AZ Center for Law in Public Interest squibUnbelievably, May is about to pass. Before it does, I urge you to read a great article in this month’s issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Every spring, I weigh the wisdom of putting non-arts content into our May issue. After all, over the past decade-plus, readers have grown accustomed to enjoying the amazing work of the lawyer-winners of our Creative Arts Competition in that issue. Non-arts content, I fear, may get lost in the sauce.

But when I heard from Tim Hogan about an anniversary of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, I was hooked. There may be no public interest law firm that has touched on so many vital aspects of a state’s legal health as ACLPI has.

And when I read the draft by Timothy Hogan & Joy Herr-Cardillo, I was doubly impressed. Here’s how the article opens:

Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest logo“The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The Center started from humble beginnings in 1974 to become one of the most successful public interest law firms in the country. No one could have predicted that the Center would still be an important force for justice in Arizona four decades years after the organization began with nothing more than a desk, a phone and a typewriter—with only one young lawyer to type on it. This is a story about that law firm’s journey.”

Here is the complete story. Please let me know what you think. And let me know which of the Center’s many significant cases have made the biggest impression on you, as an attorney and an Arizonan.

In good times and bad—especially in bad—nothing appears to animate elected officials more than stories regarding the sinful pleasures, whether they are drunk, smoked or otherwise ingested.

A glaring example of that is in medical marijuana, which has gripped Arizona headlines for months now. (Contributing to that coverage, Arizona Attorney Magazine’s cover feature for July/August will be the fight over that medicinal weed.)

But at least that fight is over an actual controversy, as leaders try to determine what’s legal and what’s not in a state–federal tussle.

More odd is what’s going on in Minnesota. There, state government has ground to a halt because of lawmakers’ inability to agree on a budget. As a result, many services that state residents count on daily are now unavailable.

Including the renewal of liquor licenses.

As the story says:

“Hundreds of bars, restaurants and stores across Minnesota are running out of beer and alcohol and others may soon run out of cigarettes — a subtle and largely unforeseen consequence of a state government shutdown.

“In the days leading up to the shutdown, thousands of outlets scrambled to renew their state-issued liquor purchasing cards. Many of them did not make it.

“Now, with no end in sight to the shutdown, they face a summer of fast-dwindling alcohol supplies and a bottom line that looks increasingly bleak.”

“The state has stopped issuing the tax stamps that distributors must glue to the bottom of every pack before it’s sold for retail.”

Read the complete story here.

Ari Mlnarik, left, served a beer at the Ugly Mug, a bar in downtown Minneapolis

A tale of unintended consequences, certainly. But what’s surprising is the reaction of lawmakers, whose unwillingness to coalesce is causing problems huge and small for the state.

One legislator even urged the governor—of the other political party—to use his executive powers to allow alcohol sales to continue.

It is the rare occurrence that you will find a politician recommending that his political opponent assert broad powers. Health care? Jobs? Unemployment coverage? No, no, no. But smokes and drinks? That brings the parties together.

Here in Arizona, the Corporation Commission has been plunged into its own form of reefer madness, with the discovery of some pot leaves in a bathroom shared by a group of people. The result is that Commission Chair Gary Pierce has requested that drug-sniffing dogs be brought in to try to locate the source of the illegal substance.

It was reported that the Republican members of the ACC have agreed to have their offices sniffed. The Democratic members have not yet agreed to do that.

We grow used to partisan sniping in many levels of government. But the ACC was always a reliable government powerhouse, wielding enormous power and influence without shouting headlines. Sure, politics do matter where utilities and other resources are concerned. But the ACC has always maintained a rather egg-heady and admirable focus on the details of the matters before them. Politics were whispered rather than hollered.

Here’s looking forward to getting back to some of that. And here’s hoping that public agencies and public officers look to become more like the storied ACC. If the reverse occurs and we are left with an openly partisan ACC that follows the vitriolic route of others, residents will have one more reason to doubt the results that emerge from a government chamber.

L.A.'s Been Dark Before ...

So here was the best-est news of the day: The Arizona Corporation Commission throwing down with the Los Angeles City Council.

This past month, the Council had voted to boycott Arizona due to its recently enacted immigration law (dubbed SB1070). That made Los Angeles the largest municipality to take that action (though by no means the only one).

That steamed Commissioner Gary Pierce, who sent a snarky and pointed letter to the City of Angels, reminding them that 25 percent of their power comes from Arizona sources. He kindly offered to flip the switch off to help them with their moral quandary.

I guess that would make it The City of No Lights.

Here’s a story (with video) on the fight over the Heart of Darkness.

And the Arizona blog KeytLaw covered the topic here.

And here’s the complete letter, including its voluminous distro list:

azcc-LA letter