Legal events


When it comes to the ADA's 25th anniversary, should we celebrate? Do better? Or both?

When it comes to the ADA’s 25th anniversary, should we celebrate? Do better? Or both?

Yesterday, I pointed you toward a few news stories regarding the 25th anniversary of passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Today, I suggest some additional resources and reading.

Begin with an insightful op-ed by Erica McFadden. She’s an analyst at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU. As she opens her piece:

“Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and there is reason to celebrate the progress it ushered in over that quarter-century. But needed still is a call to action to affirm equality — especially in terms of employment.”

“Just one in three Arizonans with disabilities ages 16 to 64 were employed from 2008 to 2012, according to the census. That’s compared to more than two in three (71 percent) Arizonans with no disabilities who were employed during that time.”

“Perhaps even more sobering is the percentage of Arizonans with disabilities not even in the job market: 59 percent.”

And then follow it up with a My Turn column in the Arizona Republic by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi where she examines the sad statistics surrounding employment of people with disabilities.

Understanding-the-ADA-Goren ABA bookThird, for the law practice-minded among you, head over the ABA website to consider purchasing a new book titled “Understanding the ADA,” by William D. Goren and described by the publisher:

“This new edition of Understanding the ADA delves deeper into many of the complex topics of disability claims. The updates offer expanded guidance on remedies if the law is violated; advice on when you have a right to sue; the statute of limitations for ADA claims; when a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss; and whether a class-action is a viable thing to pursue. There are new areas of discussion regarding standing, when a complaint is sufficient, statute of limitations, and mixed-motive jury instructions, and additional information on disparate treatment cases, class actions, jury selection, and Batson challenges. Expanded and new topics include: ADA as it relates to sports including the Office of Civil Rights guidance on § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act Utilizing negligence and negligence per se actions as an alternative to title III claims Highly detailed chapter on remedies and procedural issues Improved checklists and litigation forms.”

Finally, please enjoy the great article by Judge Randall Howe that we published in May. It reminds us how important advocacy is to progress. In the judge’s case, it was his mother who was driven for equity in her son’s education. For you? Well, everyone may have a different advocate.

Washington, DC, murals, courtesy of Google.org, commemorate the ADA's 30th anniversary. (And yes, they're on stairs.)

Washington, DC, murals, courtesy of Google.org, commemorate the ADA’s 30th anniversary. (And yes, they’re on stairs.)

Yesterday marked a significant anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Reaching 30 years is definitely momentous, so I’ll probably cover it a few times this week. Today, some positive news about the ADA, and a troubling sign of how far we have to go.

As the Washington Post reports:

“Take a walk around D.C. this weekend, and you may stumble across some newly installed murals honoring leaders in the fight for equality for people with disabilities. This Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disability Act—landmark legislation signed into law in 1990 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of someone’s disability.”

“Google.org—the philanthropic arm of Google—is celebrating the anniversary and the start of the Special Olympics this weekend with these installations throughout the city. There are 10 temporary pieces at six locations in the city. The murals are stickers, illustrated by Darren Booth, and will be removed Sunday.”

You can read the whole story here. But as a friend, disability advocate Jennifer Longdon, mused, the ADA-celebration murals are on stairs? Really? Ya really do have to wonder.

And lest we get too high-falutin’ in our self-praise as a nation, you really should read a companion piece from the Post. It describes the ultimately unsuccessful efforts by another advocate to travel around Washington during the celebrations. Thirty years later, public accommodations are too often that in name only.

Here’s the story about Professor Dot Nary.

Professor Dot Nary in the Washington Post.

Professor Dot Nary in the Washington Post.

And as long as I’m mentioning self-praise, it’s worth noting, WaPo, that terms like “wheelchair-bound” are no longer acceptable, even in journo style guides.

National Hot Dog Day 2015 v1

Harvey Shinblock can’t be the first lawyer who wanted to open a hot-dog stand.

So today, Thursday, is National Hot Dog Day. Don’t believe me? Well, would the Des Moines Register lie to you?

Not legal enough a topic for your bloggish reading? Stick around. I’ll get to the legal in a moment.

In the meantime, here are a few places in the Phoenix area you might enjoy a hot dog.

Musing on the wonderment of wieners, I was curious about this, so I checked: In the five-plus years I’ve written my daily blog, I’m chagrined to note that the words “hot dog” appear more than a dozen times.

That seems high for a legal blog. Agreed? Well, maybe it’s a cry for help.

In any casing (see what I did there?), I thought I would share my first-ever documented blogular use of the phrase. It occurred in the prologue to a legal novel I wrote (detail about that endeavor is here.)

The book is titled The Supremes, and it involves a new law firm composed of former state supreme court justices. They thought clients would come knocking—which they did—but the law firm partners underestimated how much they disliked each other—and disliked hard work.

The hot dog reference came early, when the new firm’s administrator thinks about Harvey Shinblock, a colorful lawyer who is now disbarred (for numerous offenses, including a Circle K assault with a pocketknife). Harvey owns a hot-dog stand, and he carries quite a grudge against the legal profession. Here’s a portion:

Bernie Galvez liked hot dogs, and Harvey Shinblock sold the best in the city.

Galvez smiled as he recalled how Shinblock had managed to get 30 days in the county lockup for his “misunderstanding” at the convenience store—the best lawyering Shinblock had ever done, representing himself before old Judge Barnes. And after that 30 days, Shinblock woke up driven by a dream of opening his own hot-dog stand.

Human nature being the self-destructive little imp that it is, Shinblock drove his metaphoric stake in the ground on the sidewalk right outside the criminal courts complex. There, he gazed balefully as lawyers and judges streamed by him daily. If looks could kill—or wound with a pocketknife—those members of the bench and bar would have been a bloody mess on the Phoenix streets.

National Hot Dog Day 2015But maybe they got their comeuppance. For in the last three years since Shinblock opened “Court Wieners,” he had received the praise of every publication in town, from the “Best in Phoenix” to the “Best in the Southwest” to the “Best Nooner in a Casing.” Shinblock knew what he was doing as he steamed his hand-crafted dogs.

Nonetheless, no lawyer or judge was ever known to be brave enough to step up and purchase a meal. The history, the bad blood, and the fear of poisoning kept a significant portion of the suited sidewalk denizens from venturing forward and trying Shinblock’s bliss in a bun. They salivated and gnashed their teeth, but the gray and blue army marched past the stainless steel stand, thinking hungrily that they may have been a tad hard on good old Shinblock. Still, march by they did.

The complete prologue is here. Want to keep reading? Here’s Chapter 1.

And … do get out and eat a hot dog.

Hot and Not law practice areasIs your law practice on the leading edge; or is it bringing up the rear? A preview of an annual assessment of burgeoning law practice areas is out, and it may be helpful to track your own path.

I always enjoy these annual articles by Bob Denney, who writes a “what’s hot” assessment. (Let’s admit it right now; the what’s hot trope is an awkward one, but no need to go on about it.)

His full piece will not be out for months, when he describes his predictions for 2016. But we get a preview here.

As you can see, Denney identifies labor & employment and elder law as on an upward trajectory. But litigation and bankruptcy are not faring as well.

You also can see his predictions from last December here. How’d he do?

What’s working in your own law office? Are there any niche areas that are growing faster than you would have expected? I’d like to hear about them. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

What’s Hot and What’s Not In The Legal Profession Hot_tamales

OK, I give in to the “hotness” analogy: What’s hot and what’s not in the legal profession?

Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" may be informative reading in a presidential election year.

Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” may be informative reading in a presidential election year.

I haven’t read the “new” book by Harper Lee titled “Go Set a Watchman.” Should I? Have you? Will you?

If the author’s name doesn’t ring bells, her more prominent book’s title may, for “To Kill a Mockingbird” has moved generations of readers and led to a fabulously successful movie version. (Though it took me quite a while to get around to reading it, as I described here.) The film was impactful enough that the State Bar of Arizona screened it for a fund-raising evening a few years ago.

Maybe the power of “Mockingbird” is most clearly viewed through the upset people have over the possibility of a newly released book that includes the character Atticus Finch. Simply put, they love that character, and anything that sullies or even complicates their view of the lawyer who does good, best as he can, is not something they want to engage with.

I’ll admit, I’ve at least somewhat shared that view. Besides the fact that sequels usually pale in comparison to the original, I also felt that there are few enough portrayals of compassionate lawyers. Can’t we keep Atticus just as he is? Please?

Two things changed my mind. One was a great magazine story (let’s hear it for the power of magazines). And the other was a political town hall.

For the ABA Journal, Deborah Cassens Weiss examines some previous scholarship about “Mockingbird” in light of the release of “Watchman.”

As Weiss ends her article:

“Though Watchman isn’t Harper Lee’s best work, [Harvard Law Professor Randall] Kennedy says, it ‘does reveal more starkly the complexity of Atticus Finch, her most admired character. Go Set a Watchman demands that its readers abandon the immature sentimentality ingrained by middle school lessons about the nobility of the white savior and the mesmerizing performance of Gregory Peck in the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.’”

Ouch. Is sentimentality blocking readers from a fuller and truer understanding of American history? Chagrined, we must admit that such a thing has happened time and again. So am I and others doing that when we seal our “favorite” Atticus in amber?

One clue that the scholars are on the right track is visible when you read the comments following the ABA Journal story. As the saying goes, Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

The second element that leads me to get over my bromance with Atticus Finch occurred this past Saturday, at a town hall featuring two presidential candidates.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Phoenix, Ariz., July 16 2015.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Phoenix, Ariz., July 16 2015.

I attended portions of the Netroots Nation annual conference mainly to cover the three or so “legalish” panel discussions they scheduled, featuring topics like redistricting and Supreme Court jurisprudence. But in the process, I managed to get into the Phoenix Convention Center room where journalist Jose Antonio Vargas would interview U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, each vying for the Democratic nomination.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Phoenix, Ariz., July 18, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Phoenix, Ariz., July 18, 2015

Gov. Martin O'Malley, Phoenix, Ariz., July 18, 2015

Gov. Martin O’Malley, Phoenix, Ariz., July 18, 2015

What I and 3,000 of my new friends expected was a moderated discussion. What we got was a highly effective staged protest by “Black Lives Matter” activists. About five minutes into the dialogue with O’Malley, activists rose from their seats or came from the back of the room, demanding to be heard.

You may have read about the event in the national news, for example, here and here.

Black Lives Matter activist Tia Oso confronts Gov. Martin O'Malley, July 18, 2015

Black Lives Matter activist Tia Oso confronts Gov. Martin O’Malley, July 18, 2015

What surprised was not that there was a protest—after all, this has been a year marked by flash-points in the intersection of policing and race. What surprised were the insufficient responses of the candidates. And that was followed by the irritation of many in the audience that the protestors spoke up at all, or for so long, or so stridently. And I heard from many audience members who professed to be pleased with their candidates’ responses, “given the circumstances.”

(For an insightful analysis of the Saturday event, read attorney Bob Lord, who managed to speak with a protest organizer.)

But in the era of Ferguson—and of Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice and Eric Garner and Freddie Gray and Michael Brown—it takes a special kind of denial to insist that the view of your candidate not be disturbed, distorted or made more complex by Saturday’s events. Both candidates may have had smart and compassionate things to say about race, the justice system, and people’s lives. But neither said those things. That is worth noting. They had the past tumultuous year-plus to think over their response to these tragedies. They did not take that opportunity. That is worth noting.

One thing that tells me is that the candidates and their staffs should immediately read the report issued just last week on the topic from the ABA and the NAACP. I covered it here.

So for those reasons and more, I’ll get a copy of “Go Set a Watchman.” Sure, the later years of Atticus may show a man who is not a shining beacon of enlightened views. But, sometime between now and a presidential election, we all should grow a little more open to complexity—in our novels, in our history, and in our public policy.

Let me know if you’re reading the book, and what you think. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

In the meantime, here are some of my tweets from the town hall. You can follow me and read more of my coverage at @azatty.

ABA logoThis morning, the American Bar Association and the NAACP released a joint statement on “Eliminating Bias in the Criminal Justice System.” It’s likely to get a lot of attention, for a few reasons:

  1. It offers a dozen specific recommendations that have the possibility of engaging the community and law enforcement and criminal justice officials in a deep and change-making way.
  2. It is a joint statement that is a result of collaboration between two persuasive organizations, the ABA and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
  3. It is drafted in straightforward language that faces head-on a crisis in race and policing.
  4. Its signatories include respected legal leaders, including prosecuting attorneys. (And it also includes Arizona’s own Professor Myles Lynk, of the ASU College of Law.)

The complete statement is available here.

NAACP LDF logoAmong the opening paragraphs are sentences like these:

“One would have to have been outside of the United States and cut off from media to be unaware of the recent spate of killings of unarmed African American men and women at the hands of white law enforcement officers. … Given the history of implicit and explicit racial bias and discrimination in this country, there has long been a strained relationship between the African-American and law enforcement. But with video cameras and extensive news coverage bringing images and stories of violent encounters between (mostly white) law enforcement officers and (almost exclusively African-American and Latino) unarmed individuals into American homes, it is not surprising that the absence of criminal charges in many of these cases has caused so many people to doubt the ability of the criminal justice system to treat individuals fairly, impartially and without regard to their race.”

After mentioning statistics on race in the criminal justice system and the recent Justice Department investigation of law enforcement practices in Ferguson, Missouri, the statement continues:

“Given these realities, it is not only time for a careful look at what caused the current crisis, but also time to initiate an affirmative effort to eradicate implied or perceived racial bias—in all of its forms—from the criminal justice system.”

Among its suggestions, the statement calls for:

  • More complete and comprehensive data collection on interactions between law enforcement and citizens, and more transparency from prosecutors’ offices on the use of prosecutorial discretion.
  • More training and assistance for all members of the justice system on the problems that can occur from real or perceived bias.
  • More hiring and retention of lawyers and officers “who live in and reflect the communities they serve” by prosecutors’ offices and law enforcement.
  • Greater use of body and vehicle cameras “to create an actual record of police–citizen encounters.”
  • Promotion of dialogue about the criminal justice process between representatives of the judiciary, law enforcement and prosecutors, defenders and defense counsel, probation and parole officers and community organizations as well the community.
  • More accountability and quicker response to issues that arise.
  • A better understanding of the collateral consequences of convictions and the damage they can inflict on individuals who have paid their debt to society.
William Hubbard, American Bar Association

William Hubbard, American Bar Association

In a press release, leaders of the two organizations offered remarks.

“The American criminal justice system is clearly in need of reform on multiple levels,” said ABA President William C. Hubbard. “As lawyers, we have a duty and responsibility to ensure the fair administration of justice and to promote public trust in the system. The solutions are not quick or easy, but these proposals offer a tangible and potentially significant framework to make sure the system provides justice for all.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, added, “The events of the last year have powerfully demonstrated the need for the members of our profession to confront the issue of racial bias in our justice system. We are very gratified that the ABA joined with us in convening a group of prosecutors to discuss the role they can play in dealing with this important issue.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

“Both the ABA and the LDF share a commitment to building confidence in the rule of law that has been badly shaken over the past year among many Americans. Prosecutors and other members of the criminal justice system must play a role as we move forward in the critical days ahead. The measures identified by the ABA and LDF present a powerful framework for prosecutors who are committed to taking on the issue of racial bias.”

I look forward to more news on this topic. Specifically, which of the 12 recommendations are likely to be adopted first and on a widespread basis? Are any of these suggestions currently being implemented, but on a smaller scale, perhaps in a state or in one jurisdiction?

After reading the statement, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org to offer your thoughts.

fastcase logoYesterday, I was pleased to see the announcement of some high legal honors. The occasion was the naming of this year’s Fastcase 50.

Not sure what that is? Here’s how the company describes the honor:

“The Fastcase 50 for 2015 highlights entrepreneurs, innovators, and trailblazers—people who have charted a new course for the delivery of legal services. In law firms—including some of the nation’s largest—with new delivery models, legal tech startups, legal publishers, academia, and the judiciary, these pioneers are giving the world a first look at what’s next for law and technology.”

The complete list is here (and how helpful that it includes links to the honorees’ Twitter accounts, where applicable!):

It would be easy to assume that such an honor is part of the legal research company’s marketing outreach. Because, of course it is that.

But Fastcase clearly puts substantial thought into locating folks who are on the forward edge of legal innovation. The “winners” do not occupy one narrow niche of the legal profession that might benefit the Fastcase bottom line. As I read about this year’s Fastcase 50 honorees, I could see that they are thinkers and doers who run the gamut in our profession. Many are practicing lawyers, while others are judges, law professors, entrepreneurs, and general rabble-rousers. Because, holy crap, the profession needs its rabble roused.

So I have three suggestions:

  1. Look now at the list of this year’s recognized folks. I was pleased to see how many I have previously spotted (and followed) in past years as cool thinkers worth knowing. And then there are the others, whom I look forward to learning more about.
  2. Then click the links at the top of that page to read about the Fastcase winners going back to 2011. I think you’d agree that, troubled as it may be, the legal profession has a deep bench of talented people who are committed to making it flourish.
  3. Choose at least five of those innovators to begin following, on Twitter and anywhere you can. (I followed more than five, but my capacity to engage with awesomeness may be greater than yours. Just sayin’.)

And if you have suggestions for other legal innovators I should be following, tell me at @azatty or at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. Let’s build that deep bench, and a farm system, to boot.

Congrats and thank you to everyone at Fastcase, including its innovative CEO Ed Walters and its President, Phil Rosenthal.

Fastcase 50 header logo

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