Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, April 15, 2004


Page 1


Rifat Drops Out of State Bar Board Race, Backs Otto


By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer


One of two opponents to Breakfast Club-backed District 7 State Bar Board of Governors candidate Jo-Anne W. Grace has dropped out of the race, throwing his support to the other, he said yesterday.

Glendale attorney Matthew D. M. Rifat said he has withdrawn his acceptance of his nomination and will back Northridge attorney James A. Otto for the seat being surrendered by Matt Cavanaugh, who will leave the board in October after completing a three-year term.

Rifat, a member of the State Bar’s Committee on Administration of Justice, said he plans to run next year, when two more seats will be up for election. He plans to seek Breakfast Club backing in that race, he said.

Rifat said he has spoken with Otto, who finished second last year with 1,102 votes, when former Municipal Court Judge Sheldon Sloan was elected with 2,100 votes, and planned to speak with him again last night.

Rifat said he decided it would be best to have “a single candidate who expresses our shared views on reform of the bar and engaging in the sort of review that we need to do to improve the bar’s operations.”

He added:

“I don’t want to deprive him of the votes needed.”

Rifat acknowledged that Grace, the co-publisher of the MetNews and general counsel for the company that owns and operates it, is also running on a platform that calls for changes in the way the State Bar is run. But he said Otto, as a non-Breakfast Club candidate, “may have more legitimacy in articulating reformist views.”

Otto also has the support of Cavanaugh, whose self-described “outsider” candidacy three years ago ended an era in which the influential Breakfast Club had effectively selected District 7 representatives. Former Attorney General John Van de Kamp, a Breakfast Club candidate, was also elected that year, without opposition, but in 2002 Cavanaugh-backed candidates defeated two candidates who had the Breakfast Club’s support.

Last year the group reasserted itself, backing Sloan to an easy victory over six opponents. This year it has endorsed Grace and Deputy Public Defender Marguerite Downing.

Downing is opposed by Sherman Oaks attorney Phillip Feldman, Los Angeles lawyer Joseph Lewis, and Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Frank M. Tavelman in the race to replace Van de Kamp.

Van de Kamp is one of four third-year board members seeking the organization’s presidency. If elected by his colleagues to that post next month he will remain on the board, but not as a District 7 representative.

Cavanaugh is not running for State Bar president.

Rifat’s departure from the race means that all of the non-Breakfast Club candidates this year are reprising last year’s efforts. Tavelman finished third to Sloan last year with 913 votes, Feldman placed fourth with 853 votes, and Lewis was last with 460 votes.

Long Beach attorney Curtis L. Harrington got 689 votes, finishing fifth, while downtown Los Angeles lawyer Scott W. Davenport got 573 votes and came in sixth.

Downing last year, like Rifat this year, filed nominating papers but withdrew from the race. She supported Sloan last year.

A State Bar spokesperson said Rifat was the only one of 13 candidates for Board of Governors statewide to drop out.

Voting is by district, with ballots being mailed out to members April 30 and due back June 30. Los Angeles County is District 7.

Ballots are to be canvassed July 12-15.

The other seats open are in Districts 2, 3 and 4.

Ruthe C. Ashley, the career development director of McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, and California Energy Commission attorney Paul Kramer have filed to run in District 2, which consists of Sacramento and seven other Northern California counties. 

James A. Scharf  of the San Jose firm MacMorris & Carbone, and Michael K. Schmier, an employment lawyer who practices in Emoryville, are running in District 3, which consists of Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

In District 4, which consists of San Francisco and Marin counties, Dena Marie Cruz, co-chair of the bar sections’ governing council, is running against former Bar Association of San Francisco President Jeffrey Bleich, who is also a former clerk to U.S. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company