I'll admit it: I have a problem with the Constitution ... I have too many. Pocket Constitution

I’ll admit it: I have a problem with the Constitution … I have too many.

How many constitutions do you own?

Well, if you run a puppet regime somewhere, “at least one” may be your answer. But what I’m talking about are those super-handy little pocket constitutions. The ones that reprint the entire U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and maybe even more historic information.

I’ll get to my own collection in a moment. For now, I must say that I was surprised that anyone has traced the history of that pocket-sized document. But we can thank Slate writer Betsy Woodruff for ferreting out the information. Here’s how she opens her article:

“Forget apple pie. Forget the Statue of Liberty, Chuck Norris, Daisy Dukes, cowboy boots, and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. The most American thing that has ever existed landed on my desk a few weeks ago in an unsolicited mailing from a libertarian-leaning think tank: a snappy new Cato Institute pocket Constitution, one of millions printed since the booklets first started streaming off printing presses decades ago.”

You really should read the whole thing here.

When you cover a legal beat, you come across—or are handed—a lot of these books—which may be why I never gave the thing much thought.

At the top of this post is a photo with a few of the constitutions that make up my collection. But when I located six more in one drawer alone, I decided to stop looking. At least, I think that’s what the Framers would have done.

How about you? Do you have one or more of these legalistic books? Do you have a favorite, maybe because it includes colonial trivia?

Take a picture and send it my way (arizona.attorney@azbar.org), plus a sentence of why you like it and/or if you generally carry it. I’ll share it with the rest of us out here in the Colonies.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, Feb. 14, 2012 (photo by David Sanders, courtesy Arizona State University College of Law)

Last week, I mentioned a program put on by the Law Journal at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. It examined the Arizona Constitution and the role the state’s Supreme Court has played in shaping it.

It was well attended, so perhaps a few readers managed to be there in person. (I still am waiting on an answer about whether the video taken at the event will be available to one and all.)

The panel discussion was terrific and ably moderated by Professor Paul Bender. In an upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will publish an article by him that examines a number of the issues discussed on the panel.

But time’s a-wastin’. Today and tomorrow, let me provide some event photos. Today, the Constitution panel. Tomorrow, the Maricopa County Courthouse Tower dedication.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How does a state Supreme Court shape a state’s constitution?

That may sound an odd question, for the constitution likely preceded the supreme court. That and other brain-teasers will be addressed in a seminar tomorrow, sponsored by ASU Law School.

The event will be from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14, Arizona’s statehood day, in the Jury Assembly Room of the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse on 401 W. Washington St. in downtown Phoenix. It is open to the public.

A panel of distinguished scholars and practitioners will explore “The Arizona Supreme Court and the Arizona Constitution: The First Hundred Years.” Among the things they will discuss are what elements make Arizona’s Constitution distinct. And what role has our Supreme Court played in forming the state and interacting with the Constitution.

Paul Bender

All of the panelists are writing an article for an upcoming special issue of the Arizona State Law Journal.

The panel will be moderated by ASU Law Professor and Dean Emeritus Paul Bender. The panel will be:

More on the panel discussion is here.

Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch speaks at the We the People competition, Jan. 6, 2012, at Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Ariz.

“What I don’t know is a lot,” ran through my head many times last Friday. That’s when I sat as a volunteer judge in the state finals of the We the People competition.

WTP is a remarkable program put on by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education. It brings together a large group of high school students, who compete on school teams to demonstrate their stuff in regard to the United States Constitution.

On Friday after the judging was complete, I remarked to a high school teacher (whom I later noted had coached the top team) that the kids were amazing and truly talented—so much so that I was feeling a bit unschooled as the long day wore on.

If you’re ever feeling the slightest bit apprehensive about the depth of today’s youth, stop by WTP. That’ll fix ‘ya.

At lunchtime, the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, Rebecca White Berch, stopped by to praise the kids and to remind them of the state’s Centennial. In that effort, she said, the Court had helped create “Behind the Laws & Decisions,” a DVD box set that includes documentary series detailing Arizona’s history and court cases. The project was made possible by the Arizona Supreme Court, McCune Television, National Bank of Arizona and the Foundation.

More information on the DVD set is here.

I have posted some more photos at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

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.

Hon. George Anagnost

On this Monday morning, I’m pleased to send thanks and congratulations to Peoria Presiding Court Judge George Anagnost. That man knows his way around the Constitution—and a CLE.

Last Thursday’s “We the People” symposium was mentioned here before (here and here), and I emphasized it because it had all the inklings of a great event. It did not disappoint.

The panelists were each terrific, and they kept a packed room engaged on elements of constitutional law, history, policy and politics.

Today, though, I reserve special plaudits for Judge Anagnost. More than a moderator, he shared a voluminous knowledge of the subject before and between the visiting speakers. He is an educator’s educator.

One example was the big Bowl of Knowledge that brought surprise and more than one case of nerves to the audience. The bowl contained the names of audience members, and Judge A. would occasionally draw a name and ask that person to stand. He would then ask them a constitutionally related question:

  • Three Supreme Court Justices joined the Court immediately after serving as a state governor. Who were they?
  • What are the names of the Justices on the Arizona Supreme Court?

And so on. I don’t think I heard one correct response during the day (the queries were pretty obscure at times), but following each wrong answer, the Judge praised the speaker’s tenacity and awarded a Supreme Court tote bag.

Hmmm. Things really are different on the West side.

Now, before you write, I mean that in a good way. Here’s one more example: The Judge wore a boutonnière—and had at the ready a similar corsage for every panelist. Which they wore.

Now, I cannot be sure that every speaker was enchanted with the idea of wearing a corsage. But the Judge’s sense of ceremony and courtesy were infectious, and everyone came out smelling like a rose (or a carnation, as the case may be).

The Judge also compared the Constitution to another love of his: chess. He recounted a famous quotation: “Chess is a sea in which a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe.” The Constitution, too, he pointed out, may provide a placid surface to the world, but excursions into it and its scholarship yield immense and complex riches.

Adding levity, he reminded attendees as they exited for a break—a la jury admonitions—“Do not form an opinion about the quality of this seminar until it has been completed.”

The Big (Blue) Bowl of Knowledge: Partially obscured but forever a beacon

So the next time you sit in a CLE and find your mind wandering, ask yourself this: How much better would it be if corsages and a Big Bowl of Knowledge were shared around? What seminar would not improved by a tote bag, or surprise quizzes offered with a smile?

As the Judge pointed out, symposium comes from the Greek for drinking party. At the Peoria CLE, there was no hootch. But there were high spirits. Well done.

More photos from the event are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Today I bring you a nearly-last-minute reminder about a great event where you may listen, learn and mingle. Best of all, it includes a terrific panel of people who are coming to town to talk to you about the U.S. Constitution.

I wrote about tomorrow’s event before, but one or two of you may have missed it, so click here for more information (and some great photos of the panelists).

And you really do need to click here to register for the seminar. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

Please, PLEASE, don’t tell me “It’s way out in Peoria.” That is a wee bit annoying, for a few reasons. First of all, many people (including Bar members) live in or around Peoria. As our Founders would say, those people are pursuing their own version of happiness, and they don’t need anyone to tell them otherwise.

Cookies may be present tomorrow, but no promises.

There is another reason that comes to mind for why complaining about a little drive to your CLE is weak sauce. Let’s see: The Hohokam built the canals, probably with their own hands. (Cue the violins.) The pioneers lived in dusty shacks that let in the heat and the cold when neither was welcome. (Enter bass drum.) The state’s industrialists and laborers both did their part to carve the sixth-largest metropolitan area out of rock and worse. (Crescendo.)

And we? We must drive an extra 10 minutes in our air-conditioned vehicles to hear wise people speak on stimulating topics, and where lunch and cookies will be served.

(OK, I am totally guessing on the cookies part, but roll with me.)

In summary: You could attend for yourself and the pleasure and knowledge it will give you. Or you can attend for the Hohokam.

Your choice. See you tomorrow.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,151 other followers