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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Just last month, I took a moment to wish Dan McAuliffe a happy birthday. Though he passed away a year ago, he is still on the minds of many in the Arizona legal community.

That was clear yesterday, as a remarkable CLE commemorated his life—and his love for the intersection of media and ethics.

Throughout the morning, a packed audience sat in the State Bar of Arizona CLE Center—named in honor of McAuliffe—and watched selections of the man’s favorite legal movies and TV shows. All of the clips were taken from his own collection, some of which, the moderator told us, appear to have been videotaped with a handheld device while the TV broadcast a show.

Peppered among the clips, of course, was discussion about what was professional or, more likely, unprofessional, in the clips.

Shirley Wahl McAuliffe speaks as Pat Sallen (center) and Ed Novak listen, April 27, 2011

Panelists were selected for their knowledge of ethics and of Dan.

Larry Cohen recalled how he had offered his own version of ethical lessons from the movies, only to be heckled by a fellow he later came to know was Dan. They met and “agreed it would be a lot more fun to do the programs together.” All that Dan required, Larry said, was that programs had to contain clips from “My Cousin Vinny” and the opening statement from “And Justice for All.”

“Dan made ethics accessible to people by making it fun,” Larry added.

Also on the panel were lawyers Lynda Shely, Ed Novak and Jim Lee. It was moderated by the State Bar’s Ethics Counsel, Pat Sallen. Each was adept at seasoning their ethical lessons with stories of Dan and his influence on the profession.

The event opened with clips from McAuliffe’s favorite lawyer movie: “My Cousin Vinny.” As Dan’s widow Shirley Wahl McAuliffe said, “Any movie that can take a pro hac vice application and turn it into a running joke” would earn Dan McAuliffe’s love.

If you haven’t seen it, get out there and rent it. But until then, enjoy this clip from a courtroom scene.


Mixing It Up

A few of the many receptions last night highlighted an important aspect of the State Bar: It really is not one large thing, but a composite of many facets and diverse parts, each playing a role.

One of the receptions was the Minority Judges Reception. It’s been a great stop for a number of years, and this year was no different.

Attorney Yvette Gray organized the ‘do, and Judge Roxanne Song Ong, Presiding Judge of the Phoenix Municipal Court, gave a brief presentation. Her message was giving back, and she urged those listening to “reach back and pull up that guy coming behind you.”

Judge Song Ong also introduced Judge Lynda Howell, now retired from the Phoenix Municipal bench, after a 25-year stint. She said, “I love the law. I miss it but I am excited about the next chapter of my life.”

In attendance were four of the five Justices of the Arizona Supreme Court, as well as judges from many other benches.

Here is a slideshow of photos from the Minority Judges Reception.

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Two doors down, we then stopped into the In-House Counsel Reception. This is the “new kid on the block,” with its inaugural debut this week. The In-House Counsel Committee has only been around about a year, and former Bar President Ed Novak and State Bar General Counsel John Furlong thought that a Convention reception would be an appropriate welcoming gesture.

They were right. It was well attended, and the conversation was great.

Here are some photos from that reception.


Bar President Ray Hanna and work by Lon McGargy

President Ray Hanna presided over his last meeting of the Board of Governors, and ended that meeting by thanking his colleagues.

He began by thanking Immediate Past President Ed Novak. Hanna said, “Because Ed came before me, it was a far easier stone to roll up the mountain than if had he not done so much work.”

Novak spoke briefly about his years on the Board.

“On any great board, we learn to agree despite our disagreements. I’ve had many opportunities over the years to have disagreements with many of you, but we’ve never taken it personally, and I think the Bar benefits from those disagreements.”

He ended by saying, “I applaud all of you for helping all of the members for the 11 years I’ve been on the board.”

President Hanna also praised Roger Contreras, who leaves the Board after a failed re-election bid. Contreras’ words of advice were few: “Be kind to each other.” He also spoke highly of State Bar staff.

Also thanked by Hanna were outgoing YLD President Sam Saks and public member Emily Johnston.

Johnston recalled last year, when she saw a cell from an animated movie that contained a small mouse pulling a large elephant up a hill. “That mouse is sometimes like life,” she said, “and like life on the Board of Governors. Every one of you has inspired me.”

Finally, soon-to-be Bar President Alan Bayham Jr. thanked Ray Hanna for his service.

Of Hanna Bayham said, “I have never met anyone as able to appreciate hard issues and to do it with great humor and perspective. Thank you for all you’ve done.”

Among the gifts presented to Ray Hanna was a print of an old-west work by artist Lon McGargy, considered by some as the father of Arizona Western art (and the “Lon” of “Lon’s at the Hermosa”).

L to R: Ray Hanna, Ed Novak
Ed Novak