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.

Charles "Chick" Arnold, 2013 Learned Hand Awards

Charles “Chick” Arnold, 2013 Learned Hand Awards

Huge Arizona news this week, as a 33-year-old case was finally settled. Congratulations to everyone involved, including the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest and the Governor’s Office and a lawyer—Charles Arnold—who started the ball rolling.

How the state addresses the needs of the seriously mentally ill was the subject of Arnold v. Sarn. Here is how the Arizona Republic described the case and settlement:

“The lawsuit, Arnold vs. Sarn, was filed in 1981 when advocates for the seriously mentally ill in Maricopa County turned to the courts for relief in treating patients who don’t qualify for Medicaid. Since then, a succession of Maricopa County Superior Court judges have served as watchdog for people with mental-health issues, monitoring state funding and hearing arguments about the adequacy of care, from housing to employment to skills training.”

“The agreement reached with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, which represents the plaintiffs, outlines services that both sides say are key to giving the plaintiffs the best chance at a productive life. It includes provisions for housing, job training, employment and access to around-the-clock treatment that will cover both mental- and physical-health needs.”

“The agreement relies on $37.8million from the state’s general fund, as well as cost savings the state will get when seriously mentally ill patients previously covered by the state are insured by the state’s expanded Medicaid program. State officials estimate a quarter of those on state coverage will shift to Medicaid, for a savings of $9.5million.”

“In addition, by enrolling an estimated 70,000 more Arizonans in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program, the state should reap an additional $20million to $30million a year, said Anne Ronan, an attorney for the plaintiffs. That money can be used to pay for the expanded housing, job and treatment services, she said.”

The article notes that “Charles ‘Chick’ Arnold, the ‘Arnold’ in the original 1981 court filing, lauded the agreement.”

Chick Arnold is an attorney, and one whose contribution is huge. Last April, I pointed out that he had been honored with the Learned Hand Award.

To read more about his contribution, read what the Republic’s E.J. Montini says about him.

I urge on you a terrific weekend and leave you with a quote from Chick Arnold:

“We have to knock down the prejudice surrounding people with mental illness. We feel sympathy for people with so many other conditions, but we feel fear when it comes to mental-health issues. And we shouldn’t. It is a disorder like any other disorder, only it happens to affect an organ that affects judgment. If we looked at this simply as a health issue, the stigma would go away and more people would be willing to seek the help they need. The question is: How do we get there? How do we change people’s perceptions?”


Cookies may be stale, but the message may last.

Three weeks may be too far past an event to report much value—that is, for most events. But a few speakers I heard in March—and failed to report on in a timely way—still yielded insights I believe are worth sharing. This cookie, as they say, ain’t stale.

The first event to share—the one most distant in time—is the annual Learned Hand Awards luncheon. As always, the three honorees were well chosen. And, in a Learned Hand tradition, just as much was expected of the introducer’s speech as was of the honoree herself.

Justice Scott Bales emceed, and he hit exactly the right note by honoring the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. In a ballroom full of lawyers, the reference was spot on.

Nicole France Stanton at the Learned Hand Awards luncheon, 2013

Nicole France Stanton at the Learned Hand Awards luncheon, 2013

The first award—called the Emerging Leadership Award—went to Nicole France Stanton. Andy Sherwood explained her talented background, as well as her commitment to fight bullying and cystic fibrosis.

Stanton urged all lawyers to find their ethical center.

“Finding your voice as a leader at a law firm does not have to wait until you’re an equity partner,” she concluded.

Terry Fenzl introduces Terry Goddard.

Terry Fenzl introduces Terry Goddard.

Terry Fenzl took a more humorous tack in his introduction of the next honoree, Terry Goddard. He displayed—with accompanying ribbing—a photo of a boyish Goddard being sworn in as Phoenix Mayor in 1984.

But like Learned Hand, Fenzl said, Goddard always spoke up for the rule of law, in the fight over polygamy in a Utah border town, in the use of methamphetamine, in mortgage fraud.

Goddard used his speech indicate his gratitude—a commonplace in remarks like these—but also to hurl some political barbs.

“I remember I got to discuss constitutional law with Russell Pearce,” he said. “Maybe not the highest point of my career, but memorable nonetheless.”

He criticized the efforts of legislators to alter the law regarding recall elections, including making the new law’s effects retroactive.

“They claimed it was the will of the people,” Goddard said, “and not just trying to save Joe Arpaio’s behind.”

“Respect for the rule of law is not common in Arizona,” he concluded.

Charles "Chick" Arnold, 2013 Learned Hand Awards

Charles “Chick” Arnold, 2013 Learned Hand Awards

The final honoree was Charles “Chick” Arnold, of Arnold v. Sarn fame. It was his lawsuit that led to massive changes in the way the State of Arizona addressed the needs of it mentally ill residents.

Arnold’s advocate was Judge James McDougall, and he provided eloquent testimony as to Arnold’s fitness for the award. He recalled how the then-Maricopa County Public Fiduciary filed a class action suit on behalf of his 600 wards, demanding that the state live up to its statutory obligations to provide a “continuum of services” for those who had been deinstitutionalized.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors were angered by the action and fired Arnold—only to have to reinstate him after a separate lawsuit.

The stories reflecting courage were touching and remarkable. And that pointed out a fact that I should have noticed in covering years of Hand lunches: The speeches tend to get better and better as the lunch goes on. Not because the speech drafters vary widely in skill level—they all tend to be excellent writers. No, the difference comes from the vastness of life stories that the (usually) older lawyers can marshall.

And so the day opened with ethics and then moved seamlessly to the rule of law, featured by both Goddard and Arnold. Terry Goddard reflected on his career through the prism of that rule, and Arnold did also, always believing that his obligation to his wards trumped his duty to his employer. And for that, all of Arizona should be grateful.

Terry Goddard congratulates Chick Arnold following the 2013 Learned Hand Awards

Terry Goddard congratulates Chick Arnold following the 2013 Learned Hand Awards