Thursday, June 16, 2011
State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Towery Resigns
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The State Bar of California yesterday announced that Chief Trial Counsel James E. Towery, a past president of the organization, has tendered his resignation, effective July 1.
Towery, 62, did not return phone calls yesterday seeking comment.
He assumed the helm of the 225-employee Office of Chief Trial Counsel last July, although his appointment was subject to state Senate confirmation.
The Senate had one year from the date he took office to confirm his appointment, or it would be deemed rejected, and confirmation has not yet occurred. Efforts to reach members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to inquire into the reasons for the delay yesterday were unsuccessful.
A release from the State Bar quoted Towery as saying he had “come to the conclusion that this position and my personal situation are not a good fit,” as the “challenge of managing offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles while maintaining my residence in San Jose has proven more onerous than I anticipated.”
Outgoing State Bar President William Hebert, who also did not return a calls, was quoted as saying he viewed Towery’s departure “with great regret.” Hebert credited Towery with having “made substantial and lasting contributions to the bar in matters of public protection” during his brief tenure.
Towery was quoted as taking credit for the implementation of “a number of initiatives that I believe have advanced the cause of public protection,” including creating a specialized team to handle major misappropriations, expanding the team of attorneys prosecuting loan modification misconduct, creating consumer alerts on the State Bar’s website for serious misappropriation and loan modification misconduct cases and making it easier to for the public to file online complaints against attorneys.
The office also initiated a number of high profile investigations advancing public protection under Towery’s leadership, the release stated.
Towery said he was “honored” to have worked with the OCTC employees during his time with the office, whom he thanked “for their dedication to the cause of public protection.”
Before joining the State Bar, Towery was a partner at San Jose’s Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel, where he had worked for 20 years, specializing in civil litigation with a focus on professional liability.
Towery plans to return to the “San Jose legal community,” according to the State Bar release.
He graduated from Princeton University and Emory Law School before joining the State Bar in 1977.
The attorney served as State Bar president in 1995, after a year-long stint chairing the Board of Governors discipline committee. He also previously served as chair of the
American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Public Protection and head of a task force that recommended requiring uninsured lawyers to disclose that fact to their clients.
Other prior affiliations include the American Board of Trial Advocates and Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers.
Since 1986, when the chief trial counsel position was defined by statute, six people, including Towery, have held the job. It was vacant for a year before Towery took the post, with the recruitment process briefly stalling after then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the State Bar dues bill.
Plans to identify a successor are underway, a spokesperson for the State Bar said.
Efforts to reach State Bar board members for comment on Towery’s departure were largely unsuccessful. One member, Luis Rodriguez, declined comment, referring the MetNews request to the State Bar, whose spokesperson could not be reached.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company