needed.
  • (We) must harness technology in every imaginable way to reach and assist those in need of legal services.

The underlying theme in the report was the need for increased communication. Advancements in technology will help to tackle this communication barrier. As technology continues to advance, it will play a key role in ensuring that it provides the gateway in linking those who need legal services to those who can provide it. Mobile and virtual technology are two elements being considered.

As Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales has said, “Having meaningful access to legal services is vital to fulfilling the promise of justice for all. The goal of Arizona Forward is to find new, innovative solutions that advance justice for all Arizonans.” That first step was taken, and the first goal met by the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Supreme Court, the American Bar Association and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU, who co-sponsored the event, along with community leaders from across the state, was to identify the issues and offer attainable solutions.

For more information on Arizona Forward and to read the report, click here or contact Carrie Sherman at 602-340-7201. To learn more about the nationwide initiative led by the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services, click here.

Bob McWhirter's Bill of Rights book featured at the State Bar 2015 Convention #azbarcon

Bob McWhirter’s Bill of Rights book featured at the State Bar 2015 Convention #azbarcon

When Bob McWhirter writes an article or book, I’m inclined to want to read it (or to be the editor who gets to publish it!).

His latest work—an illustrated history of the Bill of Rights—has captivated readers and even won a design award.

(Go here for the paperback version, or here for the hard-cover version.)

But reading his work only offers a glimmer of the joy Bob takes in excavating history. For that, you have to see him be interviewed. A recent PBS Horizon program offers that chance.

Here is Bob being interviewed by Horizon host Ted Simons. Ted was clearly charmed by Bob and his book; he even chuckled when Bob inadvertently used the word “pissed” on the otherwise-buttoned-down program.

Screen-grab of Bob McWhirter on AZ PBS's Horizon.

Screen-grab of Bob McWhirter on AZ PBS’s Horizon.

And after you watch that, you can read an op-ed Bob penned for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In it, he explores (as he does in his book and in previous articles for Arizona Attorney Magazine), the close connection between guns and race in American history and current events.

Screen-grab of Bob McWhirter and interviewer Ted Simons on AZ PBS's Horizon.

Screen-grab of Bob McWhirter and interviewer Ted Simons on AZ PBS’s Horizon.

Hon. Don Kessler receives the 2015 Sarah Herring Sorin Award from Barbara Burke, center, and 2015 AWLA President Lisa Bossard Funk, June 26, 2015, Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix.

Hon. Don Kessler receives the 2015 Sarah Herring Sorin Award from Barbara Burke, center, and 2015 AWLA President Lisa Bossard Funk, June 26, 2015, Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix.

An hour after the Supreme Court released its historic opinion legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the AWLA made historic news of their own, honoring a man for the first time with its Sarah Herring Sorin Award.

On Friday, June 26, the highest award of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association went to Judge Donn Kessler of the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The Biltmore Resort room was packed with a capacity crowd of members and others. Attorney Barbara Burke introduced the honoree, known for his support (and employment) of largely female clerks. He also has chaired or co-chaired the AWLA’s monthly luncheon for years, and has been tireless in mentoring judicial candidates.

Well respected as a mentor, Judge Kessler is “one who lifts up women and men attorneys,” said Burke.

Barbara conveyed kind words about Donn expressed by others: “When Donn is in your life, you are so lucky.” And “He is awesome, a leader and mentor.”

Judge Kessler sounded a theme of mindfulness in his acceptance remarks. A longtime advocate of meditation and balance in life and law practice, he said, “Mindfulness has made me grateful for things.”

For example, to loud applause, he said, “I am grateful for the United States Supreme Court this morning.”

But more needs to be done for marginalized individuals, he urged.

“A half century after 50 percent of law school classes were composed of women, now only 17 percent of law firm equity partners are women.”

Generous to a fault, Judge Kessler praised his many clerks, past and present, who have drafted the first versions of his opinions. While other appellate judges shifted uncomfortably in their seats, Kessler said that many drafts he’s received have been essentially ready for publication the moment they were written by the clerks.

“So I always try to add ‘the Kessler paragraph or sentence,’” he said. That way, when he later engages in dialogue with his fellow panel judges, they can focus on that portion. “‘We can take that out,’ they say,” likely unaware that it’s the judge-drafted portion. The self-effacing Kessler told his story to warm laughs—and some uneasy grimaces.

Judge Kessler said he will probably retire in two years, and hopes young lawyers and clerks always understand that he is a supporter and a sounding board. Urging a successful life and practice, he said, “I want you to run with it.”

Finally, he reminded the audience that appellate judge is the second-best job he’s ever had. For the best position, he recalled his work as a deputy attorney general in Hawaii, where he learned important lessons.

The Hawaiian-shirted Kessler described making his oral argument before a judge. As he went “toe to toe” on an important issue, “the judge was just not buying my argument.” Finally, a colleague tugged on his jacket and muttered, “Move on to your next argument!”

He did, and the judge exclaimed, “You win on that one!”

Your next argument, or your next chapter—and helping others with theirs—may be a recipe for a mindful life, Judge Kessler suggested.

Hon. Patricia Norris and President-Elect Lisa Loo share a decisive moment, June 26, 2015, Phoenix, Ariz.

Hon. Patricia Norris and President-Elect Lisa Loo share a decisive moment, June 26, 2015, Phoenix, Ariz.

More news from the Convention will be in this space Monday. But as #azbarcon 2015 draws toward a close, I share a great photo snapped by the Bar’s Rick DeBruhl. Above you’ll see a historic moment: When Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Norris (L) acquiesced to the urging of President-Elect Lisa Loo to … serve as a Convention Co-Chair for next year’s Convention!

Thank you in advance, Judge Norris, for giving of your time and talents in the coming year!

George Bisharat is Big Harp George, and he's a presenter at the 2015 #azbarcon

George Bisharat is Big Harp George, and he’s a presenter at the 2015 #azbarcon

Last week, I wrote about an #azbarcon panel discussion on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. I’ll be there when it starts at 2:00 today.

But in the meantime, you should take a moment to hear from one of the panelists, Professor George Bisharat. (I disclosed before that he was my law school crim-law professor.) Today, he’ll be giving insight on the Palestinian side of the dialogue. But more pertinent for your lunchtime listening? He is Big Harp George, an accomplished harmonica player.

He’s released a CD (maybe more), but here is one of his songs.

Here is news that he was nominated for Best New Artist Album at the Blues Music Awards.

And here is his website and Facebook page.

Here’s hoping you have some chromatic blues in your day!

Books, we've got books! Book stack book review

Books, we’ve got books!

My editor’s column in the June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine offers a few reading suggestions for the long hot summer. Each of the three I mention is compelling in its own way. I’m sure I’ll have some more suggestions as we move into the fall.

One of the books I mention is titled The Widow Wave. If you’d like an excellent and more substantial review of that book, head over to the Tennessee Bar Journal, where lawyer-reviewer David Wade explains what makes the book terrific.

It’s summer, and the reading is easy. Here are a few suggestions.

Yes, you are allowed to read books in the fall too—or any other season. But it’s a magazine mainstay to offer summer-reading choices. So sue me. But first read these books, after which you’ll be able to sue me better.

If you like your legal works legally accurate and insightful, launch into a book written by an Arizona lawyer and former law prof, aptly named Law Prof. Author Kenney Hegland takes us on a jaunty ride.

Law Prof by Kenney Hegland book cover

Hegland may have taught many of our readers when he professed at the UA Law School, and he impresses and intrigues in this novel. The book tells the tale of a retired law professor who re-emerges from retirement to assist his trial-lawyer daughter with a wrongful-death case. And so he plays the role—armchair adviser—that all of us readers play. He is one of us, our navigator.

Hegland may have had law students in mind as he wrote. The “law” parts are carefully explained, and the discursive sidebars make all the issues—even clear ones—more clear.

The ride may not be highly challenging for experienced trial lawyers, but it is rewarding and well written. And if there is a young lawyer in your life, passing on a copy of Law Prof could amuse and educate all in one.

The Rules of Action by Landon Napoleon came out last year but remains a favorite. It’s 1970s Phoenix, and a lawyer doggedly pursues a case regarding terrible neglect in nursing homes. Ripped from the headlines, it will satisfy the reader who wants the legal details correct but imbued with noir pot-boiling.

The Rules of Action by Landon Napolean book cover_opt

Adding to readers’ pleasure is the accurate Arizona legal history and the suspicion that you know the lawyer described within. Muse away.

Finally, The Widow Wave is a nonfiction retelling of a trial following the death of five men on a commercial fishing boat off in the Pacific Ocean off San Francisco. The author is Jay Jacobs, an attorney and former sailor and officer in the merchant marine. He represented the captain’s widow when she was sued by one of the men’s survivors.

No physical evidence, no eyewitnesses, and a three-week jury trial make for great reading. Just as gripping is Jacobs’s willingness to reveal his trial missteps. Experienced lawyers will appreciate tracking the trials’ shifting fortunes. And younger ones will benefit from a true tale of trial tactics, warts and all.

The Widow Wave by Jay Jacobs book cover_opt

What are you reading this year? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

A photo of a 1297 version of Magna Carta (Sotheby's, via Associated Press)

A photo of a 1297 version of Magna Carta (Sotheby’s, via Associated Press)

I was going to let the Magna Carta’s 800th birthday go unremarked on this blog. After all, that marvelous document s getting quite a bit of ink.

In fact, we at Arizona Attorney Magazine covered the June 15 event in our June issue, with a terrific book review and with a news story about talented high school filmmakers.

So enough already, right?

That’s how I felt, until I read yesterday’s blog post of the NW Sidebar, the blog of the Washington State Bar Association. It opens:

“June 15, 1215: King John of England sealed–not signed–Magna Carta, placing limits on the powers of the crown for the first time. On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, it’s widely known that the U.S. constitution and legal system has roots in the historic document. Here are five facts about Magna Carta you might not know …”

Read the whole post here.

But I must—even a day late—add two worthy elements to your knowledge of this historic event. One is local, and one is in regard to a skirmish among legal historians.

  1. The local: The Arizona Bar’s own Trish Refo participated in the festivities in England that spanned this past week. She is the Chair of the ABA House of Delegates, as well as a partner with Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix. As the American Bar Association reported:
Trish Refo, left, chair of the ABA House of Delegates, introduces Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, during the June 11 opening of the ABA London Sessions. In the center is ABA President William C. Hubbard.

Trish Refo, left, chair of the ABA House of Delegates, introduces Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, during the June 11 opening of the ABA London Sessions. In the center is ABA President William C. Hubbard. (Credit: Professional Images)

Refo … introduced Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, during the June 11 opening of the ABA London Sessions at Westminster Central Hall.

“We are honored that President Caplen has joined us to mark this momentous occasion, the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta,” Refo said.

The London Sessions, which ran from June 11-15, were the culmination of a yearlong celebration of the historic charter. The celebration featured preeminent speakers and 16 continuing legal education programs that focused on the Great Charter’s impact and relevance on the rule of law today.

Trish Refo, right, greets Queen Elizabeth II.

Trish Refo, right, greets Queen Elizabeth II. (Credit: Professional Images)

Refo was present at Monday’s morning-long Magna Carta anniversary celebration, where she met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The morning’s events, attended by more than 4,000 guests, were followed by a rededication ceremony of the newly refurbished ABA Memorial, which was erected in 1957 to honor the legacy of Magna Carta and the principles of justice it represents.

ABA President William C. Hubbard led the rededication ceremony, which was attended by dignitaries including Princess Anne, United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, and Matthew Barzun, U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.

  1. The legally hisorical: I urge you to read this article in the New York Times that describes an ongoing disagreement among scholars as to how significant—really—the Magna Carta was and how compelling to our imagination it should remain.

As the reporter writes:

“In the United States, Magna Carta—it means Great Charter in Latin—is treated with a reverence bordering on worship by many legislators, scholars and judges. It is considered the basis for many of the principles that form the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

As the story says, a significant number of folks do not agree with that assessment. Here’s the whole story.

Happy birthday anyway, Great Charter!

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