Access to justice can be golden: Arizona Attorney Magazine opening image for a story on the topic by former State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, Oct. 2012.

Access to justice can be golden: Arizona Attorney Magazine opening image for a story on the topic by former State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, Oct. 2012.

As has been reported numerous times (even in Arizona Attorney Magazine), access to justice is in a pretty sorry state in Arizona and the United States.

It’s worth noting that the problem extends beyond borders.

Thanks to a lawyer and former State Bar colleague Nedra Brown, I’m reading a report out of the Canadian Bar Association on their own challenges.

Canadian Bar Association equal justice cover 2013Titled “Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation To Envision and Act,” the 59-page report paints a bleak picture of the country’s legal access situation. Ultimately, though, the report authors provide a solid roadmap that could rectify the situation.

As a news story from Canadian Lawyer Magazine opens:

“The ‘abysmal’ state of access to justice in Canada can be turned around by 2030, according to a Canadian Bar Association report published today. But the report says hitting the deadline will require ‘dramatic’ change, and sets out 31 recommendations for the legal industry, regulators, and government. These include establishing national benchmarks for legal aid coverage, increasing federal justice spending, and drawing up clearer guidelines on alternative billing structures.”

Canadian Bar Association logoRead that story here.

The complete report is here in PDF format. (The “solutions” portion begins on page 15.)

What lessons do you think we can learn here in Arizona? Do attorneys (especially those who have been in the legal access trenches for years) see a similar positive path to a better system for delivering justice?

Do you think a similar Arizona report could cast needed light onto the problem and possible solutions?

Here is a graphic from the excellent report. How do you picture access?

Canadian Bar Association graphic from its 2013 report on access to justice

Canadian Bar Association graphic from its 2013 report on access to justice


A Sept. 15, 2012 curling event will raise money for the Maricopa County Bar Association.Maybe it’s the unending Arizona heat. Or maybe it’s the curious U.S. affinity for most all things Canadian. Whatever it is, I am strongly considering taking to the ice to aid access to justice.

At an event in one month, on September 15, a select few will stroll onto an ice rink in a fundraiser for the Maricopa County Bar Foundation. And once they’re on the ice, they get to … curl.

Not up on your curling? Let Professor Wikipedia help you out. As the incredibly long and detailed “curling” entry opens:

“Curling is a sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice towards a target area which is segmented into four rings. It is related to bowls, boule and shuffleboard. Two teams, each of four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called “rocks,” across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice.”

The whole entry is here.

In a heat-defeating decision, the Foundation paired with the Coyotes Curling Club, and they decided that people may like supporting access issues. But they may like it even more if they can be cool and push huge and heavy stones about on the ice.

Well, that didn’t come out quite right, but you get the point. Oddly enough, Sisyphus faced an endless struggle to push a boulder up a hill. But you may be able to lighten others’ load by putting some muscle into a granite disk.

The chilly and fun opportunity is limited to the first 50 registrants—and no skates are involved! Shall I go? Will you?

Let me know.

Here is the registration form.

More about the Maricopa County Bar Foundation is here. And show a little warmth by liking the Coyotes Curling Club on Facebook.

And here is the location, and a map:

The Ice Den

9375 East Bell Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

NY Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman

Is there a new generation of state Chief Justices? Should there be?

I’ve mentioned before the great content Richard Zorza publishes on his Access to Justice Blog. And this week he praised the New York State Chief Justice. But then he went beyond that praise to suggest there may be a new way of doing business in the offing.

Zorza reported on Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman’s speech in regard to a new pro bono requirement for New York lawyers. But he added, “The news provides yet another example of how a Chief can use his leverage and ‘bully pulpit’ to put and keep access to justice on the public agenda.”

Bully pulpit is a loaded term, one not typically associated with judges and court administrators. In fact, when I read Zorza’s line, I’m sure my eyebrows arched, at least a little.

But Zorza anticipated that, and so he says:

“Some Chiefs are nervous about seeking the limelight, or being too ‘political.’ CJ Lippman seems to have avoided these problems by focusing directly on the courts and on access to justice. He brings to his agenda a long history in the courts, in many roles, during which time he has developed many relationships that have surely been helpful in this more public role. It has also not hurt that he is operating in a relatively progressive political environment. But it is also noteworthy that Chiefs in different environments, such as the one faced by Texas Chief Wallace Jefferson, have been able to make similar progress using similar techniques.”

Is there a role, as Zorba suggests, for “an emerging new generation of Chiefs more willing to be more assertive in their roles”? Are stakes higher, demanding a higher response? Are the forces arrayed against courts, funding and access issues becoming more ominous, so CJs have to mix it up more than ever?

You can read Richard’s whole post here.

In February 2011, I had the chance to attend a conference at which Chief Lippmann delivered the keynote address. He is a passionate and articulate advocate of the justice system and access issues, to that I can attest.

I posted some photos from that criminal justice conference, including photos of the Chief, on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

This past weekend, the State Bar of Arizona carried out its Law Day event, which I mentioned before (and hope to report more on soon).

Law Day, of course, is a nationwide celebration of the rule of law. Communities and entities celebrate it in many ways. That makes tomorrow’s event sponsored by the Maricopa County Bar Association worth your attention.

The MCBA’s event is titled “The Crisis in Court Funding.” That is an endeavor that brings attention to one of the most serious impediments to widespread access to justice.

Among the panelists will be former Arizona Chief Justice Ruth McGregor.

More information, and a registration page, are here.

Former Arizona Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor

Richard Zorza

This past week, access-to-justice advocate Richard Zorza wrote a brief but compelling blog post. In it, he pointed readers to content regarding how courts may attain “high performance.” That content was found in an article by some great authors, including Minnesota state court Judge Kevin Burke.

(I wrote before about Richard Zorza here.)

As Zorza opened:

“One approach the National Center [for State Courts] has been taking to improve the functioning of courts nationally is to focus on overall strategies for achieving “high performance.”  There are seven such strategies, highlighted in an article by Judge Kevin Burke, Brian Ostrom and Roger Hansen.”

Zorza lists the seven strategies, a few of which immediately caught my eye:

  • Establish the Court’s Cultural Landscape
  • Abandon the Myth of the Lone Ranger

See the full list here.

Zorza kindly provides a PDF of the complete article here (which otherwise is behind a members-only wall).

And more on the National Association for Court Management is here.

Can you identify your own local or state court in these descriptions? Or do they fall short in one or more ways?


Richard Zorza

Today, I commend to you a great blog and its blogger, who writes on a compelling subject, and who does so eloquently.

The writer is Richard Zorza, and his blog was brought to my attention by a good friend. It is titled “Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog,” and you can read it here.

Hon. Kevin Burke

Any day of the week, he provides valuable content on one of the most pressing issues in our society. But yesterday’s lighter fare was a blog post of another variety.

In it, he reported that the American Judges Association has a new President—as associations are wont to do. This year, the new top jurist is Judge Kevin Burke, a state court judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Judge Burke is reason enough for the item to come to my attention. He is a highly accomplished judge, one who is well (and often) published and who has garnered praise and awards both locally and nationally. You may read more about him here.

Here in Arizona, there’s another reason to know Judge Burke—he is brother to Dennis Burke, until this month the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona.

Dennis Burke

In his post, Richard Zorza wisely provides a link to Judge Burke’s Wikipedia entry. But that made me chuckle, because when I interviewed Dennis Burke a few years ago, he praised his brother–judge up and down, and added a smirk when he pointed out that Kevin has his own Wikipedia page. O brother—Some families are accomplished beyond belief!

Zorza’s post also alludes to a connection between chocolate and judges ruling well. In fact, Judge Burke (on his own blog!) provided his own commentary on the sugary subject.

Litigants benefit from a well-fed judge, a recent study reports.

As I read that, I looked past my computer screen to some old print ads I have framed on my wall. Once is a yellowed Kellogg’s Corn Flakes ad showing a judge chowing on the stuff in chambers. The subtitle advises, “More judges pass down a friendly verdict on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes than on any other cereal.”

Now that’s an ad.

All around an educational post, for which I thank Richard Zorza. But that makes me wonder: Are any Arizona judges blogging? I’d love to hear from them, or from those who read their pages. Contact me at