Hollywood and the rest of us all love films featuring lawyers and their ethical dilemmas. To Kill a Mockingbird

Hollywood and the rest of us all love films featuring lawyers and their ethical dilemmas.

If you’re at all like me (and why wouldn’t you be), a full week of work following the short Thanksgiving week seems almost cruel. Perhaps you’re seeking a way to lessen the strain of five days of nonstop labor.

If that’s the case, consider going to the movies.

This Friday, December 2, the State Bar offers a favorite program that examines the intersection of great films and ethical choices that face attorneys.

See how I just used $5 words to describe a theater-screening?

The event is titled “A New Ethical Morning at the Movies,” which would only be improved by being in the evening and having less ethics. But if that were the case, no CLE credit would be available, so I see their point.

All the detail is here.

sba-cle-ethical-morning-at-the-movies-12-02-16

Larry Cohen is a great presenter, and he heads a panel of other talented speakers who all know legal ethics inside-out—and who like a great flick.

Here’s hoping they have popcorn.

In the meantime, enjoy yourself a little Jackie Chiles, the great lawyer character from Seinfeld. I know it’s the small screen, not the silver screen, but it speaks loudly to lawyer ethics—and hot coffee.

David French reaches out to readers on the difficult topic of succession planning in the October 2016 issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

David French reaches out to readers on the difficult topic of succession planning in the October 2016 issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

If you know of a more moving and compelling way to write about business succession planning than the way David French did recently, please let me know. I don’t think a more moving recitation exists.

Before October leaves us, I urge you to read—if you haven’t already—David’s piece in the October Arizona Attorney Magazine. That is where he describes steps professionals should take to safeguard their firm, protect their clients, follow the Ethical Rules, and maybe even burnish their legacy. Happily, David takes a personal rather than a stiff approach to the topic.

David French

David French

(In a previous issue, I also covered a David French-moderated roundtable, here.)

Once you’ve read David’s story about his own dad, read about the national picture, in which a rising tide of many retirees is causing challenges for law firms.

Finally, it’s been out for a while now, but I’ve appreciated a documentary called “Period. New Paragraph.” In it, as the American Bar Association says, filmmaker “Sarah Kramer documents the experience of her father, Herbert Kramer, as he closes his law practice after 60 years.” Here is an excerpt.

You can buy the documentary here. Again from the ABA: “The film is accompanied by a discussion guide for bar associations or law firms that intend to use the film to explore the topic of lawyers’ transition into retirement.”

Hermans House movie poster

Herman’s House film poster

Last week, a remarkable film was awarded an Emmy. Herman’s House is a documentary I’ve mentioned and reviewed before, and it examines the use of solitary confinement and incarceration in a compelling way. The award news—plus a free screening—is reason enough to point you toward it.

My review was way back in 2012; you can read it here.

The Emmy, given to PBS’ POV Documentaries for Herman’s House, is described here. This is an excerpt from the press release:

“The POV (Point of View) film Herman’s House won the 2014 News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Arts and Culture Programming, it was announced on Sept. 30 by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Herman’s House aired on PBS in 2013 as part of POV, American television’s longest-running independent documentary series. The 35th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards were presented at a ceremony in New York City. PBS won a total of 11 awards, more than any other broadcaster.”

The award is bittersweet, for the film’s namesake, Herman Wallace, passed away a year ago.

You can watch a portion of the Emmy Award ceremony here, as the film’s producers accept (click on “Playlist” and select Outstanding Arts and Culture Programming).

Haven’t yet seen this award-winning film? It is screening—free—through October 15 here.

Animation highbrow and somewhat lower meets as the Simpsons wander Miyazaki's worlds.

Animation highbrow and somewhat lower meets as the Simpsons wander Miyazaki’s worlds.

A brief item on this Change of Venue Friday (who wants anything else?).

This piece may be a little dated, as it originally occurred back in January. But it’s worth showing again.

If you are a fan of (1) The Simpsons and/or (2) filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, you may recall that the TV show offered up a show that was a tribute to the Japanese legend. Back in January, he had announced that he was done with the artistry of creating films, saddening millions who have enjoyed his work.

Here is a news story about the charming mashup.

(Not familiar with Miyazaki? Here is his filmography.)

So here are two Friday treats for Miyazaki fans. The first is a trailer from The Simpson’s special episode. (The complete show is filled with movie references.)

And here, because I can, enjoy Catbus, a costume that combines a beloved Miyazaki character and adds, um, a cat.

Why, yes, that is a Catbus. (Thank you, Mr. Miyazaki!)

Why, yes, that is a Catbus. (Thank you, Mr. Miyazaki!)

Have a wonderful and spirited weekend.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the annual Arizona Attorney Creative Arts Competition. Each of them is featured in our May issue, which will be available in late April.

Because of obvious restrictions, our music winner’s work cannot be published in the magazine. But it is available, here, for you to hear and enjoy. Well done, Doug Passon.

I previously wrote about a film of Doug’s here. Read more about it below.

Here is Doug’s background and bio:

DOUG PASSON has been playing guitar and writing songs since the age of 14. He has been practicing criminal defense in the Valley for almost 17 years. His other creative passion is film. He is President & Creative Director of D Major Films (dmajorfilms.com), which produces commercial and narrative documentaries on topics and for organizations focused on fostering social change. He also teaches and consults with legal professionals nationwide on how to use moving pictures as a tool of persuasion in their court cases.

“No Tomorrow” is a meditation on the joy and pain of living, and a call to live more deeply by embracing the uncertainty of the future.

A compelling and charming film comes to Scottsdale on Sunday, Feb. 23.

As Doug says, he wrote the words, melody and music. “The song is performed by Dan Nichols, a singer/songwriter based out of Raleigh, N.C., and a dear friend of mine. Dan is the subject of a documentary film I recently directed called ‘Road to Eden’ (www.roadtoedenfilm.com). The song is a reminder that life is fragile and temporary and if we are to live fully, we must live fully in the moment. This was inspired, in part, by the life and death of an incredible lawyer, mentor and friend, Darrow Soll.”

Here is Doug’s winning song, “No Tomorrow.”

And here are a few photos of Doug at the magazine photo shoot.

Doug Passon being photographed by Karen Shell, foreground, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Doug Passon being photographed by Karen Shell, foreground, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Doug Passon passes the time between shoots, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Doug Passon passes the time between shots, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

prison_green haven NYYou may not have known that a Prison Awareness Club was a thing. But in a nation apparently committed to that growth industry, it only makes good sense that college students might engage on the topic of corrections.

This Friday, March 28, the third annual Prison Education Conference will be staged at ASU.

The all-day event is sponsored by the Department of English, the School of Social Transformation, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The free event (open to the public) will include speakers, discussion panels and the screening of what looks to be a compelling film.

Writer Sought

I may be able to attend, but I currently have a conflict. If you are a law student, student of the law (most generally defined), or a lawyer—and you are NOT one of the event organizers—I invite you to contact me to discuss a guest blog post. It might cover the entire event, or perhaps be just a review of the film Zero Percent. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Keynote Speaker

The conference includes a keynote by author Marshall Frank. As a news story describes his work:

“This year’s conference features keynote speaker Marshall Frank, a retired police captain from Miami, Fla., who led more than a thousand homicide investigations during his career and has since written hundreds of op-eds and articles about the state of America’s justice system.”

“In his most recent book ‘Criminal InJustice in America,’ Frank explores inequities of the prison system, “a multi-billion-dollar industry, which would collapse if there was a sudden downturn in inmate residency.” Perhaps that’s why the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, but a staggering 25 percent of its prisoners. Critics have hailed ‘Criminal InJustice’ as ‘challenging,’ ‘thought-provoking’ and “daring.’”

Read the complete ASU News story here.

Panels Cover Prison Education

The complete agenda is here.

Among the speakers will be a representative from the Arizona Department of Corrections, and his compatriot from the New Mexico prison system. The organizers also feature the insights of educators from three Arizona prison complexes.

A second keynote will be Sean Pica, head of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison. And it is the Hudson connection that may yield one of the day’s most enlightening aspects—a film.

Zero Percent Film To Screen

The film trailer for Zero Percent explains—a little—about the challenges faced by incarcerated individuals. Watch the trailer here.

More information about Hudson Link is here. And you can follow their posts on Facebook too.

The event location is the University Club on the ASU campus. A scalable map is here.

RSVP: peac.org@asu.edu

flier Prison Education Conference 2014_opt

A compelling and charming film comes to Scottsdale on Sunday, Feb. 23.

A compelling and charming film comes to Scottsdale on Sunday, Feb. 23.

This Sunday in Scottsdale, the film Road to Eden will be shown at the Harkins Camelview. If your Sunday afternoon is still free, I urge you to see it. If it’s not, then break your other appointments and go.

When I sat down to write about it, I was just going to view the eight-minute preview available on the film’s website. But I was so taken by that clip, I decided to stay up way too late last night to view the entire film (which writer/director Doug Passon had provided to me in advance).

So I may be sleepy this morning, but that is entirely overborne by the pleasure and excitement I took away from the film.

Not knowing what to expect in a film made by someone whose day job is attorney (Doug works in the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Phoenix), I was surprised but intrigued to see the movie is an exploration of the Jewish holiday called Sukkot. Here is part of the film’s description:

“Road to Eden is a feature-length documentary film that captures the essence of Judaism’s most profound teachings about our connection to the earth, the fragility of existence, and our dream of a world perfected.”
“The spine of the film is the inspirational journey of Dan Nichols, a tour de force of modern Jewish music, who took his show on the road for the Jewish festival of Sukkot in October 2011. Dan and his incredible band Eighteen loaded into an RV and wandered through the Deep South. Each day of Sukkot brought a new town, a unique celebration, and uplifting, sometimes heartbreaking Sukkot stories.”

Before you make assumptions, this is not a movie made just for a Jewish audience. The messages it explores—about community, and ardor for a life fully lived, and about ever becoming a fuller self—are compelling ones for any viewer.

In addition, Doug told me, “Although the movie is rooted in Jewish thought, the themes of the film are universal and particularly relevant to the legal community, with a heavy emphasis on immigrant rights and social justice.”

"Road to eden" includes beautiful visual markers throughout that should be printed, framed and displayed.

“Road to Eden” includes beautiful visual markers throughout that should be printed, framed and displayed. (Here’s just one.)

Those last two elements come through strongly, especially as Dan Nichols and his bandmates travel through Alabama, which at the time had just enacted a harsh anti-immigration law (“the Arizona law on steroids,” as a Diane Sawyer describes it in a news clip). And the journey about Sukkot is masterfully capped by an extended discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr. As we hear from a fellow civil rights advocate, Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who stood next to King as he was shot in Memphis, viewers may be moved to explore their own choices and the public policies that guide us all. It is a deeply moving interview.

If you only view the movie to learn more about Sukkot, a below-the-radar holiday, it would be worth it. (The holiday requires construction of a temporary structure, largely open to the elements, recalling those who had been freed from slavery in Egypt but who had to wander before ever finding a permanent home.) Seeing the variety of creative ways people celebrate is marvelous. But it wasn’t until about 40 minutes in that I could see that all of us humans may be encapsulated in Sukkot—at least, all of us humans who are still questing and aiming to improve.

Here is Dan Nichols praising the Jewish kids camps that dot the country and that mean so much to those who attend:

“Who’s there? These living, breathing Sukkot, these children, who are in transition, who are not strong structures yet. They are still trying to figure out who they’re gonna be, what’s important to them, what they stand for.”

Open-eyed viewers may see a little of themselves in those summer camps.

The generational imperative is strong in the film, and it is emphasized finally in the civil rights advocate interview. Dan asks Reverend Kyles how he continues on, even in the face of heartbreak like the assassination of Dr. King. The answer: We still have a long way to go. But “these young people will find ways that we cannot imagine.”

Before I sign off, I must point out two additional strong elements of the film: The music (yes, it’s a band-on-the-road film) is fantastic, heartfelt, beautifully composed and sung. And the interstitial illustrations that pepper the film are remarkable, wisely chosen and perfectly evoke the path on a road to a better world. Animation was done by ZAZ Animation Studio, Israel.

The film is playing one time, as part of the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival. Tickets are available for purchase on the Festival website, or you can buy tickets at the theatre right before the screening. Students are 1/2 price.

The film screens Sunday, Feb. 23, at 3:00 pm, at Harkins Camelview Theatre, 7001 E. Highland Ave., Scottsdale 85251. I hope to see you there.

More about the film is here.