Monday, June 2, 2008
Three Women in Running to Become Next State Bar President
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Three members of the California State Bar Board of Governors are running to become the group’s president, officials confirmed Friday, guaranteeing that the next person to hold the office will be a woman.
Holly J. Fujie, Danni R. Murphy and M. Carmen Ramirez, who were elected to the board in 2005, are running to replace outgoing President Jeffrey L. Bleich in the July 11 election after their terms as board members conclude in September. Only a last-year member of the board is eligible to run for the president.
The other attorney members eligible for the post, John P. McNicholas of Los Angeles and James N. Penrod of San Francisco, are not running.
Fujie is one of two board members District 7, and is a partner with the downtown office of Buchalter Nemer, where her litigation practice emphasizes class actions, fraud, insurance coverage and bad faith suits.
She earned her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and her law degree from Berkeley’s Boalt Hall, and was admitted to the State Bar in 1978.
Fujie told the MetNews that the main issues she would address if elected president would be the organization’s budget, increasing involvement of young attorneys, and expanding diversity within the profession.
Remarking that the disciplinary system consumes 80 percent of members’ dues, she said that she wanted to improve efficiency in the process, and commented that she would also use the presidency as a pulpit to urge local and specialty bars to adopt programs the bar’s Diversity Task Force has put together.
Ramirez, who represents District 6 (Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties) and is currently community planning director for Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy, a community planning and public policy research center serving the Central Coast region of Ventura and Santa Barbara, listed similar priorities.
The bar’s operation of an independent court system funded exclusively by member dues to resolve disciplinary complaints is “expensive” but necessary because the organization acts as an “arm of the judiciary,” she said. The former Ventura Superior Court staff attorney stressed that the State Bar had a duty to both members and to the public to maintain financial security.
Ramirez similarly promoted increasing diversity and increasing young lawyer involvement, and added that another of her priorities would be to support judicial independence. Saying that she was “concerned” about judges who have been “attacked” and “wrongfully cast as activists when they are upholding the constitution and the law,” she said that “lawyers must speak up” in support of an independent judiciary.
Ramirez was admitted to practice in 1974 and attended Loyola Law School.
Murphy, who represents District 8 (Orange County), could not be reached for comment. A supervising attorney in the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, she was admitted to the State Bar in 1986 after attending college at UC Berkeley and graduating from Western State University School of Law.
Penrod, who represents District 4 (San Francisco), told the MetNews that he had advised Bleich in August of his decision not to seek the presidency, and said that he had done so in order to honor the State Bar’s pledge of diversity.
He said that he had decided not to run after becoming aware that three women were seeking the post because there were “three very competent” female candidates, two of whom were members of a minority group.
Penrod cautioned, however, that his decision against running was not based on a “quota concept,” but merely the result of “an oversupply of competence.”
McNicholas, who also represents Los Angeles as the other representative from District 7, could not be reached for comment on his decision not to run.
The candidate who ultimately succeeds in the election for the post will be only the third female president of the State Bar in the organization’s 80-year history.
U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow of the Central District of California held the post from 1993 to 1994 prior to her appointment to the federal bench in 1998, and Karen S. Nobumoto, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, held the post from 2001 to 2002.
The board’s 22 members will vote to elect Bleich’s successor, who will serve for one year, at the board’s meeting in San Francisco following presentations by the individual candidates.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company