A quick item today urging you to enjoy some free expression to its most hilarious extent. “Let Freedom Laugh!” Bill of Rights Comedy Concert debuts tonight. It is headlined by Lewis Black, who will be accompanied by Dick Gregory and Tom Smothers; rising stars Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, and John Fugelsang; and special appearances by Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, and Penn Jillette. The event will be telecast on AXS TV (more detail below), and it is the brainchild of Chris Bliss and MyBillofRights.org. Yes, the same people who brought that stunning Bill of Rights Monument to downtown Phoenix. Not only did Arizona get the first monument (slated to be installed in every one of the 50 state capitals). We also witnessed the organization’s first comedy event, held at Phoenix Symphony Hall back in May 2012. The newest and most recent concert was shot at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. Interested in how and when to watch it on your own TV or device tonight? Go here for more information for your location. Celebrating the Bill of Rights may never have been as hilarious as this.Follow @azatty
April 16, 2015
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April 14, 2015
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An event this Saturday, April 18, brings together legal leaders and others to assess the experiences of the most recent Arizona county to use the judicial merit-selection system.
Pinal County is the place, and the event will be held at the Holiday Inn in Casa Grande, Ariz.
The speakers will include retired Ariz. Chief Justice Ruth McGregor and State Bar President Richard Platt. Lunchtime remarks will be delivered by Vice Chief Justice John Pelander.
The event runs from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm, and it’s free. Breakfast and lunch will be served. But registration is required, which you can do here.
That page also includes the complete program and list of speakers.
It is sponsored by numerous groups, including the State Bar of Arizona, Arizona Advocacy Network and Justice at Stake. The organizers clearly want the conversation to range beyond the county line; they indicate the day’s dialogue will include “Pinal County’s judicial system, AZ’s Merit Selection System and national cases impacting Fair and Impartial Courts.”
My understanding is that the Court and the State Bar have had a difficult time encouraging attorneys to forward their names to be considered for the judicial nominating commission in Pinal County. The system has been used in other counties for a long time, but it may be getting its sea legs in Pinal. Perhaps forums like this will spread the word about merit selection’s value.Follow @azatty
April 9, 2015
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What appears on the back page of your favorite magazines?
The reason I ask is that a publication’s final page is routinely ranked as one of the “most-read” pages of a magazine. So editor-types tend to put a lot of thought into that content.
Our own last page has included written columns, photos, and even quizzes. Over the past few years we have engaged readers with “The Last Word,” columns by regularly recurring authors.
After a while, though, it occurred to us that someone may have an idea or two that they want to share, even if they do not commit to a nearly monthly writing regimen. And so we devised “My Last Word,” for those more sporadic and yet still compelling notions.
The April issue of Arizona Attorney contains one of my favorites.
And here he is again writing, this time on the life of a retired, rural lawyer. His essay opens:
“I am a shepherd tending his flocks, four rescue mutts and two elfin Cornish Rex kittens in one, seven medicinals in the other—hawked on TV with taglines like, ‘Ask your doctor if Cymbalta is right for you.’ One flock is messy but brings me joy. The other protects me from messes I am prey to in my eighth decade.”
“I am also a retired lawyer: Bar number 001880 (circa 1966). After a brief go as a courtroom lawyer—going nowhere fast—I turned to real estate law, paid to mine dense legal text and define ‘acts of god’ in elegant stacks of paper. But the emotional return on documenting a complex financial transaction could never match helping some poor soul out of a jam.”
Please read his whole piece here. (And the image of his back-page column is below.)Follow @azatty
April 8, 2015
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A recent visit to Arizona by a federal official was made possible by attorneys and others concerned about employee misclassification. The result was a day of speaking events and community meetings for Dr. David Weil, Director of the Wage & Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.
It’s hard to overestimate the economic and other problems that misclassification causes.
At an April 1 event, Wage and Hour Division Phoenix District Director Eric Murray said that fully one-half of his office’s time is taken up with the issue. It affects: individual workers who may be underpaid, state and other agencies that get artificially lower revenue because of the errors, and businesses that may be forced into difficult decisions regarding compliance.
That constellation of problems led lawyers like Matt Meaker to form the Employee Misclassification Compliance Assistance Program (EMCAP) Working Group. He is the group’s Chair, and he took the lead on bringing the issue to the attention of the federal agency.
The subject generates much passion, Meaker said at the April 1 event. But it is not an easy subject to confront.
“Good guys want to compete on a level playing field,” Meaker told a roomful of employment lawyers, contractors and their representatives, and others. “They want to be good stewards of industry.”
And so a working group created a pilot program that became EMCAP. It allows “candid talks about business decisions, not just legal issues.”
The keynote speaker at the University of Arizona auditorium in downtown Phoenix was Dr. David Weil. In public remarks and a half-hour interview afterward, he explored the landscape of misclassification, its roots and future possible solutions.
Highlighting the politically fraught nature of his position, Weil was the first Senate-confirmed Wage and Hour Administrator in a decade. As he did in his confirmation hearings (introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren), he spoke in Phoenix at length on misclassification.
A portion of his confirmation hearing is below; his remarks on misclassification begin at 2:40 (though Senator Warren’s intro is worth watching too):
Given that political landscape, it’s not surprising that Weil comes from a business school (at Boston University). In Phoenix, he described his business bona fides and said he was “proud of his decades in a business school.” And he described the mission of the Department of Labor as twofold: to understand that business is a fundamental part of our economy, and to protect workers.
But on the elevator-pitch version of the DOL’s mission, Weil is crystal-clear: “Our job is to make sure people get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
The reality of the department’s resources complicates that vision considerably. Weil discussed the strategic thinking that must go into enforcement decisions. As DOL staffers gaze at a landscape with 7.3 million workplaces, they have become adept at reviewing data to identify red flags. They also look closely at industries that have had traditional problems with misclassification—construction, janitorial, hospitals, restaurants, and logistics, to name a few.
Weil used the title of his book The Fissured Workplace to explain more deeply the challenging predicaments presented by an evolving economy. As companies have decided to focus on “core competencies” and shed “ancillary” activities, efficiencies have increased, even as the number of people on the payroll has decreased.
But what happens to those ancillary functions and all the people who used to do them? Often, they remain, but are now employed by a third-party entity, ostensibly more adept at that particular function.
That kind of outsourcing and subcontracting is not new, Weil admits. But what is new is the stringent and detailed standards that the large brands impose on those third-party firms and their many employees. The larger companies need to ensure a consistent delivery of all their brand elements, and so they often control non-employees’ work lives down to the granular level. And they have new and developing technologies that allow the larger brands to monitor every moment in the lives of their products and the workers.
So … are those workers employees, or not? Often, the larger brands rely on a strategy that says “not.”
Weil and we may sympathize with the challenge faced by those companies. A branded cellphone must work exactly the same, wherever it was manufactured. A person checking into a chain hotel expects a nearly identical level of customer experience, whether they are in Dubuque or Dallas. But some companies may be crossing the misclassification line.
The challenge may be just as great for companies that are not in violation. As they view their industry’s landscape, what if they find they cannot compete without certain questionable strategies?
That, said Weil, is where groups like EMCAP come in. Yes, DOL enforcement must be vigorous, and collaborations with state departments of labor must be robust. But business buy-in and self-regulation are vital.
Via EMCAP and similar approaches nationwide, employers may gather and use dialogue and other methods to curtail bad practices.
“When you hear from a peer, a fellow employer,” said Weil, “that is incredibly powerful.”
He cites the Florida citrus industry as an example of successful self-policing. He said that when the DOL shared data about which subcontractors were regularly violative in misclassification and in regard to worker rights, larger producers asked for a copy of their maps. Pointing to the red dots indicating poor performers, some industry leaders said, “We don’t want to do business with the red bubbles.”
And that altered toolbox of strategies is just fine with the Wage & Hour Director.
“We’re not into a game of gotcha,” said Weil, “but compliance.”
Though enforcement is still a tool, he said, the primary focus must be “thinking creatively about changing business decisions.”
My unedited follow-up interview with Dr. David Weil is here:
April 7, 2015
We hear too often the true statement that we may be doomed to repeat the unlearned lessons of history. But an upcoming program at the State Bar, on Thursday, April 16, may provide tools and insights to avoid that trap of amnesia.
Titled “Lessons From the Holocaust,” its speaker is Dr. William Meinecke, a historian for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s leadership development programs. He also wrote Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust (2007).
Here is information from the Bar about the April 16 event:
“The Holocaust is much more than an unspeakable horror from WWII or a chapter in a history book. The study of the Holocaust provides important insight into the consequences when the mission of the police, judiciary, and the legal profession is transformed from protecting the rights of individuals to actively abusing basic human civil rights. Using legal decrees, judicial opinions, and case law of the period, participants study the role of these professions in the destruction of democracy and the establishment of the Nazi German state.”
“Participants are challenged to examine their own roles and responsibilities as members of professions that hold the public trust, protect society, and influence the health of our democracy by studying the decision making, the opportunities, and often the failures of their counterparts in Nazi Germany that helped lead to mass murder.”
The event has become popular enough that an overflow room is being filled. More information and registration information are here.
More about the Museum is here.
Paired with the event will be the display of an information-filled poster series, on loan from the American Bar Association and the German Federal Bar. The gripping series is titled “Lawyers Without Rights: Jewish Lawyers in Germany Under the Third Reich,” and it will be available for viewing in the State Bar member lounge on Monday through Thursday in the week of April 13. (Registration for the Holocaust CLE event is not required to view the posters.) I have just received background material on this amazing project, and I will provide more detail on it as soon as I know more.
The following photo is taken from the project.Follow @azatty