2016 law day by State Bar of Arizona

Today, an update about a great Law Day event by my colleague Alberto Rodriguez: (What he does not mention in his recap is the huge amount of important and complicated work he himself put in to have the multi-site event come off flawlessly. Thank you and congratulations, Alberto!)

On Saturday, April 30, the State Bar of Arizona held the 2016 Law Day Legal Aid Clinics where 24 of its members offered free one-on-one legal consultations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at two Valley locations.

The clinics offered free legal consultations by members who practice Family Law, Bankruptcy/Foreclosure, Probate/Trust Law, and Immigration Law at State Bar of Arizona offices in central Phoenix, and Glendale Community College in the west valley. Once again, the Bar partnered with ABC15 and Univision Arizona to promote the day-long clinics, which were overwhelmingly successful.

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorVolunteer attorneys provided 325 consultations during law clinic to the 306 consumers who were seen—a dramatic increase from last year’s 216 consultations. Several attorneys offered free follow-up services after the clinic to consumers who needed additional help.

The State Bar of Arizona expresses its sincerest appreciation to its attorney and logistics volunteers, along with its media and community partners. Thank you!

A complete list of volunteers, along with photos and media coverage, can be viewed here.

A bestriped Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

A bestriped Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Dispensing justice is no easy matter. That is clear when you look at all the elements courts must worry about as they go about their daily duties.

Social media and juror misconduct are two of the more common areas courts must concern themselves with these days. But what about … judicial robes?

Apparently, some colorful judges in Florida have strayed too far into the hues. So much so that the state supreme court has issued an order requiring judges to stick to basic black—no adornments, please.

No surprise that the ABA Journal’s story lede mentions former Chief Justice Rehnquist’s penchant for a little pizzazz, manifested in the stripes (sorry, chevrons) he had added to his Chief’s robes—a la Gilbert and Sullivan.

I was surprised in the story that in the comment period one judge mentioned she would be disappointed in the “adornments” rule, as she likes to add a simple lace collar “to add a touch of femininity to the dignity of the robe. It is equally important for the Florida Supreme Court to acknowledge that we now have a diverse bench.”

Making justice pop: Chief Justice Rehnquist and his preferred chevrons.

Making justice pop: Chief Justice Rehnquist and his preferred chevrons.

I hadn’t thought about the diversity angle, but apparently the supreme court was unswayed by that argument.

Did you think Chief Justice Rehnquist’s taste was a tad florid? Well, don’t tell that to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Here’s a picture of those colorful fellows, and remember—they add wigs to those outfits too.

The Supreme Court of the U.K.: They could stop injustice—and traffic—in those robes.

The Supreme Court of the U.K.: They could stop injustice—and traffic—in those robes.

Meantime, I recalled my one opportunity to be more formal a few years ago, when I moderated a Law Day panel at a downtown Phoenix venue. On that day, the Maricopa County Supervisors chambers were filled with lawyers, judges and members of the public. When better, I thought, to channel my inner Abraham Lincoln.

Evidence that wisdom does not flow from the beard: I moderated a Law Day event while channeling president and lawyer Abe Lincoln.

Evidence that wisdom does not flow from the beard: I moderated a Law Day event while channeling president and lawyer Abe Lincoln.

Our Arizona Supreme Court reserved comment.

Law Day photo recap by Alberto Rodriguez

Law Day photo recap by Alberto Rodriguez

On Saturday, April 25, the State Bar of Arizona once again held its annual Law Day legal-aid clinics. There, more than 20 attorneys volunteered ther time and expertise to assist more than 200 consumers.

The following update comes from my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

“On Saturday, April 25 the State Bar of Arizona held the 2015 Law Day Legal Aid Clinics where 21 of its members offered free one-on-one legal consultations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at two locations in Phoenix.”

“The clinics offered free legal consultations by members who practice Family Law, Bankruptcy/Foreclosure, Probate/Trust Law, and Immigration Law at State Bar of Arizona headquarters and St. Matthew Parish in central Phoenix. This year, the Bar partnered with ABC15 and Univision Arizona to promote the day-long clinics, which proved to be overwhelmingly successful.”

“Volunteer attorneys provided 216 consultations during law clinic for the 208 consumers who were seen. In addition, many attorneys offered pro-bono legal services after the clinic to consumers who needed additional help.”

To read more about the Law Day clinics—including links to media coverage and the names of all the volunteers—click here.

access to justice lady justice scales

An Arizona Access to Justice Statewide Forum was held in Phoenix, May 1, 2014.

Law Day may be celebrated numerous ways. Legal advice may be offered; educational seminars may be staged. Or the yawning gap between aspiration and reality may be highlighted.

The third approach was selected on Thursday, May 1, at a statewide forum hosted by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education and the Arizona Supreme Court. For a variety of reasons, it was an inspired choice. And given the realistic topic of discussion, it also turned out to be a surprisingly inspiring morning.

To begin at the end: Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales announced the formation of a new Access to Justice Commission, which will be headed by Court of appeals Judge Larry Winthrop.

Justice Bales said that there have been significant successes in Arizona’s goal of increased access. But this new commission will recognize current challenges, and “It will help to focus and achieve tailored plans for success.” As an example of a possible success, he pointed to a renewed focus on a tax credit to assist the working poor.

“If just half of all Arizona’s attorneys contributed to it,” Justice Bales said, “that would amount to $2 million.”

Arizona Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales, May 1, 2014.

Arizona Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales, May 1, 2014.

He said that the Arizona Supreme Court is renewing its commitment to access issues, and its soon-to-be-released strategic plan will move that goal to be the Court’s primary strategic aim.

He recalled the way students begin their day, and reminded a packed room at the Court, “It’s not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance that defines us as Americans; it’s the progress we’ve made to achieve its ideals.”

Those ideals can be difficult to reach, Chief Justice Rebecca Berch said.

Despite significant innovations in Arizona, “Access to justice is an area in which we are not living up to our potential. It is always painful to examine areas in which you’re not as good as you should be. But it’s helpful.”

The Chief Justice then described the substantial barriers to achieving fuller access to justice: poverty, limited-English proficiency, and huge numbers of self-represented litigants.

Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, May 1, 2014.

Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, May 1, 2014.

Statistics for all three challenges are sobering:

  • The child poverty rate in Arizona is 27 percent.
  • The senior poverty rate is 13 percent.
  • Despite Arizona lawyers giving hundreds of thousands of hours of pro bono legal help (ranked sixth in the nation), the unmet need is staggering.
  • The percentage of pro se litigants rose from 24 percent in 1980 to 88 percent in 1990. Justice Berch said the number could be in the 90 percent range now.

In response, Arizona has nurtured the growth of various solutions, including self-help centers, specialty courts, attorney volunteerism, and a transparent judicial merit-selection system.

The Law Day keynote was delivered by Karen Lash, Senior Counsel for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.

She reminded attendees that legal aid can be “critical and life-changing.”

Karen Lash, Senior Counsel for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Karen Lash, Senior Counsel for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Quoting Robert F. Kennedy, she said, “Unasserted, unknown and unavailable rights are no rights at all.” A crucial development in shifting access to those rights, she said, is the formation of access to justice commissions across the country—from zero in 1993 to 33 of them today, “five in the last year.”

Reflecting on Justice Berch’s remarks, Lash said, “Arizona is doing what many states only wish they could pull off.” She admired “a State Bar that embeds access to justice in its core mission,” as well as the Court’s “appetite for new collaborations and a righteous anger” about enduring poverty.

The forum also included a panel discussion about sustainable and repeatable best practices that make justice more available. Moderated by Kelly McCullough, the panel was comprised of Gregg Maxon (veterans courts), Anthony Young (volunteer lawyer partnerships), Barbara Howe (state libraries), and Carol Mitchell (video remote interpretation project).

We will continue to track the launch of the new commission. If you have particular questions or suggestions about best practices that should be covered, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Pima County Bar Association logo

Law Day events continue across Arizona and the nation. Today, I share news of what is happening this weekend in Tucson.

There, the Pima County Bar Association is offering free consultations with lawyers. Surely, you or someone you know could benefit from a conversation about legal issues.

The “Meet a Lawyer” legal clinic will be held on Saturday, May 3, at the Tucson Mall, from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm. There, you and others can have your legal questions answered for free.

As the PCBA says:

“Attorneys will be available to assist individuals one-on-one, for brief, 15-minute intervals. Legal help is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Attorneys will cover a variety of legal topics, yet we cannot guarantee that all legal areas or questions can be addressed throughout the event. Helpful legal resources & handouts will also be available.”

You can download a flier here.

And here is a snapshot of the legal areas and when they will be represented at the clinic:

Pima County Bar Association Law Day will provide free legal advice on many topics.

Pima County Bar Association Law Day will provide free legal advice on many topics.

More information is available at the PCBA website or by calling 520-623-8258.

And be sure to tweet something about #LawDay – let’s get the term trending on Twitter, at least in Arizona!

indigent defense need-blind justice by Yarek Waszul

Illustration by Yarek Waszul

AZ Supreme Court logo

This Thursday morning, a thoughtful and experienced panel will discuss how legal services are dispensed in Arizona. Here is part of the Law Day event announcement from the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education:

“At the Forum, Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch will discuss access to justice in Arizona; Karen Lash, Senior Counsel of Access to Justice for the U.S. Department of Justice, will offer a national perspective; Hon. Lawrence Winthrop will recap the results of input from regional forums; a panel of experts will share some best practices from around the state; and Vice-Chief Justice Scott Bales will wrap up with the closing remarks.”

I will attend and report to you what was said. I am curious if any new initiatives are part of the conversation (such as an Indigent Defense Commission, which I discussed previously). And it would be helpful to hear about some successful best practices from elsewhere in the country.

pro bono gavelFans of lawyers and the service they provide (count me in) always look forward to Law Day. Traditionally close to early May, Law Day helps cement the important connection between members of the public, attorneys, judges and the rule of law.

Searching for “law day” in my blog leads to a surprising number of hits over the years. Clearly, I am taken by the pro bono value attorneys provide (here is last year’s post). And this year is no exception.

Like last year, the State Bar of Arizona’s approach will be to offer free legal advice clinics, in the Valley and in Tucson. The clinics will cover a wide variety of legal topics, including landlord and tenant; bankruptcy and foreclosure; immigration; and divorce, child support and paternity.

Volunteer lawyers will conduct the 90-minute “information sessions.”

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_Color“Guests can participate in one or more sessions at one of the five partner locations.”

The events will be held on Saturday, April 26. Please spread the word and share this post with anyone you think might benefit from some free legal advice.

All the detail, including times and specific locations, can be found here.

Later this week I will share another Law Day event, hosted by an independent legal organization. The more the merrier.