Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Top State Bar Prosecutor Michael Nisperos to Step Down Jan. 1
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Michael Nisperos will not apply for a second four-year term and will leave his position Jan. 1, officials said yesterday.
Nisperos, who moved to Los Angeles from Oakland to accept the post in March 2001, did not return a MetNews phone call. In a statement released by the State Bar, he said that while the opportunity to apply for a new term was “tempting,” he felt “the Bay Area calling me back to my roots.”
Nisperos’ decision to leave the post of top prosecutor in the organization’s discipline system, which he announced to his staff yesterday morning, comes after a job announcement for the position was posted on the State Bar’s website.
The posting did not indicate dissatisfaction with Nisperos’ performance, State Bar Deputy Executive Director Robert Hawley said.
Hawley explained that Nisperos was “welcome to seek reappointment,” but that the Board of Governors had no intention of closing the process to other applicants. This was consistent, Hawley added, with the practice followed by the Supreme Court in the appointment of State Bar Court judges, who must reapply and compete with new applicants if they wish to be reappointed.
The bar official noted that of the three people who held the office before Nisperos, only Judy Johnson—now the executive director—sought reappointment. That was a unique situation, he explained, because it occurred after a gubernatorial veto left the State Bar without funding for the position.
Nisperos’ decision not to reapply, he added, was unsurprising given the nature of the post. “The job is grueling, it’s four years in a high profile public position,” he explained, comparing Nisperos’ choice to Colin Powell’s decision not to stay on in President Bush’s second term.
Like Powell, he said, Nisperos will be recognized for high-profile achievements, in particular his handling of the Trevor Law Group matter, in which the firm’s attorneys—charged with multiple ethical violations based on their handling of unfair business practice claims against thousands of small businesses—were placed on involuntary inactive status and eventually chose to resign from the bar rather than face discipline.
Board of Governors member David Marcus, a Century City attorney, said he was “saddened” to see Nisperos go. “Mike has contributed greatly,” Marcus said, “I’m sorry that he decided not to reapply.”
Nisperos was manager of Oakland’s Citizens’ Police Review Board prior to taking the State Bar post.
He has spent most of his entire career as a public lawyer, working first for the Alameda District Attorney’s Office and later as a trial lawyer for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. But his career took a turn in 1987 when he checked himself into a drug rehabilitation program.
Headed Drug Office
Having gone through rehabilitation, he authored a proposal to combat Oakland’s drug problem, and in 1991 he was named director of the mayor’s Office of Drugs and Crime by then-Mayor Elihu Harris.
During his tenure as chief trial counsel, the State Bar established a diversion program for lawyers who abuse drugs or alcohol.
Nisperos graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law in 1978. A Marine who served during the Vietnam era, he was with the Judge Advocate General Corps in the U.S. Air Force from 1982 to 1986.
In light of Nisperos’ announcement, Hawley said, the deadline for applications for the post will be extended to Jan. 19, making it unlikely that a successor will be chosen before the end of March. The selection will be made by the Board of Governors and must be ratified by the state Senate, although the appointee may serve for up to a year pending the Senate vote.
Deputy Chief Trial Council Russell Weiner will serve as interim chief trial counsel.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company