Among those featured in tonight's Bill of Rights Comedy Concert will be (L to R) Chris Bliss, Dick Gregory, Lewis Black, Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, Tom Smothers, and John Fugelsang.

Among those featured in tonight’s Bill of Rights Comedy Concert will be (L to R) Chris Bliss, Dick Gregory, Lewis Black, Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, Tom Smothers, and John Fugelsang.

A quick item today urging you to enjoy some free expression to its most hilarious extent. “Let Freedom Laugh!” Bill of Rights Comedy Concert debuts tonight. It is headlined by Lewis Black, who will be accompanied by Dick Gregory and Tom Smothers; rising stars Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, and John Fugelsang; and special appearances by Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, and Penn Jillette. The event will be telecast on AXS TV (more detail below), and it is the brainchild of Chris Bliss and MyBillofRights.org. Yes, the same people who brought that stunning Bill of Rights Monument to downtown Phoenix. Not only did Arizona get the first monument (slated to be installed in every one of the 50 state capitals). We also witnessed the organization’s first comedy event, held at Phoenix Symphony Hall back in May 2012. The newest and most recent concert was shot at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. Interested in how and when to watch it on your own TV or device tonight? Go here for more information for your location. Celebrating the Bill of Rights may never have been as hilarious as this.

Sixth Amendment monolith unveiled by then-Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, December 15, 2012.

Sixth Amendment monolith unveiled by then-Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, December 15, 2012.

Chris Bliss speaks at the dedication of the nation's first capitol-city Bill of Rights Monument, Dec. 15, 2012

Chris Bliss speaks at the dedication of the nation’s first capitol-city Bill of Rights Monument, Dec. 15, 2012

In the current Arizona Attorney Magazine, I took the opportunity to channel our inner James Madison. Who wouldn’t like to do that?

The occasion was my editor’s letter in which I praised the recent dedication of a Bill of Rights Monument in Phoenix. (detail is here).

It was an impressive event, as was the concept itself. I’m still stunned at the commitment and success of Chris Bliss, Executive Director of mybillofrights.org.

So in case you missed it, here is my own riff on one of this nation’s most important documents. And tell me: How you would have transformed the Bill of Rights? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. And have a great weekend.

Here is my column:

There are few events for which Arizonans will stand in the drizzle. We may be a hardy people, but precipitation strains our resolve.

In December, the presence of a light rain simply added to the noteworthy nature of a historic and well-attended event: the dedication of the nation’s first capitol-city monument to the Bill of Rights.

Congratulations to organizer Chris Bliss, generous Arizona lawyers, legislative leaders and others who made the limestone monoliths a reality.

Our Last Word this month includes the eloquent remarks by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton that day (more background and photos are here and here).

In honor of the achievement, I offer—à la the Bill of Rights itself—10 ways that the ceremony and the accomplishment impress:

I. The Weather shall make no drizzle that keeps a committed People from their celebration of a unique Bill of Rights, as they enjoy gathering, assembling, speaking and sharing space with chilly members of the Press.

II. A well-organized Program, being necessary to the success of an early-morning event, the right of a cold and coffee-deprived people to be exhilarated by concepts of liberty, shall not be infringed.

III. No Speaker did, without the at-least-grudging consent of the assembled People, go on and on in a Tyrannical manner or in a style proscribed by Common Sense.

IV. The right of the People to be reassured that their elected leaders of all Parties support and defend liberty shall not be violated.

V. No monument to our own Bill of Rights shall be relegated to a back corner of our State’s Capitol plaza, but shall be given a place of Prominence and Respect, where viewers may appreciate the Liberties espoused, sited hard against a monument to brave servicepeople who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of those liberties.

VI. In the development of public Monuments, Arizonans shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public process, yielding an awe-inspiring setting achieved through the impartial efforts of many people, and with the assistance of Counsel—Arizona attorneys who stepped up in amazing ways.

VII. In Monuments to which we have grown accustomed, where the cost has skyrocketed beyond Imagining, the right of the People to have a Monument erected with the expenditure of no Public Monies, at a modest cost and with a noteworthy portion of donated contributions, shall be preserved.

VIII. Excessive verbiage or sponsor names shall not be required, nor excessive ornaments imposed, for the simple words of the Bill of Rights are sufficient, and the sculptor’s stunning simplicity of vision shall foreclose the possible infliction on succeeding Generations of a cruel and unusual Artifice.

IX. The enumeration in this Monument of certain rights arose as the vision of a single man, who brought humor, drive and equanimity to the challenge of delivering a limestone embodiment to the people of Arizona, and in the process helped present what may be the best comedy concert fund-raiser in the history of these United States.

X. The power of this dedication Ceremony shall remind all present or hereafter standing in silent appreciation of the Monoliths that these rights, like the final word of the Bill of Rights, reside in and end with “the People.”

Arizona Attorney Magazine Editor Letter Feb 2013 Bill of Rights

Gov. Jan Brewer as she unveils the Tenth Amendment monolith at the Arizona Bill of Rights dedication ceremony, Dec. 15, 2012 (photo: Arizona Attorney, Tim Eigo)

Gov. Jan Brewer as she unveils the Tenth Amendment monolith at the Arizona Bill of Rights dedication ceremony, Dec. 15, 2012 (photo: Arizona Attorney, Tim Eigo)

 On this Change of Venue Friday, I invite you to look at some photos (below) from last Saturday’s Bill of Rights Monument dedication in Phoenix. (I’ve covered this quite a bit; see here for more background.)

And here is an Arizona Republic story on the dedication day.

Congratulations again to Chris Bliss, who spearheaded this effort on behalf of his organization.

More photos are on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Have a great weekend.

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Workers prepared to install a limestone slab that is part of a monument to the Bill of Rights at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. It will be dedicated Saturday. (Joshua Lott for The New York Times)

Workers prepared to install a limestone slab that is part of a monument to the Bill of Rights at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. It will be dedicated Saturday. (Joshua Lott for The New York Times)

Over the past year, I’ve spoken quite a bit with you about the Arizona Bill of Rights Monument (most recently here). But now the nation’s newspaper of record has even written about it. Time to pay attention.

I was pleased this past week to see the New York Times take note of the remarkable achievement of a man named Chris Bliss—and the fact that Arizona leads the nation on this. Amazing.

Arizona Bill of Rights posterHere is how NYT reporter and Phoenix Bureau Chief Fernanda Santos opens her article about MyBillofRights.org Executive Director Chris Bliss:

“It started as a joke about 10 years ago. Chris Bliss, a juggler and stand-up comedian of Internet fame, had been scanning the headlines for inspiration and discovered the controversy over a granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of Alabama’s state judicial building.”

“‘Instead of arguing over whether to leave up or take down these displays of the Ten Commandments,’ he said in a comedy routine, ‘my suggestion is to put up displays of the Bill of Rights next to them and let people comparison shop.’”

(Want to see what she’s referring to when she mentions juggling? Go here.)

Tomorrow morning, December 15, is the dedication of the first capital-city monument to the Bill of Rights. I’m hoping a good-sized crowd comes out to see something that will be there for generations (the limestone, that is; we’re hoping the same for the rights themselves).

To get ready for the day, enjoy this article by the First Amendment Center.

And on Change of Venue Friday, enjoy a time-lapse video of the monument’s installation, followed by detail on tomorrow’s dedication.

Bill of Rights Monument dedication invite p1

Bill of Rights Monument dedication invite p2

Arizona Bill of Rights posterIf you heard a loud rumbling throughout November, it may have been the sound of liberty.

Over at the State Capitol in Phoenix, the ground was prepared and limestone monoliths began to arrive on the site of what will be the nation’s first capitol-city monument to the Bill of Rights.

I’ve written about the topic before (here and here, for example), and November has been an incredibly busy month for the project and its Executive Director, Chris Bliss. Let me tell you a little about what’s going on, and point out that the effort is thiiiiis close to its financial goal. I’m sure Chris would agree that the next rumbling sound he’d like to hear is you reaching for your wallet.

For all the Bill of Rights have done for us, it’s the least we can do. When those monoliths are finally placed on Wesley Bolin Plaza, I’m confident we’ll all come together to agree, “Those courageous founding fathers had some stones.”

Anyhoo, one thing you should be sure to see is E.J. Montini’s Arizona Republic column on the monument or, as he calls it, “Arizona’s Monument to Compromise.” Wisely, the columnist quotes Bliss, whom I call “the most quotable limestone monument organizer in America.” As Chris says:

“Those 10 amendments to the Constitution are like our marriage vows. If we could put a monument to them in each state capitol we could have a powerful daily reminder of what should be guiding us forward.”

And here is where the project is as we enter the home stretch, as reported by Bliss himself:

Nov. 5: As of last week, we are within $25,000 of fully funding America’s 1st monument of the Bill of Rights, at the Arizona Capitol. This last $25,000 gift was given as a matching challenge grant for that amount, good from now through December 15th. Help us make history for future generations, and double the impact of your gift.

Arizona Bill of Rights monoliths November 2012

As of November 12: All ten monoliths have been completed, and we now expect to make our target dedication date of December 15—Bill of Rights Day.

Nov. 14: Executive Director Chris Bliss poses for the obligatory ground breaking photo on the site of the soon-to-be first monument of the Bill of Rights, across the street from the Arizona Capitol complex.

Bill of Rights Chris Bliss Nov 2012

A man, a plan, a shovel: Chris Bliss breaks ground, Nov. 14, 2012.

Nov. 19: Incredible work from lead designer Joseph Kincannon and project manager Holly Kincannon. Joseph and Holly poured their talent and passion into every detail; from the shapes, sizes, site layout and landscaping right down to the font choice and layout of the words on each amendment monolith. The monoliths ship from Kincannon Studios tomorrow morning! (November 20)

Nov. 21: The latest photo from the site (below), courtesy of our project manager Jeff Esgar of Sundt Construction, who’s put together a terrific team. The monoliths will be brought in and placed by crane on December 4th. The front trench is where the electrical for the individual spotlights for the monoliths will be located.

Arizona Bill of Rights site preparation, November 2012

Thanks, Chris. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I am looking forward to December 15, Dedication Day. I’ll share more details when I get them.

In the meantime, follow the project on Facebook, and read all the details (and donate) on the website.

Finally, enjoy a brief video, which has the comic Lewis Black explaining “why he supports MyBillofRights.org.”

MyBillofRights.org executive director Chris Bliss

Chris Bliss

I have passed on quite a bit of news regarding the Bill of Rights Monument. When it’s installed in Phoenix, it will be the first capitol-city monument in the nation dedicated to those important documents.

This month, I heard from Chris Bliss, executive director of MyBillofRights.org. He provides an update—and photos:

“Thanks to the success of the Phoenix Comedy Festival and contributions of donors like you, we’ve raised over $120,000 since April. This means that fabrication and sculpting of the 10 Amendment Monoliths is now fully funded—a major milestone in our drive to bring America’s 1st Monument of the Bill of Rights to the Arizona Capitol.

“I’ve attached some images of the work in progress. The photos don’t do it justice, as being up close with the monoliths is an unexpectedly personal experience. You find yourself drawn toward each stone, pulled in by its contoured shaping and textured surfaces. And this is even before the text inscriptions have been added!

“Amendments III, IV, and V should be inscribed by mid-July. Work on the next grouping, the monoliths for Amendments I, II, and X, begins this week. The final four monoliths (Amendments VI, VII, VIII, and IX) will follow by summer’s end, with all 10 expected to be completed by the end of October.

“Now all that remains is for us to fund the installation and the state’s one-time maintenance fee, a total of $150,000 to $175,000 (depending on contingencies). I will keep you informed on our progress toward that goal, as well as some new “crowdsourcing” options on our website for harnessing the power of social media that should be ready soon.

“Thanks again for your generous support for the Bill of Rights Monument at the Arizona Capitol.”

Here are the photos:

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Example of stonework to be used in Arizona monument to the Bill of Rights.

A May 13 comedy concert at Symphony Hall in Phoenix promises an impressive roster of nationally known comics. Tickets, expected by event organizers to sell out quickly, go on sale at 10:00 a.m. today on ticketmaster.com.

The concert aims to raise funds for the installation of a Bill of Rights Monument in Wesley Bolin Plaza at the State Capitol in Phoenix. The planned dedication this coming December would signal the first such installation in the United States. No state or other public monies are being spent on the monument; organizers say they must raise $400,000 to complete the project. (State Bar of Arizona President Joe Kanefield is on the Executive Fundraising Committee.)

Chris Bliss

Chris Bliss, executive director of MyBillofRights.org, is spearheading the monument project. He worked with event expert Danny Zelisko to develop the comedy evening. Comics slated to appear will be Lewis Black, Bill Engvall, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dick Gregory, Kathleen Madigan, Tommy Smothers and Steven Wright. Musical guests from the band Little Feat will be Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett.

Bliss says that individual ticket prices are reasonable and well worth the comedy talent that will be on display. But he urges anyone interested in a “Hall of Fame comedy experience” to consider purchasing special VIP seating. Called the Founders Circle and President’s Circle, the seats are described more fully here. According to Bliss:

“Founders Circle seats include an invitation to the artists’ reception before the concert, and a signed lithograph (by all the artists) of the event poster. The President’s Circle is available to individuals, but is also for businesses and firms of any size that want participate in this truly historic project. Individuals at the firm/business make their tax-deductible contributions to MyBillofRights.org, and both the individual and the firm/business get recognition in the concert program and on our website, along with a block of premium seats determined by the total amount. Or businesses can contribute directly through the fiscal sponsorship of the Arizona Community Foundation.”

The Monument is touted by Bliss as a historic legacy for the state, “one that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will get to visit and be inspired by.”

For more information, see my previous coverage here, here and here. And view a story by a local Fox affiliate here.

A longer story on the Monument project will appear in the May Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Poster for May 13 comedy concert

Example of stonework to be used in Arizona monument to the Bill of Rights.

Updated with more information as of March 9:
A lawyer, a stonemason and a comic walk into a bar

No, that’s no good. How about …

What do you get when you cross Justice Lewis Powell with comic Lewis Black?

Hmmm.

Sorry, I’m working on possible ledes for a story in an upcoming Arizona Attorney Magazine. And it involves some odd mashups of professions.

Poster for May 13 comedy concert

On Change of Venue Friday, I typically take us far astray from law practice. And why not? Let’s get this weekend started.

Today is no different, for I get to share news of an upcoming comedy concert. Of course, it’s not entirely divorced from law. For it is related to the creation of a Bill of Rights Monument in Arizona, the first of its kind in the nation. (I wrote about it here.)

Today, at a noon press conference at Symphony Hall in downtown Phoenix, the talent-packed bill was announced for a comedy concert that will be a major fundraiser for the Monument. Appearing at Phoenix Symphony Hall on May 13 will be:

  • Lewis Black
  • Bill Engvall
  • Bobcat Goldthwait
  • Dick Gregory
  • Kathleen Madigan
  • Tommy Smothers
  • Steven Wright

And then there will be musical guests (from Little Feat) Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett.

Chris Bliss and promoter Danny Zelisko discuss the May 13 comedy concert, at Tom's Tavern, Feb. 29, 2012.

For good measure, I understand that comic Chris Bliss will also perform. (Chris, of course, is also the Executive Director of MyBillofRights.org, the event organizer.)

Tickets will go on sale Monday, March 19, at 10 a.m., and they’re likely to go fast (reserved seats will be $53 to $98 + convenience fee, via Ticketmaster, and at Phoenix Convention Center box office).

(A previous event, on Wednesday, February 29, at Tom’s Tavern in downtown Phoenix was the venue for a gathering of lawyers and judges committed to getting the memorial erected. Those attendees got a preview of the May 13 comedy lineup.)

Danny Zelisko and State Bar of Arizona President Joe Kanefield, at Tom's Tavern, Feb. 29, 2012

My story on the project will appear in the May Arizona Attorney. In the meantime, here are some more photos from the event at Tom’s Tavern. Have a great weekend.

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Heavy stones being moved by a forklift may be about as distant from law practice as you can get. But on this Change of Venue Friday, I hope you agree that the heavy lifting is worth it.

I wrote before about a Bill of Rights Monument that will be erected on Bolin Plaza at the State Capitol. That effort will take fundraising, of course. And on that aspect, I’ll be posting another story from a noon press conference today (to get the breaking news, watch this page or follow me on Twitter at @azatty).

Beyond fundraising, this initiative requires … rock. Specifically, limestone.

Therefore, here are a few photos of the limestone as it was delivered to the sculptor’s studio in Austin on Tuesday, Feb. 28: ten blocks of limestone weighing 44,000 pounds. Each block will be transformed into a representation of one of the original 10 constitutional amendments, to be installed in Phoenix next December.

The forklift driver is none other than the sculptor himself, Joseph Kincannon. He spent 15 years at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York—where I bet they never let him drive the heavy machinery himself!

To add to the unique aspect of this entire venture, here is a photo of something you don’t see every day: State legislators as (let’s call it) diversely ideologically committed as former Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Karen Johnson joining together on a project (they were the co-sponsors who signed on first to get the monument onto the plaza). They flank MyBillofRights.org executive director Chris Bliss.

See you in a few hours.

L to R: Sen. Karen Johnson, Chris Bliss, former Sen. Kyrsten Sinema

Example of stonework to be used in Arizona memorial to the Bill of Rights.

A belated birthday greeting goes out this morning to a document that means a lot to every person in the United States. That document is the Bill of Rights.

Like many important events, this one sneaks up on us unawares every year. But on December 15, the Bill of Rights celebrated its 220th birthday.

Though the event was last week, I think it’s important enough to blow out a few candles even today. And I know just the person to help do it: Chris Bliss.

Among his many attributes, Chris Bliss is the Executive Director of a nonprofit called MyBillofRights.org. The group’s goal is to erect a monument in every state’s capitol to the founding document. And I’m happy to say, Arizona is on track to become the first of the 50 to do so.

Last week, Chris penned an op-ed piece on why we should care about the Bill of Rights and its birthday. He opens:

“Two-hundred-and-twenty years ago today on Dec. 15, 1791, something happened that changed history forever. Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, becoming the 10th state to do so and thus making it part of the Constitution.

“The ways this changed history were myriad, foremost among them by preserving the fledgling new country called the United States of America, after the Articles of Confederation had failed.

“Today, 220 years later, the Bill of Rights remains the heart and soul of who we are as a people and why America remains an inspiration to those everywhere seeking their liberty. Its ingenious balance of personal freedoms and political principles has proved both dynamic and durable, becoming one of history’s most important and influential documents as the global road map for basic human rights.”

You should read his entire essay here.

Chris Bliss

A few weeks ago, Chris stopped by the State Bar of Arizona to explain his group’s mission. He seeks to get the word out to the entire state, and wants to be sure to include Arizona’s lawyers and judges. He believes—correctly, I think—that they would recognize the value in a historic document that maps out rights in a concise and compelling way.

More detail about the organization and their Arizona plan is here.

As a humorous aside, this past weekend, I ran into Chris in downtown Phoenix, where we each were attending a play. By chance, the play focused on the Arizona debate over ethnic studies in the Tucson schools.

At one point early in the play, a character mutters the imprecation, “Constitution, schmonstitution!” There was perhaps no one who laughed more heartily at that curse than the ED of MyBillofRights.org.