Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Local State Bar Board of Governors Members Laud Action Merging Volunteer, Stakeholder Panels
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Three members who represent Los Angeles County lawyers on the State Bar Board of Governors yesterday hailed as a step forward action taken by the board Saturday to merge two of its six standing committees.
Third-year member Matthew E. Cavanaugh, second-year member David M. Marcus and first-year member Sheldon H. Sloan all said the merger was a good idea, even though it means there are no longer enough committees to allow each third-year member to chair one.
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. By tradition, when they reach their final year, they are entrusted with leadership of one of five committees: Planning, Program Development, and Budget, or PPDB; Regulation, Admission and Discipline Oversight, or RAD; Member Oversight, or MOC; Stakeholder Relations, or SRC; or Volunteer Involvement, or VIC.
The board voted Saturday at its meeting in Fresno to merge SRC and 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 merger proposal was formulated by the PPDB Committee. In a document outlining the history of the current committee structure, the committee noted that it 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.”
Though public members in the final year of their terms are also technically eligible to run, the State Bar president has traditionally been selected from among the third-year attorney members.The organization’s president is chosen each year by a vote of the board.
When the board met in Los Angeles in July, some members urged that the issue of reorganizing the committee structure be put off until it could be thoroughly vetted in January. But former state Attorney General John K. Van de Kamp, who will take over as State Bar president next month, said he wanted it resolved before he makes committee appointments.
The merger leaves Van de Kamp, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, with the prospect of leaving one third-year member out when he selects committee chairs. But current State Bar President Anthony P. Capozzi said Van de Kamp will probably sidestep the difficulty by appointing co-chairs of the merged committee.
He could also come up with a new role for the fifth third-year member, or abandon the tradition of limiting committee chairs to those five board members.
Cavanaugh, who will leave the board next month and did not seek the presidency, acknowledged that if Van de Kamp awards chairs to four of the five third-year members, the other member may feel slighted.
“I would if it were me,” he commented.
But he called the merger “kind of a heartening sign” and noted that some of those who voted against it “wanted even fewer committees.”
He expressed doubt that the change would have a major effect on jockeying for the bar’s top post.
“Not everyone is interested in running for president,” he observed.
Marcus, who is one of the five who could have expected a chair beginning in October under the old system, said he will not feel any disappointment if he is left out.
“I’m relieved,” he said.
He noted that while five board members voted against the change, it was supported by the current chairs of VIC and SRC.
Marcus said he is not convinced that board members are much influenced by a candidate’s service as a committee chair when they vote for president.
“You know the candidates well enough that you don’t really consider whether they’re committee chairs,” he said. “....I don’t know if that really makes a difference.”
Sloan, who did not attend the Fresno meeting, said he was “pleased” to learn of the board’s action. He said he would support further consolidations—three committees, he said, would probably be enough—and would also support allowing the non-lawyer members of the board and those not yet in the final year of their terms to lead committees.
“We shouldn’t be worried about people’s personal ambition,” he said. “There are plenty of opportunities to show leadership beside chairing a committee—.I didn’t run for the Board of Governors to be president, and I hope others didn’t either.”
Cavanaugh pointed out that the committee assignments are actually made by the board, not the president, though by tradition the board merely ratifies the president’s choices. But he took issue with Sloan’s suggestion that first- and second-year board members are ready to head committees.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said.
Cavanaugh, who this year chaired MOC, said he did not think he would have been ready to take on that role until he had already been on the board for two years.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company