Erwin Chemerinsky Supreme Court book coverBefore November runs its course, I wanted to point out one item in this month’s Arizona Attorney you may have missed—a book review.

My fondness for book reviews—when well done—is unabashed. And this month, attorney Roxie Bacon examines a new book by Erwin Chemerinsky that dissects the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chemerinsky is Dean of the UC-Irvine law school, as well as an accomplished scholar and SCOTUS litigant. And his assessment of the Court’s standing is damning. He argues that the Court has fallen down on the job in regard to its most important missions.

You can read Roxie’s excellent review here.

Meantime, for those who think Chemerinsky and Bacon are being too hard on the High Court, consider the current thinking of someone who knows that tribunal well. Linda Greenhouse covered the Supreme Court for years for the New York Times (and I spoke with her once myself, here). Now, she merely shakes her head in dismay at the tortuous legal paths the Court’s majority have taken in significant cases.

Linda Greenhouse

Linda Greenhouse

You should read Greenhouse’s op-ed, and feel free to let me know if the assembled thinkers have overstated their case, or if you agree.

A grateful hat-tip to Kristen Senz of the New Hampshire Bar Association for mentioning Greenhouse’s essay.

Would I take professional advice from this woman? Um, yup, in a heartbeat. The smart and hilarious Roxie Bacon (on right) with a friend in New Zealand.

Would I take professional advice from this woman? Um, yup, in a heartbeat. The smart and hilarious Roxie Bacon (on right) with a friend in New Zealand.

What equals success? Do old measures of success still apply, especially in a tradition-bound profession like the law?

Those were a few of the questions raised recently in a brief book review by the so-very-talented Roxie Bacon.

Roxie is a great lawyer, as well as a former President of the State Bar of Arizona. She climbed the ladder of big-firm partner success, so when I spotted a book about women lawyer leaders, I thought immediately that she should review it.

So before February passes into history, I wanted to be sure you saw her review in our February issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

The book she was charged with reviewing is a publication of the American Bar Association titled Learning To Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law.

learning to lead book cover v2

Maybe it was the title’s “really” that initially set Roxie off. But she ultimately offered her not-entirely-salutary view of the book’s messages. Yes, she said that the suggestions were good, as far as they went—if you still buy in to the success measures adopted a generation ago. But Roxie points out that huge numbers of lawyers—men and women—are voting on those measure with their feet, as they decide to tread hallways other than those covered in the most expensive hand-knotted rugs.

You can read Roxie’s whole essay here.

I’m sure the review did not please the ABA. But since publication, I’ve heard from a number of people who enjoyed her view very much. They also compare the ABA book to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which some also believe sends dated messages to young women professionals.

What are your thoughts on how women (especially) may best succeed in law firms? Do the old measures of success still apply? Should they?

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Justice Scott Bales

Gazing at the packed-to-the-gills Grand Ballroom at the Arizona Biltmore, it occurs to a lawyer that there may be no better way to kick off a Bar Convention committed to education for the future than to look back at legal pioneers.

That must have been the thinking of Convention organizers driven by the motto “100 Years of Lawyers Serving Arizona.”

That concept gave us Wednesday’s lunch, which included a witty and insightful panel led by Justice Scott Bales (and introduced by Bar President Joe Kanefield). Accompanying him in a triumvirate of value-laden remarks were Roxie Bacon and Grant Woods. Bravo to all.

The event was comprised of fascinating video clips—eight minutes in all—featuring Justice Bales interviewing retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Her memories were crisp, direct, funny and—given her experience as a woman lawyer pioneer—occasionally startling.

Those clips were pure gold. But they were complemented by being punctuated by the panel’s own remarks.

Roxie Bacon and Grant Woods

In those remarks, Roxie and Grant shared names of others, in addition to Justice O’Connor, whom they count as their own pioneers and mentors.

Grant reminded the audience that Justice O’Connor was the most powerful and influential woman in the country for a long time. But he added his own debt to retired Justice Stanley Feldman, who brought many others to his side “by the force of his argument and the power of his intellect.”

Justice Scott Bales

Roxie spoke warmly about retired Arizona Chief Justice Charles “Bud” Jones. Politically and in other ways, she said, they could not have been more different. “He was the most unlikely mentor you ever could have imagined for me.”

And yet, she said, he was caring and compassionate toward her as a younger lawyer. “With dignity and humor he brought me into the big leagues of employment and labor law.”

The audience clearly enjoyed a lunch committed to Arizona’s legal history. And the biggest laugh of the day may have come on the heels of a story Grant Woods told about a judge who was well known for always following her own tune.

In a high-profile case, an older man—Grant suggested he was 68 years old—was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Clearly upset, the man sputtered to the judge, “Your honor, I’m 68 years old. I don’t think I can do 40 years!”

Ever polite and charming, the judge leaned over her bench and gazed down at the convicted man.

Joe Kanefield

“That’s all right. You just do as many as you can.”

Well done.

Have a great conference.

Former Administration official Roxie Bacon, on Mar. 11, 2011

Roxie Bacon’s column on immigration reform, published in the February Arizona Attorney Magazine, continues to get response. (I wrote about Roxie and her column here and here. You can read her column here.)

In our upcoming issue, we will publish a few letters on the topic, almost all of which praise her insights. But I share with you now a letter that I received yesterday afternoon that goes in a decidedly different direction. It is from the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Here is a PDF of the letter, followed by its text below.

Department of Homeland Security Letter to the Editor, 3-15-11

To the Editor:

It was disappointing to read Roxie Bacon’s essay about her year as a senior-level appointee at the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS General Counsel Ivan Fong

As both President Obama and Secretary Napolitano have repeatedly emphasized, comprehensive immigration reform is critical to both the long-term security and prosperity of this Nation. I empathize with Ms. Bacon’s sense of frustration with the process last year, but as she knows, fundamental legislative change requires hard work, perseverance, and bipartisan support from congress. There has been no “lack of visionary thinking and incisive analysis grounded on economic truths” in this Administration’s efforts to advance sensible immigration policy.

Similarly, this Administration remains committed to the DREAM Act. From President Obama and Secretary Napolitano’s extensive engagement on Capitol Hill, to the outreach efforts conducted by our Department leadership, every resource was employed to seek passage of this legislation that is important to our Nation’s future and emblematic of our ideals. In short, notwithstanding Congress’s failure to act, we remain committed to a sustained effort on both overall immigration reform and the DREAM Act.

Finally, as Ms. Bacon notes, after the earthquake in Haiti last year, DHS suspended all removals to Haiti. A year later, however, DHS was required, in light of binding Supreme Court precedent, to either release these aliens into U.S. communities or lift the moratorium as it applied to criminal aliens. Given the alternative of releasing violent offenders onto our streets or returning them to their country of origin, DHS chose to lift the moratorium on removals of certain Haitian nationals convicted of criminal offenses. The resumption of these removals, based on the need to protect public safety, can hardly be characterized as an abandonment of our efforts to assist Haiti. This is especially true in light of our ongoing commitment to the people of Haiti, as evidenced by the grant of temporary protected status to Haitians, the grant of humanitarian parole to orphans in Haiti, and other significant relief.

In the meantime, we will continue our work here in Washington, mindful that the important and difficult issues posed by immigration law and policy will not be solved overnight or even in one year.

Ivan K. Fong

General Counsel

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC

I mentioned this in a previous post today, but I may have buried it so that only dedicated readers would ever excavate it. So here’s the news.

Roxie Bacon’s February column in Arizona Attorney Magazine was the subject of a news story in the Huffington Post last week. The story by Andrew Becker is here.

It includes a response by the Department of Homeland Security.

Roxie’s column is here.

Retweet at will.

Roxie Bacon at Human Trafficking conference, Mar. 11, 2011

It’s funny how news can start locally, wing its way around the country (or the world), and land right here back at home.

We saw this happen at least partially a few months ago, in regard to judges visiting Arizona from Turkey. They stopped by to chat, we at Arizona Attorney Magazine covered their innocuous (we thought) comments, and government opposition in Ankara got their paprika up.

For the record, we were not part of any cabal. That’s the story, and we’re sticking with it.

It got all déjà vu-ey recently, after we published a great piece on immigration by our own columnist Roxie Bacon. Let me explain.

Roxie is Roxana Bacon, accomplished immigration lawyer, former President of the State Bar of Arizona, and, most recently, an Administration official with the Customs & Immigration Service (inside the Department of Homeland Security). In fact, she had come out of retirement to take the top counsel job there. As she headed east, she had high hopes that the Executive Branch would do some serious good on the immigration front.

About a year later, she and her husband happily drove their Penske rental truck (no joke) back to Arizona, older and wiser.

When I asked her whether she was ready to get back into “column rotation” with our other writers, she agreed—and asked if I’d like something about her time in Washington.

Well, as they say, I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid. So it took me the time to draft an e-mail response to say, “Send it our way.”

Roxie did not disappoint. Professional yet passionate, she explained the sorry state of affairs. (You can read her column here.)

As they say in the trade, the story had legs. It was picked up in stories and blogs nationwide, and even was the subject of a news story in the Huffington Post on March 4. As that story indicated, there even was a response from the Department of Homeland Security, which had been none too pleased by Roxie’s candor. Risk-averse, thy name is DC.

Laura Rundlet at Human Trafficking conference, Mar. 11, 2011

This past week, more of that risk-aversion was on display. And that’s what brings the story full circle back to Arizona.

On this past Friday, ASU Law School hosted a daylong conference on human trafficking. (I previewed it for you here.) It put together terrific panels who explained the problem and explored solutions. (I’ll have more on the panels soon.) The schedule and speakers list are here.

The topic is tragic, and the expert brain power on display promised to be huge. But I was especially interested in the opening keynote address, to be delivered by our own friend and writer Roxie Bacon.

She was marvelous and her comments spot-on (again, more in a future post). She managed to be dire and uplifting in the same speech—not easy, that.

So she was great, but that was no surprise. The aha moment came at the end of the first morning panel. Moderated by law professor Daniel Rothenberg, its speakers gave an “Overview of Trafficking.” The speakers were a helpful combination of prosecutors, professors and policy experts.

The last of those to speak was a woman from the U.S. State Department. Laura Rundlet is the Coordinator of the Senior Policy Working Group on Trafficking in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

From all of that, we understood her position: Trafficking = Bad.

It is worth pointing out that that position was not controversial, either in the room—packed with what appeared to be like-minded people—or in Washington. Speaker after speaker had already told us that trafficking was a non-partisan issue, one that horrified legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Which made an exchange during the Q&A portion so odd.

P.J. Crowley, formerly of the U.S. State Department

After all the speakers were done, and moments before a well-deserved coffee break, an audience member rose and tossed Ms. Rundlet the softest of softballs.

A key piece of effective federal legislation that fought trafficking—the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act—was due to be taken up for renewal by Congress, he said. What could she say to encourage attendees to contact their Congressional representatives to urge them to vote for this non-partisan law?

I was not videotaping, but I detected a deer-in-the-headlights look in her eyes.

“I’m not sure whether I can speak to that exactly,” she responded. “It is something that we will be working on diligently this year, and working with other agencies.”

The questioner look surprised.

“At this time, I don’t have any prepared remarks on the reauthorization,” she added less than helpfully.

“Just reauthorize it!” the speaker insisted, clearly thinking she had not understood his question.

In response, he got a wan smile. And then it was time for coffee.

I scratched my head at that one, but this weekend, we got another detailed lesson on the minefield that is Washington and the U.S. State Department. And that made me sympathetic to her hesitation to add a helpful comment—however true it could have been.

In the breaking story, a State Department spokesman was forced out after he made remarks that the White House apparently didn’t cotton to.

P.J. Crowley, in response to a question at a speaking engagement (on social media, of all things) criticized the U.S. Army’s treatment of a private Bradley Manning, “who is currently detained over suspicion he was complicit in leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks.”

Read the complete story here (why not – let’s make it a HuffPost day).

The story—and his sort-of firing—came about because he had called “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid” the Army’s detention tactics with the private, including having him sleep for multiple nights naked and with no blanket (the Army had claimed security concerns).

Putting to rest the notion that intelligent minds may disagree (even on what constitutes humane treatment), Crowley found his presence at Foggy Bottom was less than welcome. And so, three adjectives later, he was a part of State Department history.

Coincidence or not, l’affaire Crowley was coming to a boil just as panelists sat down for Friday’s Tempe conference. Any State Department official—and any Administration official—would have to have been aware of the object lesson unfolding back East, where talking without talking points—however safe it may appear—may not be safe at all.

And so at an ASU conference committed to eradicating human trafficking, hesitation crept in among the ardor. And that may say volumes about the atmosphere that pervades the United States Capitol—and the states that depend on its leadership.