AZ Black Bar logoToday, I catch up with another Arizona legal event of note: the Arizona Black Bar’s Hayzel B. Daniels Scholarship Award Dinner.

Held on October 16, 2014, at the Phoenix Art Museum, the event carried through on its theme of “closing the opportunity gap and building coalitions.”

In the story of bridging the gap between communities, the keynote speaker was an inspired choice. Attorney Connie Rice is the co-founder of the Advancement Project, described by organizers as “an organization that was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.”

AZ Black Bar Connie-L-Rice

Connie L. Rice

Rice spent decades suing for justice in Los Angeles, but her work yielded not only positive outcomes for underserved communities; it also yielded respect and more from California centers of power. For as Judge Carol Berry introduced her, “Connie Rice would wake up every morning thinking of new ways to sue the Los Angeles Police Department. Today, they give her a parking space.”

Rice’s remarks were salted with numerous memories of toiling in the high-pressure L.A. legal community. “I learned from Johnnie Cochran,” she said of the storied trial lawyer. “I did whatever he did—but better.”

Her speech at the Phoenix Art Museum focused on the LAPD, which she claimed has come a long way.

Recalling her initial impressions, Rice said, “I had never been to a town where everyone hated the cops.”

Her answer to alleged dehumanizing practices was through the courts.

“Back then, I was totally fearless. We had seven major class actions; we won. But with every victory, what could I show the community?”

To Rice, the problems—and the solutions—lay deeper.

“Why do the police have to brutalize people?” she wondered. “Why do they make every African American get out of their car and lie on the ground?”

“Why do the police have to brutalize people?” Connie Rice wondered. (Photo: Phoenix Art Museum, Oct. 16, 2014.)

“Why do the police have to brutalize people?” Connie Rice wondered. (Photo: Phoenix Art Museum, Oct. 16, 2014.)

Part of the solution, she started to believe, came from new ways of seeing. For if an officer could look at a little Black boy and “see only an arrest statistic, and not feel love,” change would never occur.

The drug war and the prevalence of gangs was then making parts of Los Angeles a place of daily terror. And that spurred Rice to consider new approaches.

“I was winning my cases, but my clients were losing their lives. The first of the civil rights is the right to be safe. The first of all freedoms is the freedom from violence.”

She told the audience that her book Power Concedes Nothing is where she “documented my journey into copland and gangland, and then knit them together.”

Attorney Gerald P. Richard II, President, Arizona Black Bar

Attorney Gerald P. Richard II, President, Arizona Black Bar

The book explains how she was invited into the police department to help investigate police corruption and stayed to help rewrite the department’s anti-gang efforts.

Those efforts are credited by Rice with significant decreases in gang-related deaths. And it was “the most important thing I’ve done.”

Of her work with the police department, Rice says, “It’s all about cross-pollination, the opening of hearts and minds.”

Rice says the approaches are replicable across the country.

“If we can turn the LAPD into a bunch of heartfelt cops, anybody can do this. The lesson is, you can unlock everybody’s heart if you take the time to learn what’s in others’ hearts.”

To hear from Connie Rice herself, watch this video from a previous award.

Congratulations to the Black Bar and its leadership, including its President Gerald P. Richard II. Not only is he an esteemed attorney who serves as the Assistant to the Phoenix Police Chief, he also was an event honoree, receiving the Cecil B. Patterson Jr. Community Service Award.

Finally, if you’re curious what your correspondent writes on when he arrives at an event and realizes his pad is full and he needs more, click here.

If a license plate is named after one of the deadly sins, you might want to avoid it (unless you're Al Pacino).

If a license plate is named after one of the deadly sins, you might want to avoid it (unless you’re Al Pacino).

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be in Los Angeles—which I really like, before you start with the grimaces. But maybe my pleasure came partially from the fact that I was not driving. The few times I had to travel about the freeway system, battle-weary cabbies did it for me.

My passenger status allowed me the luxury of looking at my surroundings as they flew by in a blur. But L.A. traffic jams also allow a more relaxed view of Southern California, and that is when I got to see my share of vanity license plates.

A strange thing, the vanity plate. Many (to me) are merely inscrutable, making me wonder why someone would spend money on an inside joke. (Of course, I’m famously clueless about deciphering the words. Years ago, I gazed at a plate, muttering, “Flaming Oz?” over and over. Until my daughters realized I was being dense, not funny, and they kindly informed me the plate meant “flamingoes.” Which was still stupid, but whatever.)

I’ve remarked before on the presence of lawyer license plates, and Above the Law has had some fun at the drivers’ expense.

Well, this past weekend, I saw one of my favorite attorney plates ever. As we drove east on the 10 out of Santa Monica, traffic ground to a near-halt as we entered the lane to head south on the 405. And that’s when a gorgeous black Porsche 911 Carrera slipped in ahead of us. It took me a moment to stop savoring the vehicle itself and for me to glance down at the plate: “Mns Rea.”

lawyer license plate mens rea

Yes, counselor, we’re very impressed. (Click for larger version.)

Even in the required shortened form, I understood immediately we were behind Mens Rea. Can’t recall law school? Well, it’s that quotable bit of Latin that refers to criminal intent, a necessary element to establish guilt.

Why a lawyer would gleefully holler “malice” from his plate, I don’t know. But it seems to fall in nicely with the humblebrag, the sly sharing of mundane personal information that covertly tries to toot your own horn.

An Arizona license plate of a decidedly different variety. immigration Anti SB1070

An Arizona license plate of a decidedly different variety.

Not impressive enough that the driver’s in a Porsche? Well, he (or she, I couldn’t tell) is also happy to let you in on the secret that a successful lawyer career paid for that machinery from Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.

What do you think of vanity plates? If you catch a photo of one that makes you laugh—or seethe—send it to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

L.A.'s Been Dark Before ...

So here was the best-est news of the day: The Arizona Corporation Commission throwing down with the Los Angeles City Council.

This past month, the Council had voted to boycott Arizona due to its recently enacted immigration law (dubbed SB1070). That made Los Angeles the largest municipality to take that action (though by no means the only one).

That steamed Commissioner Gary Pierce, who sent a snarky and pointed letter to the City of Angels, reminding them that 25 percent of their power comes from Arizona sources. He kindly offered to flip the switch off to help them with their moral quandary.

I guess that would make it The City of No Lights.

Here’s a story (with video) on the fight over the Heart of Darkness.

And the Arizona blog KeytLaw covered the topic here.

And here’s the complete letter, including its voluminous distro list:

azcc-LA letter