The Arizona Attorney General released this press release today in regard to the Independent Redistricting Commission:

Tom Horne

Attorney General

Office of the Arizona Attorney General

Executive Office

Amy Rezzonico

Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Contact:  Amy Rezzonico (602) 542-8019

HORNE AUTHORIZES PROBE INTO INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION 

PHOENIX (Thursday, July 21, 2011)  —  Attorney General Tom Horne has authorized his office to conduct an initial investigation of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission based on reports that raise questions about the Commission’s compliance with Arizona’s Open Meeting Law and procurement laws when it recently entered into a contract with Strategic Telemetry to provide mapping consultant services.

 “I need to emphasize very clearly that this is an initial investigation that will attempt to determine if any violations actually occurred,” Horne said.  “I am concerned about reports that have raised questions about some of the procedural actions taken by the commission, and I am committed to finding out whether those concerns warrant any further investigation.  If this initial investigation finds that laws have been violated, we will proceed accordingly.”

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How do you talk about important issues without being rude and boorish?

That was the challenge a lawyers group sought to overcome, and its initial effort was on display last night, Thursday, April 28. And for this visitor, it was a qualified success.

The St. Thomas More Society launched its Civil Discourse Series with a heady and controversial topic titled “The Death Penalty: Is It Moral? Is It Antiquated?”

The first notice I received in late March about the event looked to be in a debate format. It appeared to be two lawyers on one side of the topic “vs.” two others on the other side.

Last night’s program, though, merely referred to them as “panelists.”

That may have been more accurate, as the event was characterized more by mini-speeches than by sharp, concise, back-and-forth. That is not a critique, merely a recognition that the Society is feeling its way toward the ideal format for this original idea.

Those mini-speeches ranged from well stated and clear to meandering and obscure, which is par for the course for any educational panel. But more than once, audience members may have wondered about the Series’ underlying premise: Do members of the public really want to hear from lawyers—on any topic—for two hours? Wisely, organizers did not put that question to a vote.

Given the preparation and effort involved, organizers had to be disappointed in the modest turnout. The venue was the Phoenix auditorium of Xavier College Preparatory. That is a beautiful and stunning room.  But it’s also a very large room, which was only dotted with attendees. Certainly, marketing and communication will be a stronger focus for Volume 2 of the Series (which will be on immigration, co-chair Denise Blommel revealed).

Moderator Ernie Calderón, April 28, 2011

These are just quibbles. In a state that is only 110 days beyond a horrific assassination attempt in Tucson, praise must be given to the St. Thomas More Society, which is addressing head-on a coarsening of the national debate that dismays most everyone (though not everyone). Unlike the rest of us, though, the Society is doing something about it.

The evening’s moderator was Ernest Calderón. His resume is long, but the short form is that he is a Regent on the Arizona Board of Regents, a former President of the State Bar of Arizona, and a practicing lawyer.

Ernie was a good choice for the role. He is capable of a great amount of gravitas when it’s called for. But he graciously set that aside last night, as he sought to cajole, persuade, kid and prod panelists into uttering real and compelling statements on a difficult topic. Clearly, he came prepared to herd the speakers away from the raft of arguments on both sides that the public has heard for years, and toward some out-of-the-box analyses.

He was moderately successful. The panelists were cautiously open to addressing Ernie’s deliberately provocative hypotheticals. That was when the evening soared.

But there were more times when panelists got lawyerly, challenged the assumptions underlying a question, and negotiated terms to lower a question’s stakes. Unfortunately, that led to less illumination than would have been ideal.

Nonetheless, it is still invigorating to see smart people bat contrary ideas back and forth. Attendees were probably unsurprised by the arguments: retired Judge Rudy Gerber on one side reminding us that our use of the death penalty puts the United States in the company of China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen; and Tom Horne on the other side reading at (overly sufficient) length from the trial record of horrific details that occurred in notorious torture–homicides. Although the two positions may not be new, they were gripping nonetheless.

A moment of pointed debate occurred when panelist Alan Tavassoli challenged Tom Horne’s repeated statement that Horne was on the side of justice for victims, which equaled capital punishment as a solution. The AG had reiterated the “Justice = Death Penalty” trope throughout the evening, and Tavassoli finally observed that all the panelists were on the side of justice, which he believed life without the possibility of parole may provide. His question to Tom Horne could have led to an interesting exchange. Unfortunately, that was just moments before the event ended.

Here’s a photo of the distinguished panel (click it for a larger version):

L to R: Alan Tavassoli, Hon. Rudy Gerber (ret.), Ernie Calderón, Bill Montgomery, Attorney General Tom Horne

Congratulations to Ernie Calderón for keeping things moving and even light. (One of those light moments occurred when the moderator asked the prosecutor–panelists whether a prosecutor’s office would use its time better to focus on the costs of justice rather than, say, indicting judges. Without missing a beat, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery smiled and replied, “I can tell you that in my first five months in office I have indicted zero judges!” The other panelists—and the audience—roared with laughter.)

Congratulations also to the panelists:

More photos of the event are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

I’ll provide more detail on the fall version of the Series as it comes available.

C-Fu Gourmet in Chandler, Arizona, is known to have some of the best dim sum in the state (some say it’s the best). And that may be the ideal location for the Arizona Asian American Bar Association annual banquet. For dim sum stands for the proposition that people enjoy the opportunity to have little plates of a variety of things. Even if something is not to your taste, wait a minute and another plate will be by.

Kind of like diversity. There is value to variety, even if you don’t partake in everything.

(I wrote about the Asian American Bar banquet and C-Fu before, here and here.)

So what makes the multiple-plates approach especially appropriate for the Asian Bar’s annual dinner? It is their selection of entertainment and keynote speakers for this evening. It’s a veritable stir-fry.

The entertainment will be partly provided by a Canadian American lawyer known most recently for his distaste for a focus on “hyphenated Americans.” Tom Horne, now the Attorney General of Arizona, took on the ethnic-studies program in the Tucson Unified School District when he was Superintendent of Public Instruction—a battle that continues. He has since been one of the biggest supporters of Arizona’s own melding of criminal and immigration law, in the form of SB1070.

Tom Horne, Arizona Attorney General

Ladies and gentlemen, the Asian American Bar gives you … Tom Horne on piano! (You’ll see I omitted the hyphen.)

Not sure you’ll partake? Well, wait just a few minutes, because the keynote speaker is coming to the stage. He is an accomplished California American lawyer who is the President and Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles. He and APALC are known most recently for their distaste for SB1070. In fact, APALC has been a leader in organizing plaintiffs and challenging the law.

On keynote duties, we have … Stewart Kwoh!

(Full disclosure: (1) My wife is on the board of the Arizona chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League; the national association is a plaintiff. (2) As a young California lawyer, I worked along with APALC on a large-scale immigration case regarding Thai workers. I have met Mr. Kwoh but do not know him well.)

Does each know the other will be there? Would either be pleased or dismayed? If they were asked, really nicely, to sing a duet, would they?

The Asian American Bar may have dipped farther into the combination plates than they would have liked. As word began to emerge about the evening’s pianist, Asian American community members voiced their upset. They had worked hard against the law, and hearing the ivories tickled by its advocate was not their idea of a good time. Some people who have attended before have refused to attend. And some community associations may have opted not to purchase a table.

I spoke with a leader of Los Abogados about the developments. That association of Hispanic lawyers has been vocal in its opposition to SB1070. Was it disturbed that a sister bar would invite one of the law’s most prominent defenders, even if only for a musical interlude?

Stewart Kwoh, Asian Pacific American Legal Center

The Los Abogados leader was extremely polite about the affair. He acknowledged that many were surprised at the news. But he said it had led to extensive and productive conversations with the Asian Bar leadership. He said that Los Abogados had stressed that, despite popular belief, SB1070 is not a “Hispanic” issue; instead, the group sees it as a civil-rights issue that affects everyone.

Would Los Abogados be purchasing a table? No, the leader said, but they did not purchase one every year anyway. And individual Los Abogados members may be purchasing for themselves.

I will be there tonight, and I expect I’ll take some photos and maybe even some video of the musical entertainment. More to come.

In the meantime, pass the noodles.

The past week has seen a lot of press over a video and its related commentary.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne visited the state Capitol recently, and was in the process of being interviewed by a reporter from Spanish-language media. As he strode up to begin the interview, a group of protestors surrounded him and chanted a variety of things.

He finally abandoned the attempt to conduct the interview and returned to his car, followed the entire way by the crowd.

Attorney General Horne subsequently sent a press release calling the protestors a “thuggish mob.” Their behavior, the release suggested, was par for the course for ethnic studies supporters. (I have included the entire press release below.)

That led to some harsh words in the Arizona Republic (in both an editorial and a blog post), as well as a response by AG Horne.

Watch the video and tell me what you think. Did the protestors exhibit “thuggish behavior,” or acceptable First Amendment speech? Were their actions over the top, or was it par for the course for modern political protests?

(For fairness sake, I link you not to the video that the AG’s Office sent out in its press release, because that video included captions and commentary that were added by his supporters. Instead, I link to the identical video without the commentary. However, feel free to watch the other video; its link is at the end of the press release below.)

Now, let me know what you think.

(I have to add one bit of sympathy for Attorney General Horne. At about 3:40 in the video, as he is trailed by a throng of vocal non-supporters, he appears to have forgotten where he parked. He strolls through the Capitol lot, protestors serpentining behind him, and finally locates his wheels. Having wandered lots myself looking for a car I’ve lost, I can say, “I’ve been there.”)

Here is the March 17 press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Contact:  Amy Rezzonico (602) 542-8019

www.AZAG.gov | Facebook | Twitter

RAZA STUDIES SUPPORTERS, IN A THUGGISH MOB, TRIED TO SHOUT DOWN ATTORNEY GENERAL HORNE

PHOENIX (Thursday March 17, 2011) — Attorney General Tom Horne today released a video of a screaming mob of Raza Studies supporters who interfered with the Attorney General’s efforts to accommodate a request to be interviewed by a television news crew.    

In the video below, viewers can see a thuggish mob of Raza Studies supporters trying to shout down Horne, to attempt to prevent an interview with Univision Television.

Horne was in the process of leaving the Capitol after a meeting, when a reporter from Univision Televsion asked him to return to where his cameraman was, so he could do an interview in Spanish, as frequently does for Spanish-language media.  A thuggish mob of Raza Studies reporters surrounded them and tried to prevent the interview, screaming at the top of their lungs.  When the interview was over, Horne walked to his car, still surrounded by the mob, screaming vulgar epithets. 

Horne said, “The Raza Studies program teaches irrational mob behavior as a matter of habit.  For example, they did a street play called ‘the killing of Tom Horne’ which was filmed by channels 4 and 9 in Tucson, and broadcast.”

For a YouTube video (not produced by this office) of Attorney General’s Horne encounter this week go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu3UW_Cw1-8.

Barbara Rodriguez Mundell

Yesterday’s Candidate Forum was informative—even if most of the people in the room had already mailed in their early ballot.

Despite that probability, the Arizona Women Lawyers Association packed a banquet room at the Phoenix Wyndham Hotel. Perhaps in a state where arts funding has been cut so severely, people are hungry for the only theater still yielding long runs—political theater.

The event was moderated by former Maricopa County Presiding Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell.

Attending were two candidates for Attorney General: Democrat Felecia Rotellini and Republican Tom Horne.

Terry Goddard

Also speaking was Democratic candidate for Governor Terry Goddard. Appearing for the Republican ticket was, well, no one.

That fact didn’t trouble Goddard, who opened with what must be a practiced line by now: “I’m happy to wait a few more minutes for the Governor to appear.” Today, he reminded the audience, would be the 15th public event (by his count) that Gov. Jan Brewer had declined to attend to wrestle with issues in the company of her adversary.

Felecia Rotellini

“No problem,” said Goddard with a smile. “I’ll be happy to take both sides.”

He said that job-creation had to be “Job One.” In addition, “We will never recover our economy as long as our schools are dead last in the nation.”

“We have to put all the crazy political games aside,” he continued. “We must get more result-oriented and less interested in what Fox News cares about.”

He poked fun at the Governor’s billboard ads, in which her face is superimposed over that of Rosie the Riveter, rolling up her sleeves.

“Never has Rosie been so maligned. She was getting the job done, while Jan Brewer was borrowing $200 million every month.”

Tom Horne

His largest laugh? When he said, “I promise this: To keep Arizona off Comedy Central for at least four years.”

Perhaps because the AG portion of the luncheon enjoyed the attendance of both opponents, the conversation had more law and less rhetoric.

Rotellini and Horne each detailed their goals for the office. Number 1 on both of their lists? Border security.

(Here is Mary Jo Pitzl’s far better account of yesterday’s forum, as it appears in the Arizona Republic.)

I’ll leave you with:

  • Tom Horne’s best line today: “When I appeared at the Ninth Circuit for the oral argument of Horne v. Flores, I introduced myself as schools superintendent—and as the shadow Attorney General, because our elected AG would not pursue the case.”
  • Felecia Rotellini’s best line today: “Voters don’t want the office used as a battering ram for political ideology. They want results. I am the only candidate who has prosecuted a criminal in Arizona.”

Here are a few photos from the event.