The Pioneer Hotel burns in downtown Tucson, December 1970.

The Pioneer Hotel burned in downtown Tucson, December 1970.

[Note: A previous version of this story indicated that the Pima County Attorney’s Office is housed in the structure that formerly was the site of the Pioneer Hotel. We were misinformed; the PCAO is across the steet from that site. We apologize for the error.] 

Last evening, the TV news magazine 60 Minutes screened a compelling news story about the Hotel Pioneer fire case, from 1970.

The Tucson fire killed 28 guests, and 16-year-old Louis Taylor was arrested before the fire was extinguished. The black teenager was convicted by an all-white jury.

The news program (screen shots below) was peppered with commentary by Taylor’s Arizona lawyer, Ed Novak, a Polsinelli partner (and former President of the State Bar of Arizona). As the story says, Novak “is now leading Louis Taylor’s defense team, which is made up of volunteer lawyers, students and law professors from the Arizona Justice Project.” That team has sought a new trial for Taylor.

Novak and the team reviewed all the evidence, and conducted depositions of individuals such as the original fire investigator, Cy Holmes. That work was followed by recent findings that the cause of the fire was undetermined; that meant arson was just one of a number of possibilities.

“The last time I checked,” Novak said, “we don’t convict people on a ‘possibility.’”

In the story, Steve Kroft reported that 60 Minutes had sought an interview with Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, to no avail. So Steve approached her on a Tucson street. That interview is captured in the broadcast.

But, as the story indicated, a new trial will likely never occur. Taylor has accepted a deal that gave him release from prison—where he has spent two-thirds of his life—but through which he must declare no contest to the charges.

You should read the script, and view the story, here.

Later this week, Taylor’s lawyers will have a press conference on the case’s outcome. I’ll report their statements.

Here are some screen shots from the 60 Minutes program:

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Pima County Attorney's Office therapy dog Russell

Using seized drug profits, the Pima County Attorney’s Office bought Russell from Assistance Dogs of the West for $11,000. (Kelly Presnel/Arizona Daily Star)

It may have slipped past you as quick as a dog out the back door, so I am sharing an article about the increasing use of therapy dogs in the justice system, this time by Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall. (Happy Change of Friday.)

I may have a soft spot for dog stories (which I’ve covered here and here). The fact is, in some situations dogs appear to have a remarkable impact on how well cases can be administered.

As the latest story, from the Arizona Daily Star, opens:

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall

“More than 1,000 children who witnessed violent crimes or were themselves abused or neglected were forced last year to share their stories with a stranger at the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center.

“To ease that process, the center and the Pima County Attorney’s Office are bringing in Russell, a 2-year-old golden retriever and specially trained ‘courthouse facility dog.’

“Over the past few years, prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, victims advocates and forensic interviewers across the nation have begun using specially trained dogs to comfort children as they work their way through the criminal justice process.

“Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall met Ellen O’Neill-Stephens and Celeste Walsen from Courthouse Dogs at a national prosecutors get-together last year and became intrigued.”

Courthouse Dogs logoThe article goes on to describe the creative collaboration between the prosecutor’s office and Courthouse Dogs.

Well done and congratulations to the Pima County Attorney’s Office. You should read the entire article here.

Have a great and pet-filled weekend.

Last Wednesday, the Learned Hand Awards continued its run as one of the most impressive legal events of the year. If it were a franchise, its success would be comparable to McDonalds.

Or maybe Katz’s Delicatessen, given that the event sponsor is the American Jewish Committee, Arizona chapter.

In fact, any misconceptions about the host were eliminated in the luncheon’s opening introductory video, which set the stage for the day’s festivities. As hundreds of people tucked into their salads at a legal event, they heard a voiceover warn that America had a dire need for “energy independence.” Curiosity piqued, diners listened to an impassioned lecture about Iran, a “longtime opponent of the Jewish State.”

By the time we started our salmon, the event had segued from the heavy-handed to the elegant, as Rabbi John Linder offered his well-wrought invocation. He invited listeners to consider what kind of world they wanted to live in. Answering for the room, he said it is one in which we hold dignity and respect for all. One in which we recognize that a threat to one is a threat to all.

“May we leave today with our sleeves rolled up, ready to perspire and work for justice.”

Perspiration was the perfect lead-in to the accomplishments of the three honorees: Lindsay Marshall of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, and Perkins Coie partner Howard Cabot.

As I’ve said before, the Learned Hand awards are remarkable for many reasons. One of the most intriguing is the high caliber of the three introductory speeches honoring the three awardees. This year, they were delivered, respectively, by Milagros Cisneros, Illinois Judge Kevin Lyon and Paul Eckstein. Each did a terrific job at encapsulating a life and a career.

Events like this remind us that a legal community is comprised of more than a geographic region. Arizona is no more likely to be a cohesive and collaborative place than, say, a bus station or a supermarket if we lack leaders and a vision of excellence. That is what lawyers like Marshall, LaWall and Cabot provide a fortunate bar.

Ariz. Vice Chief Justice Hurwitz, Mar. 14, 2012

That good fortune was poignantly brought home early in the lunch when Vice Chief Justice Hurwitz delivered a moving introduction. The jurist who will soon be headed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reminded attendees that on the same day we sat in a Hyatt ballroom, Justice Michael Ryan’s interment was occurring in Arlington National Cemetery.

Justice Hurwitz’s request for a moment of silence was kind, but unnecessary. For at the utterance of Justice Ryan’s name, the cavernous room had grown silent and pensive as a community recalled another who had given time, talent and much perspiration to the cause of justice.

Here are more photos from the event.

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This Wednesday, one of the most significant legal events of the year occurs in Phoenix; have you bought your ticket?

The Judge Learned Hand Awards luncheon is an annual event that honors a select few lawyers. And one of the lunch’s most endearing features is the fact that each honoree is introduced by a friend or colleague—each of whom crafts an introductory speech that is amazing in its own right (no pressure!).

For more information or to purchase tickets to this great event, contact Karolyn Kiburz at (480) 990-1887 or

And here is how the sponsor, the Arizona chapter of the American Jewish Committee, describes the honorees and the event:

The Arizona Region of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) will pay tribute to three outstanding legal professionals at its annual Judge Learned Hand Awards luncheon, on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix.

Howard R. Cabot, a partner with Perkins Coie, Barbara LaWall, the Pima County Attorney, and Lindsay N. Marshall, the Executive Director of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, will be honored for their exceptional professional achievements and profound dedication to civic and philanthropic causes and organizations.

Commenting on this year’s honorees, Timothy J. Eckstein, chair of AJC’s Judge Learned Hand Awards luncheon, commented: “Howard, Barbara, and Lindsay embody the very best in our legal community. Their professional contributions help advance a more just society and their philanthropic efforts help shape a world in which human rights and human dignity are protected for all peoples.”

Over the course of its 107-year history, AJC has worked to safeguard minorities; fight terrorism, anti-Semitism, hatred and bigotry; pursue social justice; advance human dignity; support Israel’s right to exist in peace and security; defend religious freedom; and provide humanitarian relief to those in need. Through innovative programs, education, research, media outreach, and extensive diplomatic advocacy, AJC works to advance freedom, liberty, tolerance and mutual respect.

Craig Cramer Honored

L to R: Amelia Craig Cramer, Pamela Donison, Kimberly Demarchi

This morning’s breakfast sponsored by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association was the occasion for the awarding of its annual award, named in honor of Sarah Herring Sorin. The honoree was Amelia Craig Cramer.

Craig Cramer, the State Bar’s Second Vice President (and to be the First Vice President after this Convention), is the Chief Deputy in the Pima County Attorney’s Office, the second in charge of that law office. She was introduced by her boss, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall.

LaWall described the career of her chief deputy, which took her through Dartmouth and Stanford Law School. Craig Cramer has worked in a variety of positions, including private law practice, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

Comparing Craig Cramer to the standard set by President Bartlett in The West Wing, LaWall said the honoree is smart, always tells the truth, and is someone whom LaWall would trust with her life.

Craig Cramer used her acceptance speech to heap praise on numerous other women who have mentored her or provided an example. She recalled her law professor Barbara Babcock, who once was asked what it felt like to have gotten her position because she was a woman. Babcock paused and then said, “It feels a heckuva lot better than not getting the job because I’m a woman.” She also admired Judge Sally Simmons, whom she met when she started at Brown & Bain. Craig Cramer said that Simmons “was a mentor for every woman in the firm, in Tucson and across the state.”

She earned a raucous laugh from the attendees when she said that at her San Francisco law firm, she answered to four partners: “three Peters and a Dick.”

Her move into a public law office when she determined that “Billable hours were not going to be conducive to me being called Mama at home” by her daughter, rather than, perhaps, “Mrs. Craig,” a salutation foisted on another working woman lawyer she had met. Not for Amelia: She wanted her daughter to have her around—a lot.

Craig Cramer praised her wife, Amy Cramer, who is an economic professor at the University of Arizona, and their daughter Margaret.

She ended her remarks by saying, “I hope that when Margaret grows up she will have a woman’s group that is as wonderful to her as the AWLA has been to me.”

Barbara LaWall


L to R: Amy Cramer, Margaret Craig Cramer, Amelia Craig Cramer


Sally Simmons and Amelia Craig Cramer