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News from the State Bar of Arizona:

The State Bar of Arizona’s Board of Governors is accepting applications from nonlawyers from outlying counties to fill one seat on its board. The application deadline is Friday, March 18, 2016. Participation of public members is essential to the State Bar’s mission of serving the public and its efforts of making sure the people of Arizona have a strong voice in the legal system.

A total of four public members, who serve three-year terms, sit on the 30-member board. The board establishes the vision, mission and policies of the association and ensures that there are sufficient resources for its management and operations.

Applicants for the public member position may be from any county within Arizona except Maricopa County and:

  • Must be at least 21 years of age
  • Must have resided in Arizona for at least three years
  • May not be an active or inactive member of any bar association
  • May not have, other than as a consumer, a financial interest in the practice of law

Individuals with experience in human resources or accounting, or who have previous experience serving on professional boards, are especially encouraged to apply.

Members of the Board of Governors attend approximately 10 all-day meetings each year. Meetings are usually held on the third Friday of the month at the State Bar’s office in Phoenix. Preparation in advance of the meetings, including review of related materials, is essential. In addition, members attend the Bar’s annual convention in June and a two-day retreat in July. Board members also serve on standing board committees. Travel and meal expenses are paid for all meetings, but there is no other compensation for service as a board member.

An application form must be submitted to the State Bar by Friday, March 18, 2016. The form can be found online here or by contacting Nina Benham at 602-340-7329 or by email at nina.benham@staff.azbar.org.

State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors, 2015-16

State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors, 2015-16

caller ID spoofing scam

Today I share news from the State Bar of Arizona about a new spoofing scam that is afoot.

If that sentence sounds funky to you, it’s because it’s simply a new and different way to “exploit the attorney/client relationship and defraud consumers of their money.”

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorYou can read all the information here.

And if your outlook was not fraught enough, turn to this helpful piece on additional cybersecurity tech tips to avoid getting “the willies.” The risks include ransomware, pfishing, and even the threat your own employees may represent.

Finally, here is my previous coverage of a panel discussion last summer that managed to cause quite a few willies. Live and learn.

scam alert roadsign sign

Arizona lawyer—and our arts competition music winner—Stu De Haan made a devilish argument about free speech and freedom of religion.

Arizona lawyer—and our arts competition music winner—Stu De Haan made a devilish argument about free speech and freedom of religion.

If politics and religion are two topics we should never discuss in polite company, the Phoenix City Council seems like the ideal place to address both.

This week has seen a firestorm of hellish indignation over the news that a group of satanists petitioned the Phoenix city clerk’s office to offer the “invocation” at an upcoming City Council meeting. After reviewing the request and the fact that municipalities cannot be in the business of “picking winners and losers” when it comes to deities, it OKed the request.

As Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm said in a statement, “Consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s direction, the city cannot dictate religious viewpoints or the content of a prayer.”

Imagine that—following the law.

Cue the choirs, celestial and otherwise.

Read a news story about the devilish quandary here.

To the surprise of almost no one, there is not unanimous agreement with the decision—though the February 17 meeting will likely be standing-room only due to the controversy.

One Phoenix councilman said it’s “a dumb idea,” and another insisted the Satanists should have been denied and simply let them sue. Knowing there’s often fire where there’s smoke, media are all over this. Here’s a video news story:

I confess I’m surprised by the uproar. I’ve been in that chamber many times, and I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted Lucifer at numerous zoning hearings. And who hasn’t smelled the distinct odor of sulfur as countless variance requests are rubber-stamped? Or maybe I need to get my eyes and nose checked.

Wherever you stand, this is a fantastic lesson in the First Amendment, playing out right in the heart of our state. You’re welcome, America.

Stu De Haan and his instrument in Arizona Attorney Magazine, May 2015.

Stu De Haan and his instrument in Arizona Attorney Magazine, May 2015.

And yes, there is an even more intimate legal angle to this. Spokesman and legal adviser to the Satanic Temple (and a “Satanic Templar”) is Arizona lawyer Stu De Haan. And here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, we are a big fan of him—and his music.

Those with good memories will recall that Stu was the winner in the Music category in our 2015 Creative Arts Competition. He appeared on our cover and inside pages, and we featured “Don’t Get Stuck in a Roadside Ditch” online. That song is by his band Scar Eater, “a five piece post-hardcore band from Tucson.”

As Stu described his song, “This song is about facing fears, shedding one’s negative past, and embracing an aggressive but positive outlook on the inevitable difficulties of life.”

You can read more what I wrote about Stu, and listen to “Roadside Ditch,” here.

Arizona Attorney Magazine May 2015 cover arts competition winnersA final thought: It bears noting that Stu and his fellow Satanic Templar Michelle Shortt are traveling north from Tucson to deliver an invocation—and make a point, I suppose—because the Tucson City Council gets to the work of its meetings without bothering with a prayer of any kind. No muss, no fuss.

Imagine that—focusing on governing.

As we head into our Friday, please enjoy “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. “Pleased to meet you; hope you guess my name.”

Have a terrific—and free-speech-filled—weekend.

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A new Phoenix Compliance Assistance Program aims to assist residents whose civil fines have led to the loss of a driver's license or worse.

A new Phoenix Compliance Assistance Program aims to assist residents whose civil fines have led to the loss of a driver’s license or worse.

This week, the City of Phoenix and its Municipal Court announced a new program that aims to counter situations that have too often have led people into financial straits and even into the justice system.

The new “Compliance Assistance Program” is “designed to give residents with past-due traffic fines a path to repay the debts and work towards restoring driving privileges.”

The past year has provided numerous examples from around the country in which residents faced financial ruin and increased interaction with police because of an accumulation of unpaid tickets, fines, and penalties. But these issues didn’t just face residents of Ferguson, Missouri, or other newsworthy places; they face residents of Arizona cities too. The Phoenix program is a salutary effort to address those problems; you can read more about it here.

As Megan Cassidy reports:

“The Compliance Assistance Program is designed to break what can become a crippling cycle of fines and subsequent driving penalties: Unpaid fines can lead to a suspended license. And driving on a suspended license can lead to criminal charges and jail time for the working poor. As of Dec. 31, Phoenix was owed more than $283 million in overdue municipal fines, fees and restitution dating back decades. As many as 6,000 people currently have their licenses suspended because of delinquent Phoenix fines.”

Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego

Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego

Quoted in the story and a key driver of the change is Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego.

“We want people to be able to pay their fines in a sustainable way,” she said. “If you push people to the brink of their financial ability, the consequences are more negative.”

New Chief Presiding Municipal Judge B. Don Taylor came into the job via a contentious process, but his advocacy for these changes is a welcome sign for a progressive court, one that has substantial daily interactions with residents. Though the program is just a first step, residents should be heartened by the actions of Judge Taylor and Councilwoman Gallego, who “said she made reforming the Municipal Court system a priority in her decision-making when the City Council selected a new presiding municipal judge last year.”

As Judge Taylor says in the Arizona Republic story, “It’s really providing a mechanism that people haven’t really had before. I think creating something that will allow them to be compliant, get the license back, really helps them be in a good place.”

If the name Don Taylor sounds familiar, it may be because he’s a longtime lawyer, former prosecutor, and even a story-subject in Arizona Attorney Magazine. In 2007, we spoke with him as he worked at the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague.

Congratulations on the new program.

Attorney B. Don Taylor in the February 2007 Arizona Attorney, describing his work at The Hague.

Attorney B. Don Taylor in the February 2007 Arizona Attorney, describing his work at The Hague.

lawyers on call

Next Tuesday, February 2, the State Bar and 12News are co-sponsoring a lawyer call-in program that may benefit someone you know—or it may even benefit you!

12 News logoThe topic for Lawyers on Call that night will be estate planning, wills and trusts. It runs from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. that evening, and the call-in number is 602-258-1212. More detail is here.

After the event, I’ll share the names of the lawyers who generously gave of their time at the event.

"The Jury" (1861) by John Morgan: Persuading a jury is one important quality of an expert witness. What else do you value?

“The Jury” (1861) by John Morgan: Persuading a jury is one important quality of an expert witness. What else do you value?

We’re working hard on our March issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, which largely will focus on expert witnesses. So important and relevant is the topic, in fact, that we are building an entire separate magazine to hold the content. In a historic move for us, that special issue and our regular March issue will by “polybagged” together and mailed to readers. I think you’re going to like it!

But all of this focus makes me wonder about your own experience with expert witnesses. So please (please!) send me a quick note that answers any or all of the following questions:

  • The one great thing an expert witness can do to ensure their value to you and your case.
  • The one sucky thing an expert witness can do that is guaranteed to send you into paroxysms of anger.
  • The one thing you would advise fellow lawyers to do better that would assist the lawyer–expert relationship. (After all, you’ve got to admit that the problem may be on the lawyer end of the equation!)

Your quick comments and/or anecdotes (without naming names, I’m assuming) are welcome in the comments section or via email to me: arizona.attorney@azbar.org. I’d appreciate hearing any insight you can share.

The witness box is only one place an expert can demonstrate show his or her value.

The witness box is only one place an expert can demonstrate show his or her value.

road sign What can make a judge frown upon receiving a request for attorneys' fees?

What can make a judge frown upon receiving a request for attorneys’ fees?

A fee award, cut in half.

You may have done a spit-take when you read this story, about a judge in Texas who granted an award of attorneys’ fees, but halved the awards in two instances.

As the Texas Monthly reports:

“[David] Harper and his fellow lawyers only got half of what they wanted from [U.S. District Judge Jane] Boyle in fees. She cut their $1.2 million request down $600,000 in a recent order in Spear Marketing Inc. v BancorpSouth Bank.”

Discretion being the better part of valor, the attorney himself complained hardly at all, noting that judges “have broad discretion in making attorney fee determinations.”

Maybe it was the $600 an hour being claimed that set the judge off. Or, who knows, there could be many other things that occurred—or didn’t occur—in the lawsuit that informed her decision.

Time and money, the lawyer's calculus. justice scales clock time money lawyer attorney fees

Time and money, the lawyer’s calculus.

In any case, the judge found that the fees were “unreasonably inflated.” Meaning, I suppose, that the more proper course is to reasonably inflate them.

Whatever led to her decision, it had to be a rude wake-up call to the lawyers, who, for planning purposes, probably had certain million-dollar expectations. Who doesn’t like predictable outcomes, after all?

As you dear readers are pretty discreet yourselves, you likely will not reply to my own query to you: Have you been in a fee-award situation in which the judge made such a drastic *gulp* adjustment? Or, put more charitably, what are your best practices for submitting an attorneys’ fee affidavit that garners the judge’s support?

Come to think of it, that could make a terrific magazine article, one that folks would rip out and save.

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

basketball denied tumblr_mucwilVVxM1rc9kago1_400 Win your case. Check. Persuade judge you deserve a fee award. Check. Take the shot, and ...

Win your case. Check. Persuade judge you deserve a fee award. Check. Take the shot, and …

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