Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Breakfast Club Endorses Craig E. Holden For State Bar Board of Governors
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The Breakfast Club yesterday voted to endorse Los Angeles litigator Craig E. Holden, a partner with Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith LLP, for the District Seven seat on the State Bar Board of Governors.
Although nominating petitions are not due until April 1, the club—which is open on a dues-paid basis to any lawyer practicing within Los Angeles County and has been endorsing Board of Governors candidates for nearly four decades—traditionally endorses a candidate before the official list of candidates is completed.
Holden and Jeffrey Lustman, a non-practicing attorney working as a private investigator and making his fourth bid for a District Seven seat, were the only two candidates to seek the Breakfast Club’s support yesterday. Every candidate backed by the group has won a seat on the Board of Governors since 2003.
Breakfast Club Chair Victor W. Santochi told the assemblage of approximately 30 attorneys that he expected this year’s race to be a “hard-fought” battle, and predicted a higher voter turn-out than usual because of “all the chatter going on” regarding recent proposals to change the State Bar’s governance structure.
Restructuring in Offing
Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela J. Davis, a current District Seven representative and member of the State Bar Governance Task Force panel which was created pursuant to a provision in last year’s dues bill, began the meeting by addressing these proposals.
She explained that the “real debate is whether elections will continue.” State Bar President William N. Hebert has suggested that the attorney members of the board should be appointed by the California Supreme Court, and Davis has advanced a plan that would reduce the number of elected lawyer members of the board to 13, add three lawyers appointed by the Supreme Court, and retain the current arrangement of having six public members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.
Davis acknowledged there is “kind of a split” between the attorney members and public members of the task force as to which approach they will recommend to the Legislature in their report, which is due May 15.
She said there is a “strong perception” among the public members that elections should be eliminated, but a “fair amount of support” also exists for her proposal, which Davis said will likely be the majority recommendation presented to lawmakers, along with a minority recommendation for Hebert’s approach.
The proposals were the focus of Holden’s address to the club’s members yesterday. He told the group the State Bar is “at a crossroad” since its current self-governance structure is no longer viable and “reform will happen.”
Attorneys, Holden said, “take a beating in the public…and not just with bad lawyer jokes,” and the reputation of practitioners is “at a low point” right now.
“We need to add some sunshine to the way we govern ourselves” in order to gain the trust of the public and the Legislature, Holden said, holding himself out as a potential “good will ambassador” for the “terrific things” lawyers do, such as pro bono work, prosecuting terrorists, aiding those seeking redress for injuries, and civil rights advocacy.
‘Restoring Public Trust’
Holden reiterated these points in an interview yesterday after the meeting, telling the MetNews that the State Bar is “at an important juncture right now and it really needs to focus upon restoring the public trust and confidence in lawyers and the way that we govern ourselves.”
He noted that whoever wins the District Seven seat in this election will not get to weigh in on the pending proposals being considered by the task force, but said he supports aspects of them.
“I do believe that elections are an important part of the process of selecting the Board of Governors, but I do also believe that there are some good ideas in the pending reform measures, including the provisions that call for an expansion of the number of appointments… as far as the public members go,” Holden explained.
Citing his 15 years of experience in local, State Bar and civic leadership, Holden said he is “well-suited to add value to the discussion taking place regarding governance and propose solutions that are measured but effective.”
Former State Bar President Holly Fujie also touted Holden’s background in her introduction of him to the Breakfast Club yesterday.
“He has the package,” Fujie said, insisting Holden has the “ability, base, credentials, and drive” to be an effective leader.
“People see him as a leader,” Fujie claimed, emphasizing that Holden is well-known and connected in the legal community as a partner in a large firm and active member of several professional associations. She added that she could see Holden eventually becoming president of the State Bar.
Holden is currently active in State Bar governance, serving as chair of its Council on Access and Fairness—a 25-member advisory committee which provides recommendations to the Board of Governors on ways to increase diversity in the legal profession—and co-chair of the Intellectual Property Litigation Committee for the Intellectual Property Section. He is also a founder and past chair of the State Bar’s Diversity Coalition and a former member of the executive committee of its Law Practice Management & Technology Section.
From 2002 to 2005 he served as a judge pro tempore for the Los Angeles Superior Court, and in 2007 he was honored as Advocate of the Year by Public Counsel, in recognition of his pro bono work recovering millions of dollars for elderly and disadvantaged victims of fraud.
Holden graduated from UCLA in 1991 and UC Hastings Law School in 1994. He gained admission to the State Bar that same year.
Lustman briefly touched upon governance issues yesterday, remarking that “maybe people vote for the wrong attorneys, but you can’t take that away from him.”
He focused his message primarily on his allegations of corruption within the judiciary and State Bar, which is the same platform he has run on in previous elections.
The attorney lost in 2007 to retired State Bar Court Judge Michael D. Marcus, in 2009 to former LACBA President Patrick M. Kelly, the western region managing partner for Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, and last year to Los Angeles Deputy Public Defender Luis J. Rodriguez.
Lustman had not sought the Breakfast Club’s backing in any of his previous bids for the Board of Governors, and said yesterday that he had expected the group to throw its support to Holden.
He said his repeated use of the word “corruption,’ might have had something to do with the group’s decision, but “I think the main reason is because my opponent had a great background,” Lustman said.
Lustman yesterday told the club that he ‘hardly practice[s] law,” and has a “crummy” curriculum vitae. The self-described “private eye with a law license” is a graduate of the University of Maryland and William Howard Taft University in Santa Ana. He was admitted to the State Bar in 1995.
The State Bar Board of Governors meets approximately eight times a year to debate organizational, policy and professional issues. It consists of 15 attorney members elected by their peers in geographic districts, with four governors representing Los Angeles. Los Angeles lost a seat last year due to redistricting to reflect shifts in the state’s attorney population.
Whoever wins this year’s election will assume office at the conclusion of the State Bar Annual Meeting in September, when the three-year terms for current representatives James H. Aguirre, of Richardson & Fair, and Davis end.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company