Tuesday, May 25, 2005
Van de Kamp Elected 80th President of State Bar
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Former state Attorney General John K. Van de Kamp has been elected the 80th president of the State Bar of California.
Van de Kamp, an attorney with Dewey Ballantine in Los Angeles, defeated three other members of the State Bar Board of Governors’ third-year class in voting at a special meeting in San Francisco Saturday.
The 22 board members eligible to vote—candidates can vote, but the board’s 23rd member, its president, cannot—had to cast five ballots before all of the other competitors were eliminated. Russell Roeca of Roeca, Haas, Hager in San Francisco, currently chair of the board’s powerful Planning, Program Development, and Budget Committee, was the last of Van de Kamp’s opponents to remain in contention for the post.
Van de Kamp, 68, will replace current president Anthony P. Capozzi at the State Bar’s convention, which this year will be held in Monterey from Oct. 7-10.
He said yesterday he is looking forward to a “fun year” as president. Noting that the board has been involved in a strategic planning process for over two years, Van de Kamp said he does not foresee any major changes in direction as a consequence of his election.
The “major shift on the board” during that period has been an increased emphasis on member benefit programs, including discount programs, health plans, and malpractice insurance programs, Van de Kamp said. He added that this trend is likely to continue.
Such programs can be particularly helpful to solo and small firm practitioners, Van de Kamp asserted, though he conceded the State Bar must be careful not to set itself up in competition with similar efforts sponsored by county bar associations or other local bar groups.
The bar will continue to emphasize its core activities, including discipline, he said. Van de Kamp currently head the board’s Regulation, Admission, and Discipline Oversight Committee.
But he said it will also emphasize promoting access to justice and diversity within the profession.
Achieving diversity that “better mirrors the general population” is a “long term goal in the bar, but we have a distance to go in that area” Van de Kamp declared.
He called his three opponents a “terrific group of people,” and said he wants to keep all of them “involved in the work of the bar” after they leave the board in October.
Under the board’s rules, a majority of the votes is required to elect a president, with the candidate receiving the fewest votes eliminated after each round. Voting is by secret ballot, and the bar does not release a vote count.
Though one colleague handicapping the race last week had suggested Van de Kamp might have as many as 18 votes secured in advance, he did not receive the 12 votes needed for victory on the first ballot. State Deputy Controller for Policy Windie O. Scott was eliminated after that round.
On the second ballot, Van de Kamp again failed to win a majority, but did outpoll Roeca and Redwood City attorney Vivian Kral, each of whom received the same number of votes. Election rules call for successive elimination ballots between the tied candidates under those circumstances.
Roeca and Kral remained deadlocked after the first elimination ballot, but Roeca won a second round of elimination voting before losing to Van de Kamp in a third round of presidential voting.
Van de Kamp was elected California’s attorney general in 1982 and served two terms. Before that, he spent eight years as Los Angeles district attorney, was the first federal public defender for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, was director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys under then-Deputy Attorney General Warren Christopher, and was U.S. attorney for the Central District.
Van de Kamp also ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1990, losing to Dianne Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor who is now California’s senior U.S. senator. He earned his law degree at Stanford.
In a written campaign statement distributed to his colleagues on the board, Van de Kamp asserted that though he is a “lifetime registered Democrat,” he “worked effectively” with Republican Gov. George Deukmejian and Republican legislators while he was attorney general and voted three times to confirm Chief Justice Ronald M. George while serving on the state Commission on Judicial Appointments.
“While I promise no miracles, I believe I can be helpful to the Bar in Sacramento,” Van de Kamp wrote, adding:
“...I believe I will find doors which will open to give us a fair hearing.”
He also said the State Bar presidency “should be close to a full-time job,” explaining that Dewey Ballantine has agreed to make few demands on his time during his year in office. He said he will resign, effective at the end of next month, as president and general counsel of Thoroughbred Owners of California, a position he has held since 1996.
Yesterday, Van de Kamp sounded one note that recalled the approach to the state bar presidency emphasized by Capozzi, promising to work to improve the reputation of the profession by letting “the public know more about what lawyers are doing.”
“Lawyers and the legal profession are part of the glue that keeps this country together,” he declared. “The overwhelming number of lawyers out there really are service oriented.”
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company