I recently described a national award that the Florence Project won. The legal services organization was recognized for its commitment to justice and its creation of valuable pro se materials.

The award, along with a $50,000 check, was given by the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Lindsay Marshall, Florence Project Executive Director, receives the award check from Thomas H. Tongue, President of the American College of Trial Lawyers, August 14, 2012.

On Tuesday, I took a drive down to Florence to attend the award event. It reminded me once again how fortunate Arizona is to have such dedicated individuals who daily commit to justice.

(Because the law world is so fascinating, I can’t help but share one oddity in the proceedings. A distinguished Fellow of the ACTL was speaking at the event, and he was emphasizing to the audience how impressive the achievement of the Florence Project staff and board was. He pointed out that it would be formally announced at the annual meeting of the ACTL. There, in a huge Manhattan banquet room, the Project would be described to hundreds of “trial lawyers and their wives.” Their wives? Did he just say “their wives,” as if women are not trial lawyers? Indeed, he did. But his genuine affinity for the Project and its mission—as well as the check he bore—guaranteed that bygones would be bygones.)

In an upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, I’ll tell a little more about the day’s events (you can go directly to that page by clicking here). But in the meantime, you can see one photo above. More are available here on the Arizona Attorney Facebook page.

Last Wednesday, the Learned Hand Awards continued its run as one of the most impressive legal events of the year. If it were a franchise, its success would be comparable to McDonalds.

Or maybe Katz’s Delicatessen, given that the event sponsor is the American Jewish Committee, Arizona chapter.

In fact, any misconceptions about the host were eliminated in the luncheon’s opening introductory video, which set the stage for the day’s festivities. As hundreds of people tucked into their salads at a legal event, they heard a voiceover warn that America had a dire need for “energy independence.” Curiosity piqued, diners listened to an impassioned lecture about Iran, a “longtime opponent of the Jewish State.”

By the time we started our salmon, the event had segued from the heavy-handed to the elegant, as Rabbi John Linder offered his well-wrought invocation. He invited listeners to consider what kind of world they wanted to live in. Answering for the room, he said it is one in which we hold dignity and respect for all. One in which we recognize that a threat to one is a threat to all.

“May we leave today with our sleeves rolled up, ready to perspire and work for justice.”

Perspiration was the perfect lead-in to the accomplishments of the three honorees: Lindsay Marshall of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, and Perkins Coie partner Howard Cabot.

As I’ve said before, the Learned Hand awards are remarkable for many reasons. One of the most intriguing is the high caliber of the three introductory speeches honoring the three awardees. This year, they were delivered, respectively, by Milagros Cisneros, Illinois Judge Kevin Lyon and Paul Eckstein. Each did a terrific job at encapsulating a life and a career.

Events like this remind us that a legal community is comprised of more than a geographic region. Arizona is no more likely to be a cohesive and collaborative place than, say, a bus station or a supermarket if we lack leaders and a vision of excellence. That is what lawyers like Marshall, LaWall and Cabot provide a fortunate bar.

Ariz. Vice Chief Justice Hurwitz, Mar. 14, 2012

That good fortune was poignantly brought home early in the lunch when Vice Chief Justice Hurwitz delivered a moving introduction. The jurist who will soon be headed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reminded attendees that on the same day we sat in a Hyatt ballroom, Justice Michael Ryan’s interment was occurring in Arlington National Cemetery.

Justice Hurwitz’s request for a moment of silence was kind, but unnecessary. For at the utterance of Justice Ryan’s name, the cavernous room had grown silent and pensive as a community recalled another who had given time, talent and much perspiration to the cause of justice.

Here are more photos from the event.

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This Wednesday, one of the most significant legal events of the year occurs in Phoenix; have you bought your ticket?

The Judge Learned Hand Awards luncheon is an annual event that honors a select few lawyers. And one of the lunch’s most endearing features is the fact that each honoree is introduced by a friend or colleague—each of whom crafts an introductory speech that is amazing in its own right (no pressure!).

For more information or to purchase tickets to this great event, contact Karolyn Kiburz at (480) 990-1887 or karolyn@mcsource.net.

And here is how the sponsor, the Arizona chapter of the American Jewish Committee, describes the honorees and the event:

The Arizona Region of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) will pay tribute to three outstanding legal professionals at its annual Judge Learned Hand Awards luncheon, on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix.

Howard R. Cabot, a partner with Perkins Coie, Barbara LaWall, the Pima County Attorney, and Lindsay N. Marshall, the Executive Director of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, will be honored for their exceptional professional achievements and profound dedication to civic and philanthropic causes and organizations.

Commenting on this year’s honorees, Timothy J. Eckstein, chair of AJC’s Judge Learned Hand Awards luncheon, commented: “Howard, Barbara, and Lindsay embody the very best in our legal community. Their professional contributions help advance a more just society and their philanthropic efforts help shape a world in which human rights and human dignity are protected for all peoples.”

Over the course of its 107-year history, AJC has worked to safeguard minorities; fight terrorism, anti-Semitism, hatred and bigotry; pursue social justice; advance human dignity; support Israel’s right to exist in peace and security; defend religious freedom; and provide humanitarian relief to those in need. Through innovative programs, education, research, media outreach, and extensive diplomatic advocacy, AJC works to advance freedom, liberty, tolerance and mutual respect.