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Diversity in Business Law: Gordon & Rees Prospers By Inclusion

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Left to Right: Monica Ryden and Leon Silver of Gordon & Rees

Diversity in the workplace is an on-going and ever-debated topic that business leaders, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations alike work constantly to improve.

Whether by promoting women and minority groups or changing the business culture, law firm Gordon & Rees has seen the benefits, first-hand, of making the commitment to a diverse and inclusive business model.

One of the fastest-growing law firms in the country, Gordon & Rees is a national litigation and business transactions firm with more than 650 lawyers and 35 offices in 22 states.

In Phoenix, Gordon & Rees is also growing.  Phoenix attorneys currently provide representation in Retail & Hospitality, Commercial and Business Litigation, Civil Appeals, Construction, and Labor and Employment, among many other areas.

Gordon & Rees recently tapped prominent attorney Leon Silver to lead the Phoenix office and spearhead the firm’s expansion in the Valley. Silver, co-managing partner of the Phoenix office of Gordon & Rees, says he is committed to creating a full service commercial practice while attracting lawyers who bring diverse, balanced and effective leadership to the office.

“I have always been passionate on the topic of diversity,” said Silver, who serves on the board of Take the Lead, a non-profit inspiring and developing women to take leadership positions in the workplace. “Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes good business sense.”

“A diverse workforce expands the reach and abilities of our firm and helps us better serve our clients,” said Silver, noting that the firm was recognized in May 2015 as one of the nation’s top law firms for minority lawyers in Law360’s first ever list of the 100 Best Law Firms for Minority Attorneys.

Monica Ryden, a lawyer who has been with the firm’s Phoenix office since 2012, explains that Gordon & Rees is truly committed to building diversity across the firm’s 35 offices, and it starts with a culture of inclusion.

“Our national diversity committee recently established affinity groups to further the firm’s goals of fostering an inclusive and diverse work environment,” said Ryden. “As a member of our Hispanic affinity group, I’m looking forward to mentoring the growth and development of younger attorneys in a smaller group atmosphere.”

Founded in 1974, Gordon & Rees was ranked 89th by The National Law Journal on its list of the largest U.S. firms and The American Lawyer ranked the firm at No. 131 on the Am Law 200 and at No. 26 on its Diversity Scorecard in 2014. The firm has also been recognized on the “BTI Client Service A-Team” survey for the past three years and has been honored as a 2014 “Go-To Law Firm” for Fortune 500 companies.

Learn more at gordonrees.com/offices/phoenix and gordonrees.com/diversity.

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Sixth and Seventh Paris Auctions Loom: Hopi Tribe, U.S. Government, and Cultural Officials Plead for Return of Sacred Objects

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Chairman Herman Honanie, The Hopi Tribe (Photo credit: Lee Hyeoma)

For the sixth time in three years Native American ancestral religious artifacts, Hopi “katsina friends” specifically, will be publicly auctioned off in a Paris auction house known as EVE (Estimations Ventes aux Encheres) on June 1, 2015.

Despite multiple attempts by the Hopi Tribe to stop current and future auction of sacred objects through legal proceedings in 2013 and 2014, the French civil courts and CVV, (Conseil des Ventes Volontaires) which regulates and oversees all French auction houses, ruled against the Hopi Tribe and refused to remove any of the sacred items from past auctions.

Attorney Pierre Ciric, current legal counsel to the Hopi in this matter, explains, “Twice now this agency [CVV] has refused to withdrawal the katsina friends…Twice they held the grotesque position that neither the Hopi Nation nor individual tribal members have the capacity to sue in any [French] court.”

U.S. Congressional Members and Arizona state authorities reaffirm that the Hopi are an “ancient culture” and “a sovereign nation federally recognized by the U.S. government and should be treated accordingly.”

In a press conference held Wednesday, May 27th at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, Chairman Honanie of the Hopi Tribe was supported by the Arizona Department of Justice, several members of congress and community leaders who have joined in a formal effort to support the tribe.

Eight Hopi katsina friends are up for sale on June 1st and another five in a seventh sale scheduled for June 10th.  The likelihood of federal intervention is still not certain; the tribe and Arizona officials are awaiting a response from the FBI within whose jurisdiction this case would lie.

“There are two applications of federal law which allows the FBI and the Federal Government to proceed on behalf of the indigenous peoples in this case; the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).” States Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, “It is appalling that a French auction house thinks it is acceptable to profit off the sale of the sacred katsina friends.”

While the U.S. may or may not be able to prosecute individuals or the auction house in question under these laws, the delegation is asking for intervention and calling for mutual respect of the tribe’s recognized sovereignty.

Chairman Honanie declares, “We are going to do everything that we can to counter these auctions and to stop the sale of our religious artifacts.  We want them home, our religious practitioners want them home, I want them home.”

After the issue received global attention in 2013 with the first Paris auctions, the Hopi Tribe and numerous media outlets expounded on the cultural and historical significance of the sacred items and brought to light the huge black trade for sacred items which has continued to plague tribal nations throughout the U.S. for decades.

Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, Director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, states his frustration is heightened because the French have similar experiences, “The French people suffered immensely during World War II, much of their art and religious artifacts were looted.  It totally baffles me as to why they can’t understand the Hopi situation.”

Cultural entities and fine arts institutions across the country, including the Museum Association of Arizona, have also joined in to support the Hopi.

Dr. Robert Breunig, President and CEO of the Museum of Northern Arizona, asserts, “It is willful, callous, disregard for the humanity and the feelings of the Hopi people.  The French auction house is clearly not going to listen, so we call upon the French people and the French government to do the right thing; take action, and stop these sales.”

The quick solution might seem to be for the tribe to simply buy back the sacred items at auction, but the question of whether the tribe will ever attempt to purchase any of the items at auction has been clearly spelled out by the tribe.

Chairman Honanie emphasizes, “We have never entertained the question of possibly ever purchasing these sacred items on our own.  As compared to the Navajo who took that step recently, it is not in Hopi’s interest.”

Kuwanwisiwma, who has also played a large part in the tribe’s repatriation efforts throughout the years adds, “There is no way that the Hopi Tribe can place a dollar value on our sacred objects; so we can’t do that, we don’t do that and we never will.”

“Think of the impact in terms of how the market reads it.” Explains Ciric, “If bids are coming out from, in fact, foundations or tribes, like some tribes have chosen to, it actually encourages the problem and compounds the problem.”  Ciric notes a trend they have observed with the June sales in which new artifacts and inventory never before seen in private sales are now showing up in auction houses; he projects more objects will be brought to market now that collectors have seen the huge sums the items can fetch.

Since the implementation of NAGPRA in 1990, the Hopi Tribe has collected inventories from museums from across the country totaling over 400 katsina friends.  In total, the Hopi have reclaimed 65 katsina friends through NAGPRA.  The Hopi view the katsina friends as embodiments of spiritual life whose presence is necessary for the use and continuation of the Hopi religion.  The Hopi people view the sale, display and trafficking of these items to be sacrilegious.

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