Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Proposal to Combine Committees Sparks Debate at State Bar Board of Governors Meeting
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
A proposal to combine two State Bar Board of Governors committees—an action which could impact the process of selecting the State Bar president in 2005—sparked lively debate as the board met in Los Angeles Saturday.
Though the board did not vote on the proposal, current President Anthony P. Capozzi ordered it placed on the board’s agenda for action in September. He acted after former state Attorney General John K. Van de Kamp, who will succeed Capozzi in October, indicated a desire to have the issue resolved before he takes office.
Van de Kamp expressed his view only after several board members urged putting action off until January, when the new board will conduct an annual review of goals and procedures.
The issue affects State Bar presidential politics, since under the current committee structure each third-year member of the board gets to chair a committee. Five of the 15 attorney members who represent geographic areas of the state on the board are elected each year to serve three-year terms.
Though public members are also technically eligible to run, the State Bar president has traditionally been selected from among the third-year attorney members. Reducing the number of standing committees could torpedo the presidential aspirations of the member or members not chosen to chair a committee.
The organization’s president is chosen each year by a vote of the board.
The five committees chaired by third-year members are Planning, Program Development, and Budget, or PPDB; Regulation, Admission and Discipline Oversight, or RAD; Member Oversight, or MOC; Stakeholder Relations, or SRC; and Volunteer Involvement, or VIC.
A sixth committee, the Board Committee on Operations, is chaired by the State Bar president and made up of the chairs of the other committees, along with one public member and the State Bar’s executive director.
The proposal to merge SRC and VIC had the support of the current chairs of the two committees, Deputy Controller for Policy Windie O. Scott and Redwood City attorney Vivian Kral. Scott and Kral, both of whom unsuccessfully sought the presidency this year, said the functions of the two committees partly overlap and that efficiencies would result from combining them.
The proposal was formulated by the PPDB Committee. In a document outlining the history of the current committee structure, which was adopted in 2001, the committee noted that structure was “driven by a perceived need to provide a leadership opportunity for each third-year lawyer member of the Board by chairing a committee and thereby positioning themselves for election as president.”
Board member Sheldon H. Sloan, a former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, sharply questioned whether there was any need to correlate the number of committees with the number of third-year lawyer board members. The committee structure should be geared only towards completing the board’s work efficiently, Sloan said.
Sloan, who will begin his second year on the board in October, also questioned whether committee chairpersonships should be limited to third-year lawyer members. Newer board members and public members are “perfectly capable” of chairing board committees, Sloan said.
The issue of reorganizing the committee structure should be put off until it can be thoroughly vetted in January, Sloan urged.
But Van de Kamp said he wanted it resolved before he makes committee appointments, and neither Sloan nor any other member chose to press the point after Van de Kamp spoke.
Two of the board members who will begin the final year of their terms in October are from District 7, which consists of Los Angeles County. They are Deputy District Attorney Steven J. Ipsen and David M. Marcus of the Century City firm of Marcus, Watanabe, Snyder & Dave.
Riverside attorney James O. Heiting of Heiting & Irwin, Irvine lawyer Joel S. Miliband of Rus Miliband & Smith, and Roderick A. McLeod of Jones Day in San Francisco will also be in their third year.
Ipsen and Marcus were elected to the board as self-styled “outsider” candidates with the support of board member Matthew E. Cavanaugh, defeating candidates backed by the Breakfast Club. Until Cavanaugh’s election in 2001, the club’s selections had mostly won with ease for a decade or more, often with little or no opposition.
Cavanaugh did not run for president against Van de Kamp, who was elected to the board in 2001 with Breakfast Club support, and this year Breakfast Club candidates defeated two Cavanaugh-backed contenders.
One board member yesterday called Heiting an early favorite to succeed Van de Kamp.
In other action, the board adopted a $53 million 2005 budget by a vote of 17-3. Cavanaugh and Marcus were joined in voting against the spending plan by Chico attorney Richard L. Crabtree.
Capozzi said the budget will require the bar to dip into its reserves. The bar plans to spend $1.1 million more than its anticipated income, he said.
State legislators, Capozzi explained, have indicated they will not support a dues increase until the bar reduces its reserves to about 3 percent of its annual expenditures.
Cavanaugh, who will leave the board in October, said this year’s budget was the first during his tenure that “does not result in us taking in more than we spend.” But he said he was still voting against it because he believed both dues and the bar’s “net asset position” were too high.
Cavanaugh estimated those assets at $60 million, but Capozzi said the bar’s reserves are closer to $6 million, and Van de Kamp said Cavanaugh’s estimate includes “restricted funds that we’re not able to touch.”
Crabtree said he was unwilling to vote for a budget that called for expenditures greater than income.
“It’s not prudent to spend reserves,” he declared.
Van de Kamp said he was also uncomfortable with the 3 percent figure. Reserves closer to 25 percent would probably be needed to see the bar through until urgency legislation could be passed if, due to a political crisis, the Legislature failed to pass a dues bill, he said.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company