State Bar of Arizona sexual harassment seminar 05-09-18 image 1

Next Wednesday, May 9, a free seminar offered by the State Bar of Arizona examines the timely issue of sexual harassment. Called “Changing the Conversations,” it will include lawyers, judges and other experts discussing workplace environments and culture and the associated behaviors we all have grown too familiar with in media reports.

The Bar adds, “The program is not intended to offer CLE credit as it will address sexual harassment as a workplace culture issue instead of a legal issue, and therefore has not been developed with MCLE rules in mind. It is available as a service to the legal community.”

The event will be offered in person at the Bar’s CLE Center, and as a webcast. It is free but registration is required. Click here for more information and to register.

Here is the seminar faculty:

  • Chief Justice Scott Bales, Arizona Supreme Court
  • Hon. Margaret H. Downie (ret.), AZ Commission on Judicial Conduct
  • Hon. B. Don Taylor III, Chief Presiding Judge, Phoenix Municipal Court
  • Denise M. Blommel, Denise M. Blommel PLLC
  • Samara Cerven, Psy.D.
  • Don Decker, President, InReach
  • Kim Demarchi, Partner, Osborn Maledon PA
  • John F. Phelps, CEO/Executive Director, State Bar of Arizona
  • Barry G. Stratford, Perkins Coie LLP

State Bar of Arizona sexual harassment seminar 05-09-18 image 3

This spring, the Bar also distributed a member survey regarding their experiences with sexual harassment – to which almost 2,000 Bar members responded. Among other findings, 71.4 percent of women respondents indicated they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Overall, 43 percent of respondents indicated the same.

Arizona Attorney Magazine will cover the survey and its results in the September issue.

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ABA logoThis morning, the American Bar Association and the NAACP released a joint statement on “Eliminating Bias in the Criminal Justice System.” It’s likely to get a lot of attention, for a few reasons:

  1. It offers a dozen specific recommendations that have the possibility of engaging the community and law enforcement and criminal justice officials in a deep and change-making way.
  2. It is a joint statement that is a result of collaboration between two persuasive organizations, the ABA and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
  3. It is drafted in straightforward language that faces head-on a crisis in race and policing.
  4. Its signatories include respected legal leaders, including prosecuting attorneys. (And it also includes Arizona’s own Professor Myles Lynk, of the ASU College of Law.)

The complete statement is available here.

NAACP LDF logoAmong the opening paragraphs are sentences like these:

“One would have to have been outside of the United States and cut off from media to be unaware of the recent spate of killings of unarmed African American men and women at the hands of white law enforcement officers. … Given the history of implicit and explicit racial bias and discrimination in this country, there has long been a strained relationship between the African-American and law enforcement. But with video cameras and extensive news coverage bringing images and stories of violent encounters between (mostly white) law enforcement officers and (almost exclusively African-American and Latino) unarmed individuals into American homes, it is not surprising that the absence of criminal charges in many of these cases has caused so many people to doubt the ability of the criminal justice system to treat individuals fairly, impartially and without regard to their race.”

After mentioning statistics on race in the criminal justice system and the recent Justice Department investigation of law enforcement practices in Ferguson, Missouri, the statement continues:

“Given these realities, it is not only time for a careful look at what caused the current crisis, but also time to initiate an affirmative effort to eradicate implied or perceived racial bias—in all of its forms—from the criminal justice system.”

Among its suggestions, the statement calls for:

  • More complete and comprehensive data collection on interactions between law enforcement and citizens, and more transparency from prosecutors’ offices on the use of prosecutorial discretion.
  • More training and assistance for all members of the justice system on the problems that can occur from real or perceived bias.
  • More hiring and retention of lawyers and officers “who live in and reflect the communities they serve” by prosecutors’ offices and law enforcement.
  • Greater use of body and vehicle cameras “to create an actual record of police–citizen encounters.”
  • Promotion of dialogue about the criminal justice process between representatives of the judiciary, law enforcement and prosecutors, defenders and defense counsel, probation and parole officers and community organizations as well the community.
  • More accountability and quicker response to issues that arise.
  • A better understanding of the collateral consequences of convictions and the damage they can inflict on individuals who have paid their debt to society.
William Hubbard, American Bar Association

William Hubbard, American Bar Association

In a press release, leaders of the two organizations offered remarks.

“The American criminal justice system is clearly in need of reform on multiple levels,” said ABA President William C. Hubbard. “As lawyers, we have a duty and responsibility to ensure the fair administration of justice and to promote public trust in the system. The solutions are not quick or easy, but these proposals offer a tangible and potentially significant framework to make sure the system provides justice for all.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, added, “The events of the last year have powerfully demonstrated the need for the members of our profession to confront the issue of racial bias in our justice system. We are very gratified that the ABA joined with us in convening a group of prosecutors to discuss the role they can play in dealing with this important issue.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

“Both the ABA and the LDF share a commitment to building confidence in the rule of law that has been badly shaken over the past year among many Americans. Prosecutors and other members of the criminal justice system must play a role as we move forward in the critical days ahead. The measures identified by the ABA and LDF present a powerful framework for prosecutors who are committed to taking on the issue of racial bias.”

I look forward to more news on this topic. Specifically, which of the 12 recommendations are likely to be adopted first and on a widespread basis? Are any of these suggestions currently being implemented, but on a smaller scale, perhaps in a state or in one jurisdiction?

After reading the statement, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org to offer your thoughts.

Shawn C Marsh, Ph.D.

Shawn C. Marsh, Ph.D.

Bias? Why should the legal profession be concerned about bias—explicit or implicit?

As surprising as it might be to hear attorneys utter those words, they represent a position firmly held by some.

Meantime, on May 8, lawyers who thought otherwise packed two rooms—in Phoenix and Tucson—to hear an expert discuss implicit bias in the legal profession.

Hosted by the State Bar of Arizona, the presentation by Dr. Shawn Marsh answered my opening question handily: Because, perhaps even more than other professions, the legal profession and the legal system are peppered with decision points, each of which may go horribly awry because human beings are susceptible to bias.

First, let me give you the good doctor’s bio:

“Shawn C. Marsh, Ph.D., is the Chief Program Officer of Juvenile Law at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Dr. Marsh is a social psychologist with research and teaching interests in the areas of psychology and the law, adolescent development, trauma, and juvenile justice. His background includes working with youth in detention and correction settings as an educator and mental health clinician, and he is a licensed school counselor, professional counselor, and clinical professional counselor. Dr. Marsh is affiliated with several academic departments at the University of Nevada, and his publications include numerous articles in scholarly journals such as Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice and Victims & Offenders, as well as chapters in textbooks such as Correctional Psychiatry and Juvenile Crime and Justice.”

His May 8 presentation to a standing-room-only room at the University Club explored the many ways our important decisions are steered by our biases. Spoiler alert: We cannot eliminate them; they are rooted in everyone’s cognitive processes. But we can be more mindful of them, and in so doing, work to minimize their effects.

His approach was humorous and non-confrontational. He shared the many ways we may be seeing the world through skewed eyes. Here is one humorous example that he offered:

Snoop Martha Stewart sterotype

So, Snoop and Martha Stewart give us pause. Excellent. Because pausing before we act is one of the strategy Marsh recommends as you make your way as a human. (Marsh listed about 14 strategies.)

Take a few minutes. Take the Implicit Association Test (which retired Chief Justice McGregor also recommends.) Educate yourself. Expose yourself to other cultures and people.

That last point led to one of the more intriguing anecdotes he shared. He explained that research has shown that relatively brief exposure to praiseworthy individuals in groups that are not yours (“out-group exemplars”) may lead us all to see the entire “other” group in a much more positive light. In fact, even a 30-second positive focus (perhaps in a news or sports story) may yield attitude and behavior changes that last 24 hours.

How can we maximize that effect? Marsh said at least a few courts have uploaded slideshows to serve as the screen-savers on the computers of judges and court staff. In a nation that exhibits disparate treatment (even in sentencing) based on race, viewing a continual slideshow of admirable people of color may have a long-term effect.

(That and other strategies are listed in this National Center for State Courts report.)

Finally, Marsh points out that though attitudes matter, so do behaviors. And those behaviors are often exhibited through our selection of words. So I leave you, as he did, with a great short video on the power that words may have on the actions of us and those around us.