Monday, April 10, 2006
Field of Candidates for State Bar Board Narrows at Deadline
Officials Say Originals of Marsh, O’Toole Nominating Petitions Failed to Reach State Bar on Time
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
The field of candidates seeking to represent Los Angeles County lawyers on the State Bar Board of Governors appeared to narrow to four Friday as two hopefuls missed a deadline for submitting original nominating petitions.
A State Bar spokesperson said the names of downtown lawyer Bradley R. Marsh and Century City attorney Marty O’Toole will not be included when ballots are mailed to active members in the county later this month.
But both Marsh and O’Toole told the MetNews Friday they believed they had complied with the intent of the rule setting the deadline and hoped State Bar officials would relent.
State Bar rules require nominating petitions to be filed by April 1. While the rules permit candidates to meet that deadline by means of a fax or electronic submission, they require the original petitions — which must contain the signatures of 20 eligible voters — to be mailed on or before the deadline and received by the State Bar no later than April 6.
This year April 1 was a Saturday, and the rules contain a provision extending any deadline which falls on a “Saturday, Sunday or holiday” to the following business day. As a result, nominating petitions were due this year on April 3.
But April 6 was Thursday, and since no provision of the rules extends a deadline that falls on a Thursday, the interval between the filing deadline and the deadline for receipt of the original petitions this year was three days instead of five.
Marsh said he mailed his original petition April 3, but State Bar officials said it had not been received by Friday, a day after the deadline.
O’Toole’s original petition, the spokesperson said, was received Friday but was postmarked April 4, though O’Toole told the MetNews he “personally” deposited it in the mail “early” on April 3.
“I’m not sure I am done arguing,” Marsh said. “I got myself in a little pickle by following the directions.”
He said he considered sending his petition in by FedEx, but did not because the instructions accompanying the petition say it should be sent in an “envelope which bears a postmark no later than” April 3.
Marsh said he interpreted that to mean the U.S. Mail should be used and was unaware at the time he mailed his petition that the rule itself specifies “a postmark of the United States Postal Service or other delivery service.”
The instructions, he noted, did not include any reference to the “other delivery service” option.
Both Marsh and O’Toole said they believed they had done everything they could to comply with the rule by mailing their petitions on April 3.
“I can’t after I do that guarantee that it arrives on time, because I’m not in control of the post office,” Marsh declared, adding he felt there would be “no prejudice to anyone” if he were permitted to continue his candidacy.
“I’m obviously disappointed,” he said. “I’m still hoping that they’ll just be decent and understanding.”
He added that he believed State Bar officials are “interpreting the rule a little bit strictly,” and is “not sure that I’ve received the final answer yet.”
Marsh, an associate with Rodi, Pollock, Pettker, Galbraith & Cahill who specializes in tax law, said he has not yet decided whether he will run again if he cannot revive his candidacy this year.
“I’m not sure if I’d run again, but if I do I’ll make sure to mail out the petition about three weeks early,” he quipped.
O’Toole, who ran last year and finished third in a field of four candidates, said he has yet to receive a clear explanation of his disqualification from State Bar officials.
“It’s a bit of a mystery to me,” he said. “I still plan to be a candidate. I’m going to find out on Monday.”
He said the State Bar’s action would have the unfair effect of disenfranchising those who signed his nominating petition.
“I hope and trust that this will get corrected,” he said.
If the disqualifications stand, four attorneys will compete to succeed former Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Sheldon H. Sloan on the board. Sloan’s is the only seat up for election this year representing District 7, which consists of Los Angeles County.
The district has five seats on the board. Attorneys elected to the board by district serve three-year terms.
Two District 7 seats were filled last year and two will be up for vote next year.
Girardi & Keese partner Howard B. Miller last month received the endorsement of the influential Breakfast Club, a group the primary purpose of which is to recruit candidates for the board. O’Toole also sought that endorsement, as did Sherman Oaks transactional and trial attorney Phillip Feldman, who will be making a bid for the office for a fourth straight year.
The Breakfast Club has recently re-asserted its sway in the selection process after two years in which self-described “outsider” candidates defeated three of the club’s choices. All of the current board members representing District 7 were elected with Breakfast Club backing, as was the State Bar’s immediate past president, former State Attorney General John Van de Kamp.
Also running in District 7 this year are Santa Monica Bar Association President Richard P. Longaker and Federal Aviation Administration attorney Theodore P. Byrne.
Though Sloan will relinquish his District 7 seat at the State Bar convention in Monterey in October, he will remain on the 23-member board if his colleagues elect him State Bar president in June. He is running for that post against two other third-year members of the board.
Single seats on the board were also to be filled by mail balloting during May and June in four other districts, but one election was cancelled because only a single candidate filed to run. None of the candidates who had filed papers in other districts was disqualified.
A State Bar spokesperson said that no ballots will be mailed out in District 3, which consists of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. San Ramon attorney Richard Frankel was the only candidate to file for the post and is deemed elected, the spokesperson explained.
Frankel practices business and employment law with Frankel & Goldware in that Contra Costa County community.
An unusually high-profile contest is underway in District 9, which consists of San Diego and Imperial counties. Two elected officials — San Diego District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis and San Diego City Attorney Michael J. Aguirre — are competing for the board seat.
Attorney Stephen C. Grebing of Wingert, Grebing, Brubaker & Goodwin is also running.
Aguirre’s candidacy came after the board last month rejected his personal plea for support for AB 1612, a measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Woodland Hills, which would create an exception to an attorney’s duty of confidentiality for public lawyers faced with official misconduct.
The board voted 12-5 to oppose the measure.
Dumanis, a former San Diego Superior Court judge, defeated Aguirre and then-incumbent District Attorney Paul Pfingst to win her current post in 2002. She and Aguirre have since clashed over other issues.
In District 5, which consists of Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Mono, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz, Stanislaus and Tulare counties, Visalia attorney Leonard C. Herr Jr. is opposed by Fresno lawyer John E. Peterson.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company