Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Riverside Lawyer Heiting Sworn In as 81st State Bar President
Attorney Who Rebuilt Career After Battling Addiction Calls on Board to Employ ‘Teamwork’ and ‘Passion’
By J’Amy Pacheco, Staff Writer
Acknowledging that he “cannot carry the weight” alone, newly installed State Bar President James O. Heiting has called on members of the Board of Governors to employ “teamwork and passion” to help the organization’s governing body reach its goals for his term.
“I am very aware that my successes are due to others,” he stated. “Therefore, and with an expectation of success, I plan to ask each of the members of the Board of Governors, as well as other leaders of the bar this next year, that they carry ideals of creativity, dedication, persistence, purpose, honesty, openness, willingness, and effective communication in all of their dealings.”
Vowing to “explore new and novel ways to approach old and lingering problems and issues,” Heiting said he “will demand their very best efforts to accomplish the tasks at hand, whatever they may be, as I fully expect of myself and you can expect of me.”
Mass Installation Ceremony
The Riverside attorney was sworn in Saturday by Chief Justice Ronald M. George as the 81st president of the State Bar of California during the State Bar’s annual convention, held Thursday through Sunday in San Diego. Members of the Board of Governors, California Young Lawyers and the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations were sworn in separately during the joint ceremony, as were Terry Friedman, new president of the California Judges Association, and members of that organization’s executive board.
Heiting vowed to develop “a concerted effort” to encourage diversity “from the ground up,” getting minority “young people” involved and developing a “model program to encourage young people in pursuit of a career in the law and to encourage those already in the law in their involvement in the State Bar.” Heiting said he already has commitments of support from the presidents of the California Association of Black Lawyers and California Women Lawyers, and from leadership of the Asian-Pacific American Lawyers, Latino lawyers groups, the access committees of the State Bar, California Young Lawyers and others.
“I expect that we will have a good, true model pipeline program in place by the end of my year,” he said. “We must continue to provide and facilitate access to justice on every front.”
Hopes to ‘Plant Seeds’
Heiting said he hopes to “plant the seeds” for courts dedicated to pro per litigants and “other innovative methods of approach to pro per litigation.”
“I hope to plant the seed to explore a ‘Law Cal’ program for indigents and help from attorneys at reduced rates, making attorneys and their services more readily available in a way that attorneys can afford to practice,” he said. “I hope to plant the seeds to explore civil litigants’ right to counsel.”
He urged those present to read the March 2005 report on the Equal Access Fund, created by the Legislature in 1999 to improve equal access to justice.
“You will see that we would hope to realize an increase of funding to the Equal Access Fund in the near future,” he said, lauding George and Sens. Joseph Dunn, D-Santa Ana, and Richard Ackerman, R-Garden Grove, among other legislators, for their support of the fund.
Heiting said State Bar officials “must always continue to evaluate and criticize our management and performance,” including budgeting, spending and use of member funds. He added that sources of non-dues revenues are being sought, and said the board is looking into “insurance products, our real estate investments, a virtual warehouse of goods and services to be made available with cost savings and/or increased benefit for our members,” and other programs.
But he added that he is “ever mindful” of the effect those efforts might have on local bars, and noted he has established a blue ribbon committee to examine those potential effects.
He expressed support for George’s efforts to obtain funding for additional judicial positions, which he characterized as “absolutely necessary to our courts and citizens,” and said he hopes to receive support from the state courts for attorney security passes that will allow lawyers to bypass lengthy lines outside courthouse security checkpoints.
Mentioning briefly his support of the Lawyer Assistance and Alternative Discipline Programs and his concerns about lawyer television advertising, he acknowledged that the time designated for his speech prevented him from discussing some issues in depth.
“Do not expect that, by failure to include a concern in this talk, that there is a failure of intent to address it,” he said. “I hope to partner with each of you in making our time leading the State Bar more productive, creative and fruitful than we now dare to imagine.”
He applauded outgoing President John Van de Kamp ń who received a standing ovation ń for his “giving nature” and his service as president.
“He has cemented good relations with the courts and with the legislators that would not be possible without his character and the respect that he commands,” Heiting said. “He is appreciated by all of us who have served under him, as he is inclusive, open-minded, and certainly willing to listen.”
In introducing his successor, Van de Kamp recalled Heiting’s almost two decade climb from alcoholism to recovery and ultimately, the presidency.
“In Jim Heiting you have the power of redemption,” he said, citing the 1986 drunk driving conviction that caused the attorney to “hit rock bottom.”
“Jim has never forgotten where he came from,” Van de Kamp said, calling Heiting a “caring, decent person” who has “not only seen the other side of life but has never forgotten it.”
In his sometimes emotional speech, Heiting credited a 12-step program with having saved his life.
“I am truly blessed,” he said. “Life has given me many gifts, sometimes through and as the result of some pretty tough lessons. I have grown stronger for each trial, learned how to succeed by each failure, and I have discovered that the true riches of life come in relationships that I have with other people.”
Stating that “leadership exists for me in service to others,” Heiting said he wants “each of us to be the best that we can be.”
“A lot has been given to me, and in return I have a lot to give back,” he said. “The gauge I use is, ‘What good can I do?’ Let’s all go out and do some good.”
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company