Eighty Percent of Contractors Report Difficulty Finding Qualified Craft Workers to Hire as Association Calls for Measures to Rebuild Workforce

Arizona General Contractors Association
(Originally posted August 27, 2018)

Eighty percent of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce, according to the results of an industry-wide survey released today by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Association officials said shortages pose a significant risk to future economic growth and they released a new workforce development plan to solve the growing problem.

“Labor shortages in the construction industry remain significant and widespread,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “The best way to encourage continued economic growth, make it easier to rebuild aging infrastructure and place more young adults into high-paying careers is to address construction workforce shortages.”

John McCain’s real-estate legacy in metro Phoenix and beyond

**Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic
(originally posted on www. AZCentral.com August 30, 2018)

Sen. John McCain was a trailblazer in many ways, including where he lived in metro Phoenix and his vision for the Valley’s growth.

The six-term U.S. senator and longtime Arizona leader moved from the suburbs to central Phoenix in the 1980s, opposite what most other Valley residents were doing then.

Then, during the housing boom, he and wife Cindy downsized to a new condominium in a tower near the Arizona Biltmore before that trend for empty nesters took off in Phoenix.

And right after he was diagnosed with brain cancer last summer, McCain put his efforts into an ambitious plan to turn the dry Salt River bed that crisscrosses the Valley into something like San Antonio’s Riverwalk.

In the early 1980s, McCain needed an East Valley address to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives being vacated by Rep. John Rhodes. The couple bought a home in south Tempe’s Lakes community, a development built around a man-made lake in the 1970s.

When McCain ran for the Senate, he no longer needed to be in the Tempe district. Instead of moving to Paradise Valley or Scottsdale, the McCains opted to move into Cindy’s family home in north-central Phoenix.

As urban flight to the suburbs was well underway in the Valley, the McCains made central Phoenix their home. Their house, situated right on Central Avenue, didn’t have high fences and was easily visible and inviting from the street.

The McCains raised their family in the heart of Phoenix, and the couple opened their north-central Phoenix home to many for charity and community events.

“The McCains definitely drew people to north-central Phoenix and helped the area during a time when many folks were moving away from it,” said Bobby Lieb, a veteran real-estate agent with HomeSmart Elite and longtime resident of north-central Phoenix. “They held many fundraisers for groups there, too.”


In 2007, right before McCain made his second presidential run, the couple listed their north-central home for sale and moved into a new condo at 24th Street and Camelback Road.

The couple downsized while many others were still opting for bigger homes. The McCains’ 14,500-square-foot north-central Phoenix home drew a lot of attention, not surprisingly. As the economy was crashing, it sold for $3.2 million.

The home has been expanded, renovated and resold a couple of times since then.

The McCains were also a draw for other homebuyers in their Biltmore-area condo tower, said real-estate agents.

Besides the McCains’ Creekside ranch in Cornville, Arizona, the couple had condos in La Jolla, California, Coronado, California and Arlington, Virginia, according to his campaign disclosures during the 2008 presidential race.

Real-estate legacy

One of McCain’s most lasting mark on the Valley’s growth will be his efforts to develop the Rio Salado.

After decades of efforts to transform 45 miles of the riverbed from Mesa to Buckeye, McCain ramped up the movement last year.

“Frankly, after a while, you start thinking about your legacy. It (the Rio Salado) may not be completed in my time, but I believe that someday it will be,” McCain told Arizona State University students in August 2017, shortly after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

He said the Rio Salado development could rival or even surpass the famous San Antonio Riverwalk and could be one of the most significant environmental and economic additions in Phoenix history.

It may take decades, but if the project comes to fruition, McCain’s impact on Arizona real estate could continue for generations to come.

New York investor Blackstone snatches up $898 million in metro Phoenix real estate

Citation: Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic
(Originally Posted on AZCentral August 20, 2018)

One of world’s largest real estate investors just went on an apartment-buying spree in metro Phoenix, purchasing six apartment complexes for almost $311 million.

New York-based Blackstone Group closed on the apartments spanning from Surprise to Chandler on Monday, according to public real estate records.

This big acquisition comes after Blackstone spent $120 million to buy nine Valley mobile-home parks, mostly in Mesa and Apache Junction, during June and July. And in July it bought a Glendale apartment complex for $64.5 million.

In April, Blackstone paid $403 million for the iconic Arizona Biltmore resort in Phoenix.

Blackstone, which snatched up millions of dollars worth of Valley foreclosure homes during the crash and owns part of rental firm Invitation Homes, declined to comment on its recent purchases.

The publicly-traded Blackstone now has a deep stake in metro Phoenix’s rental market, which is much less affordable than it was five years ago.

Growth forecasts for the Valley are likely a factor in the investor’s recent purchases.

Arizona’s population is expected to grow by 1 million residents and nearly 543,000 jobs by 2026, based on a 10-year estimate from the state Office of Economic Opportunity.

The apartment complexes Blackstone purchased include: Stadium Village in Surprise, Finisterra in Tempe, Sierra Foothills in Phoenix, Lumiere in Chandler, Sierra Canyon in Glendale and Waterford at Peoria, according to public records.

JLL directors John Cunningham and Charles Steele handled the 1,751-unit apartment deal for the sellers New York-based DRA Advisors and Dallas-based Milestone Group.

Construction Employment Rises in 45 States and D.C. from July 2017 to July 2018 while 29 States and D.C. Add Construction Jobs for the Month

Arizona General Contractors Association
(Originally posted on August 17, 2018)

Texas and Nevada Have Biggest Annual Job Increases While New Jersey and South Carolina Trail; Texas, New Hampshire and New Mexico Have Largest Monthly Gains as Mississippi and Utah Lag

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs between July 2017 and July 2018, while 29 states and D.C. added construction jobs between June and July, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data released today. Association officials cautioned that continued job gains may depend on swiftly implementing new training and education legislation to equip students and workers to enter the industry.

“Construction job gains over the past year were more widespread across the country than at any time since the beginning of 2016,” said chief economist Ken Simonson. “These results show that contractors are still optimistic about future construction activity. But it will be hard to sustain the increases unless more students learn of these opportunities and receive appropriate training.”

Texas added the most construction jobs during the past year (57,600 jobs, 8.1 percent). Other states adding a large number of new construction jobs for the past 12 months include California (38,500 jobs, 4.7 percent), Florida (38,200 jobs, 7.5 percent), Georgia (18,300 jobs, 10.1 percent) and Arizona (14,600 jobs, 10.0 percent). Nevada added the highest percentage of new construction jobs during the past year (10.9 percent, 9,100 jobs), followed by Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire (9.8 percent, 2,600 jobs) and Oregon (9.1 percent, 8,900 jobs). Construction employment reached a record high in Massachusetts, Oregon and Texas.

Only five states shed construction jobs between July 2017 and 2018. The largest and steepest percentage losses occurred in New Jersey (-6,000 jobs, -3.9 percent), followed by South Carolina (-2,300 jobs, -2.3 percent), Missouri (-1,200 jobs, -1.0 percent), Kentucky (-800 jobs, -1.0 percent) and Oklahoma (-700 jobs, -0.9 percent).

Texas had the largest one-month job gain (10,500 jobs, 1.4 percent) among the 29 states and D.C. that added construction jobs between June and July, followed by Florida (4,500 jobs, 0.8 percent), Ohio (2,200 jobs, 1.0 percent) and Indiana (2,000 jobs, 1.4 percent). The states that added the highest percentage of construction jobs for the month, 2.1 percent, were New Mexico (1,000 jobs) and New Hampshire (600 jobs).

From June to July, construction employment declined in 17 states and was unchanged in four: Alaska, North Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont. California lost the most construction jobs in July (-1,700, -0.2 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (-1,600 jobs, -0.6 percent), Mississippi (-1,600 jobs, -3.1 percent) and Utah (1,400 jobs, -1.4 percent). Mississippi lost the highest percentage of construction jobs for the month, followed by Utah, Maine (-1.0 percent, -300 jobs), Alabama (-0.9 percent, -800 jobs) and Oklahoma (-0.9 percent, -700 jobs).

Association officials said that despite the employment increases in most states, end-of-month job openings keep rising, indicating the difficulty contractors face in finding workers with appropriate skills. They urged federal agencies and state and local officials to swiftly implement the newly enacted federal career and technical education bill that increases funding and makes it easier for education officials to craft construction-focused education programs.

“Contractors stand ready to help prepare more workers for rewarding construction careers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “School districts, community colleges and other agencies need to do their part to inform and prepare students and young adults to pursue high-paying careers in the field.”


Use of Social Media in the Courtroom

social-media-in-courtA couple of weeks ago, we posted a blog entitled “Courts Adjust to Social Media,” which dealt with the admissibility of social media evidence in the courtroom. In that post, we told you about a Connecticut Appellate Court ruling which upheld a trial judge’s decision that some Facebook postings were inadmissible as evidence in a case in which a witness was able to plant seeds of doubt as to whether those postings had really come from her. She didn’t deny the postings were from her account, but insisted someone had hacked into that account. This was just one of a series of similar decisions made in jurisdictions across the country, regarding social media postings as evidence in the courtroom.

In this blog, we would like to continue reviewing the use of social media in the courtroom. We will focus on the increasingly problematic use of social media by jurors, defendants and victims.

The families of both defendants and victims are now creating Facebook pages about cases; gang members have taken to social media in an attempt to menace witnesses; and journalists are tweeting and texting from courtrooms during trials. The use of social media in court is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Courts around the country are working hard to update their policies on using social media in the courtroom. A Tucson attorney and jury consultant, Rosalind Greene, writes about the usage of social media in the courtroom. She recently discussed a study which found that, between 1999 and 2010, at least 90 verdicts were appealed across the country because of Internet or social-media gaffes; 28 of those were overturned, and half of those appeals happened in 2009 and 2010.

Courts around the country are updating their policies on social media usage in court. Here in Arizona, the State Supreme Court formed a committee, The Arizona Supreme Court Committee on the Impact of Wireless Mobile Technologies and Social Media. This committee is made up of judges, lawyers, academics, and press officers who develop rules for the use of laptops, smartphones, and social media in the courtroom.

Like it or not, the Internet and social media are now a part of our criminal justice system and they’re not going anywhere. This sets up a conflict between the First Amendment rights of the news media and the fair-trial rights of defendants. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, allow anyone with an account to distribute their thoughts and opinions to the entire world, which increases the risk of witness tampering, jury tainting, and unethical behavior by attorneys and judges.

Some of the biggest concerns with using social media in the courtroom relate to juries. As a rule, court trials are self-contained and juries are expected to make decisions based only upon information a judge has allowed attorneys to present. Social media can expose juries to the possibility of information leaks. To address that issue, Arizona state courts looked at rewording jury admonitions.

For years, jurors were told not to watch television news or read newspaper articles which talk about the trial they are sitting on. Today, the digital equivalent of that is telling jurors that they can’t make posts to social media which might give an indication of which way they’re leaning on a case, or go online to do research on that case. Recently, researchers monitoring Twitter found that people who identified themselves as prospective or sitting jurors tweeted every three minutes.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s committee is looking into giving cards to jurors advising them what they are and aren’t allowed to do. They are also considering producing posters for jury rooms which have the Facebook “F” and Internet Explorer “E” in red circles with bars going across them. They’ve also suggested wording which would read: “Do not send or read messages about this case because your verdict must be based on evidence presented in court.”

While there haven’t been reported instances in Arizona of a jury case that was compromised by the use of social media in the courtroom, or of a lawyer being disciplined because of social media usage, there are several cases from other places. Here are just a few examples:

  • In Britain, a  juror took to social media to ask if she should find a defendant guilty or not guilty.
  • A mistrial was declared after five members of a Baltimore jury “friended” each other on Facebook during a political corruption trial and discussed the case online.
  • A judge in New York state was disciplined for becoming “friends” with lawyers on social media.
  • Last year, a federal judge in New Jersey had doubts about the testimony of a witness, so she went on Facebook to check out that witness.
  • A Michigan juror posted an inappropriate post to her Facebook page, which read: “Gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re GUILTY.”

The Chairman of the Arizona Supreme Court Committee on the Impact of Wireless Mobile Technologies and Social Media, Justice Robert Brutinel, says that as social media technology continues to evolve, courts will be forced to adapt. When people ask him whether social media belong in the courtroom, he says, “I keep asking, ‘Why not?’… We asked, ‘Could we forbid this?’ And the answer was, ‘We couldn’t.’”

How to Use Lien Claims and Stop Notices as Payment Leverage in Arizona

By James Reed

Lien Claims and Stop Notices are at their most effective when they are both used on the same project. Here’s why you should use both, if you want to maximize your chances of recovery.   

When must you file suit on Lien Claims and Stop Notices?  In Arizona, lien claimants have 120 days from project completion to record a lien claim if no Notice of Completion is recorded, and 60 days if an NOC was recorded. If you still aren’t paid after recording your lien claim, you have six months from the date of recording the lien claim to file a lien foreclosure lawsuit in Superior Court, at which time you must also record a Notice of Lis Pendens.        

The time to serve a stop notice (a device to freeze the flow of money – from an owner to the contractor or from a construction lender to an owner – until the stop notice claimant has been paid) is the same as the deadlines to record a lien claim: 60 days after project with an NOC and 120 days without one. You have three months after the last day to record a lien claim in which to file suit (there is a 10 day waiting period after stop notice service, during which a stop notice lawsuit is not allowed).

A comparison between Lien Claims and Stop Notices – Lien claims are recorded and stop notices are not.Stop notice claimants must file suit in court on stop notice rights or else lose them in half the time available for lien claimants to do so.The first point favors the use of stop notices, since they do not impair the transfer of real property and are less likely to damage customer relationships.However, the shorter time involved for filing suit means that a stop notice claimant may be more frequently in a position than is a lien claimant of having to sue on stop notice rights or otherwise lose them. Because lien claimants have six months from recording the lien to file suit on their rights, the claimant is much more likely to know the intentions of the general contractor with respect to final payment of subcontractors and suppliers before the time to sue has expired. Thus, the second point favors the use of lien claims.

So what is the best strategy?  Use both.First, unless you know that you are going to lose a very valued and dependably-paying customer, always use a preliminary notice when providing materials or labor to a construction site.Secondly, anytime you would consider recording a lien claim, serve a stop notice also. The stop notice gives you extra pressure to apply without having to cloud title and potentially be liable if you do so improperly. If you haven’t been paid within three months of the last day to record a lien claim – and IF you timely and properly recorded your lien claim – then you can simply let your stop notice rights expire instead of a stop notice lawsuit, and then fall back on your lien claim rights. You then have about three more months of negotiating time with the owner or general contractor to get paid before you have to file suit to foreclose on the lien claim.

In sum, in most situations when you would consider recording a lien claim, you should also serve a stop notice. And anytime you fear that a lien claim will injure a business relationship, remember that a stop notice is an easy alternative device to spur collection of your receivable without clouding the title of property being improved.Good luck with both.

James B. Reed is a partner at Baird Williams & Greer and heads the firm’s construction lien and bond section.He is renowned for his expertise in lien and bond law, and was a presenter at the 2004 NACM National Congress. Click here to schedule a consultation with Attorney James Reed.

The Admissibility of Social Media Evidence in Court Cases

social-media-evidenceHow much credence should courts place in the use of social media as evidence?

As more of us become frequent users of social media like Facebook and Twitter, that question on the admissibility of social media evidence in court cases is becoming increasingly prevalent. In a recent case out of Connecticut, a defendant named Robert ELeck wanted to impeach the credibility of a key prosecution witness using social media evidence. A message on the Facebook page of that witness appeared to contradict her testimony that she had had no contact with Eleck, after he was accused of stabbing another teenager at a party.

Though the woman did not deny the postings came from her Facebook account, she testified that she had not written them, instead claiming someone had hacked into her account. She planted enough seeds of doubt that the trial judge in the case ruled the messages inadmissible as evidence, and the Connecticut Appellate Court recently upheld that ruling. This was one of a number of similar decisions made in jurisdictions across the country.

At least one legal scholar thinks this Connecticut ruling places a stricter standard of admissibility on social media evidence than what is required. “You really have to accept the fact that the standard is sufficiency and the standard is a low standard for a purpose,” said Sam Stonefield, a professor at Western New England University School of Law who has written on evidence issues. “If there are problems with the evidence, let the other side bring those to the attention of the jury and let the jury decide. Historically, whenever there’s been a new technology, courts have been wary of embracing that new technology.”

Under the sufficiency standard, evidence is admissible if it is sufficient for a reasonable jury to decide it is what it is claimed to be. While the appellate court did not spell out what steps must be taken to authenticate such evidence, Stonefield says the decision, and others like it, may force lawyers to call in social media providers, sometimes at the state’s expense to debate the admissibility of social media evidence.

While Stonefield says he believes the court made a mistake in its ruling, he added it’s unlikely the content of the messages would have affected the outcome of the trial, which was a verdict of guilty on assault charges.

The appellate court ruled that social media messages are comparable to hand-written statements, which can be forged. When the person said to be the writer denies making the statement, it’s up to the person proposing admission of social media evidence to prove its authenticity.

Attorney William B. Wescott, a partner at the Connecticut firm of Maya Murphy, argued the appeal for the defendant in the assault case. He says the appellate court ruling forces parties to prove a negative. “There’s a general presumption in all of evidentiary law that evidence is admissible, unless there’s a reason to keep it out,” Wescott says, adding, “What’s really implicit in this decision, although not outright stated, is they’re really leaning toward a presumption of suspicion.”

Dealing with Non-Parties at Fault Defenses

Baird Williams Greer Legal AdviceA.R.S. § 12-2506(A) establishes several liability in Arizona. The statute holds that each defendant is liable only for the amount of damages allocated to the defendant in direct proportion to the defendant’s percentage of fault. Section 12-2506 also provides that when assessing the percentages of each defendant’s fault, the fact finder “shall consider the fault of all persons who have contributed to the alleged injury. . . regardless of whether the person was, or could have been, named as a party to the suit.” The percentages of fault assessed against such “non-parties are used only as a vehicle for accurately determining the fault of the named parties.” Assessment of fault against a non-party does not subject a non-party to liability.

This portion of the comparative negligence/fault statutes in Arizona has been interpreted very broadly.

While evidence of other tortfeasors’ negligence, intentional wrongdoing, or strict liability, is still subject to Supreme Court interpretation, existing case law supports a very broad inclusion of all entities’ fault comparisons. This is of considerable advantage to a defendant who can designate non-parties at fault, resulting in the “laying off” of defendant’s liability to a non-party, which cannot defend itself. Notice of non-parties at fault must be given early in the case.

A defendant must designate non-parties at fault within one-hundred fifty days of the answer. Rule 26(b)(5). Additional time may be granted upon motion based upon newly discovered evidence.

Practice pointers. Practioners should file suit with time to spare before the statute of limitations runs, so that the 150 day deadline for naming non-parties at fault comes with sufficient time to amend the complaint to add new parties before the statute runs. Uniform Personal Injury Interrogatory, No. 5 should be served with the complaint seeking identity of non-parties at fault, facts supporting such designations and legal theories of why the non-party is at fault.

Jay Dobyns | Client Testimonial

(Left to Right)  J. Ernest Baird, P.C. Paralegal Jeff Elder, J. Ernest Baird, P.C. Client Jay Dobyns, J. Ernest Baird, P.C. Attorney James Reed, J. Ernest Baird, P.C. Associate Carson Emmons

(Left to Right) J. Ernest Baird, P.C. Paralegal Jeff Elder, J. Ernest Baird, P.C. Client Jay Dobyns, J. Ernest Baird, P.C. Attorney James Reed, J. Ernest Baird, P.C. Associate Carson Emmons

Dear Messrs. Baird, Williams and Greer,

With the closing arguments of Dobyns v. USA concluded, I wanted to send you a brief message.

First, thank you for your undying support to me during this case.  The courage that you displayed to allow your firm to represent me is immeasurable.

Jim is an extraordinary attorney.  I am supremely honored to call him my lawyer.  During the five years he has worked on this case and a Department of Justice and ATF that said they would out-resource us from the beginning, Jim never forfeited his commitment or integrity.  His work ethic is unlike anything I have ever seen.  The stamina and resilience he has displayed over 5 years is nothing short of amazing.

Carson routinely proved himself to be intelligent in his work and eloquent is his writing.  His research and legal insights were over and over and over simply tremendous.

Jeff was a remarkable workhorse.  There was no task too big, small, complex or simple that he did not overachieve on.  During each court appearance, Jeff out-performed the best DOJ had to offer, and his work was not one single time trumped by anything his DOJ peers could muster.

Your staff was always friendly, kind, supportive and displayed to me the hospitality that I believe few firms would ever grace a client with.

Upon exiting the courtroom on Tuesday, all I heard was how “remarkable” and “brilliant” my lawyers were.  I took a huge sense of personal pride in that.  Jim, Carson and Jeff have become family to both me and my family.

I know that I am not telling you anything that you do not already know.  I hope your sense of pride in Jim, Carson and Jeff is overflowing.


Jay Dobyns