Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Breakfast Club Gives Endorsement to Nelson, Rodriguez
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Breakfast Club—a group of attorneys whose primary function is endorsing candidates for the State Bar Board of Governors—yesterday endorsed former Los Angeles County Bar Association President Gretchen Nelson and Los Angeles Deputy Public Defender Luis J. Rodriguez.
The group gave its backing to Nelson and Rodriguez, the only two candidates who appeared seeking endorsement to the two seats in District Seven up for election this year, on a voice vote at its annual nomination and endorsement meeting in downtown Los Angeles.
Members of the group, which is open on a dues-paid basis to any lawyer practicing within Los Angeles County, urged the two candidates to run together almost as a dual ticket, endorsing one another often on the campaign trail.
They also told the candidates to reach out to all lawyers around the county, citing what Chair Victor Santochi called current District Seven representative Patrick Kelly’s “embarrassingly close” win over Jeremy B. Rosen of Horvitz & Levy in last year’s election.
According to the State Bar, Kelly bested Rosen by just 357 votes, taking nearly 49 percent of the 7,209 votes cast compared to Rosen’s almost 44 percent. Jeffrey P. Lustman, a non-practicing attorney working as a private investigator who is running again this year, took the remainder.
Turnout last year represented less than 15 percent of eligible attorneys, and Santochi ascribed Rosen’s strong showing to backing by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Rosen is the immediate past president of the society’s Los Angeles Lawyer’s Division.
Lustman did not appear at yesterday’s meeting. He has said in the past that he intends to run for the second of the two available seats, which Rodriguez has also targeted.
Nelson, who has not announced which seat she is seeking, will presumably choose the first in order to avoid running against Rodriguez.
The two seats are those currently held by board members Michael D. Marcus and Rex Heinke, whose three-year terms will conclude this summer.
Breakfast Club members yesterday also discussed using new technology in trying to increase turnout and support for Nelson and Rodriguez, noting that the Board of Governors election this year will be a “hybrid” offering voting by mail and electronically for the first time.
Santochi started yesterday’s meeting by noting the critical situation facing the courts, and that some 329 Superior Court employees will today go on administrative leave before losing their positions in two weeks.
Former State Bar President Holly Fujie and Los Angeles Public Defender Michael Judge introduced Rodriguez, with Fujie noting the candidate’s “far-ranging” bar activities and Judge praising Rodriguez’s service as special counsel in Judge’s office.
Rodriguez has been with the Public Defender’s Office since 1994, and was a member of the California State Board of Education in 2003.
He is a past president of the California La Raza Lawyers Association, the Mexican American Bar Association and the Latino Public Defenders Association, and has been active for the last three years on the State Bar’s Council on Access and Fairness, serving as its chair in 2008.
He told the Breakfast Club he had decided to run this year because he had reached the point where he felt he had accumulated enough experience to assume a leadership role. He also pledged to act in a spirit of collaboration in order to do “what’s best for the client,” in this case, his constituents.
Nelson, who has represented plaintiffs exclusively since 1988, was introduced by former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp. He told the Breakfast Club Nelson would add needed “diversity” to the board by helping it represent more aspects of the legal profession, including members of the Cowboy Lawyers Association.
That group’s former president, Nelson is also the former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and is currently managing partner at Kreindler & Kreindler’s Los Angeles office.
She said her run was partially prompted by concern over the state’s courts, commenting that it was “appalling” that a state like California “can’t find the resources to keep its courts open.” She also said that one of her priorities, if elected, would be to “stand up for the profession” and remind the public that “when they’re in trouble, the first person they go to is a lawyer.”
Nominating petitions for seats on the board are currently available on the State Bar’s website and must be filed by April 1. Any active member who maintains a principal office for the practice of law within a district with a vacancy is eligible to run.
Ballots will be mailed to State Bar members April 30, and voting will end July 1. The State Bar has said that all eligible voters will receive a ballot packet in the mail, and those who choose to vote online will be asked to provide their bar number and a PIN number printed on the ballot.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company