Monday, June 6, 2011
Two From Los Angeles Among Four Seeking State Bar Presidency
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Four of the five lawyers eligible to run for president of the State Bar—including two representatives from Los Angeles—are seeking to succeed San Francisco attorney William N. Hebert as head of the 232,000-member organization.
An internal election by the Board of Governors is scheduled to take place July 22 to select who among third-year members James Aguirre, Angela Davis, Jon Streeter and Michael Tenenbaum will become the 87th State Bar president, officials said Friday.
Costa Mesa attorney Joseph L. Chairez of Baker & Hostetler LLP—a representative of District Eight—has declined to run. He explained that being president is “a huge responsibility” and he felt his busy trial schedule for the coming year would prevent him from devoting the time necessary to fulfill the obligations of leading the State Bar.
“I just didn’t think it would be fair,” Chairez said. He praised the four candidates as being “exceptional people and very hard-working board members.”
The outgoing president similarly had high praise for the candidates, remarking on Friday that “they are all highly qualified and any of them would be excellent” as his successor.
“I’ve had a great time, and its been very satisfying, but I look forward to handing over the reins to the next president,” Hebert said.
Of the candidates, only Davis could be reached for comment on Friday.
Davis, 49, an assistant U.S. attorney in the major frauds section, said she decided to run for president because she felt her “background and the depth of my experience, will allow me to serve effectively in that role during a year that is likely to present some challenges for the State Bar, and likely some changes as well.”
She predicted the organization would probably “be undergoing some form of changed structure,” brought about by pending proposals before the Legislature.
The prosecutor was one of the seven board members who signed onto the majority proposal presented to lawmakers—which called for the board to remain the same in size but reduce the number of elected attorney seats to 12 and create three positions to be filled by Supreme Court appointees.
State senators voted Thursday to approve a modified version of the proposal, which included elements of the minority proposal which suggested a reduction in size to 15 members with nine lawyers appointed by the Supreme Court.
As passed by the Senate, SB 163 reduces the size of the board to 19 members, consisting of six elected attorneys and five Supreme Court appointees, as well as eight public members.
Davis remarked that “any time you have a change in structure, the key is to keep the body together and to remember that the core mission of the State Bar—namely public service, public protection and the betterment of the profession—is always going to be the same.”
She acknowledged that individual members of the board were not entirely in agreement as to what changes would be best for the State Bar, but insisted “we are going to have to work together to be effective and to carry out our core mission.”
If elected, Davis said her goal would be to effectuate a “smooth transition” from the State Bar’s current structure to whatever configuration is created. She promised she “would work hard to be someone that all of the members of the Board of Governors can talk to and have confidence in, and manage the debates that will inevitably occur, but at the same time be a force for professionalism and collegiality.”
Davis explained that she “would want to serve as a unifying force,” which “doesn’t mean we have to be unanimous on everything, and I’m sure we wont be, but we can still have a tone and an atmosphere that enables us to be effective.”
“As someone who has been a lawyer for 25 years and has worked as a government official for 18 of those years, I’m accustomed to working through changes in administration, and I’m also accustomed to the reality that lawyers don’t always get to choose what the law is and its our duty to carry it out and regardless of what structure we end up in having,” Davis said.
Davis said she was also interested in “making the bar more efficient and more proactive,” by such measures as increased community education and outreach.
In the course of such outreach, she emphasized “it’s important that we bear in mind that a number of our citizens and residents in this state who may be looking to hire an attorney or may suffer damages as a result of defective attorney services may not be English speakers.”
She noted that she is fluent in Spanish and done work in low-income Spanish-speaking communities as well as taught legal courses for members of the Mexican and Argentinean judiciary.
Her other activities have included serving as a past president of California Women Lawyers and as chair of the editorial board for the Los Angeles County Bar Association journal.
Davis completed her undergraduate education at Stanford before attending law school at UCLA and becoming a member of the State Bar in 1986.
The attorney worked in private practice and as senior attorney for the U.S. Trustee—a division of the Department of Justice which serves as a watchdog for bankruptcy proceedings—before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
She described the other candidates as “good friends” with “qualities in each of them that I deeply admire.”
Aguirre, 58, is the lead attorney for the law firm of Richardson & Fair and house counsel for the Automobile Club of Southern California.
He is a longtime participant in the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations and its predecessor, the State Bar Conference of Delegates, having served as chief executive officer and chair of the group in 2005.
The attorney began his legal career in 1978 with the Legal Aid Society of Pasadena, after graduating from Cal State Los Angeles and UCLA law school.
He later became first managing attorney of the United Auto Workers Legal Services Plan in 1983, and then assistant general counsel to the Los Angeles Community College District in 1988 before joining Richardson and Fair in 1990.
Tenenbaum, 42, is a business attorney based in Thousand Oaks. He serves as the representative of District Six—which consists of Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties—on the Board of Governors.
His 2008 election was challenged by his opponents who alleged his principal office was not located in the district, as required by the State Bar Act, but he was eventually seated on the board.
The attorney was elected as a reform candidate, and in March advanced a proposal for reducing the number of lawyer members on the Board to 12 and increasing the number of public members to 10.
He is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School.
Streeter, 54, is a partner at Keker & Van Nest in San Francisco and represents Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties on the board. He served as the lead author of the majority proposal presented to the Legislature.
According to his firm biography, Streeter served as vice-chairman of the California State Senate Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice from 2005 to 2008, president of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers of Northern California from 2006 to 2007, and president of the Bar Association of San Francisco in 2004.
He also was the head of the American Inns of Court, Edward McFetridge Chapter, in 2007, and chair of the Lawyer Delegation for the Northern District of California to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1999.
Streeter clerked for U.S. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards of the District of Columbia after graduating from Stanford University and completing law school at UC Berkeley. He spent 14 years with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP before moving to Keker & Van Nest.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company