Monday, July 14, 2008
Fujie Elected President of State Bar of California
By a MetNews Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO—Holly Fujie, 52, of Los Angeles was elected as the 84th President of the State Bar of California Friday by a majority vote of the Board of Governors.
Fujie will succeed Jeffrey L. Bleich of San Francisco for a one-year term, and will become the third woman to reach the presidency of the organization, when she is sworn in on Sept. 25. at the State Bar’s annual meeting in Monterey.
The annual meetings alternate between the northern and southern parts of the state, and that will apparently remain the case for the near future. A proposal to permit future gatherings to be held outside California died in committee prior to Friday’s meeting, Deputy Executive Director Robert Hawley told the MetNews.
The new president told members she was “very excited to be chosen for this position,” and that her first action as president-elect will be to “talk with Jeff and do whatever it takes to make a smooth transition, especially with the committee chairs.”
Fujie, who chairs the board’s discipline committee, said she would take any steps necessary to make sure the system operates as smoothly as possible.
“I think [those who work in the disciplinary system are] doing a great job, but it’s something that’s a great concern to the average member of the bar because it’s such a large amount of the budget, and people perceive that it’s directed toward such a small percentage of lawyers,” she said.
For the first time in history, all of the candidates for president were women. The two other candidates, both veteran bar activists, were Carmen Ramirez of Ventura and Danni Murphy of Orange County. Only two other women have been elected President of the 216,000-member organization: Margaret Morrow, who was elected in 1993 and now a federal judge in Los Angeles and Karen Nobumoto, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney elected in 2001.
More than a dozen women have run unsuccessful campaigns since 1989.
While there was no overarching issue in this year’s election, all three candidates addressed the bar’s financial problems and its efforts to increase public access to justice as paramount. All three discussed the importance of improving the relationship between the State Bar and the state legislature, and along with agreeing on a 10-year plan being necessary to keep up with technology, there was an agreement regarding what role public members of the State Bar should play in Board of Governors proceedings.
“I’m going to ask the members of the State Bar to work harder than you’ve ever worked before,” Fujie said after her election. “ We need to consider the idea of raising membership dues in preparation for things such as the IT revolution and a budget deficit, and we need committees to coordinate with the staff.”
Fujie’s platform revolved around the ideal of getting young lawyers involved in the State Bar.
“We need to assume the role of funneling young attorneys into leadership positions,” Fujie said. “These professionals need to chart their own ideas of individual success. We need to reach out to this next generation of attorneys and get them to make a meaningful contribution to the practice of law.”
“I do a lot of mentoring. I think it’s very important that seasoned attorneys teach this new generation the true meaning of leadership and public service. “
She said she wants to find a way of making professional liability insurance both affordable and available to the state’s lawyers, an issue that was raised in a previous debate over a proposed malpractice disclosure rule.
Her greatest asset, she told reporters, is having learned the art of communication at a very young age, a necessity growing up in East Oakland, where there were very few Asian children. Fujie earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from UC Berkeley and attended law school at Berkeley as well.
Fujie has been with Buchalter Nemer for 17 years specializing in commercial litigation. “My firm has been amazingly supportive of my bid to become president of the State Bar,” she said.
Fujie has been married to Beverley Hills attorney Lee Cotugno for 30 years. The couple has two children, Sabrina, 18, who is getting ready to attend California Institute of the Arts to study animation, and 11-year-old Thomas.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company