Here's a free piece of advice for all you journalism majors out there: Go to law school.
As a lawyer, the hours are the same, you can read and write to your heart's content, and you get paid a pant-load to make a phone call.
No kidding. Reading through invoices that law firms submit to public entities, I get the distinct impression that I'm in the wrong business.
Take the billings from the firm Fennemore Craig to the Arizona Department of Transportation for defending Governor Jan Brewer's odious policy of denying driver's licenses to DREAMers eligible for President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
In less than a year, Fennemore Craig's attorneys have submitted invoices to ADOT and the Governor's Office totaling $686,546.04.
Check these examples: One half-hour of an attorney making two telephone calls and sending an e-mail costs taxpayers $237.50. A 7.4-hour review and assessment of some redacted subject costs $3,515. And 2.2 hours revising a redacted document costs $517.
The invoices are loaded with redactions. Even some of the names of those doing work that's being paid for by Arizona taxpayers are redacted.
According to ADOT spokesman Timothy Tait, the redactions are due to attorney-client privilege.
Still, considering that I'm helping to pay for these attorneys' vacays to France, the least they can do is tell me exactly who I'm paying and for what.
Why isn't the Arizona Attorney General's Office defending the case with staff attorneys already on the gub'mint payroll?
Tait tells me that ADOT director John Halikowski made the call to go with outside counsel, but did not say why.
Not that I blame Halikowski. This is Brewer's mess.The policy is spiteful and unnecessary, and it will end by costing the state a lot more than $700K.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court late last year by various civil rights groups on behalf of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.
In May, the jurist assigned to the case, Judge David Campbell, ruled ADAC likely will succeed in showing that Brewer's policy violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Campbell shot down ADAC's other claim: that the policy is trumped by federal immigration law. ADAC's attorneys are appealing on that point.
Should ADAC prevail on either front, the state of Arizona could be stuck with attorney fees for the plaintiffs.
Add it to Fennemore Craig's final tab, whatever that will be.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, one of the groups arguing on behalf of ADAC in court, only two states are dumb and hateful enough to block DACA-recipients from obtaining driver's licenses: Arizona and Nebraska.
After Judge Campbell's decision, ADOT and Brewer doubled down on the policy, extending it to all immigrants who've been granted deferred action by the feds, not just DACA kids.
NILC says these individuals will include women and children, "survivors of domestic violence who are in the process of adjusting their status."
Jennifer Chang Newell, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs and senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, says ADOT's widening of the affected pool of individuals does not impact her clients' case.
"They are irrationally discriminating against our clients," Newell said of the defendants. "They don't want to give driver's licenses to DREAMers who've received deferred action.
"They are so insistent that they've now gone to the extreme of denying licenses to even more people, in their view, to strengthen their legal case."
All the same, Newell says her clients are still being discriminated against.
"It's still a violation of the constitution," Newell states. "There are still numerous categories of immigrants who are eligible for [Arizona] driver's licenses who don't have formal immigration status . . . including some individuals who are in fact in removal proceedings."
Brewer's policy is not only costing us attorney's fees, and the fees those applicants for drivers' licenses would pay, it bucks a national trend. At least 45 states have signaled they're granting driver's licenses to DREAMers, recognizing that DACA-recipients are here with permission from the feds.
"Not only that, 2013 was a year in which multiple states decided to grant drivers' licenses to residents of those states regardless of their immigration status," she says.
Indeed, the list of states now issuing drivers' licenses or drivers' permits regardless of immigration status includes: California, Nevada, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, Utah, and New Mexico.
"Arizona is stuck in this backward world," observes Newell, "really digging in, even after a federal court told [the defendants] their policy was likely to be unconstitutional."
Backward? Antediluvian is more like it. With politicians like Jan Brewer who have Grand Canyon-size fissures in their noggins.
Which I reckon is the flip side of being an attorney for Fennemore Craig. Sure, you make bank. But to do so, you have to rep bitter, mean-spirited clients such as Brewer and defend her bigoted policies in court.
Sure, there are lawyers out there who make money, don't represent spiteful prejudiced pols, and achieve this without partaking of the government trough. I've actually met a few.
Hmmm, maybe journalism's not such a bad gig after all.
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