Pro Bono


We may already be into February, but it’s never too late for a resolution—especially when it involves access to justice.

Here I share my editor’s column from the January 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine. You can read the entire (terrific!) issue here.

Kevin Ruegg (left) and Lillian Johnson were honored at a November 2014 Morris Institute for Justice event.

Kevin Ruegg (left) and Lillian Johnson were honored at a November 2014 Morris Institute for Justice event.

 

Are you a big advocate of New Year’s Resolutions?

Me either. But a recent event has me rethinking my position.

In late November, a parade of respected lawyers and judges gathered to laud some folks who have offered tremendous service to the legal profession, and to those who rely on it. Through their incredible contributions, the two individuals also have served the cause of increasing access to justice—even through the toughest of times.

Kevin Ruegg, of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, and Lillian Johnson, of Community Legal Services, were the people recognized that night at the University Club in Phoenix. And the kind and accurate words offered in their praise highlight our good fortune in Arizona. But they also highlight the unmet need (and our shared 2015 resolution; more on that soon).

The assembled speakers were luminaries themselves, and they called themselves privileged to be asked to praise the two women.

Judge Joe Kreamer said that they care deeply about those who require legal services—and just as deeply about those sitting in front of them or working in their offices.

Judge Kreamer told listeners how Lillian is committed to the collaborative aspects of access to justice, and attorney Marc Kalish added, “Anyone who has ever served on the CLS board ends his or her service with one emotion: love.”

I think it can safely be said that is a rare characteristic indeed of board service.

Of Kevin Ruegg, Todd Lang said, “She’s a healer for our community and for her staff. She has made a difference in so many ways.”

It is accurate, I believe, to apply an element of Todd’s praise to Kevin, Lillian and Ellen Katz, Executive Director of the William E. Morris Institute for Justice: They are “among the special heroes for justice.” (Todd brought smiles when he described the passionate but mild-mannered Katz as “relentless and remorseless.”)

That night, we also heard remarks from Chief Justice Scott Bales, Judge Larry Winthrop, and Judge Roxanne Song Ong (who said she headed up the “Kevin Ruegg Fan Club”).

So what do we take away from the fact that two of the most humble but hardest-working people in Arizona were honored?

For that—our Resolution—I turn to Todd Lang.

He reminded everyone that those who gathered that night had already given much. The room was filled with folks committed to legal aid, and access to justice, and legal education. Badgering those people to do more is probably not the solution.

Perhaps you fall within one of those esteemed groups. If so, thank you. But if not, digging deep and giving what you can to a legal aid organization can make a tremendous difference. And for both groups, you may still have a Resolution to offer: As Todd said, “Get your friend to give.” That’s right, commit to becoming an unabashed advocate for access to justice issues. Decide today that you will become a royal pain to colleagues and friends in 2015, the one they can count on to beat that lonely drum.

You never know; you may start a band.

 

AZ Bar access to justice immigration event 12-22-14

The State Bar of Arizona continues to play a significant role in educating consumers about immigration law. It couldn’t come at a better time.

Previously, I mentioned a few events the Bar scheduled in December to help the public understand the ins and outs of the recent presidential Executive Order on immigration. Today, I offer a follow-up to the event held on December 22. Just three days before Christmas, more than a dozen lawyers offered their time and expertise to a packed-to-the-rafters crowd. It was scheduled in a way to accommodate consumers who have jobs and other daytime obligations, so it’s even more impressive that the attorneys attended until 10:00 p.m. Well done and congratulations.

The forum’s format opened with a 45-minute presentation on the topic by attorney Ezequiel Hernandez, followed by the opportunity to speak with individual lawyers.

Univision_Arizona logoKeep in mind that the December 22 event followed on the heels of a phone bank organized by the Bar the day after the President’s Executive Order (a phone bank held on a Friday night and that included some dedicated volunteer attorneys).

I can’t help but feel that the Bar is probably a long way ahead of other organizations in regard to educating folks on this breaking topic.

Here’s the update:

Thirteen volunteer attorneys came together on Monday, December 22, to offer free legal advice at an informational session and legal assistance clinic hosted by the State Bar of Arizona and its partner Univision Arizona at St. Agnes Church in Phoenix. This access to justice program, held from 5:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., was organized to inform consumers, dispel myths, and combat consumer fraud related to immigration law and deferred action.

Approximately 550 consumers attended the access to justice event, and 286 families participated in one-on-one consultations with volunteer attorneys.

The 13 volunteer attorneys were:

  • Marysol Angulo, Hernandez Global
  • Emilia Banuelos, Banuelos Law Office
  • Seth Draper, Salvatierra Law Group
  • State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorJudy Flanagan, Judy C. Flanagan, PC
  • Lisette Flores, Friendly House
  • Jaime Garcia, Garcia Law Group
  • Marni Guerrero, Guerrero Jefferies Law Group
  • Ezequiel Hernandez, Hernandez Global
  • Claudia Lopez, Law Office of Claudia P. Lopez PLLC
  • Jose L. Penalosa, Penalosa & Associates
  • Cynthia J. Perez,  Hammond Law Group
  • Juan Rocha, Rocha Law Office
  • Ray Ybarra Maldonado, Law Office of Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_Color

[Note: This article was edited to clarify the role that Ezequiel Hernandez played in regard to the White House. According to Hernandez, he was one of four legal experts from Univision whom the White House spoke with to ensure accurate information was communicated and to communicate the message against fraud; the description of him as “a White House consultant” was inaccurate. I apologize for the error.]

You may recall that one day after the President’s Executive Order on immigration—one day—the State Bar offered an event that included lawyers giving advice on that very topic.

Now, in the week before Christmas, when most of us are devising ways to enjoy the holiday and think less about work, my colleague Alberto Rodriguez passes on news of two more immigration-related events put on by the Bar and partner Univision. One is tonight, and the second is next Monday. No rest for the weary!

(At one of the events, Univision correspondent and attorney Ezequiel Hernandez of Hernandez Global Law Firm will speak. Read more about him here.)

I’ll get to the events in a second, but I’ve got to say: They represent many, many hours of work—to locate attorneys, line up venues, and nail down all of those tiny details that can make or break public gatherings. Congratulations to Alberto and everyone who has had a hand in this.

Ezequiel Hernandez

Ezequiel Hernandez

“The State Bar of Arizona is partnering with Univision Arizona to host two access to justice programs focused on immigration/deferred action. In an effort to inform consumers, dispel myths, and combat consumer fraud, both organizations have come together to offer a 2-hour Abogados a Su Lado phone bank on December 18 and a special immigration session and legal-aid clinic on December 22.”

“On Thursday, December 18, eight volunteer attorneys will answer viewers’ questions during the 2-hour Abogados a Su Lado phone bank from 5 to 7 p.m. on Univision 33.”

“On Monday, December 22, the Bar will host a 30-minute information session that will include an overview of the Bar’s consumer protection services and endorsements (for the Bar) by two nationally recognized immigrant rights organizations. In addition, Ezequiel Hernandez, a Contributor and legal expert for Univision News National Network, will offer a brief presentation on deferred action.”

“Following the presentation, twelve volunteer attorneys will offer one-on-one consultations. The information session and legal-aid clinic will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Saint Agnes Catholic Church located at 1954 North 24th Street in Phoenix.”

“Univision Arizona will record the information session and legal-aid clinic, which will then be broadcast as a 30-minute immigration special, replacing their evening news—date to be determined.”

Marian Yim (far right) was one of the honorees to receive the national Trailblazers Award at the annual NAPABA Convention, November 2014.

Marian Yim (far right) was one of the honorees to receive the national Trailblazers Award at the annual NAPABA Convention, November 2014.

Last month, Arizona was privileged to host a national conference of lawyers and law students. The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) event featured quite a few excellent seminars and plenary sessions—plus a Mercedes raffle. (I mentioned one of its signature events here.)

Among the things NAPABA gets right is the use of video to draw people in. They were effective at marketing the conference in advance and as tools to tell stories from the event once it was done.

Attorney Jared Leung, President of the Arizona Asian American Bar Association, kindly shared three of those videos. I pass them on with the hope that other event organizers will take their lead. (All videos are courtesy of Ty Ng of TwinTygr Films.)

The first video offered a broad overview of all the conference’s highlights:

The next video demonstrated the group’s community-service efforts benefiting Packages From Home and the veterans it serves. As Jared said:

NAPABA_logo“Barry Wong was instrumental in setting this wonderful community project at the NAPABA Convention.  It would not have happened without his leadership on this. Also, over 25 of you woke up early on Sunday morning, arriving at the Convention at 7 am to help set up the ‘production lines’ for the convention participants to pack the boxes. We had planned 2 hours to pack 300 boxes, but we ended up using a little over an hour and packed 315 boxes. The support and excitement was overwhelming and far exceeded our expectation. Your support was crucial to the success of this event. Thank you all so much!!

Here’s the video:

OK, best for last. Finally, Jared shared a video of the speech given by Marian Yim as she accepted the national Trailblazer Award. And Jared reminded attendees, “Marian gave us a challenge at the end of her speech: What kind of new APA lawyer are you going to be?”

I think that question could be asked of all attorneys. Here is the video of Marian:

Members of the Arizona Asian American Bar Association gather at the annual NAPABA Convention, Nov. 2014.

Members of the Arizona Asian American Bar Association gather at the annual NAPABA Convention, Nov. 2014.

On Nov. 21, 2014, volunteer attorneys answered almost 400 calls from Arizona consumers regarding immigration and the November 20 presidential executive order on the topic.

On Nov. 21, 2014, volunteer attorneys answered almost 400 calls from Arizona consumers regarding immigration and the November 20 presidential executive order on the topic.

Talk about timely: One day after historic action was taken by President Barack Obama on the topic of immigration, the State Bar of Arizona fielded a call-in program to address the inevitable questions that would arise.

As Alberto Rodriguez reports:

The State Bar of Arizona and Univision 33 hosted a special edition of Abogados a Su Lado (attorneys on your side) public service program on Friday, November 21. In response to the executive order issued by President Obama on Thursday, November 20, both the Bar and Univision organized a phone bank that would help clarify consumers’ questions regarding immigration law, as well as inform them of the initial details regarding the President’s executive order. The following is a recap of the program.

Nine attorneys volunteered their time and knowledge from 5:00 pm until 10:30 pm:

  • Emilia Banuelos, Banuelos Law Office
  • Tony Colon, Colon & Associates
  • Seth B. Draper, Salvatierra Law Group
  • Mark Egan, Gunderson Denton & Peterson
  • Magaly Fontes, Law Office of Magaly Fontes
  • Bruno Gitnacht, Law Office of Bruno Gitnacht
  • Ray Ybarra Maldonado, Law Office of Ray Ybarra Maldonado
  • Christina Ortecho, Ortecho Law
  • Matthew Thomas, Thomas Law Firm

The attorneys answered an astounding 385 calls regarding the President’s executive order and immigration law. This special edition phone bank was extended and offered during a five-and-a-half-hour time period.

Sample consumer questions:

  • When will the details be released? When and how do I apply for deferred action?
  • What are the specific details regarding the tax returns?
  • Does this cancel removal/voluntary departure procedures?
  • I got a DUI in the past, does this count as criminal activity?
  • How do I prepare? What documents do I need to provide?
  • I am already in the process of applying for citizenship, does this affect me?

All volunteers were satisfied with the quality of the questions overall and were excited to have participated in this special edition of Abogados a Su Lado public service program.

We thank Univision 33 for their continued partnership in providing this valuable “Access to Justice” program for the Spanish-speaking community.

Giving Tuesday 2014 logoA quick item to consider: #GivingTuesday is coming, and you can play a part.

Here is how the creators of the event describe it:

“We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.”

“It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.”

University of Arizona Law School logoLast year (the second year of the global effort), it was reported that more than 10,000 partner organizations in 50 states and over 15 countries participated. And from the University of Arizona College of Law, we hear that there is a new way to participate: Lawyers in Arizona—and across the country—will be asked to donate the first billable hour of their day to help fund law scholarships for the First Americans.

Here is more detail about the law school’s “First Hour for First Americans”:

  • The University of Arizona College of Law is focusing attention on #GivingTuesday 2014 to kick off a donation-matching fundraising drive for the Huerta Scholars Program, established at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in Tucson in honor of Judge Lawrence Huerta, the first Native American to graduate from the College of Law (Class of ’53) and practice law in Arizona.
  • The “First Hour for the First Americans” scholarship drive for the Huerta Scholars Program will assist future generations of Native American law students to follow in this trailblazing first American’s footsteps at the University of Arizona.
  • Whether supporters are public defenders, partners in a large or small law firm or prosecutors, their donation of one hour of billable work to the “First Hour for the First Americans” scholarship drive will help bring needed support to a population with few resources and significant legal needs.

You can read more about the effort here and here.

Volunteer lawyers answer consumer questions on landlord-tenant issues at the Lawyers on Call public service program, Nov. 11, 2014.

Volunteer lawyers answer consumer questions on landlord-tenant issues at the Lawyers on Call public service program, Nov. 11, 2014.

Today I share some news from my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

The State Bar of Arizona, 12 News, and azcentral.com hosted the Lawyers on Call public service program on Tuesday, November 11. Volunteers answered viewers’ calls regarding their landlord/tenant issues.

Five volunteer attorneys assisted with the program: Clare Abel (Burch & Cracchiolo PA); Kristen Coyne (CKGH Law); Clint Dunaway (Dunaway Law Group PLC); Mark Heldenbrand (J. Mark Heldenbrand PC); and Nick Wood (Snell & Wilmer).

The lawyers answered 28 calls on landlord/tenant issues. Compared to previous phone banks, there was a substantial decrease in calls.

Sample consumer questions:

  • How can I break my lease? How long of a notice do I have to provide my landlord?
  • I don’t have a lease agreement with my landlord, how do I request one?
  • My landlord won’t fix issues with my unit. What can I do?
  • Fumigation has not fixed the bedbug and roach infestation, what can I do?
  • How do I evict a tenant?

One out of the five attorneys was a first-time volunteer. Returning volunteers were surprised at the low call volume, but were hopeful that consumers are experiencing fewer issues with their landlords/tenants.

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ mental health, disability, and elder law questions on Tuesday, December 2, the final Lawyers on Call public service program of 2014.

NAPABA_logoIn the upcoming Arizona Attorney Magazine, I talk about a national legal event coming to our state—the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association convention. More to come soon.

But in the meantime, convention organizers are putting together an event that helps military personnel. Your help may be needed—and you need not be a convention registrant to step up.

Attorney Jared Leung is President of AAABA, the Arizona affiliate. And he has issued a call for help. When are you needed? Sunday, Nov. 9, from 7 am to noon.

What’s happening? NAPABA is donating money and volunteer hours to assist Phoenix-based “Packages from Home.” Attendees will assemble 300 care boxes of comfort foods for military men and women stationed overseas.

As Jared says:

“The Project is absolutely wonderful, as we are packing food boxes for military men and women based overseas. These boxes must be packed in a certain way and inspected carefully because of security and shipping reasons. You will receive training on-site and assist others volunteers, who are attendees of the Convention from all over the country. You do not need to have registered for the NAPABA Convention to volunteer in this event, and we encourage you to bring a friend, family member, or significant other to come as well.”

See the flyer below for more information.

For more information or to RSVP to lend your assistance, contact Jared at jleung@fclaw.com.

More detail about the Convention is here.

AAABA Packages From Home event

Arizona Corporate Counsel Awaards logoHave you met or worked with in-house counsel who impress you with their skills and approach? Organizers of an annual award event seek your nominations.

Founded by AZ Business Magazine and the Association of Corporate Counsel state chapter, the Arizona Corporate Counsel Award nominations are due by Thursday, October 23.

More detail and a nomination form are here.

Categories include:

  • Public company (large and small)
  • Private company (large and small)
  • Nonprofit company
  • Government/municipal/public sector
  • Up-and-comer
  • In-house law department of the year
  • Litigator of the year
  • Intellectual property attorney of the year
  • Community/pro bono attorney of the year

The Awards Dinner will be held at the Camelback Inn on January 15, 2015.

The State Bar of Arizona is a presenting partner for the program.

Arizona family law attorneys answer consumer questions during Lawyers on Call, September 2, 2014.

Arizona family law attorneys answer consumer questions during Lawyers on Call, September 2, 2014.

Some news from my State Bar colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

On Tuesday, September 2, volunteer lawyers offered their time to answer family law questions as part of the State Bar’s successful Lawyers on Call program.

Those volunteer attorneys answered 96 calls on family law issues—66 of which were addressed via social media. That resulted in a total of 162 people who were helped.

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorThe volunteer attorneys were: Steven Clark, Cody L. Hayes, Heidi Lukacsik, Kelly Mendoza, Jennifer Moshier, Felicia Schumacher, Mike Skupin and Margo A. Shorr.

Two of the eight attorneys were first-time volunteers.

Attorneys received a wide variety of consumer questions. Among them:

  • How can I enforce a child support order? Can I modify a current child support order?
  • How can I terminate child support?
  • Do I have to allow for parenting time if I’m receiving child support?
  • What should I do if I can’t locate my child’s parent to request child support?
  • Do I have any rights as a grandparent?
  • Can I file for a divorce if my spouse doesn’t want to?
  • Can I file bankruptcy if I’m going through a divorce?
  • How do I enforce a divorce decree?

Social media has increased in popularity during the years Lawyers on Call has been in place. On September 2, 75 consumers asked their questions via the 12 News Facebook page, 66 of which attorneys Heidi Lukacsik and Margo Shorr responded to with their recommendations/advice.

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ bankruptcy and foreclosure questions on Tuesday, October 7.

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