State Bar of Arizona CEO John Phelps, interviewed by CBS5 regarding a free seminar on protecting yourself against workplace violence in the legal profession.

State Bar of Arizona CEO John Phelps, interviewed by CBS5 regarding a free seminar on protecting yourself against workplace violence in the legal profession.

How substantial is violence in the legal profession? And how much is security at the top of lawyers’ minds?

“Very” appears to be the answer to both questions. That is based a recent survey that sought the views of Arizona attorneys.

In the November issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will publish an article by Steve Kelson, a lawyer and the survey’s organizer. I am reading a draft of the article now, and violence and the threat of it are more pronounced in the profession than I would have supposed.

As attorneys struggle with those concerns, the State Bar of Arizona decided to confront the issue head-on. Besides the survey publication next month, the Bar is offering a free seminar tomorrow that you may want to attend. It’s called “Expecting the Unexpected: How to Prepare You and Your Staff for Violence in the Workplace.”

It will occur at noon tomorrow (Tuesday, August 20). You can view the program live at the Bar office in Phoenix, simulcast in the Tucson Bar office, or via livestream from wherever you are.

Before I give the details, you may also want to watch a brief news story that describes the risks and in which Bar CEO John Phelps is interviewed.

The news story also points out that the seminar has been opened up to attendees nationwide; as of the story’s airing, there were 375 registrants (and that includes far more people, as many law offices have registered as an entity and will gather many staff for the viewing).

Here is the detail you need about the free seminar.

Workplace violence happens.

How will you respond?

Lawyers, judges and public figures are at increased risk for workplace violence. Knowing how to respond is a necessity in today’s world. Join the State Bar of Arizona and InReach, a leading provider of online continuing education management solutions, for a free seminar designed to promote personal safety and create a safer work environment. 

During this program, you will hear from:

  • a police sergeant trained to counteract shooters and apprehend violent offenders,
  • a former police officer turned litigator,
  • a lawyer experienced in disaster preparation and
  • a psychologist who is an  expert in situational awareness.

SEMINAR CHAIRS:

FACULTY:

  • Sgt. Phil Brailsford, City of Mesa Police Department
  • Amy D. Paul, Psy.DCrisis Preparation and Recovery, Inc.
  • John Phelps, CEO/Executive Director, State Bar of Arizona

WHEN: Tuesday, August 20, 2013, Noon to 1:15 p.m.

LIVE SEMINAR: McAuliffe CLE Center, State Bar of Arizona, 4201 N. 24th Street, Phoenix

TUCSON SIMULCAST: Southern Regional Office, 270 N. Church Ave., Tucson

WEBCAST: Live streamed to your office or home computer

This seminar is a member service and does not qualify for MCLE credit.

VDay logoThe May issue of Arizona Attorney will include an insightful Last Word column by a lawyer who wanted to talk about a dreadful topic: the continued high levels of violence against women and girls in Arizona, particularly on the Indian reservations. Attorney Don Bayles explores the challenges inherent in seeking legal justice when courts and court officers are hundreds of miles away. He praises the work done by those in the system, but he says the Rule of Law will mean little until those many obstacles are eliminated.

As I worked with Don on his column, I also was thinking about an upcoming event that takes on such violence in a creative way. And I am privileged to be a part of it.

On this Saturday, April 6, I will be one of a small group of performers who will deliver monologues in honor of VDay, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. As part of VDay 2013, the Arizona chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum is sponsoring a performance of “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant & A Prayer” on April 6, 2013, at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.

This collection of monologues will be performed by NAPAWF members and allies (like me) and will occur at Space 55, 636 E. Pierce St., Phoenix 85004 (map below). Tickets are $15, and all proceeds will go to Arizona South Asians for Safe Families.

Tickets are available online here. For more information, click here.

You can Like the event on Facebook too.

VDay 1 billion rising logo v2All of the monologues are compelling and were written not by the performers but by other great (and sometimes famous) writers. Among the pieces is one written by Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues fame.

The piece I will deliver, I’m pleased to say, was written by one of my favorite writers—journalist Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times. The piece is about his experience interviewing a young girl who was imprisoned as a prostitute in Cambodia.

The variety of content is amazing. I can pretty much guarantee it will make you laugh as often as it induces sadness. And the hope is, it also will induce an impulse toward change. (I’m proud to add that my whole family—my wife and our two daughters—is involved. And our older daughter Willa is directing!)

Please consider buying a ticket, stopping by, and inviting others.

Here is a map:

MMRP VDay event poster

Mark Hummels with his children at the Grand Canyon

Mark Hummels with his children at the Grand Canyon

I did not intend this week’s posts to focus entirely on violence against lawyers and in the legal profession (and they won’t). But I could not let a heartfelt tribute to lawyer Mark Hummels pass without comment.

A few days after Mark was gunned down along with a client, I wrote about the tragedy. And then, yesterday, I wrote about an Arizona Republic op-ed by John Phelps, State Bar of Arizona CEO.

And even as I write this, we are learning more about a tragic shooting at a courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware. Violence related to the legal profession is an ongoing story.

Today, I urge you to read a moving article by reporter Jenna Greene. As the essay indicates, she attended journalism school with Mark Hummels, and so her insights even precede his work as a lawyer. For the article, Greene interviewed State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer.

State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer

State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer

(I wrote just last Thursday about more coverage by Jenna Greene.)

Here is how she opens her article:

“In my journalism school class at the University of California, Berkeley, there were a few in-your-face, abrasive people, the type who seemed to enjoy confrontation.”

“Mark Hummels was not one of them. I remember him as unflappable, sunny and kind, someone who listened more than he spoke. He rode a unicycle and played the ukulele.”

“He was possibly the last person I would expect to be the victim of a murderous rampage.”

Read her complete tribute here.

Follow all Jenna Greene’s updates here.

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorLast Thursday, John Phelps wrote candidly about violence against lawyers in an Arizona Republic op-ed.

John is the CEO/Executive Director of the State Bar of Arizona. Here is how he opened his editorial:

“The murders of Phoenix attorney Mark Hummels and his client Steven D. Singer are part of an unsettling trend in the legal world. Threats and violence are on the rise.”

John Phelps headshot

John Phelps

“In the same week that Hummels was murdered, a prosecutor in Texas, Mark Hasse, was also gunned down. Last year, an attorney in Yuma, Jerrold Shelley, was shot and killed by a man upset over a divorce.”

You can read his complete editorial here.

John goes on to discuss Steve Kelson, a Utah lawyer who has researched instances of violence against lawyers all across the country. (He is in the beginning steps of his process to do the same in Arizona in 2013.) The statistics Keslon reports in John’s op-ed are startling and should give us pause.

In his conclusion, John reminds us of attorneys’ highest duties: “Mark Hummels died after leaving a mediation. His death was the result of trying to find resolution. He died fulfilling Cicero’s belief that ‘we are all servants of the laws in order that we may be free.’”

“Our thoughts and prayers go to Mark and Steve Singer’s family, friends and co-workers.”

John Phelps op-ed re Mark Hummels

News screen grab (referring to shooter Arthur Harmon)

UPDATE: This morning, a shooting in Delaware highlighted the flash point that the legal system can be. News reports indicate that multiple people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a security checkpoint in a Wilmington courthouse. Identities of those killed and hurt have not yet been announced. But the final paragraph of the news article is revealing: “Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning, attending a roundtable on gun violence with Vice President Joe Biden and other law enforcement officials in Philadelphia, declined comment on the shooting and deferred to officials on the scene in Wilmington.”

I have heard more than one person say that they are pretty much “done” reading any further analyses of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson. And I sure sympathize with that view.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Since the attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the news chatter has been unrelenting, and the facts that we learned were largely horrifying. It will take quite some time to determine what brought a 22-year-old man to commit murder on a sunny Saturday morning. Until then, some may say, we should leave the families to grieve. They may be right.

And yet, I had to wonder at my own reaction, which I believe was shared by many. Why did this crime hit so close to home?

That may appear to be an offensive question. After all, six people were killed, and others are hovering somewhere between life and death. A man died sprawled across his wife, successfully saving her life as he gave his own. And a 9-year-old girl, eager to meet a Congresswoman, was savagely shot in the chest.

Isn’t that enough reason for this tragedy to hit home?

Well, yes, except for one thing. We are a violent country.

I know that the crime rate has been dropping over the past decade, but we still have grown accustomed to hear of weapons-related crimes that take lives and limbs. The news in the United States comes with such regularity, we simply file it in the “shooting-death” portion of our brains, and continue on. In our approach to crime and our uninterest in its consequences, we Americans paraphrase Robert Frost: “Good weapons make good neighbors.”

But this post is not about the weapons. It’s about our reactions. It’s not about ballistics, but about the increasing willingness to go ballistic in service to one’s own ends.

Judge John Roll

Shouldn’t we be horrified at any incident in which someone causes the death of another? Yes. But we now require “murder-plus” for it to register.

For me, this incident’s murder-plus may come from my (almost) middle age, and the experiences that half a century brings with it.

For instance, my wife and I have a 9-year-old daughter. The thought of kissing her goodbye as she heads out the door—which we do every day—and then to never see her alive again. It makes you double over in sorrow.

But the attacks on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Judge John Roll—they strike me for different reasons entirely.

One reason may be that they are (or were, in Judge Roll’s case) terrific people. Both have written for Arizona Attorney Magazine (Representative Giffords here, and Judge Roll here), and they were wonderful people to work with.

I knew John Roll personally, and he left you, every time, better off than before you saw him. According to news reports, he died a second after a friendly salutation had escaped his lips. That was Judge Roll.

But the honorifics before their names reveal another reason that their travails leave me stunned.

Understand, the lives of judges and Congress-folk are no more important than the lives of anyone else—not a jot. But a person of my age was raised on a nutritious diet of study—of history, of federalism, of the U.S. Constitution. We learned—and many of us still feel—that our government is OUR government.

So when a criminal attacks a judge and a member of Congress, he takes arms against all of us. When he ratchets up political dissent to transform it into a chambered round, and then sends his rebellion hurtling out the end of a gun barrel, he aims it at every American citizen.

The rule of law in the United States may be one of our most significant attributes. But its security is assailed when disagreement turns violent.

This Wednesday, I will be privileged to serve as a judge on the We the People competition sponsored by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education. (The program is on Facebook—Like it here.) There, middle-school and high-school students will demonstrate their understanding of the U.S. Constitution. I have judged the competition before, and it’s always terrific.

But this year, as I sit and listen to some of the smartest kids our state has to offer, my thoughts—and that of my fellow judges—will be at least partly with Gabrielle Giffords and John Roll, who served us all, and gave so much for a Constitution and for the people whom it benefits.

Here’s hoping we continue to deserve it.