Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, April 15, 2016


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LACBA President-Elect’s Plan Generates Scorn

Members of Council of Sections Dismiss Formation of Trustees/Section Leaders Committee


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles County Bar Association President-Elect Margaret A. Stevens’ plan, not yet publicly announced, to set up a peacemaking committee comprised of Board of Trustees members and section leaders has met with derision from members of the newly-formed Council of Sections.

Wednesday night’s meeting, attended by about 30 delegates, was marked by spirited discussion, including an observation by one member that the ultimate result of the group’s efforts must either be a reform of LACBA policies or the formation of a new, competing association.

Council Chair John Carson, a former LACBA president, presented the prospect of sending a letter to Stevens setting forth a Council position on her plan for a trustees/section leaders committee. However, after discussion evidencing general negativity to her intended action, he pointed out:

“I don’t have to reply.”

The vote was unanimous in favor of not responding.

Happened Before

During the discussion, George C. Webster II, past chair of the Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section, advised that Stevens’ approach was utilized about 15 years ago when LACBA “set up a competing committee to the section-created Section Council.” He recounted:

“The committee created by LACBA was controlled by LACBA management, and it was a rump committee designed to…demoralize the then-Section Council,” he said.

Webster later set forth that LACBA “had the organization, they had people whose job it was to worry about the County Bar,” and the staff served needs of the controlled committee “with all of their professionals.” The independent group, set up by the sections, was snuffed out, he said.

Inclusion of Brot

Carson related that Stevens indicated an intention to include on her committee, among others, Ronald Brot, chair of the Family Law Section. He had been proposed by that section for nomination by LACBA’s Nominating Committee to the Board of Trustees, and wasn’t chosen.

Brot, one of the most vocal members of the Council, was present. He reported that when Stevens phoned him to let him know he wasn’t nominated, he “expressed disappointment but assuredly no surprise.”

He said she told him:

“The good news is that I’m going to ask you to sit on this special committee of mine to study the relationship between the sections and the association, from within.”

Brot recited that he responded:

“Don’t think for a minute that the Council of Sections is going away. It will not go away, and it will speak for the sections.

“So, while you’re welcome to have whatever committee you want to, it will not take the place of the Council of Sections.”

He said that she “grew silent at that point.”

Pauley Expresses Distrust

Bradley S. Pauley, chair of the Appellate Courts Section, said he lacks “trust” in Stevens’ motives. He suggested that the goal of her effort is “to co-opt us, to de-legitimize us” and to “manage” expressions “as to what the sections want.”

He postulated that procedures would “be tailored in a way that is palliative to LACBA management so that what trustees hear is going to be muted, at best.”

Pauley urged that the Council continue its “independent course.”

The Council voted to formally request, in writing, financial information from LACBA, which has not been proferred in response to oral requests. The Senior Lawyers Section has already made such a request, pursuant to a provision of the Corporations Code.

At a Board of Trustees’ meeting in November, LACBA President Paul Kiesel declared that the association is losing $1 million a year. The estimate was later pared to about $500,000 a year, and the sections were said to be draining the association’s resources.

At the meeting last month, Kiesel announced that an accouinting error had been spotted, and that the sections are actually generating about $100,000 a year.

Carson commented:

“The first thing we need is financial information. Open the doors, let us in, give us the information we need to be helpful, to figure out what’s going on?”


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