Thursday, March 23, 2006
Three Expected to Seek Breakfast Club Support in Bids for Seat on State Bar Board of Governors
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Three attorneys, including two who sought the office last year, are expected to seek the support of the Breakfast Club tomorrow for a seat on the State Bar Board of Governors.
Breakfast Club Chair Victor Santochi, an attorney with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, said he expects club members to choose among James Aguirre, Marty O’Toole and Howard B. Miller at an early morning meeting.
Miller sought the group’s backing last year, but withdrew his candidacy when the club instead gave its support to John P. McNicholas and Holly J. Fujie. McNicholas and Fujie were elected to the two available seats representing District 7, which consists of Los Angeles County.
O’Toole ran against Fujie, finishing third in a field of four.
Miller, now a partner with Girardi & Keese, was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 1974. He was president of the Los Angeles Unified School District board from 1977 to 1979, but was removed from office by a successful recall campaign.
He later served as the school district’s chief operating officer in 1999 and 2000.
Miller told the MetNews yesterday he will follow through on his candidacy this year whether or not he receives Breakfast Club backing.
“I have great respect for the Breakfast Club,” Miller said, but added that he will “do it in any event.”
Recruiting candidates for the Board of Governors is the primary function of the club, which for many years exercised a near-monopoly over the process. But self-described “outsider” candidates defeated three of the Breakfast Club’s choices in 2001 and 2002.
The club’s candidates have reasserted their dominance in the past three years, and Santochi told the club’s members at its endorsement meeting last year that the group is “back and kicking.”
District 7 has five seats on the 23-member board. Attorney members are elected to three-year terms in mail balloting conducted in May and June.
The attorney elected this year will replace former Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Sheldon Sloan as a District 7 representative on the board, though Sloan could remain on the board for another year if the board selects him in June, over two of his colleagues, to serve as the organization’s president.
Miller, who was introduced at last year’s meeting by former State Bar President Alan Rothenberg, told the club members then that the practice of law has increasingly “become federalized” and urged the bar to pay more attention to the “question of external relations—representing the entire profession to the outside world.”
He taught at USC Law School from 1965 to 1977, and was a full professor during his last eight years there.
“I have managed to do just about everything you can do in the field of law,” he said at last year’s meeting.
O’Toole, a Century City sole practitioner, did not seek Breakfast Club backing last year. He focused his campaign on a contention that the disciplinary system is too heavily focused on attorneys who have done “something stupid in their private life,” such as those convicted of drunk driving “and [are] being punished somewhere else,” and not on those who are engaged in unethical conduct in court, such as filing frivolous suits.
He told the MetNews yesterday that he would again address that issue, since there has been no change in State Bar policies in the interim.
The State Bar’s “first priority should be to address conduct of attorneys that touches and concerns the practice of law,” he said. Instead, he asserted, State Bar investigators and prosecutors generally refuse to act on complaints of misconduct during litigation unless a judge has already sanctioned the attorney involved.
“My experience is that judges seldom issue sanctions,” O’Toole said, contending that the State Bar “can better determine” whether misconduct occurred.
O’Toole’s practice concentrates on entertainment law, though he has also done criminal defense and general civil litigation and was a deputy public defender for three years. He earned his law degree at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Aguirre, an attorney with Richardson Bambrick Cermak & Fair, could not be reached yesterday for comment on his candidacy. Santochi said he believes the lawyer primarily represents the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The State Bar’s Web site indicates Aguirre has practiced in California since 1978 and earned his law degree from UCLA. He is a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Diversity in the Profession Committee.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company