Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, December 20, 2017


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LACBA’s Immediate Past President Is Absent From Installation

No Explanation From Margaret Stevens as to Why She Would Not Participate in Ceremony


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles County Bar Association President Michael E. Meyer addresses a crowd of more than 400 persons at the installation reception for the 2017-18 officers and trustees. Meyer, as president-elect candidate in a contested 2016 election, headed a slate of reform candidates who prevailed by large margins. Meyer ascended to the presidency July 1.


The “Old Guard” was conspicuously missing from the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s installation reception Monday night, with most of the former presidents of recent years—including Immediate Past President Margaret Stevens—not there to witness the ceremonial swearing-in of officers who ran on a “reform” platform.

The 2017-18 president, Michael E. Meyers, and other elected officers vowed to end what was portrayed as fiscal irresponsibility and secrecy in the organization in recent years.

With 442 reservations as of Monday morning, well over 400 persons were in attendance. Among them were past presidents John Carson (1994-95) and Charles E. Michaels (2006-07) who, along with Nowland Hong, immediate past chair of LACBA’s Senior Lawyers Section, also present, spearheaded the movement last year that resulted in the organization’s first contested election in 25 years.

 That election resulted in Meyer, who heads the Los Angeles office of DLA Piper Global Law Firm, becoming president-elect of LACBA on July 1, 2016, and automatically ascending to the presidency on July 1 of this year.

The 2016 election saw the overwhelming rejection of all three candidates for officer positions backed by then-President Paul Kiesel and then-President-Elect Stevens. It also marked a large-margin loss by all five trustee candidates they supported who drew opposition.

Normal Procedure

Stevens’s absence was particularly noticeable Monday because the outgoing president normally participates in installations and is bestowed with a gift.

Some past presidents were queried by the MetNews as to whether they had a recollection of the outgoing president failing to show up for his or her successor’s induction.

“I do not,” Carson replied, “but please forgive my memory if it had a lapse.”

Past president Joseph D. Mandel (1980-81) responded: “Definitely not!”

John D. Taylor (1978-79) said he does not recall any LACBA president not attending the successor’s swearing-in “[w]ith the exceptions of Ed Shattuck and Ira Price who died in office” (in the 1960s).

Michaels commented:

“That’s my recollection, as well.

 “Regardless of the differences on internal issues between Presidents, every outgoing President has traditionally supported their successor in the best public interest of the Association.”

Stevens did not respond to an email seeking comment on her absence.

She attended the July meeting of the Board of Trustees but, as plans for implementing reforms were being discussed, got up and left, and missed the next two monthly meetings. The immediate past president is automatically a trustee, as well as being a member of the Executive Committee.

Three Past Presidents

Past presidents spotted at the event, held at the Biltmore Hotel, other than Carson and Michaels, were Patrick M. Kelly (1990-91) and Edith R. Matthai (2005-06). A LACBA spokesperson advised yesterday that past president Alan K. Steinbrecher (2010-11) came as Meyer’s guest.

Not seen were past presidents Gretchen M. Nelson (2007-08), Danette E. Meyers (2008-09), Eric A. Webber (2011-12), Richard J. Burdge Jr. (2012-13), Patricia Egan Daehnke (2013-14), Linda L. Curtis (2014-15), and Kiesel (2015-16).

The spokesperson said that according to President-Elect Brian Kabateck, Kiesel “wanted to attend but he was out of town” and that according to Meyer, Burdge and his wife, Lee Edmon, “were unable to attend they have been very supportive of LACBA.” 

Edmon is the Court of Appeal’s presiding justice in this district’s Div. Three and Burdge is a Los Angeles Superior Court judge.

The 2009-10 president, Don Mike Anthony, is deceased.

Buckley’s Role

Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Daniel Buckley introduced the guest speaker, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, and administered the oath of office to Meyer, at the podium, and to other officers and trustees in the audience.

Meyer told the assemblage that LACBA had become “kind of a secret society” and that his goal and that of the trustees has been “to create transparency.”

He declared:

“Really, there’s no secrecy anymore.”

In prior administrations, major decisions were made by the Executive Committee—the elected officers, appointed assistant vice presidents, the appointed treasurer, and the Barristers president and president-elect—and simply rubber-stamped the following night by trustees.

Meyer said the trustees are now calling the shots, noting that the Executive Committee has not met even once since July 1.

Disfavors Split

There have been calls for severing from LACBA its charitable fund-raising component, Counsel for Justice. While LACBA has, in the past, been losing about $1 million a year, it has been depleting its reserves through subsidies to CFJ.

“My goal is to keep pro bono,” Meyer said.

Proceeds from Monday’s program were earmarked for CFJ’s Domestic Violence Program.

“Tonight, we will have more people than we’ve ever had” and “will raise more money than we’ve ever raised” at an installation, Meyer announced.

The installation is generally held in June or July, but planning for the event was delayed in light of uncertainty over whether the unchallenged choices of the Nominating Committee would take office, as provided by the bylaws. Stevens refused to certify the 2017 election results; an effort was made to stage a second election; and Los Angeles Superior Court litigation ensued, with Stevens, in the end, certifying the results.

The officers, in addition to Meyer, are Brian S. Kabateck, president-elect; Tamila C. Jensen. Senior vice president; Philip H. Lam, vice president; John F. Hartigan, treasurer; Jesse A. Cripps, assistant vice president; and Jo-Ann W. Grace, assistant vice president. Jeanne L. Nishimoto was installed as Barristers president.


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