Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard at the Minority Bar Convention, April 15, 2011

“The death of a man was the birth of a movement.”

That was one of the sorrowful yet inspiring messages conveyed at this year’s Minority Bar Convention, sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona.

Held in Phoenix last week on Thursday and Friday, it featured a roundup of seminars, updates from sister bar associations, a free-wheeling assessment of Arizona’s immigration laws, and a re-enactment of a historic trial.

The opening quotation comes from that re-enactment. There, a wide variety of lawyers stood in for participants in the murder case of the victim Victor Chin (which I previewed here). The 1982 death and legal case that followed yielded little justice, according to the family of the dead man. But it did lead to an awakening among Asian Americans of the need to protect their civil liberties.

As a speaker introduced the case, “Though the case is no longer infamous, for Asian Americans it has never stopped being iconic.”

That case began in a Detroit strip club, and ended with a young Chinese American bridegroom bludgeoned with a baseball bat just blocks away. Chin died four days later.

Lisa Loo at the Minority Bar Convention, April 14, 2011

The seminar examined the tenor of the times, when American auto workers were losing a car-battle to the Japanese, and anyone of Asian descent was subject to ridicule—or worse.

The two men who killed Chin eventually were convicted of manslaughter and given three years’ probation, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $780 in court costs.

As the trial judge had said in a quotation that infuriated the community, “These weren’t the kind of men you sent to jail.”

In a subsequent 1984 federal trial alleging civil rights violations, one of the men was found guilty of one count, whereas the second was acquitted. But the family’s pain was not complete. Due to problems at and before trial, the Sixth Circuit reversed and ordered a new trial. Upon retrial in Cincinnati rather than Detroit, a jury found the defendant not guilty.

Polled afterward last Friday, the room of lawyers at the Minority Bar Convention was split on whether they would have convicted. Even among those who found the behavior criminal, many lawyers hesitated as they examined the evidence. As one attendee noted, “Bad cases make bad law. This was a state court case that never should have been elevated to a federal case.”

Not all agreed with that, as became evident in a conversation among panelists moderated by Jose Cardenas, formerly of Lewis and Roca and now the General Counsel at ASU. On the panel were former Judge (now professor) Penny Willrich, Annie Lai of the ACLU, Melanie Pate of the Arizona Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, and lawyer Margarita Silva.

As Professor Willrich said, “When will it ever end? If people’s hearts don’t change, the violence never will.”

Also featured that morning were clips from the 1987 documentary “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” which was nominated for an Academy Award.

The programming continued that morning with a panel of three prominent lawyers discussing Arizona’s immigration laws. Former Attorney General Terry Goddard, former state Representative David Lujan and state Senator Adam Driggs took on the most hot-button of topics.

More photos are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Dan Pochoda (left), AzCLU Litigation Director, at July 28, 2010, press conference

Follow-on to the immigration case ruling by Judge Susan Bolton has been various, to say the least.

U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva rescinded his call for a boycott. He had made the brash suggestion when SB1070 was first signed. Now that he has recommended the change, I suppose we all will be inundated with family visitors again (another unforeseen consequence of policy-making).

Governor Jan Brewer said that this ruling was just a bump in the road. Today, Arizona Republic cartoonist Steve Benson had some fun with her choice of words. (As I write this Thursday afternoon, I got notice that the state has appealed.)

Steve Benson's take

There have also been standoffs with the police. Last night, protestors effectively sealed off the small town of Guadalupe, denying Sheriff’s deputies—and city buses and others—access for more than an hour. Today, downtown Phoenix has been the site of numerous protests, and even dozens of arrests. Those arrested included activist and former state Senator Alfredo Gutierrez (who was a great panelist at an SB1070 forum I moderated earlier this summer).

Former Ariz. Senator Alfredo Gutierrez

At a press conference yesterday put on by plaintiff’s groups (excluding the Department of Justice), the groups were, as you might guess, very pleased. The AzCLU’s Litigation Director, Dan Pochoda, praised the judge’s decision. He added that the law’s preamble—which says its intent is winning the immigration battle by attrition—“infused” all elements of the ruling, though the judge has only based her decision (so far) on federal pre-emption.

Steve Schwartz, SEIU

Steve Schwartz, of the Service Employees International Union—SEIU—which hosted the press conference, called the law “a cheap political stunt.” He also used the “P” word, adding, “The law pre-empts an honest debate about immigration issues. We know there’s a problem, but it’s unrealistic to round up millions of people.”

But not everyone was wholly pleased. Representatives from day-laborer organizations called the day’s events “bittersweet,” saying they were disappointed that Judge Bolton did not enjoin enforcement of that portion of the law.

Here are some more photos from the conference.

Annie Lai, AzCLU









Jaime Farrant, Border Action Network


One of the more unique responses came into my in-box late in the day. It pitched an artist exhibition titled “SB1070: An Artist’s Point of View.”

Here is more info, if you’d like to see the law through an artistic lens:


Date:         Friday, July 30, 2010
Time:         6:00pm – 10:00pm
Location:  ALAC
(Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center), 147 East Adams St., Phoenix, AZ 85004

A community reception will be held honoring the incredible efforts of community artists to shift the conversation this Friday, July 30th beginning at 6 pm.

The wall, the Arizona flag, stop signs, The Constitution, a Native American, death, skeletons, labor, border lovers, fields, The Dream Act, the Virgin of Guadalupe are but a few of the images used by artists for the premier thought-provoking exhibit entitled: “SB1070 – An Artist’s Point of View.” The educational exhibit opened at the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center (ALAC) Saturday, July 24.

The show was well received and was attended by notable community leaders from Jim Ballinger of the Phoenix Art Museum, former Senator Alfredo Gutierrez, ALAC board members Francisco Gutierrez and James Fisher, and a standing room only crowd.

A broad call for artists was sent out through the community and the criteria for the show was “SB1070 – An Artist’s Point of View.” Some 30 pieces of art were submitted for the exhibit. “Every piece provides an opportunity for reflection and a point of view regarding SB1070 and its interpretation by artists. Artists provide an essential point of view and dialogue for this important sea change in Arizona’s history,” said Annie Loyd, founder/ceo of The FUSION Foundation.

The “SB1070 – An Artist’s Point of View” reception will provide the community an opportunity to unwind, recharge their inspiration, meet the artists, and converse with community leaders. Renowned artist Gennaro Garcia will be creating artistic representations of an art piece he created specifically related to SB1070 . The reception will also feature music, performances, discussion and refreshments. The reception is open to the public at no cost.

HOSTS: Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center (ALAC) and The FUSION Foundation

WHAT: ALAC in collaboration with The FUSION Foundation, The Arizona Hispanic Forum, Despins Printing, Mouth To Mouth Media, Community Public Relations and N’Touch Magazine,  the community is invited to a reception Friday beginning at 6:00 p.m. and to experience the educational exhibit entitled “SB1070 – An Artist’s Point of View.”

WHERE: Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center (ALAC), 147 East Adams St, Phoenix, AZ

WHEN: Friday, July 30, 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

For more information please contact:
ErLinda Torres
Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center (ALAC)
602.254-9817 – Office
602.793.1293 – Cell
Annie Loyd
The FUSION Foundation