"Jumpin' off the page," by Deborah Wolfe

“Jumpin’ off the page,” by Deborah Wolfe

Earlier this week, I encouraged attorneys to submit their art to our 2014 Creative Arts Competition. So this month I was doubly pleased to hear from a former winner, lawyer Deborah Wolfe.

Deborah is an Arizona and California lawyer, and her great paintings wowed the Editorial Board this past year. We published three related pieces of hers in our May 2013 issue, when she took first place in our painting category. Here is one of those works:

Equality + Liberty = Justice (3), by Deborah Wolfe.

Equality + Liberty = Justice (3), by Deborah Wolfe.

When she contacted me this month, she offered an update on her work (which I’m pleased that the magazine encouraged!). I am always happy to hear from our former winners, who often go on to do even more amazing things.

Before I get to Deborah’s own words, let me point you to some possible gift-giving for attorneys that involves lawyer art. Recently, a great website suggested some gifts, and in the options was art by Deborah Wolfe and Kirk Adams, another Arizona attorney whose artwork has been featured in Arizona Attorney.

Here’s how Attorney at Work opens its gift guide blog post:

“The lawyer in your life need not be an art collector to enjoy new art for the office. Artwork can brighten the office of any lawyer, and nothing is quite so unique as a work of art created by, well, another lawyer. Lawyer-turned-artist to be exact. Sometimes the artwork of a lawyer-artist reflects the law, such as the work of Deborah Wolfe, and sometimes it has nothing to do with the law, such as the paintings of Kirk Hayes.”

Lawyer-artist Deborah Wolfe

Lawyer-artist Deborah Wolfe

Read their whole post here.

And now, here’s Deborah. You can take her words as encouragement to send your own work to our annual competition:

“I am attaching one of my latest paintings that I call ‘Jumpin’ off the page.’ I have branched away from painting mostly legal themes to musical ones. In fact, I am doing an entire series on local musicians, painted on oxidized aluminum roofing tiles. Several of the musicians have said they want to use them for their next CD covers! Maybe I can even quit my day job someday…”

Of course, I quickly asked her, “Oxidized aluminum roofing tiles?” Here’s what she said:

“I guess you know that you are really an artist when looking at an oxidized roofing tile that you were using in your garden to keep the weeds down and the critters from burrowing, you decide that it is a good surface to paint on! I had thought about using the tiles as a painting surface when I first found them in my potting shed, where they’d been left by the previous owners. They were the right size, and were ‘free,’ but then I couldn’t figure out how paint would adhere to the slick surface. So I dismissed the idea and used them in the garden instead.”

“When the garden was finished for the season, and I removed and washed-off the tiles, I saw that they had a texture where the water residue/oxidation had taken place, and they were all unique. So I decided to experiment, and coated three tiles with red acrylic paint and three with royal blue. They looked like velvet when they dried. Then I used oil pastels to paint the musicians and background, and the texture had a ‘grainy’ effect that made the portraits unique—kind of ethereal, especially the lighted part of the background. I told the musicians that I was actually trying to capture their postures in holding their instruments, and the ‘feel’ of the music, rather than making the facial features too detailed.”

“I am very excited about them. The venue where I had taken the photos from which the paintings were derived now wants me to make more, representing all of the musicians who play there. The musicians want me to bring them to their next performance on December 7th, and to figure out a price so I can sell them.”

Lawyer-artist Kirk Adams

Lawyer-artist Kirk Adams

Here’s the last part, which Deborah did not have to add, but I am very appreciative that she did:

“It is all very exciting. And I have to thank you and the board, because by giving me the honor of first place in the arts competition this year, you gave me the confidence to have a show and to sell my work.”

Deborah tells me she has been showing her work at the former Naval Training Center in the Point Loma area of San Diego. Her first show was called “Layers,” where she exhibited 26 paintings.

Even better, she has been commissioned by two court reporting firms and a lawyer friend to do three more paintings. Here, she describes the court-reporting commission:

“It is starting with a collage of a made-up deposition page that is kind of an ad for their company, and I’m using those old-fashioned shorthand tapes from the steno machine (with the printed symbols on it) to form the basis of an over-painting of the building their office is in. The viewer will be able to see the tapes through the building’s windows.”

She adds, “The new Superior Court building in San Diego is breaking ground in December, and I’m hoping to get some of my art installed in it.”

As she adds happily, “I could actually turn this idea into a business!”

The newest image she sent me (Jumpin’ off the page) is at the top of this post. To see more of Deborah’s work, go here. Or, of course, head over to San Diego sometime!

Victor Riches, Arizona House Chief of Staff

Two stories percolating this week demonstrate solidarity in the face of adversity. Oddly enough, both come out of the Arizona Legislature.

I say “oddly” because recent actions from lawmakers demonstrate an almost unwavering support for a variety of themes: law and order, personal responsibility, a dislike for excuses. But those things fall away when it’s one of your own whose ox is being gored.

The first story is about the chief aide to the House Speaker. He was stopped for extreme DUI, and cocaine was even found in the car he was driving. But both Speaker Andy Tobin and former Speaker Kirk Adams stand by Victor Riches. They say they appreciate his “candor” about the 2010 incident.

Here is another story about the arrest. It quotes a criminal defense attorney who muses on the different type of treatment that differently situated defendants receive.

House Speaker Andy Tobin and former Speaker Kirk Adams

That follows on the heels of the Scott Bundgaard domestic-violence case. Laurie Roberts in the Republic writes about that again today.

As Roberts described it, the matter is “perhaps the longest misdemeanor investigation ever.” But how much more abbreviated it might have been if lawmakers decided not to throw their unwavering support behind the state senator.

Optimistic readers may hope this all signals a new openness among leaders to arguments that the facts underlying criminal charges are often complicated, and that no one should be demonized until they get their day in court.

A hopeful lot, they.

State Senator Scott Bundgaard

Arizona Senate President-Elect Russell Pearce

Controversy continued to build this morning over the proper role of various state players in the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Or should I say, the “Independent” Redistricting Commission. Whether quotation marks should be appended in future news stories remains to be seen.

The past week has seen the tension escalate, as state Republican leaders made known their distaste for the choices that would be forwarded their way. Publicly, they went after three nominees—two Republicans and one Independent. Read more about that here.

The public request to withdraw came from House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President-elect Russell Pearce. And the three who were “invited” to withdraw are Mark Schnepf and Steve Sossaman (Republicans) and Paul Bender (Independent).

Since that news story yesterday, we’ve learned even more.

Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams

This morning, the Arizona Supreme Court announced that two of those nominees—the Republicans—had tendered their withdrawal to the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Rebecca White Berch. Here is the letter from Mark Schnepf.

December 26, 2010

The Hon. Rebecca White Berch;

Members of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments

1501 W. Washington St. Suite 221

Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Chief Justice Berch and Members of the Commission:

This letter is in regards to my application to serve on the Independent Redistricting Commission.  I have received and reviewed email copies of the letters written by Speaker Adams, President-Elect Pearce and Paul Bender.

I disagree with the Speaker and the President-Elect regarding my qualifications to serve on the IRC.  As I understand the definition of “public office” as explained by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments I don’t believe that service on the New Magma Irrigation Board disqualifies me to serve on the IRC.

However, since the Speaker and President-Elect appoint the two Republican members and since I am one of the Republican nominees and they both oppose my application, it seems futile to remain a candidate.   I am respectfully withdrawing my application to serve on the IRC.

Thank you for the time and effort you are spending on this selection process.  Please accept my appreciation for your consideration and support of my application.   


Mark Schnepf

So Schnepf did not reassess the facts and the law and conclude that the Republican leadership was right. He looked at the political landscape, counted votes, and saw that the jig was up.

What part of “keeping politics out of the process” does this serve?

ASU Law Professor Paul Bender, Dec. 2, 2010, speaking at an event honoring the Arizona Constitution Centennial

The Arizona Republic ran an editorial this morning titled “Keep politics out as Arizona draws new voting lines.” It urged the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments (which drafts the list of nominees for the Independent Redistricting Commission) to maintain its independence:

“You have the deep responsibility to Arizonans to maintain your independence and objectivity. In appearance as well as action. Normally, your commission deals with judicial appointments, which are far less fraught.”

“Now, the political heat is intense. And you must assert your independence.”

The complete editorial is here. You know it’s an important issue when it gets its own editorial (and when the Republic is breathless enough to use a sentence fragment).

Some may believe that this is a controversy that only nerds and wonks could love. Others may roll their eyes and say that everything about redistricting is political, so what is everyone complaining about?

But redistricting—while not forever—is for a long time. And the legislators who have the power to “urge” withdrawals today may be unhappy in 10 years, or 20, when their political opponents wield the same persuasive big stick.

Of course, that would be taking the long view, an unlikely outcome in a short-sighted state.

The Commission meets tomorrow. Let’s hope we can keep the quotation  marks out of Independent.