Military veterans on death row deserve special consideration Purple Heart

On this commemorative national holiday, I share a report that comes at Veterans Day via a different angle—an analysis of those veterans who sit on death row in the United States.

The topic may be an uncomfortable one, but those who work in specialty courts dedicated to veterans caught up in the justice system may find it evocative. I’d appreciate know what they—or anyone—thinks of the report. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

I recommend to you an article in The Guardian that discusses numerous cases of those who served who now face the severest penalty. Among those is James Davis, “one of hundreds former service members condemned to death at the hands of a government they risked their lives to protect and serve, according to a report, ‘Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty,’ published by the Death Penalty Information Center on Tuesday.”

As the report’s executive summary opens:

“In many respects, veterans in the United States are again receiving the respect and gratitude they deserve for having risked their lives and served their country. Wounded soldiers are welcomed home, and their courage in starting a new and difficult journey in civilian life is rightly applauded. But some veterans with debilitating scars from their time in combat have received a very different reception. They have been judged to be the ‘worst of the worst’ criminals, deprived of mercy, sentenced to death, and executed by the government they served.”

“Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who have committed heinous crimes present hard cases for our system of justice. The violence that occasionally erupts into murder can easily overcome the special respect that is afforded most veterans. However, looking away and ignoring this issue serves neither veterans nor victims.”

Download the full report here.

June 22, 1944: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill of Rights, which offers educational assistance to veterans.

June 22, 1944: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill of Rights, which offers educational assistance to veterans.

It was just two weeks ago that I noted the ribbon-cutting for a memorial to the talented Ernest McFarland.

But wait. There’s more.

Tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 28, a new exhibit titled “Ernest McFarland and the G.I. Bill” opens at the Arizona Capitol Museum (11 am sharp).

Here is the news as transmitted from the state:

“Since 1944, more than 19 million service members nationwide have benefit=ted from Senator McFarland’s legislation,” said Secretary of State Michele Reagan. “A veteran of World War I, it was important to McFarland to assist veterans transitioning back into civilian life.”

Ernest McFarland

Ernest McFarland

Ernest McFarland, or “Mac” as he liked to be called, served Arizona as a U.S. Senator (1941-1953), Governor (1955-1959) and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1965-1971). His impact on Arizona is still being felt today; whether it was fighting for water rights, his tireless work on the G.I. Bill of Rights or the impressive amount of opinions he wrote as an Arizona Supreme Court Justice; McFarland has left a lasting legacy of change and improvement across Arizona.

The McFarland room is the latest addition to the exhibit Arizona: Defense to Development, which explores the impact World War II had on the state.

Want to go? Here is information about the Museum.

AZ StandDown 2014 1 v2

I grow accustomed to learning about the great amounts of volunteerism about Arizona lawyers. That demonstrates how many attorneys recognize the value and importance of providing pro bono assistance.

But a communication I received from Bar colleague Alberto Rodriguez knocked me for a loop. Below, he reports on the volunteers who participated in the annual Arizona Veteran StandDown event. The amount of participation, by lawyers, law students and others, is stunning.

More photos from this year’s StandDown are here.

Thanks and congratulations to everyone who took part. Here’s Alberto:

On Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15 the State Bar of Arizona and 23 of its members participated in the 2014 Arizona Veterans StandDown. The State Bar and volunteer attorneys joined several service providers at the three-day event that offered a variety of health and human services to nearly 1,700 homeless and at-risk veterans in our state. Volunteer attorneys from across the valley fielded legal questions via one-on-one consultations with veterans seeking legal advice.

AZ StandDown 2014 2 v2

The “Civil Law Clinic” organized by the State Bar offered legal consultations by members who practice Family Law, Bankruptcy/Foreclosure/Tax Law, Probate/Trust Law, Elder/Mental Health Law, and Real Estate/Landlord & Tenant Law. In addition, Community Legal Services, Project Salute, and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU participated in the civil law clinic.

Volunteer attorneys provided 177 consultations during the two-day civil law clinic for the 160 veterans who were seen. In addition, many attorneys offered pro-bono legal services after the StandDown to veterans who needed representation. Adding to the legal services provided for veterans, on-site courts coordinated by Gary Kula, Director of the City of Phoenix Public Defender’s Office, saw 937 veterans who needed to address court-related issues.

The following is a list of civil attorney and logistics volunteers:

Attorney Volunteers

  • Dorothy Brogan, Law Office of Dorothy E. Brogan
  • Robert C. Brown, Dickinson Wright
  • Rebecca E. Browning, Browning Law Office, PLLC
  • Kristen Coyne, CKGH Law
  • Rachel Frazier Johnson, Rachel Frazier Johnson Law
  • Steve Gervais, Land Advisors Organization
  • Sean D. Greengard, Community Legal Services
  • Peter Gustafson, Gustafson Law Office, PLLC
  • Taylor House, Taylor House Law, PLC
  • Christine Jensen, Christine Jensen, PC
  • Billy Miller, Law Firm of William A. Miller
  • Judy M. Miller, Judy M. Miller, PC
  • Maya Milovic, Tijjani, Milovic & Phillips, PLC
  • Matt Nelson, Project Salute
  • Nicole L. Pavlik, Forakis Law Firm
  • Bret Rasner, Community Legal Services
  • Jennifer Ryan-Touhill, Touhill Law Offices, PC
  • Bree Stamper-Gimbar, Community Legal Services
  • John Starkey, John Starkey Attorney at Law
  • Nina Targomilk, Community Legal Services
  • Jim P. Webster, James Portman Webster Law Office, PLC
  • Debbie Weecks, Weecks Law
  • John Withee, Withee Law Firm, PLLC

Certified Limited Practice Students (from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU)

  • Laura Anderson
  • Tory Beardsley
  • Christine Bolton
  • Marcy Karin, Clinical Professor of Law
  • Ryan Lockner

Logistics Volunteers

  • Rodrigo Antillon, Lambda Sigma Upsilon
  • Jesus Enriquez, Lambda Sigma Upsilon
  • Jerry Herrera, Community Legal Services
  • Denise Lopez, Magellan Health Services
  • Charles Wilson, Lambda Sigma Upsilon

AZ StandDown 2014 3 v2

A dedication ceremony on Saturday, December 7, will include a wreath-laying and remarks by state historian Marshall Trimble, Rear Admiral Scott Sanders, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

A dedication ceremony on Saturday, December 7, will include a wreath-laying and remarks by state historian Marshall Trimble, Rear Admiral Scott Sanders, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

If your December is like mine, your days (especially weekends) are chock-full of events. Not only are we swamped with holiday gatherings, but the (typically) nice weather ensures that Arizonans emerge to revel as much of the rest of the country shovels.

If you can fit it in, an event tomorrow morning (Saturday, December 7) is worth your time. That is when a World War II Memorial is formally dedicated on the grounds of the state Capitol.

Sited on the Wesley Bolin Plaza, the new installation is comprised of gun barrels of the U.S.S. Arizona and U.S.S. Missouri, as well as installations honoring Arizona veterans.

A website tells more about the Memorial and the events surrounding it.

Leading the dedication of the site called “Guns to Salute the Fallen” will be Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

Here is a description of the efforts via Secretary Bennett’s office:

“For nearly three years, the Secretary has spearheaded the effort to build a complete WWII Memorial in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza. Hundreds of individuals and companies in Arizona including Phoenix Rotary 100, SDB Contracting Services, Marco Crane & Rigging and BNSF Railways donated thousands of dollars in cash and in-kind services to build the memorial which features the names of Arizona’s WWII soldiers who died and historic gun barrels from the USS Arizona and USS Missouri.”

“Saturday’s events include the formal dedication ceremony which begins at 9:45 a.m. and is preceded by a DPS escorted commemorative motorcycle ride finishing at the plaza. More than 1000 riders plan to attend. The riders will be greeted by The Saluting Marine, Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers.”

Their office predicts that thousands of people will attend. So keep this in mind: Bring a lawn chair, as the only reserved seating /parking will be for WWII veterans.

Here is a complete listing of events:

  • 7:48 a.m. Run to the Guns departs EagleRiders, 1000 N. McClintock Drive, Tempe
  • 8:30 a.m. Run to the Guns arrives state capitol complex
  • 9:00 a.m. Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Flag is installed in a case in the Relic Room of the USS Arizona.
  • 9:45 a.m. WWII Memorial Dedication & Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony begins
  • *9:50 a.m. Arizona Capitol Museum will play a live feed of the Pearl Harbor Observance from Hawaii
  • 10:55 a.m. B-17 Flyover by CAF (Commemorative Air Force, Airbase Arizona)
  • 11:45 a.m. Approximate end of ceremony
  • 1:00 p.m. American Concert & BBQ in celebration of the WWII Memorial and fundraiser for veterans, featuring Jimmie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd – 1000 N. McClintock, Tempe

Some maps will help you get there (and park); click to enlarge them. Have a wonderful weekend.

AZ WWII Memorial Parking DirectionsAZ WWII Memorial LARGE EVENT MAPAZ WWII Memorial designated parking areas

Law for Veterans website screen shotLast Friday, as folks were clearing out of work and looking forward to a holiday weekend, staffers at the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education were putting the final touches on a new website—one dedicated to aiding veterans and their families.

LawforVeterans.org is a creation of the Arizona Supreme Court, in cooperation with the AZFLS&E and the Military Legal Assistance Committee of the State Bar of Arizona.

The site aims to be a “one-stop clearinghouse for access to legal and other important veteran benefit information,” providing legal information, articles, resources and forms.

The Court explains that the site features 10 specialty subject areas “ranging from identity theft to employment law. There are sections with helpful Q&A topics as well as a place to ask legal questions, find a lawyer, or locate other resources veterans might need.”

The site “will be the public face of a broader support network.” The Court announced that more than 270 volunteer legal professionals will “respond to questions and help match veterans with the resources they need.”

Hon. Rebecca White Berch

Hon. Rebecca White Berch

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch says, “Veterans Day 2013 marks the initial public launch of the site, but we realize the site itself is a platform upon which we will build and add content, based on the needs and input of veterans and service providers that stand ready to assist them.”

Polsinelli attorney Kris Carlson is cheered by the website’s creation. He is a former Green Beret and co-chair of the Military/Veterans Group of the American Health Lawyers Association Behavioral Task Force. He views the site as a great resource.

“‘Law for Veterans’ is absolutely fantastic,” Carlson says. “This resource was badly needed.  Transitioning from the military into civilian life can be difficult. Behaviors that kept the service member alive during time of war are not easily forgotten, and some can leave veterans at a disadvantage when re-integrating into civilian life.”

Carlson continues, “The site’s comprehensive approach can provide assistance to Arizona’s men and women veterans in many critical areas as they struggle to leave the war behind them.”

Many veterans struggle with reintegration into civilian life, which can be difficult. As a result, some may become involved in the criminal justice system; claims denials; insurance problems; family law issues; or physical, mental or substance abuse challenges.

Kris Carlson, Polsinelli

Kris Carlson, Polsinelli

AZFLS&E CEO Kevin Ruegg says, “The Foundation is thrilled to have the Supreme Court entrust us with this project and very grateful for the partnership with the Bar’s Military Legal Assistance Committee. We hope to accomplish two things: furthering our mission of promoting access to justice for all Arizonans, and assuring our veterans know that we understand that our justice system would not be here without their fight for this country’s freedoms.”

Staffers at the Foundation who led the rollout effort included Public Legal Information Manager Kim Bernhart and CTO Al Flores, along with Lara Slifko and Dan Hall. Bernhart points to this effort as another in a successful line of sites launched by the Foundation, including Law for Seniors and Law for Kids.

Brigadier General Gregg Maxon (ret.) is a special adviser to the Administrative Office of the Courts, where he assists jurisdictions in their efforts to create veterans courts. The Supreme Court said he was “a key advocate in the planning and development” of the new website.

Among the data he gathered:

  • 2.4 million men and women served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • 1.44 million are now eligible for V.A. health care.
  • 774,000 have obtained V.A. health care.
  • Of those receiving treatment, 52 percent are diagnosed with mental disorders such as PTSD, depression and substance abuse.

“A unified treatment and rehabilitation approach brings better results,” says General Maxon. “Through partnerships with the Department of Veterans Affairs and local, state or national non-profits and community-based organizations, we can honor our veterans with the resources they deserve.”

Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales adds, “Courts and the legal community are recognizing that we can better serve certain populations by tailoring website content and court services to meet their needs. Our veterans deserve this help. We don’t want them hurting, alone or in trouble with nowhere to turn.”

The Court encourages businesses, government agencies, chambers of commerce, associations, and non-profits to add a link to www.LawForVeterans.org.

Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

Last week, I reposted a video created by the Maricopa County Superior Court. It highlighted a terrific event: the one-year anniversary of a court dedicated to veterans issues.

You can view that video at the bottom of this post.

But on Memorial Day, I was pleased to come across another MCSC video from February. It featured the activities surrounding the recent Arizona StandDown. At the event, veterans who have a variety of legal issues are able to have them addressed and resolved, all in a setting that is less intimidating than a courthouse visit.

Here is the video.

And as we watch the next video, regarding the Veterans Court one-year anniversary, it’s hard not to consider the Memorial Day that slipped by yesterday. How heartening it is to see so many members of the legal profession stepping up to create solutions to help those who have served.

Happy Memorial Day. I am hoping that you are spending some wonderful time with friends and family. That is always a high point of the Memorial Day weekend.

Somewhere in there, here’s hoping we all take a moment—or more—to remember why the holiday exists. In my job, I’ve been privileged to report on recent efforts to assist military members (see here and here). And today, there is news of a great initiative launched by the American Bar Association—its “Home Front” website that provides resources for servicemembers and their families.

Here is the concept, as described by the ABA. Please pass it on to anyone you think may benefit from it.

American Bar Association

Division for Communications and Media Relations

http://www.abanow.org

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE FOR MILITARY FAMILIES

ABA Home Front Provides Resources for Understanding Legal Issues and Obtaining Law-Related Assistance

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 17, 2011 – The American Bar Association has launched a new website, ABA Home Front, dedicated to providing servicemembers and military families with resources for understanding legal issues and obtaining law-related assistance for the problems they face every day. This site features an Information Center, a Directory of Programs and a Military Pro Bono Center, all designed to deliver legal information and expert assistance to military families.

“Being in the military is a 24/7 commitment that takes its members and their families across the country, and around the world,” said ABA President Stephen N. Zack. “That’s where the online legal center comes in. At any time, someone can access basic information on the legal issue they’re dealing with — whether it’s a family law matter, tax question or problem with a creditor.”

The Information Center consists of easy-to-understand resources about Working with a Lawyer and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides legal protections for active-duty military and their families. The site also has a Family Law section that explains law-related implications and options in such areas as marriage and divorce, domestic violence and custody disputes.

“The center offers information on a number of legal topics,” Zack said. “We will continue to grow it in response to what servicemembers tell us they need.”

The Information Center will be expanded to include additional materials about landlord-tenant disputes, health law, immigration, contracts and leases, tax, and employment law.

The Directory of Programs can help military families find services in or near their community with state-by-state listings of legal programs and organizations. Programs can include military legal assistance offices, legal aid and pro bono organizations, lawyer referral and information services, and military-specific programs where available. Although many of the programs are pro bono, some may require payment of some costs or impose income-eligibility limits.

The Military Pro Bono Center is a resource for lawyers interested in providing pro bono representation for military members or in providing pro bono lawyer-to-lawyer consultation with military legal assistance attorneys.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

Our November 2010 issue, with art by Val Bochkov

For this day that honors those who put themselves in harm’s way, here are a few short items.

First: Today the ASU Law School is hosting what looks like a great program for vets and their families. I posted the item yesterday; go here for more information. But don’t delay; it starts at 1:00 this afternoon.

Second: Next Monday, a job fair in Gilbert, Ariz., aims to assist veterans—though others are welcome, too. The “Hire Veterans First” fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Monday at Sun Valley Community Church, 456 E. Ray Road. More details are here.

Finally: This month in Arizona Attorney Magazine, we feature a few stories about how members of the legal community are collaborating to launch a Veterans Court in Maricopa County.

You can read the complete news item down below. But before you do that, I wanted to talk about our art this month.

Months before we created the November issue, our Art Director Karen Holub and I talked about this evolving story. She proposed that this could be a great feature for which we could commission some custom art. We have done that in the past, but you need a good combination of ample lead time and strong concept to make it work.

I agreed with Karen, and she jumped into the challenge. After much work, she narrowed the field to about five artists. We looked over their portfolios, and we found we were both drawn to work by Val Bochkov.

Bochkov has illustrated stories for many national publications, and his past experience is broad and deep. That’s why we were confident he could create beautiful work for us. What we also were to discover was that he was a pleasure to work with. More than once, Karen praised him to me, commenting how he was less interested in billing us for every alteration or addition than he was in creating work that married perfectly with the story.

We think he succeeded; I hope you agree. More of Val Bochkov’s work is here and here.

And here is our press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Tim Eigo, Arizona Attorney Editor

Phone: (602) 340-7310, Mobile: (602) 908-6991

E-Mail: tim.eigo@staff.azbar.org

Campaign to Create Veterans Court the Focus of Arizona Attorney

PHOENIX – Nov. 10, 2010 – Prolonged and intense combat have increased the severity of harm done to U.S. soldiers, and the November issue of Arizona Attorney magazine features stories that explore how lawyers and judges are assisting those who have served in harm’s way.

Arizona Attorney’s special section “Homeland Justice for Veterans” includes stories that explore efforts to launch a specialized court dedicated to veterans and their needs. The first article was written by Craig Logsdon and Michelle Keogh, attorneys in the criminal defense group at Snell & Wilmer LLP.

Logsdon and Keogh chronicle a veteran’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its effects on his civilian life in the article “Uncommon Criminals: Why Veterans Need Their Own Court.” It leads the reader on a journey from a veteran’s time on the battlefield to the legal challenges he faces due to criminal activity attributed to his war-related PTSD. It also dissects the current justice system, reveals its disconnect with veterans, and argues why a veterans court would work.

The second article, written by Nicole Kasem and lawyer Jon Paladini, reports on the State Bar of Arizona’s commitment to addressing the legal needs of veterans through the creation of its Military Legal Assistance Committee. It is led by attorney Gregg Maxon, a retired Army General.

In the final article, Steve Gonzales, Associate Professor of Law and the Director of Experiential Learning at the Phoenix School of Law, announces two new programs housed at the law school aimed at helping veterans—the Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic and the Veterans Tax Clinic.

“Veterans have always deserved our country’s best efforts when they return stateside,” said Tim Eigo, Arizona Attorney Editor. “Conflicts in recent years have heightened the number and severity of their injuries, and the legal community is doing what it can to assist those who have served.”

The striking art for the cover and feature stories was created by nationally renowned artist Val Bochkov. It was commissioned by Arizona Attorney magazine to illustrate the November issue’s veteran-related stories.

Arizona Attorney magazine is published 11 times per year by the State Bar of Arizona. It provides articles on substantive legal issues, professional trends and feature profiles.

The full article is available here.