Bringing legal topics to life, either on the stage or screen, takes a special ability. On this Change of Venue Friday, I recommend to you two such endeavors.

The first is a terrific staging of the classic book To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

If you’ve never been to the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert, it’s worth the drive. All of its shows are performed in the round, which lends them a sense of intimacy with the audience.

And this production is directed by the great playwright and actor D. Scott Withers. Performances run through June 30.

More information and a link to ticket sales are here.

And here is more information and history about the Hale Theatre concept, “believed to be the longest, continuously-operating center stage theatre in the country.”

Meanwhile, up in Phoenix, there is a documentary screening that takes us to more modern legal battles.

“Two Americans” screens this coming Monday, June 18 at the Phoenix Center for the Arts. It is being brought to Phoenix by No Festival Required (see what they’re up to here). More detail on the film is here and here.

Here is a trailer for the documentary.

The filmmakers state that opposing viewpoints will be displayed in the documentary, so I look forward to seeing how they achieve that. Here is how they describe their work:

“The life of a 9-year old child is forever changed when ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’ arrests her Mexican parents for working at a local carwash. Fighting to rescue her parents from deportation, Katherine Figueroa becomes the poster child of a movement to oust Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio from office. Exposed by the media, Kathy’s family is challenged to overcome their fear of living in Arizona. But when Sheriff Joe uses his power to retaliate against the County Board, it’s the legality of his actions that is questioned. Now the Sheriff’s fate hangs in the balance of an FBI criminal probe.

“Enter the heart of an American family living in the shadows of a state that has criminalized their existence. Walk in the shoes of a public official who has won enormous political gains by incarcerating ‘illegals’ as he stares down criminal charges of his own. Kathy needs her family. Joe needs the power of his badge. ‘Two Americans’ will examine the very personal impact of U.S. immigration policies.

“In a Nation home to over 5 million American children who live in unauthorized immigrant families, Arizona has led the way in the emergent practice of using local police to enforce federal immigration law. But who wins when State laws deter employers from participating in the local economy, the labor pool evaporates, and 35% of the city’s population are viewed with suspicion? An American public that does not feel the direct impact overlooks these very troublesome consequences. This documentary will allow viewers to experience the issue from opposing viewpoints and draw their own conclusions.”

You can buy tickets at the door, or in advance here.

Have a great weekend, and I hope to see you Monday night.

Let me get right to the point: The State Bar’s showing of To Kill a Mockingbird last Thursday was a blast and a half.

Sure, all of you folks who had seen it before maybe aren’t impressed. But for us newbies, it was a revelation. That Gregory Peck sure can scale the moral high ground—but do it like the everyday accomplishment it’s supposed to be.

The venue was well chosen, too. Pollack Tempe Cinemas kindly donated the use of their space. The theater was perfect, but the lobby—filled with loads of movie memorabilia and character statues—was a treat in itself. (I shot some photos like I do at many legal events, but I snapped some extras just because.)

"Here's lookin' at" one of the many cool Pollack Theater statues.

I spoke with many people that night, including lawyers who had seen the movie before. Many of them talked about the movie as a watershed event in their decision to become a lawyer. Though I didn’t find anyone who had an “Atticus Finch” case experience, that didn’t dampen their ardor a whit.

I was reminded of the power of cinema when I read a news story today. In it, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor revealed how influential a “legal movie” was in her own life choices. (You can read the whole story here.)

My daughters (9 and 14) came with me to the theater to see To Kill a Mockingbird (Kathy couldn’t make it, because she had to teach a late ASU class). I wasn’t sure they would hold up after a full and busy day, followed by a serious (and black-and-white) movie. But they each hung on every word. I was pleased that they enjoyed the depiction of a moral dilemma.

(And how can you not love a movie that includes a neighbor character who tells a young girl why she should admire her dad: “He can make someone’s will so tight you can’t break it. You count your blessings.” Snap! That’s some kind of Hollywood writing!)

As for me, To Kill is one of those movies that makes me think, “Hmmm, maybe I should return to law practice, hang out a shingle, and set out to help some people.”

Of course, when my musings start to sound Atticus-like, it’s time to take a deep breath and get back to work.

The evening was focused on the movie, but there were some brief preliminary events: a door-prize raffle (presided over by Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch and State Bar Chief Communications Officer Rick DeBruhl); and a few short remarks.

The Chief told the lawyers in the audience that “Atticus does what lawyers do every day. And I think you’re all heroes. I thank you.” (She followed that with a few sentences that, frankly, should have been preceded by a spoiler alert. I’ll remember to cover my ears next time speeches precede a movie I haven’t seen.)

State Bar President Alan Bayham Jr. also praised the movie, known to be one of his favorites. The family man made special note of the movie’s depiction of the relationship between a father and his children. I’d agree; that’s a central part of the movie.

Congratulations to the joint hard work of the State Bar of Arizona and the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education that was required to pull this off (on the Bar side, a hat-tip goes to Rick DeBruhl and PR Specialist Patricia Giallanza). Bravo to all.

Need a suggestion for a future movie screening ... ?

As I told Rick DeBruhl, it would be great if he could put together that kind of event all the time (good of me to recommend work for other people, eh?).

More pictures of the screening are at Arizona Attorney’s Facebook page here.

The confession is a central icon of the law—and of the Catholic Church, come to think of it. And because I’ve operated in both of those worlds, the declaration of guilt should come easily to me—you would think.

Well, I may as well get on with it. My mea culpa for the day? I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

Yes, I know, that is a standard of the American legal literary sphere. Written in 1960, it won a Pulitzer Prize. It travels deeply into issues of racial injustice and the loss of innocence. But it never passed before my reading glasses.

Strange, I know. I even got a few English degrees, along with a law school education, and still no Kill for me. How could I have slogged through Pennoyer v. Neff but skipped the novelistic moral high ground?

All I know is, I can’t be the only one. Anyone care to share?

The timing of this emotional outpouring is related to a State Bar of Arizona event this evening—a screening of the classic 1962 film version of the novel. People like “Atticus Finch” and “Scout” and “‘Boo’ Radley”—much-loved characters in the American lexicon, I’m told—will come to life on the big screen.

(The showing will benefit the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education. I wrote about the October 14 movie screening here. And more detail is here. One thing to note: Bring cash, which is all the concession stand will take—not To Kill the Classic Movie Feeling, or anything.)

You never read it, son? I'm very disappointed.

I plan to be there in the Pollack Tempe Theater, with my daughters, as I watch and expiate for my literary sins. I’m hoping you join us too, whether you’re a Harper Lee groupie or not.

As the fall approaches, and summer in Arizona recedes, the temperatures are returning to a simmer (90-100 degrees) rather than a boil. With the cool-ish temperatures comes ramped-up calendaring of events.

One of the cooler events we see coming down the pike is sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona. In an event aimed to raise funds for the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, the Bar will screen To Kill A Mockingbird. The classic novel by Harper Lee celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and watching the movie version with Gregory Peck may be just the ticket to rejoice in autumn.

The screening will be in Tempe on October 14. I’m planning to attend—probably with my daughters (alas, my wife will be teaching that evening). Come on out and enjoy watching a depiction of the quintessential ethical lawyer, Atticus Finch.

Click here for more information.