Meet the 2020 Board of Governors Candidates

The Board of Governors elections are conducted online. Does the State Bar have your email address of record? (Rule 32(c)(3), Ariz.R.S.Ct.)

Elections will be held this year in the following Board Districts:

  • District 1:  1 Board Seat Available: Apache, Coconino, Mohave and Navajo Counties
  • District 4:  1 Board Seat Available: Cochise County
  • District 5:  1 Board Seat Available: Pima and Santa Cruz Counties
  • District 6:  2 Board Seats Available: Maricopa County

Recent amendments to Rule 32, Ariz.R.S.Ct.:

• Effective January 1, 2017, Active out-of-state Members may vote in the District of their most recent Arizona residence or place of business or, if none, in Bar District 6. (Rule 32(e)(2)(D))

The candidate bios and responses to the following questions follow.

  • Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors?
  • What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? 
  • If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

The online election will launch on Tuesday, March 24 and will close at 5:00 p.m. on April 7.

For questions, please contact Carrie Sherman at 602.340.7201 or carrie.sherman@staff.azbar.org

Meet the candidates

 *Asterisk = Incumbent

District 1: Apache, Coconino, Mohave and Navajo Counties

Photo of Eric Ruchensky
Eric Ruchensky
Coconino County Attorney's Office

I graduated from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University with my J.D. in 2012 and received my B.A. from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., in 2009. During law school, I was on the inaugural staff of the Law Journal for Social Justice, eventually serving as Executive Managing Editor. I also participated in the Civil Justice Clinic and interned for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and at the Arizona Attorney General's Office. Since graduating, I have worked for the Coconino County Attorney's Office as a Deputy County Attorney in criminal prosecution. My experience includes approximately twenty jury trials. Outside of work, I served on the Board of the Coconino County Bar Association from 2014-2018, including as president.


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

If you elect me to serve you, my goals are to: 1) expand the public's access to legal services, especially via online tools, 2) ensure our membership reflects Arizona's diversity by improving outreach to rural and underrepresented communities, 3) strengthen our Bar's efforts to help attorneys and their supervisors prioritize work-life balance, and 4) cultivate public trust of and esteem for our profession by raising awareness of all the ways our members give back to their communities.

Though my career and passion has been public service, I have an eye toward ensuring our Bar serves members in private practice, especially solo practitioners, small firms, and attorneys who are just starting out. As Coconino County Bar Association president, I sought to bolster services to our members and wider community in a manner commensurate with the modest size of our organization. I would bring that same pragmatism to the State Bar.

Finally, the State Bar Board of Governors must be responsive to its membership. One of our chief priorities must be to listen. I don't pretend to have all the answers – I would invite you to reach out to me regarding how you'd like to see the State Bar enhance our profession.

District 4: Cochise County

Photo of D. Christopher Russell
*D. Christopher Russell
The Russell's Law Firm PLC

I have enjoyed serving since this past summer and am asking to serve another three (3) years.


I attended Gonzaga Law School and graduated in 1996.  I am barred in Washington, Arizona and Idaho.  I served as a U.S. Army Judge Advocate from 1997 until retirement.  As a Judge Advocate, I served as a legal assistance attorney, a Federal Torts Claims Act attorney, prosecutor, Brigade Judge Advocate, ethics advisor, liaison to foreign courts, Senior Defense Counsel, and Chief of Military Justice. I left active duty in 2003 and joined a law firm where I ultimately became the managing partner.  I opened The Russell's Law Firm, PLC in 2012.  I focus our practice on personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice and criminal and military defense.


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

I believe it is important for practicing attorneys to be involved in the community and in our profession. We, as leaders in our communities, must actively participate in serving and protecting our justice system, our attorneys and the public. As a trial lawyer, and retired U.S. Army Judge Advocate, I have the experience and awareness to recognize the trending degradation of not only our justice system, but our profession and our citizen's abilities to get equal access to justice.


In the work that we do, we all typically see people who are most vulnerable and in need of passionate, competent and understanding attorneys. To that end, we, as their advocates, must be attentive and dedicated to ensuring that the rules are set to allow people the access to the justice system that they are entitled, and to protect their rights.

 
When re-elected, in addition to being our voice at the state level, I will seek my continued appointment to the Rules Committee so that I can be an advocate for our attorneys, as well as for our citizens.

District 5: Pima and Santa Cruz Counties

Photo of Amanda Bynum
Amanda Bynum
University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

Amanda Bynum serves as a Professor of Practice and Director of Bar and Academic Success at the University of Arizona College of Law. Her work in academia began as Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic while also working full time as a Pima County Public Defender.  Amanda formerly directed the College’s Externship program where she helped students succeed working alongside practicing attorneys. Amanda also has experience as an attorney in private practice.

Amanda served on the board of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice from 2014-2017 and received two Presidents Commendations for outstanding service to the cause of criminal justice.  She is a 2019 BLI graduate and currently serves on the Member Assistance Program Task Force.  She regularly teaches CLEs on mentoring, self-care, and accepting feedback. 


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

I am in a unique position to help understand the needs of lawyers entering practice from law school, as well as to help seasoned lawyers understand the strengths and needs of lawyers in their first few years of practice.  I am most concerned about issues related to attorney burnout and wellbeing and how those issues impact individual attorneys, the profession, and the communities we serve.  Addressing attorney wellness issues is complex, but I believe that strengthening mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, increasing diversity, and changing the culture around help-seeking behaviors will help to address the issue.

 

 

Photo of Ted A. Schmidt
Ted A. Schmidt
Schmidt, Sethi & Akmajian

• Graduated UA Law School ‘77
• Practiced PI law since ’77
• Chaired State Bar Bench & Bar in Tucson for at least last 10 years
• State Bar Co-Member of the Year 2002
• Created and Chaired (off and on) Arizona College of Trial Advocacy for its first 15 years
• Former Member of the Arizona Appellate Court Commission
• Past Chair of the State Bar Injury and Wrongful Death Certification Commission
• Adjunct Professor at the UA College of Law teaching Advanced Trial Advocacy
• Judge Pro Tem Pima County Superior Court
• Serve on Law College Association Board and Board of Visitors at UA Law School
• Very active in promoting Youth Soccer in Tucson


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

Some of the issues I would address as a member of the Board of Governors is as follows:

I want the State Bar to be inclusive of all areas of the state and to improve its relationship with all attorneys. I would be responsive to suggestions and information from members in this regard.

The State Bar should explore ways to make sure that there is malpractice insurance for every member of the state bar at a reasonable price to allow protection of the public and more affordable legal services.

I would like to help the State Bar find ways to reduce the cost and increase the availability of quality Continuing Legal Education. I have been involved in multiple CLE’s with excellent reviews that help the practitioner become better lawyers.

The Bar should continue to look at how to reduce the cost of bar dues while making sure that the public is protected.

The State Bar should continue to work to promote the independence of the judiciary and one of its roles should be to make sure this independence is preserved and protected including merit selection.

District 6: Maricopa County

Photo of Don Fendon
Don Fendon
Law Offices of Don A. Fendon PLC

I graduated from the University of California at Berkley in 1965 and Cumberland School of Law of Samford, Birmingham, AL, in 1968. I passed the Florida Bar in 1969 and the Arizona State Bar in 1970. I worked in the Maricopa County Attorney’s office 1971-1972. Then, defended workers compensation claims at the Arizona State Compensation Fund 1972-1978. I was one of 16 lawyers cited as a Certified Workers Compensation Specialist by the State Bar of Arizona, August 1979. I partnered in three law firms, 1978-1992, practicing plaintiff and defense workers compensation law. In 1992 I became sole practitioner, Don A. Fendon, PLC, representing workers compensation clients. Fendon Law Group was founded when two of my four children became attorneys, 2009-2017. I remain in private practice.


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

As always, I believe that the State Bar needs to continue to monitor its membership for indiscretions by its members.  Also, we need to keep the Bar integrated and not let the Bar be forced to not be able to monitor its membership on either of the aforementioned issues.  The state bars that are not integrated, like Wisconsin for instance, are having difficulties monitoring their membership for indiscretions and the admissions procedures and leaving all of that to the State Supreme Court.  That should not occur in Arizona.  Therefore, I will help in any way possible to keep our State Bar integrated in order to monitor its membership for indiscretions as well as governing the new admittees with regard to admission requirements.

Photo of Juan C. Flamand
Juan C. Flamand
Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen and Loewy LLP

Originally from Puerto Rico, Juan Carlos is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate.  He graduated with a B.A. and double-majored in Latin American Studies and International Relations.  Juan Carlos earned his J.D. from the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. in 2003. Juan Carlos first practiced criminal law in Virginia handling matters from traffic infractions to murder.  Juan Carlos is now a business immigration attorney.  He is licensed to practice law in Arizona since 2006 and is a graduate of the State Bar’s Leadership Institute.  He was elected to leadership roles within the legal community including Chair, Vice-Chair and Treasurer of the State Bar's Immigration Section as well as being appointed to the State Bar’s Appointments Committee and the Special Constitutional Appointments Committee.


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

I am interested in serving my colleagues because of my drive to help and serve others.  This drive is what in part led me to be an attorney.  Despite significant economic disruption to the profession, service to others is still our primary obligation and what I think continues to draw people to our ranks.  However, the increased tempo of technological changes and changes in how clients use legal services continue to place increasing pressures onto practitioners, old and new alike. 

If elected, I will focus on programs that help practitioners find ways to continue the meaningful work they want to do while at the same time developing their career. 

Specifically, I will focus on programs that promote:
1)Community and belonging to combat professional isolation.
2)Upskilling in technology use and automation allowing us to focus on the aspects of practice we enjoy.

An additional yet separate focus will be to promote stronger unauthorized practice of law regulations to better protect vulnerable members of our community. As an immigration practitioner I have seen the lasting harm UPL can have on people.

Photo of Michael Kielsky
Michael Kielsky
Udall Shumway PLC

Partner at Udall Shumway in Mesa. Admitted in Arizona, California, Arizona U.S. District Court, 9th Circuit, Salt River Pima Maricopa Community Court. Practice areas include defending the innocent from accusations in criminal, administrative, and professional board proceedings. Thomas Jefferson S.o.L. graduate, 2001 summa and first in class, Law Review. East Valley Bar Association President 2011-12 and 2016-20. Maricopa County Bar Association board 2012-20, Secretary 2019, Treasurer 2020. Community Legal Services board 2016-20, executive committee 2018-20, Treasurer 2019-20. Generations After, Descendants of Holocaust Survivors board, 2013-18. Glendale judicial advisory board 2019-20. Avondale judicial advisory board 2019-20. Libertarian candidate for Maricopa County Attorney in 2008, 2010, and 2012. www.ReformTheBar.com


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

Our profession remains under significant pressures. The Bar must lead the way and not block efforts to align our profession with the new realities. Pioneering, championing, and guiding rule changes to better reflect modern practices must be a part of this, and we must anticipate the trends that are already looming on the horizon. == www.ReformTheBar.com == The Bar must also squarely face that it will either change or it will be ordered to change. The warning signs are there and can no longer be ignored. A mandatory, integrated bar, especially one which uses mandatory dues for anything outside of the core functions of regulating the legal profession and improving legal services, will soon enough be history. Let's be the Bar that will be the model: Lean, nimble, and leading with best practices. == www.ReformTheBar.com == The Bar needs leaders who are focused on the future, the changes that are coming, who are willing to make the difficult decisions. I will be one of those leaders, I hope I can count on your support. == www.ReformTheBar.com ==

Photo of Kelsi Taylor Lane
Kelsi Taylor Lane
Davis Miles McGuire Gardner PLLC

I attended ASU for my undergraduate degree.  I then received my JD from Regent University in Virginia.  I was admitted to the State Bar of Arizona in 2014.  I later received my MBA from GCU.  I currently work for Davis Miles McGuire Gardner PLLC in the Legal Shield Department that provides affordable legal services to ensure equal access to representation for all people. I have worked in Veteran’s Law at the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington, D.C. and Commercial Real Estate and Estate Planning for Herbert Law Offices, PLC in Phoenix.

In addition, I was a military spouse.  I have experienced living in many states and understand the unique position attorney military spouses face in having to move frequently.


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

I believe issues facing the members of the State Bar of Arizona include affordability of dues, ease of access to CLEs, and marketing.  To address the first issue, I would make sure that the State Bar is running in an efficient manner to see if there are opportunities to reduce dues or create a different structure to alleviate the burden on new attorneys or attorneys that have a certain threshold of income.  Secondly, I would like to increase awareness for in-person CLEs and include free CLE programs to encourage our members to network and maintain the necessary legal skills to practice or learn new practice areas.  Lastly, there are many new mediums in which to market to clients. I wish to have clear rules published regarding online solicitation and marketing.  This is a booming area that has little upfront cost that needs to be further explored.  I hope to use my legal background as well as my Masters in Business Administration to serve the State Bar of Arizona.

Photo of Robert J. McWhirter
*Robert J. McWhirter
The Law Offices of Robert J. McWhirter

Robert J. McWhirter is a nationally and internationally known speaker and author on trial advocacy, immigration law, and the history of the bill of rights.  He is a frequent guest on Arizona Horizon and KJZZ as a Constitutional expert and historian. 
McWhirter is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law and is a well-known author on legal subjects and constitutional history.  The ABA published McWhirter’s book BILLS, QUILLS, AND STILLS: THE HISTORY OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS (working title) in 2014 and THE CRIMINAL LAWYER’S GUIDE TO IMMIGRATION LAW: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, 2nd Ed. 2006 and THE CITIZENSHIP FLOWCHART, 2007.  McWhirter has served on the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section and its Standards Committee writing the CRIMINAL JUSTICE STANDARDS.  McWhirter continues his private practice in criminal defense.


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

Once again, I ask for your vote.

I have seen the Board of Governors work hard to better the lives of every lawyer and client.  It has been an honor to contribute and I ask you to entrust me again.

I want the State Bar to continue to work for “the little guy”, the solo practitioner, the public defender, the public interest lawyer.  Good governance and transparency are key.  I am committed to these goals.

So, please give me your vote, and trust, again.

Photo of James B. Reed
James B. Reed
Udall Shumway PLC

University of Kansas, B.A. – 1985; Columbia Law School, J.D. – 1988. State Bar of Arizona Committees: Persons with Disabilities in the Legal Profession (2001-2009) (received Arizona Supreme Court’s 2006 Access to Swift, Fair Justice Award for leading committee survey of forty Arizona courthouses for disability access); Appointments Committee (2009-2015); Ethics Committee (2015-2018).  Named a “2015 Amazing Arizonan” by Arizona Republic for representation of ATF Agent Jay Dobyns in three-week federal trial against U.S. Department of Justice (prevailed at trial, reversed by Federal Circuit, on petition to U.S. Supreme Court). Field attorney during Florida 2000 Presidential Election Recount as member of Vice-President Al Gore’s national political campaign staff. Member – Federal Courthouse Access Committee for U.S. Access Board under Administration of President George W. Bush.


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

I seek to improve messaging for Bar membership that reduces the professional impact of frivolous Bar complaints, while enforcing the need for honesty and integrity in all aspects of one's legal practice.  I believe that the lingering professional impact of frivolous bar complaints is a legitimate source of frustration with the Bar, and that the nomenclature for disciplinary proceedings is wrong. While I have never had a bar complaint, I think a Bar filing should be called an "Attorney Inquiry", and the probable cause finding should be called a Credibility Review (positive/negative). If the inquiry is deemed credible, only then should it be labeled a "Complaint."  I also believe that too many attorneys allow a need to "win" for a client and their firm to creep into disclosure and discovery compliance and billing practices. The public is prudent to fear the amount of trust required to be placed with an attorney, but I believe that 90% of attorneys are worthy recipients of that trust. It does not require more regulation for "honesty" and "integrity" to be a constant Bar message, or to remind judges to include ethics rules as part of courtroom management.

Photo of Sara A. Siesco
*Sara A. Siesco
Jones Raczkowski PC

Sara Siesco is a 5th generation Arizonan who attended Xavier College Prep, UofA, and KU Law. She has been peer-voted as a Southwest Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014 to 2020) and has served as a District 6 Governor on the Arizona State Bar Governing Board (2017 to 2020). She has co-chaired the Ethics Seminar for the Arizona Association for Justice, has presented on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and is a member of the AZ Women Lawyers Association and the American Association for Justice.  She enjoys hiking, fishing, clay target shooting, and participating in marathons and triathlons.  She is a proud finisher of the 2013 Boston Marathon, and recently completed the 22-mile NaPali Coast Kalalau Trail.  She is getting married this summer in Montana. 


     Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?

For the past three years, I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Governors. That experience gave me valuable insight about the current issues confronting the Board and the mechanics of addressing and resolving matters important to the public and to practicing lawyers. It is interesting and thrilling to have been involved in that process and to have the opportunity to work alongside some of Arizona's most dynamic citizens and leaders. It is my hope to continue working with an organization that truly affects society in a positive way.

The single greatest problem facing our profession is the cost of participation in legal proceedings or anything having to do with lawyers. Certain lawyers I know cynically joke about the fact that they cannot afford one another's services. Legal advice and assistance are not available to a large portion of the public and that is a situation that must be addressed. How? Through the consistent encouragement of volunteer work for lawyers, or, perhaps through a mandate compelling licensed attorneys to participate in some form of pro bono work annually. My preference is for non-coerced volunteer time which, I believe, most attorneys would gladly provide if organized by the State Bar.




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