Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Board of Governors Candidates Split on Moving Convention
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Two candidates for the State Bar Board of Governors split yesterday on whether the site of the group’s annual convention should be moved.
Former Los Angeles County Bar Association President Patrick M. Kelly said yesterday he favors moving the site of the San Diego gathering, and that he will not stay at the convention hotel if the event is held there.
Kelly, a candidate for the State Bar Board of Governors, acknowledged that the issue will be moot, at least as to this year’s convention, by the time he takes his seat if elected. But he made his personal position clear when he and his two opponents met separately yesterday with the Beverly Hills Bar Association Board of Governors.
“For darnn sure I’m not staying at the Manchester Hyatt,” Kelly told the board.
The other candidates were not asked, and did not volunteer, their positions on the issue, but Jeremy Rosen told the MetNews yesterday that he supported the State Bar’s decision not to change the venue.
While he said he was personally opposed to Proposition 8—which overturned the rights of same-sex couples to marry—Rosen opined that it was “not the [State] Bar’s role to get involved in politics.”
Noting the significant financial penalty the State Bar has claimed it would incur if it breaches its contract to hold its convention at the Manchester Grand and the State Bar’s current deficit position, he said that moving the convention “cannot be responsibly done in this fiscal environment.”
Rosen said he would stay at the hotel, adding that “I don’t tend to pick hotels based on the owner,” and suggesting that a decision to boycott it would not hurt the hotel’s owner, but only the hotel’s employees.
Acknowledging that the Beverly Hills Bar Association and other organizations have requested that the State Bar consider moving its events from the hotel, while Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom—an organization representing gay lawyers in the San Francisco Bay Area—and the Bar Association of San Francisco have threatened to boycott the events entirely, Rosen said that people “have the right not to go to certain places, and I respect that.”
The dispute is based on a $125,000 donation to the Yes on 8 campaign by Manchester Financial Group chairman Doug Manchester. The Manchester Financial Group owns the Manchester Grand Hyatt, where the 2009 and 2011 State Bar conventions are scheduled to take place.
Supreme Court Ruling
The State Bar has taken the position that it cannot breach its contractual commitments because the cost of doing so, if borne by the members, could violate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting public entities from using mandatory dues money for political actions.
As the father of a gay son who had come to California from Maryland in order to marry his partner, Kelly said he was “vehemently” opposed to Proposition 8 and opined that “no support should be given to an organization run by an individual that supported Prop. 8.”
While he said he understood the “difficulties that the State Bar is facing,” Kelly maintained that he would be in support of changing the convention site.
BHBA governors asked two of the candidates their views on the State Bar’s “Find a Lawyer” website, and both expressed reservations.
Kelly, the western region managing partner for Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, and appellate attorney Jeremy B. Rosen of Horvitz & Levy LLP, agreed with board members who said the State Bar is competing with the local bar associations in providing services such as Find a Lawyer, which allows members of the public to search an online directory for an attorney.
Kelly said that he did not believe the State Bar “should be in that business,” because the local bar association “are the ones who know the local lawyers.”
If elected, Rosen said he would oppose Find a Lawyer, as well as a number of member benefits, because the State Bar “spends too much money and gets involved in too many things that it shouldn’t,” which “hampers the robust growth of local, voluntary bar associations.”
Rosen insisted that the State Bar should focus on attorney discipline and increasing communication among members of the legal community.
He proposed creating a online community—harnessing technologies such as Facebook or Twitter—for attorneys to communicate amongst themselves, post resumes and job opportunities, match attorneys with pro bono opportunities, and advertise local bar association events.
“I would love to see a list everyday of what activities are going on throughout the city,” he said, suggesting that such an online community would provide the local bar associations with a “broader platform” to reach more attorneys.
Kelly maintained “my roots are in the local bar structure,” and that he is “in favor of advocating local bar positions on virtually every issue.”
Rosen told the board that he “was not going to always promise to agree” with the local bar associations, but vowed to “listen to everyone who wants to weigh in on an issue.”
Board members did not pose any questions to the third candidates, private investigator Jeffrey P. Lustman, who spoke briefly about his 2006 run-in with the State Bar discipline system.
The attorney was publicly reproved for sending a letter protesting an unfavorable decision by Div. Eight of this district’s Court of Appeal and accusing then-Presiding Justice Candace Cooper, Justice Laurence Rubin and Justice Madeleine Flier of dishonesty and corruption.
He told the board he favors jury trials in attorney discipline cases, having the State Bar operate as a judicial watchdog agency, and abolishing mandatory continuing legal education.
Lustman ran on the same basic platform in his 2007 bid for a District Seven seat; he lost to retired State Bar Court Judge Michael D. Marcus.
A graduate of the University of Maryland, Lustman earned his law degree from William Howard Taft University in Santa Ana. He was admitted to the State Bar in 1995 but is not in active practice.
Kelly, a graduate of Pomona College and Loyola Law School, is basing his campaign on his 39-year career of service to state and local bar organizations.
Last month he secured the endorsement of the Breakfast Club—a dues-paid organization whose primary function is to endorse candidates for the State Bar Board of Governors.
Rosen’s platform is based on his claimed status as an “outsider who gets along with others,” and his experience working with a variety of clients and attorneys as an appellate lawyer.
He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University, and magna cum laude, Order of the Coif from the Duke University School of Law, where he served on the Editorial Board of the Duke Law Journal and also earned his master of laws degree. He was admitted to the State Bar in 1997.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company