Legal deposition regrets? I've got a few. rotating chicken

Legal deposition regrets? I’ve got a few.

You know what’s funny? Civil litigation.

Of course, litigation is rarely a barrel of monkeys. But on this Change of Venue Friday, take a moment to marvel at the wonders of a deposition. Part of the “Verbatim” series that I’ve mentioned before, the video is a production of the New York Times. Yes, it casts actors, and yes, it’s a movie set. But the script? Taken verbatim from depositions in civil litigation.

In a New York Times video drawn from a real deposition transcript, a poultry farmer gets his beak out of joint.

In a New York Times video drawn from a real deposition transcript, a poultry farmer gets his beak out of joint.

As the editors describe the project:

“The series, presented by Op-Docs, transforms verbatim (word for word) legal transcripts into dramatic, and often comedic, performances. Here you will find re-creations of actual events from the halls of law and government. You, our readers, can help us find material for future episodes. Have you come across court trials, depositions or government hearings that you think are surprising, bizarre or baffling—and lend themselves to performance? We especially seek original, publicly available transcripts, along with details about the source. Email us at opinion.video@nytimes.com and include “Verbatim” in the subject line.”

The video I share today depicts a 2001 case that sounds in trespass and tort. There, a Mississippi man sued a lumber company for damaging his chicken pasture. He sought $300,000.

Sounds normal enough? It kind of goes south at 01:23, when he asserts that he knows where Osama bin Laden was in the world. And it gets worse.

Let’s just say the deponent went a little free-range himself. Enjoy the video.

Have a wonderful—and poultry-free—weekend.

Faced with a bird-crazed deponent, the attorney rethinks his life choices. (Been there?)

Faced with a bird-crazed deponent, the attorney rethinks his life choices. (Been there?)

law school

Is there any better morning than Monday’s to start an argument?

That’s why I wonder if you read an op-ed piece in last week’s New York Times. There, in “Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs,” attorney Steven J. Harper assesses what he sees as the continued sorry state of the economics underlying legal education.

NYT Harper essay on law schools illustration by Kevin Lucbert 08-25-15

Illustration by Kevin Lucbert in New York Times

Where do you stand on legal education? Is it still on a troubling path? Or has it located useful solutions? (If you don’t think there was a problem in the first place, well, I don’t know what to say to you.)

He opens with predictably dire statistics regarding the employment picture of law grads. Given all that, and a national wellspring of hand-wringing, the profession must have developed strategies to right the ship. Right?

Not quite, says Harper. Quite the opposite, in fact:

“Amazingly (and perversely), law schools have been able to continue to raise tuition while producing nearly twice as many graduates as the job market has been able to absorb. How is this possible? Why hasn’t the market corrected itself? The answer is that, for a given school, the availability of federal loans for law students has no connection to their poor post-graduation employment outcomes.”

He goes on to spread his critiques liberally. He has little good to say about an ABA task force charged with examining the pr­­oblem. At the end of the day, he says, the task force “dodged the issues that should have been the focus of its work.” And he draws a line between the task force’s mild-mannered assessment of the industry and the man who headed the committee: former ABA President Dennis Archer, “the former mayor of Detroit, who is also head of the national policy board of Infilaw, a private equity-owned consortium of three for-profit law schools—Arizona Summit, Charlotte and Florida Coastal. These schools are examples of the larger problem.”

OK, he’s called out one of the three Arizona law schools, so I imagine I’ll hear some grumbling now.

Before writing me in anger or joy, read Harper’s complete piece here. And tell me what you think.

Tom Brady courtroom artist, panned online, apologizes

A Tom Brady courtroom artist was panned online and has apologized. Because priorities.

It takes a lot to get large media outfits interested on a deep level with the justice system. Despite how central our courts and laws are to every area of life, it usually takes a special element—like a notorious murderess or, say, a football player—to garner serious coverage.

Well, if you combine a famous baller with what’s widely perceived to be a visual fail, you’ve got a story the press wants to cover.

That’s what happened as New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady sat in a courtroom. And the story that emerged was about the lack of artistic justice he received from a New York Times sketch artist.

You can see the artwork above. While the Patriots fans among my readers cry deep and abiding Tom Brady tears, I’ll simply say, first … I have always been a big fan of the courtroom sketch artist, and I’ve covered their exploits before. Whether you’re drawing John Gotti, Tom Brady, or some other dissembler (sorry to bring on more tears, Pats fans), the job of the courtroom artist is a tough one.

Obergefell v. Hodges sketch by Arthur Lien.

Obergefell v. Hodges sketch by Arthur Lien.

So evocative can a courtroom sketch be that we’ll be running one (by Arthur Lien) in the next Arizona Attorney Magazine. It depicts the Supreme Court as the ruling in the same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges was announced. (And yes, we paid Art for his work!)

That’s why the NYT story irked as much as it informed. Brady was in federal court appealing his four-game suspension (The injustice! The horror!), and artist Jane Rosenberg did her best to quickly capture the essence of the sullied QB.

And, O the anger her work wrought, as people emerged to impugn her skill and wax poetic about Brady’s baby-faced visage.

Ultimately, the twittersphere would have its justice, as Rosenberg offered an apology of sorts:

“I’m getting bad criticism that I made him look like Lurch,” she said, referring to the Addams Family character. “And obviously I apologize to Tom Brady for not making him as good-looking as he is.”

Hey, Ms. Rosenberg, I’ve got a suggestion: Apologize for nothing. NOTHING.

After all, we have to be open to a deeper possibility. As an artist, Rosenberg was tapping a deep well of resonance. Maybe she drew not what was precisely before her, but what lay beneath.

Oliver Wilde offers an analogue in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Who’s to say what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Oliver Wilde's Dorian Gray is a pretty-boy, but the painting reveals a deeper story.

Oliver Wilde’s Dorian Gray is a pretty-boy, but the painting reveals a deeper story.

And I reached deep within and tried my own hand at drawing a likeness of Tom Brady, but this is the best I could do.

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Cue the ire of the Patriots’ fans and Brady defenders (some of whom—men and women both—have told me, “He’s too cute to be guilty,” reminding me the jury system—and the human race—is a crap shoot).

I offer a hat-tip to Tim Chester of Mashable for the story link.

Here’s wishing you a great—and fully inflated—weekend.

je_suis_charlie The terror attack and murders of Charlie Hebdo staffers galvanized people around the globe.

Here it is Change of Venue Friday already. In its honor, and with a long weekend ending with the MLK Holiday, I urge you take a few minutes with a moving video.

Part of a New York Times series, it lets us into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the magazine that was the target of a deadly terror attack this past month.

As you can see in the video, the dangers that accrued to exercising free speech were very much on the staffers’ minds. But they were resolute—to the end, for many of them.

It is haunting to see the words on the screen indicating birth and death dates of the speakers. Here is the video:

And here is a terrific cartoon by Tom Toles of the Washington Post that asserts an essential truth about terror and the power of the pen.

Washington Post Tom Toles on Charlie Hebdo murders

Have a great weekend. And if you get the chance, honor those First Amendment rights not just by standing with Charlie, but by seeing Selma, a film that explores the strategies and sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Jr., and many of his fellow civil rights compatriots.

The Academy may have largely (and distressingly) overlooked the film; that doesn’t mean you have to.

Should the owner of this shower pay more for water? An efficient market might say yes.

Should the owner of this shower pay more for water? An efficient market might say yes.

If there is a crisis in water supply in the West, perhaps a solution lies in the market.

Or, as Robert Glennon says, “Quite simply, we need to price water appropriately: people who use more should pay more.”

That is the matter-of-fact position of the University of Arizona Professor. And on its face, the statement could not appear less controversial. After all, that’s how we Americans treat most every other commodity.

UA Law Professor Robert Glennon

UA Professor Robert Glennon

But there is something funny about people’s perceptions of water and water use, Glennon points out. For example, I was surprised to read in his recent New York Times op-ed about the numerous American cities that do not even meter water—the notion being, I guess, that metering is the first step toward taking away people’s water. But when meters are installed, water use and abuse declines.

Read Glennon’s entire piece here. (It is part of a NYT series on “The Water Crisis in the West.”)

We all know photocopiers, right? Not according to a deposition transcript.

We all know photocopiers, right? Not according to a deposition transcript.

How many of us have conducted depositions, or at least sat in them? Has it ever occurred to you that the result could be a compelling piece of … art?

Me neither. And that’s why I am so taken with a New York Times project that brings cold depo transcripts to life. And you can play a role too!

The verbatim project is described by NYT staffer Jason Spingarn-Koff:

“This marks the debut of a new series, presented by Op-Docs, that transforms verbatim (word for word) legal transcripts into dramatic, and often comedic, performances. Here you will find re-creations of actual events from the halls of law and government. You, our readers, can help us find material for future episodes. Have you come across court trials, depositions or government hearings that you think are surprising, bizarre or baffling—and lend themselves to performance? We especially seek original, publicly available transcripts, along with details about the source. Email us at opinion.video@nytimes.com and include ‘Verbatim’ in the subject line.”

So your own transcripts might become fodder for a compelling video performed by professional actors. (Your ethics-rules violations may vary.)

Read more about the project and the inaugural video here.

A hat-tip to Rick DeBruhl for pointing me toward the ABA Journal’s mention of this NYT project.

And now because it’s Friday and we need a chuckle, I offer you the video itself, in which lawyers and a deponent argue over “what is a photocopier?”

Have a wonderful—and dramatic—weekend.

The photocopier struggle is real.

The photocopier struggle is real.

indigent defense need-blind justice by Yarek Waszul

Illustration by Yarek Waszul

Last month, I reported that attorney Larry Hammond and others are seeking to establish an Arizona indigent defense commission. The unfilled need is dire, he said, and growing worse. He asked the State Bar to step up and create a body that will study and propose alternatives. (The Bar is considering it.)

So timely, a New York Times article this Sunday explored two states’ responses to the crushing problem. Here is how Adam Liptak opens his piece on Need-Blind Justice:

“Fifty years ago, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court ruled that poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to lawyers paid for by the government. But the court did not say how the lawyers should be chosen, how much they should be paid or how to make sure they defended their clients with vigor and care.”

“This created a simple problem and a complicated one. The simple one is that many appointed lawyers are not paid enough to allow them to do their jobs. The solution to that problem is money.”

“The complicated problem is that the Gideon decision created attorney–client relationships barely worthy of the name, between lawyers with conflicting incentives and clients without choices. Now a judge in Washington State and a county in Texas are trying to address that deeper problem in ways that have never been tried in the United States.”

“Their proposed solutions reflect competing schools of legal thought. The approach in Washington State is a top-down exercise of federal power, pushing lawyers to make sure they meet with their clients, tell them their rights, investigate their cases and represent them zealously in plea negotiations and at trial.”

“The one in Comal County, Tex., is a bottom-up appeal to the marketplace. Defendants there will soon be able to use government money to choose their lawyers in much the same way that parents in some parts of the country use government vouchers to pay for grade school.”

“The county calls it ‘client choice.’ Another name: Gideon vouchers.”

Read Liptak’s whole story here.

It was Justice Louis Brandeis who mused that states could serve as laboratories for democracy, where they might try “novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” It seems that Washington and Texas are doing just that, all in service to a problem affecting countless residents.

Two questions arise:

  1. Which approach, if either, offers the greatest likelihood of success?
  2. Where is Arizona’s approach? Will it be one of those two, or an entirely different strategy that a new commission may devise?

In Arizona Attorney Magazine, we’d like to cover the developing conversation. So what do you think?

Workers prepared to install a limestone slab that is part of a monument to the Bill of Rights at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. It will be dedicated Saturday. (Joshua Lott for The New York Times)

Workers prepared to install a limestone slab that is part of a monument to the Bill of Rights at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. It will be dedicated Saturday. (Joshua Lott for The New York Times)

Over the past year, I’ve spoken quite a bit with you about the Arizona Bill of Rights Monument (most recently here). But now the nation’s newspaper of record has even written about it. Time to pay attention.

I was pleased this past week to see the New York Times take note of the remarkable achievement of a man named Chris Bliss—and the fact that Arizona leads the nation on this. Amazing.

Arizona Bill of Rights posterHere is how NYT reporter and Phoenix Bureau Chief Fernanda Santos opens her article about MyBillofRights.org Executive Director Chris Bliss:

“It started as a joke about 10 years ago. Chris Bliss, a juggler and stand-up comedian of Internet fame, had been scanning the headlines for inspiration and discovered the controversy over a granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of Alabama’s state judicial building.”

“‘Instead of arguing over whether to leave up or take down these displays of the Ten Commandments,’ he said in a comedy routine, ‘my suggestion is to put up displays of the Bill of Rights next to them and let people comparison shop.’”

(Want to see what she’s referring to when she mentions juggling? Go here.)

Tomorrow morning, December 15, is the dedication of the first capital-city monument to the Bill of Rights. I’m hoping a good-sized crowd comes out to see something that will be there for generations (the limestone, that is; we’re hoping the same for the rights themselves).

To get ready for the day, enjoy this article by the First Amendment Center.

And on Change of Venue Friday, enjoy a time-lapse video of the monument’s installation, followed by detail on tomorrow’s dedication.

Bill of Rights Monument dedication invite p1

Bill of Rights Monument dedication invite p2

Jill Abramson

It took 160 years, but if finally happened. A woman—a talented and experienced journalist—took over the executive editor position at The New York Times. Appropriate, I suppose, for a newspaper dubbed The Gray Lady.

On this Change of Venue Friday, I point you toward a news story that signals a real change. I decided to read the coverage of the appointment of Jill Abramson as written in the Washington Postread the whole story here.

(You can read The New York Times story here.)

The Post reporters offered up an analysis of the paper’s move that pointed to dark economic storm clouds:

“Abramson’s appointment was part of a sweeping and symbolic series of changes at the newspaper, which is both a journalistic leader and one that reflects its industry’s deepening financial crisis.”

“She takes over a newspaper that has doubled down on its journalism in tough economic times, resisting the cuts to staff and budgets that other papers have chosen as advertisers and readers migrate to other, mostly digital sources of news.”

This is a great step, and the Times should be commended for making a terrific choice. But I can’t help thinking that when advancement for many groups that are historically unrepresented finally occurs, it almost always occurs at a certain time. That is, when times are bad.

I’m sure that Abramson will do a great job; she’s spent her entire career getting ready for this lofty position. But how much more could she have done if she had been offered the job in economic boom times. She takes the helm as staff is cut, investigative reporting is on the ropes, and story lengths are cut.

That cannot be the most fun time to be a newspaper editor.

Congratulations to her and the Times. And here’s hoping opportunities like this will come as readily even as the economy gets better.

Have a great weekend.

I almost began this post by saying that it’s “Immigration Monday.” But then I remembered that every day is Immigration Day in Arizona.

Thanks to a Legislature and a Governor who are either progressive or retrograde, depending on the crowd you run in, we here in the Copper State are the subject of a national examination.

Well, probe would be more like it. You can’t plunge into the radio, TV, web or newspaper without seeing yourself talked about.

And it isn’t just media channels that are engaging in a policy colonoscopy (and we all know how painful that can be). I’ve heard from friends and colleagues that they’ve been queried, praised and skewered by family and acquaintances across the country.

For instance, I was just in upstate New York on Friday and Saturday. My quick trip was to attend a celebration mass for my aunt, who has achieved her 60-year milestone as a Catholic sister (of Saint Joseph of Carondelet).

It was a great occasion. But here’s what struck me most. As I visited with Aunt Julie, at breakfast and lunch and everything in between, I was asked at least 20 times about “what’s going on in Arizona.”

Holy crap, I thought: The over-80 set in this decidedly non-wifi world is interrogating me on my state’s practices. Is there a safe corner to occupy that is not all-immigration-all-the-time?

Ross Douthat

Well, not for the near future.

In the meantime, you should read two sort-of-opposing viewpoints in the New York Times, which is trying its darnedest to cover a breaking story 3,000 miles in the past—I mean to the west.

Start with today’s column by Ross Douthat, titled “The Borders We Deserve.”

And then look at yesterday’s Frank Rich column, “If Only Arizona Were the Real Problem.”

Frank Rich

For those keeping score in an increasingly murky debate, the first column is red-statish, the second blue-statish. But I doubt either will make you feel better.

Come on, Arizona—Give me and the good sisters of Albany, NY, something else to talk about.