Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Conference of Delegates Seeks Input on State Bar Meeting Site
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations yesterday sent out a survey to its delegations to inquire as to the impact the boycott against the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego would have on attendance and participation in the organization’s annual meeting.
Conference chair Scott McMillen said his organization was “very concerned about our ability to stage an annual conference given the current boycott,” as well as the potential economic impact on the organization if members of the State Bar boycott its annual meeting scheduled to take place contemporaneously at the same location.
At a meeting Saturday between State Bar President Holly Fujie and the conference’s board, McMillen said one of the topics discussed was whether there was any information available about how many lawyers would attend the annual meeting and stay at the hotel.
He explained that the State Bar presumably contracted with the hotel to guarantee the number of rooms they would fill for the annual meeting.
“Our concern is that if the State Bar does not meet its quotas…we could end up sharing some of that cost, which our organization can ill afford,” McMillen said
After the meeting, he said, the board decided “we would try to get as much information as we could from our own delegation,” and yesterday sent out approximately 500 surveys inquiring whether delegates would attend the events or stay at the hotel despite the boycott.
The boycott is being mounted by Californians Against Hate, a non-profit organization devoted to drawing attention to the major donors to the Yes on 8 campaign, and UNITE HERE, San Diego’s hotel workers’ union.
The hotel, operated under lease by the Global Hyatt Corporation, is owned by the Manchester Financial Group, whose chairman, Doug Manchester, gave $125,000 in support of the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, an organization representing gay lawyers in the San Francisco Bay Area, has threatened to boycott the September events.
Other groups, including the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the Bar Association of San Francisco, and the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s delegation to the conference have also protested the location.
McMillan said the purpose of the survey was to determine what the impact of a boycott would be on participation at the events and was conducted for “informational purposes only,” emphasizing that no decision is conditioned on the survey’s results.
“We need to go forward and have a successful conference, and obviously we’d like to have maximum participation,” he commented. “I think we need to work from whatever the survey results are.”
He said that the board “will continue the dialogue with the State Bar” to see if there are other alternatives to holding its conference at the Hyatt and “do further investigation with respect to the cost of an alternate site.”
Fujie said that the State Bar is “looking at all the issues and the effects of the possible actions by various constituent groups on the annual meeting in general,” and that it was “very aware of everybody’s issues.”
She maintained that the State Bar is “looking at all possible angles,” and would “appreciate everybody’s input on the subject.”
However, the organization has taken the position that it cannot break its contractual commitments—created before the controversial Proposition 8 election—to hold its meeting at the hotel this year and in 2011.
The cost of doing so, she said, would have to be borne by the members, in possible violation of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the State Bar from using mandatory dues money for political action.
The president said she wished there were “an easy solution,” and that individuals and organizations would not boycott the meeting.
“I don’t think that is going to make as much of an impression on Mr. Manchester as people hope it will, but it is having a substantial, negative impact on the State Bar, which is our organization,” Fujie said. “So in a way, we’re kind of cutting off our nose to spite our face here.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company