Monday, September 8, 2003
State Bar Honors Orange County Senators for Budget Work
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Two Orange County legislators were lauded as “Third Branch Heroes” at the State Bar Annual Meeting Friday for their work in staving off drastic budget cuts for the court system.
Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Garden Grove, and Sen. Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin, were given the new award before an Anaheim Hilton luncheon audience of about 400 conference attendees which included state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.
Outgoing State Bar President Jim Herman made the awards, which had been endorsed by his Board of Governors colleagues at a meeting in Los Angeles in July. Herman noted that both Dunn and Ackerman are “real lawyers” who entered politics after careers practicing law.
Lawyers, he observed, form a decreasing minority of state legislators, down from 37 percent in 1980 to 23 percent now—a trend he suggested has contributed to the difficulty in establishing a stable source of funding for the court system.
Dunn, a University of Minnesota Law School graduate, and Ackerman, who earned his law degree at Hastings, served on the Senate budget subcommittee which was responsible for dealing with court funding this year. Dunn chaired the subcommittee, and Ackerman was the vice-chair of the full Senate Budget Committee.
Dunn said the award was “greatly appreciated but surely unnecessary.” He told the audience he did not need any encouragement to support court funding.
Funding for the court system will be even more difficult to come by next year, he predicted. Later, addressing the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations at the Anaheim Convention Center next door, he elaborated.
The effort to restore at least part of the court funding cuts proposed in early versions of the state budget was led this year by a coalition of the State Bar, the Judicial Council, and sympathetic legislators, Dunn said.
“We won’t survive if those are the only troops in the fight next year,” the legislator warned the conference delegates, urging all of them to become involved.
Ackerman told the luncheon audience that the court funding fight was a “bipartisan effort,” adding that when he and Dunn approached their respective party leaders to ask for more money “the door was not fully closed, but it was partially closed.”
It was difficult, he recalled, for a “Democratic trial attorney and a Republican business lawyer trying to push something through a Legislature which doesn’t like lawyers to begin with.”
Ackerman has been credited by the State Bar with spearheading efforts to win Republican support for the fee increases that formed a key component of the court budget compromise. Republicans have traditionally opposed such increases.
Herman said the award he handed to the two was inscribed, “For extraordinary contributions above and beyond to the cause of California’s judiciary.”
The awards to Dunn and Ackerman preceded remarks by Friday’s featured speaker, libertarian radio personality Larry Elder. Like author Brad Meltzer, who spoke at last year’s meeting, Elder—though best known for other accomplishments—did at one time practice law.
He graduated from University of Michigan Law School in 1977, and was a litigator with a Cleveland firm. More recently, he hosted the short-lived television program “Moral Court.”
Though Moral Court was similar in format to other simulated courtroom shows, Elder judged the morality—not the legality—of the actions of those who appeared before him.
Elder told the audience how he became involved in radio and talked about his controversial political stands and his view of the U.S. Constitution.
The Annual Meeting continued through the weekend, with the main draw being over 200 courses for MCLE credit-required for lawyers to maintain their eligibility to practice.
Courses covered topics including how to make a profit in the business of law, how to write well, how to get appointed as a search and seizure special master, legal implications of gay and lesbian parenting, environmental litigation, internet resources, charitable gifts, selling a law practice, subrogation, and identity theft.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company