Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Sloan, Hokokian and Shelton to Vie for State Bar Presidency
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
A former Los Angeles County Bar Association president, a former Fresno County Bar Association president, and the president of the California Association of Black Lawyers will square off in June for the presidency of the State Bar of California.
Sheldon H. Sloan, who represents Los Angeles County lawyers on the State Bar Board of Governors and is also a former Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge, will face Paul S. Hokokian and Demetrius D. Shelton for the post when their colleagues on the board vote in San Francisco.
Hokokian, 54, is completing his second stint on the board, and ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2000 when Palmer Madden was chosen. He is a former prosecutor and now works for Fresno County Child Support Services.
Shelton, 40, is an Oakland deputy city attorney.
Sloan, 70, was a judge from 1973 to 1976. He served as Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission president and was involved in the effort to bring pro football back to that facility.
He also has served as a member of the Judicial Council of California and has been active in Republican politics. His practice focuses heavily on government law and lobbying, and he was reportedly influential in the judicial appointment process during the administrations of Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson.
He was LACBA president in 1996-97.
He told the MetNews yesterday he was undecided until recently about making a bid for the post.
“I decided to do it because I think I could do a good job,” he said, adding:
“To some degree I have the support of my family.”
Much of his work, if elected, Sloan said, will consist of continuing programs already in place, such as the “pipeline” initiative to promote diversity in the profession by encouraging interest at earlier stages of the educational process.
“Of all the ideas that I’ve seen in many, many years of practice, I think it’s one of the best,” he commented.
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” Sloan declared. “I don’t intend to create a lot of new programs.”
One new initiative he said he would undertake is to use his contacts with large firms to develop a program to improve lawyer civility.
“At least in our area, it has broken down,” Sloan contended.
‘Return Some Civility’
His initiative would involve creating “a group of folks composed of leading lawyers” to work on an educational program “that would return some civility to the law,” Sloan said. Much of the neglect of collegiality in litigation is centered in large firms which “have the financial wherewithal to engage in this kind of stuff,” Sloan explained, asserting that if the managers of large firms clamp down on it, the effect could be substantial.
He conceded that his outspokenness during his time on the board may cost him some votes, but said he has always been “known as a person that speaks his mind.”
A law school professor, he said, advised him always to “be yourself, because if you’re not the jurors will know.”
Sloan, during the last year of his three-year term on the board, has chaired its Stakeholder Relations Committee.
Hokokian noted that his first term on the board came at the time then-Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed the State Bar dues bill, leading to a near shutdown of bar activities. One reason he ran for another term, he said, was that the experience of serving during that crisis was so unsatisfactory.
“The board members didn’t communicate among themselves,” he said. “It was not a very pleasant time on the board.”
Now, he said, that experience gives him a unique perspective on the State Bar and its problems.
“I think I am the only one who can accurately advocate the difference between what bar was in 1997 and what it is today,” he observed.
Hokokian declined to address Sloan’s style of interacting with his board colleagues directly, but stressed that his background in family law may be partly responsible for his own style, which he described as “less adversarial, more cooperative” than that of many other attorneys.
If elected president, he said, he would not be a “lone ranger” but would “advocate for the rest of the board and good lawyers in the state.”
He said it is probably time for a “modest” increase in State Bar dues to support the activities of the organization.
“California lawyers have had a bargain for years now,” he remarked, noting that the dues bill Wilson vetoed would have provided for larger dues than are currently assessed.
He said that if he becomes president he will report on his travels and activities in writing at each board meeting. The laudable activities of State Bar presidents have not been adequately documented in the past, he asserted.
He said he also would suggest changing the Board of Governors meeting schedule in an effort to avoid the now-standard Saturday meetings, to have fewer meetings, and to allow more time for debate, and would press for better marketing of the State Bar’s annual convention to increase its profitability.
He is currently chair of the board’s Regulation, Admissions, and Discipline Oversight Committee.
“I’m a dedicated hardworking bar worker and have been for a number of years. It’s in my blood. I like moving things forward, effectuating change and being successful in our endeavors.”
He currently chairs the board’s Member Oversight Committee, and noted that in that capacity he has overseen implementation of the State Bar’s new Member Service Center and was involved in a survey of member needs.
If elected, he said, he would stress the need for the State Bar to become more responsive to its membership.
“These mediums cannot be exercises in futility,” he commented, adding:
“We basically have to give the people what they want.”
He said he planned to stress the need to continue work toward diversification in the profession and to encourage further review of the State Bar’s rules and policies, which he said are sometimes unclear and lead to inadvertent violations by attorneys.
“Diversity is the cornerstone of our society,” Shelton declared.
Like Hokokian, Shelton declined to comment directly on Sloan, but he described himself as a “consensus builder” who has “effectively been able to mobilize those who I’ve worked with into action.”
He also noted that he organized fundraising efforts which took place at the State Bar convention in September in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Notably absent from the race is Chico attorney Richard L. Crabtree, who chairs the board’s powerful Planning, Program Development, and Budget Committee. In the four years since the current committee structure was implemented, the PPDB chair has run for president each year and lost only once, when the nod went to former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp in 2003.
Crabtree said his decision not to compete came at the last minute. As a sole practitioner — he serves as the contract city attorney for Red Bluff in Tehama County and does work for mostly government clients — he could not devote the approximately three days per work the unpaid job requires, Crabtree said.
Asked if the State Bar should consider a stipend for its president, Crabtree said:
“My personal opinion is yes.”
The current system makes it difficult, if not impossible, for lawyers with small practices and in rural areas to serve, he said.
Crabtree noted that the American Bar Association’s president receives a stipend. “I believe it’s six figures,” he said.
Even a much smaller stipend would go far toward remedying the situation that caused him to withdraw, Crabtree said.
The roster of candidates was revealed by State Bar Executive Director Judy Johnson at the board’s meeting in Los Angeles Saturday. Only members in the final year of their three-year terms are eligible to run, unless none of them chooses to do so.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company