Legal events


Should robots be granted a limited legal personhood? It might be good for all of us, says one lawyer-commentator. (photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Should robots be granted a limited legal personhood? It might be good for all of us, says one lawyer-commentator. (photo: Wikimedia Commons).

This Wednesday, the Phoenix City Council takes up suggested changes to the City code that would regulate the use of unmanned aerial systems—drones—in city parks. Based on some public debate I’ve heard about the issue, anything adopted is likely to be based little on science and much on stalling technology we don’t yet understand. But whatever. Somewhere, the FAA chuckles.

(I also have to wonder about the role drone restrictions will play in the STEM gap that already affects urban neighborhoods more than suburban ones. Commentary I’ve heard suggested that urban areas are simply “too congested” for recreational or other drone use, and they should be allowed only in the suburbs. So here would be another cutting-edge technology kept far away from urban schoolkids. I’m guessing future college freshmen will be less than competitive touting their kite-flying skills.)

This morning I read an interesting essay that explores humans’ convoluted relationship with machines. It may go some way toward explaining our often knee-jerk reaction against these strange contraptions that can do so much that we cannot.

Written by a Boston lawyer, the essay is part of a nationwide project called Future Tense that includes Arizona State University—it’s worth keeping track of. (As they describe it, “Future Tense [is] a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, and Slate.”)

Attorney John Frank Weaver analogizes humans’ evolving view of animal protections and suggests a similar approach would benefit us in regard to machines. Like animals, machines and how we treat them say a lot about us, and those interactions have moral implications. And it’s not just the “cute” animals that need legal protections, he argues. We also need to safeguard the more ugly machines. As he writes:

“[I]n focusing on laws that protect how we socialize with anthropomorphized robots, we need to make sure not to ignore plainer robots. They need legal protections, too. In fact, I have gone so far as to recommend that we should grant them limited legal personhood. It’s not because we should empathize with them—it’s because laws governing interactions with ugly bots could improve their utility and benefit to humans.”

Did someone say drone?

Read the whole piece here.

Ugly robots deserve protection and maybe some love too

Ugly robots (even drones) deserve protection and maybe some love too.

Earlier this month, women lawyers and law students filed an amicus brief that told the story of their own abortions and the value that reproductive rights played in their careers.

Earlier this month, women lawyers and law students filed an amicus brief that told the story of their own abortions and the value that reproductive rights played in their careers.

The legal battle over reproductive rights continues to be much in the news. And the heat got turned up this week when Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit over an antiabortion ‘sting’ video-maker. As the Washington Post reports:

“Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the maker of a series of undercover videos released last year that sought to prove that the women’s health organization illegally profits by selling tissue from aborted fetuses.”

You can read about the allegations here.

But that reminded me, in an in-case-you-missed-it spirit, that a remarkable brief was filed at the U.S. Supreme Court in early January. As reported in the National Law Journal:

“More than 100 female lawyers joined in a brief to tell the U.S. Supreme Court about their own abortion experiences and why their reproductive freedom was pivotal to their personal and professional lives.”

“The extraordinary brief, filed last week, was signed by former judges, law professors, law firm partners, public interest lawyers and law clerks, though none who clerked for the high court itself.”

A Texas case may be "the most important Supreme Court battle over abortion in a generation."

A Texas case may be “the most important Supreme Court battle over abortion in a generation.”

The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, comes out of Texas, which enacted restrictions on abortion clinics “that could result in shuttering many facilities. [Abortion advocates] claim the regulations pose an ‘undue burden’ on women’s rights.”

Read the whole story (and the brief) here.

Wherever you stand on the question of abortion, this advocacy and the attempt to persuade the Justices are noteworthy. As the story says, attorney Janice Mac Avoy is an attorney who volunteered to tell her own story and to be a lead party on the brief. She pointed out that the drafting in the brief “responds to ‘storytelling briefs,’ often filed on the other side, that relate the stories of women who have regretted their abortions.”

Legal history is filled with examples of parties adopting the strategies of opponents. Time will tell whether this amicus brief, and the many others filed, are ultimately persuasive. “Set for argument on March 2, the case is viewed as the most important abortion rights case in nearly a decade.”

Have a terrific—and persuasive—weekend.

Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. Anti-abortion activists are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. Anti-abortion activists are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

big data word cloud

Big and small intersected in a great way this month, in the cover story for Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Our topic is big data (or Big Data, if that’s how you roll). We’ve grown accustomed to hearing about the power of large-scale data to alter the modern experience—for example, just think of how many results you get when you Google … anything, really. The vast amounts of digital information available to us have transformed our lives. (Plus, technology’s only just getting warmed up.)

Dr. Melissa Kovacs of FirstEval

Dr. Melissa Kovacs

But we wondered how Big Data affects lawyers and their cases. And that’s where the talented Melissa Kovacs comes in.

Dr. Kovacs described a few practice areas that could benefit greatly from a wise use of large datasets. In her essay, she also describes how this data can be illustrated in highly visual ways; that will be a benefit to lawyers, juries, other fact-finders—and to lawyers themselves, who may be numbers-averse (guilty as charged). Her whole story is here.

But I mentioned big and small; what’s up with that?

Put simply, Melissa’s article is concise—blissfully so. It cuts to the chase and does not inundate readers with too much information. But can we have such shorter stories for the cover feature? Sure. Why not?

It’s not uncommon for magazines to reserve the cover for only their longest, weightiest pieces. And sometimes that makes sense.

But Melissa’s piece is timely, relevant, and well written. And I love the fact that our cover image of a tsunami of information is wedded to an article that can be consumed easily. It’s a tranquil pond illustrated by a tidal wave.

Arizona Attorney Magazine, January_2016 cover

Come on in; the water’s fine. Read the whole thing here. And read more about her firm FirstEval here (be sure to read her blog posts; they’re good, and not just good for a data scientist, but truly good!).

Opening spread for our data story by Melissa Kovacs, Arizona Attorney, January 2016.

Opening spread for our data story by Melissa Kovacs, Arizona Attorney, January 2016.

Warning sign posted at the international boundary between the United States and Canada in Point Roberts, Washington. (photo via Wikimedia Commons.)

Warning sign posted at the international boundary between the United States and Canada in Point Roberts, Washington. (photo via Wikimedia Commons.)

In past months, I’ve been privileged to share recent research on the lives of migrants. The work has been done by Dr. Emily Bashah and her colleagues Louise M. Baca and Karen L. Suyemoto. Focused on “the lived experiences of undocumented immigrants,” the work is compelling, timely, and accessible to non-researchers (not always easy to do!).

(You can read my previous posts here and here.)

Today, I share their third and final publication that has been published in Psychology Today on the narrative qualitative themes.

This essay is titled “Nature of Survival: Emerging themes from migrant journeywomen and implications for social policy.” If you’re in a hurry, jump to the bottom of their post where they detail the implications. As the authors write, “As evidenced by the women’s testimonial themes, more just and humane policies are needed to provide immigrants rights to live and work in the U.S. with legal options and protections.”

Once again, if you have thoughts on how we could cover the legal aspects of immigration in a thoughtful and compelling way, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Border fence separating Mexico and United States.

Border fence separating Mexico and United States.

This month, attorney Clint Bolick was selected as a new Arizona Supreme Court Justice by Gov. Doug Ducey.

This month, attorney Clint Bolick was selected as a new Arizona Supreme Court Justice by Gov. Doug Ducey.

It cannot be easy to select a new state supreme court justice. So much is involved in the job that a panel must weigh a broad array of talents and experiences. And at the end of the day, the old adage applies: You can’t please everybody.

Clint Bolick is a longtime litigator for the Goldwater Institute and an occasional columnist for Arizona Attorney Magazine. (Read a few of his pieces where he discussed courts, judges, and legal services here, here, and here. And he discusses a book on immigration reform he coauthored with Jeb Bush here.) And now he can add Arizona Supreme Court Justice to his roster of accomplishments (though I’m sure columnist will always be his favorite achievement!)

You can read news stories about his appointment by Gov. Doug Ducey here, here, and here.

Arizona_Supreme_Court_SealThose also up for the job had ample experience as appellate judges, which the new Justice lacked. That, plus his previous advocacy litigation, meant that his selection was not met with unanimous positive reviews. (for a negative take, here is E.J. Montini’s column in the Arizona Republic.)

Whatever your view of his appointment, I was pleased to watch Clint Bolick’s interview as he sat before the appointments panel (and I urge you to watch it here). Sitting in the hot seat, Clint did extremely well. He did not appear there as a man who lacks the skill and experience for the job. Nor did he overcompensate by appearing prideful about his litigation record. Instead, he was—and is—soft-spoken and self-effacing. And that has been my experience of him as a colleague and writer.

If there is an entry for “disarming interview” in the dictionary, he would occupy the spot.

Of course, none of that means you will necessarily be pleased (or disappointed) in his subsequent opinions. His judicial record will now roll out over a course of years. Until then, I congratulate Justice Bolick and wish him the best.

Arizona Justice Project logo

Some leadership news from the Arizona Justice Project:

Kathleen Brody is the new Executive Director of the Arizona Justice Project as of Jan. 4, 2016.

Kathleen Brody

The Phoenix law firm Osborn Maledon and the nonprofit Arizona Justice Project announced last week that Kathleen Brody, an Osborn Maledon partner, will serve as the executive director of the Project, effective Jan. 4, 2016. Brody also will continue her practice as part of Osborn Maledon’s Investigations and Criminal Defense group, where she focuses on criminal defense, government and internal investigations, and professional discipline proceedings.

The Arizona Justice Project’s current executive director, Katie Puzauskas, will continue to head the Post-Conviction Clinic at the Arizona State University College of Law. She will focus on some of the most difficult cases in the criminal-justice system.

The Arizona Justice Project, established in 1998, seeks to assure that Arizona’s prisons are not housing innocent individuals or those who have suffered manifest injustice through the criminal-justice system. In recent years, the Project has secured the release of 24 individuals, involving cases of wrongful conviction or manifest injustice. The Project has scores of cases under review or in post-conviction court proceedings.

For the last year, Brody has served as the president of the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice (AACJ), a statewide not-for-profit organization of criminal-defense lawyers, law students and associated professionals dedicated to protecting the rights of the criminally accused and promoting excellence in the practice of criminal law. Brody’s work as president of AACJ has focused on increasing the organization’s visibility among legislators, other policy- and decision-makers, and the broader Arizona community. As executive director of the Arizona Justice Project, she will continue to work on community outreach and policy-reform efforts related to wrongful convictions and fairness in the criminal-justice process, in addition to overseeing all the work of the Project and ensuring its long-term sustainability.

Katie Puzauskas

Katie Puzauskas

“We are excited about the increased focus that having both Kathy and Katie working in these key roles will bring to the Arizona Justice Project,” said Larry Hammond, an Osborn Maledon partner and founder of the Arizona Justice Project. “As the Justice Project works to assure that individuals are treated fairly by the system, we also continue to identify many difficult systemic issues. Among those are increased life sentences for juvenile offenders and the lessening impact of the Arizona Clemency Board’s recommendations with Arizona governors.”

“It’s amazingly great timing that, as Katie wanted to spend more time working with cases, Kathy was eager to take on this new leadership role.”

Before joining Osborn Maledon in 2008, Brody clerked for Justice Andrew D. Hurwitz of the Arizona Supreme Court. She is a member of the Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Arizona and has served as the web editor for the American Bar Association’s Litigation Section, Criminal Litigation Committee. She is also a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Brody also distinguished herself as a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

Osborn Maledon P.A. is a 50-attorney leading Arizona law firm that provides litigation, business, and general counsel solutions for its clients.  More information is available here.

http://www.omlaw.com/

Arizona Corporate Counsel Awaards logo

Next Thursday, an annual awards banquet will honor exemplary corporate counsel. In a calendar year filled with awards dinners, this one is always a great ticket.

Former Arizona Attorney General will be the keynote speaker at the Jan. 14, 2016, banquet honoring the winners of the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards.

Former Arizona Attorney General will be the keynote speaker at the Jan. 14, 2016, banquet honoring the winners of the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards.

I’ve written before about the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards, notable for great venues, short speeches, and a keynote by former Attorney General Grant Woods that kicks ass and takes names. Get there if you can, or hear the jokes secondhand the next day by your colleagues who know where to spend their free time.

The event details are posted here, and as of today, it says the event is sold out. But keep checking (or call in a favor if you’ve got one). It’s worth the effort.

Among the event’s aspects that intrigue me is its new location, for it will be held at the Camby Hotel in Phoenix. If you don’t know the Camby, that’s because it’s brand new and a relaunch of the longtime Ritz-Carlton in the Biltmore area. I’m curious to see what kind of modern and urbane touches the “Autograph Collection Hotel” group brings to the property.

My curiosity led me to click on images of the hotel rooms. And there, on a bathroom wall, is an image that may be a subtle ploy to help attorneys feel at home: a toy shark aloft and clipped to a clothesline. Against the gray sky, the shark soars, unrepentant and free.

Fly, corporate counsel. Fly!

Camby_Accomodations_Bathroom shark 2

Shark gracing the walls of a Camby bathroom.

Anyway, I hope to see you there. Have a great—and predator-free—weekend.

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