Tag Archives: Fennemore Craig

State budget crisis - AZ Business Magazine July/August 2011

The State’s Budget Crisis Is Further Straining The Judiciary System

When talk turns to the state’s budget crisis, the discussion almost invariably focuses on the impact funding cuts will have on Arizona’s health and education systems. Among the general public, however, little to no thought is given to the effect budget cuts are having on the state’s judicial system.

“The state’s lack of resources promises to remain a challenge for several years,” says Timothy Berg, managing partner at Fennemore Craig. “However, it is important to remember that there are pronounced constitutional, social and economic dangers in rendering the Arizona court system ineffective by undue budget cuts.”

According the Arizona Judicial Branch, there were more than 2.6 million filings in Arizona courts in 2010.

“To make matters worse, the total number of persons working full-time in the Arizona judicial system decreased from 9,684 in 2009 to 9,379 in 2010 — a 3.1 percent decrease,” says David E. Funkhouser III, an associate at Quarles & Brady. “Thus, an already-strained judiciary is being forced to work more with less.”

As it is, the state’s judicial system receives just above 1 percent of the general budget, according to Don Bivens and Trish Refo, partners at Snell & Wilmer. Just a few years ago, Bivens says that allocation stood at 2.75 percent, a number still inadequate for the judicial branch’s needs.

“Funding state courts is a challenge all across America, as state courts face additional cuts to already inadequate budgets,” Refo adds. “Indeed, the situation is of such concern that American Bar Association President Steve Zack has formed a blue ribbon task force … to address the funding crisis in our state courts. State courts cannot fulfill their constitutional mandate to provide justice without adequate resources to do so.”

According to Snell & Wilmer, 80 percent of Arizona’s funding of the justice system goes to probation services. The remaining 20 percent is allocated across the supreme court, the appellate courts, and partial judicial salaries in local superior courts throughout the state. At least one county, Maricopa, is now shouldering the full burden for superior court salaries.

As Berg points out, cutting funding for the judicial branch will create an ineffective civil court system, which will have serious economic and social consequences on the state.

“Arizona’s judiciary is the arbiter of disputes involving government, corporations and individuals,” he says. “If businesses and entrepreneurs are unable to have their disputes resolved in a fair and timely manner, it is reasonable to expect that, over time, they will look to locate in other states.”

Thomas Irvine, a shareholder at Polsinelli Shughart, contends that the situation with civil cases will
likely become more dire as the court system continues to do more with less.

“Even with the 2012 opening of the new downtown criminal courthouse, we are out of courtrooms,” Irvine says. “Management miracles, as accomplished by the superior court in the last decade, cannot — without more — keep up with growth. There will be a need for more judges, staff and courthouses.”

In Maricopa County alone, Bivens of Snell & Wilmer says the clerk’s office has laid off 182 clerks. As a result, the court system is learning to work smarter.

“That loss of person power has accelerated the change over to electronic filing of court records, which, while causing commotion in the short term, will likely save millions in the future as the courts move from the laborious task of preserving mounds of paper for every court case, to filing and storing all court records digitally,” Bivens says.

Still, there’s no getting around the fact that funds for the judicial system are growing more and more scarce. To make up for the loss in tax revenue, fees for court filings have increased 44 percent during the last two years, according to Snell & Wilmer. Irvine of Polsinelli Shughart emphasizes that the funding cuts and fee increases are not just a problem for the legal community.

“Arizona business must take the lead in supporting adequate budgets and resources for the courts,” he says. “Justice, victims, our community and the low priority of business cases demands that this effort be made. Slowing down the dance of justice is out of the question.”

Arizona Business Magazine July/August 2011

Fennemore Craig has implemented a new way to communicate with its clients

Local Law Firm Enhances Attorney-Client Communication With Red Phone

Fennemore Craig, the oldest and one of the largest law firms in Arizona, has implemented a new way to communicate with its clients. The “Red Phone” is an iPod Touch in a red case that has pre-programmed information linked to a specific case and group of lawyers that translates case-related information between client and attorney.

Fennemore Craig Red PhoneHow does this increase communication? Clients are provided with the iPad or iPod Touches to send delicate attorney/client information through email, camera functions and Skype — a system that allows face-to-face interaction via video and voice communication. When a client needs to talk, a special number programmed into the phone calls all the attorneys linked to the case and one must answer at all times.

The Red Phone has already been assisting families incapacitated with seriously-injured loved ones who may be in a place with no Internet access or office setting with equipment such as a phone, fax machine or computer.

James Goodnow, an associate for Fennemore Craig, believes this new program will impact the practices’ relationship with its clients in a tremendous way.

“We want our clients to always have human communication,” says Goodnow. “The immediate response time has gotten positive reviews from the clients.”

The camera function allows clients to take case-relevant photos and send them immediately to their attorney.

Documents that pertain to the case can be sent with preloaded email addresses directly to the attorneys involved, and clients can review papers sent from the office.

Videos conferences are used to inform parties involved of the evidence retained.

“Instead of reading about our clients, the other lawyers will see them,” says Goodnow. “We can also show them how a case will be presented to a jury.”

It also allows attorneys to update the patient’s condition.

Fennemore Craig 2011

The phone costs nothing to clients. After the case has been resolved and there is no need for communication, the phones are returned to Fennemore.

Everyone with a case at Fennemore is eligible for the phone. iPads are given to those who are less tech savvy and don’t have internet access. Everyone else receives an iPod Touch.

The Fennemore Craig Law Firm was founded more than 110 years ago in Phoenix. The firm has over 120 attorneys with offices in Phoenix and Tucson. They are looking out for the best interest of their clients and know the Red Phone will enhance their abilities to do so.