Tuesday, January 30, 2018
‘All Is Well’ Is Theme of ‘Person of the Year’ Dinner
Praise Voiced for Buckley’s Leadership of Superior Court, Meyer’s Termination of Criticized Practices at LACBA, Prager’s Stewardship at Southwestern
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Metropolitan News-Enterprise Editor/Co-Publisher Jo-Ann W. Grace presents Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Daniel J. Buckley with a “Person of the Year” Award.
Metropolitan News-Enterprise Editor/Co-Publisher Roger M. Grace hands award to Los Angeles County Bar Association President Michael E. Meyer.
Jo-Ann and Roger give award to Southwestern Law School Dean and Chief Executive Susan W. Prager.
High spirits marked the 30th annual Metropolitan News-Enterprise “Person of the Year” Dinner Friday night, with the current leadership of the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Los Angeles County Bar Association and Southwestern Law School drawing effusive praise.
Cited, in particular, were technological advancements in the county trial court under the leadership of honoree Daniel J. Buckley, the presiding judge, and the restoration of the county bar as a creditable organization, after a bleak period, with honoree Michael E. Meyer leading it as president. And ”Person of the Year” Susan Westerberg Prager, dean and CEO of Southwestern Law School, was hailed as a leading educator and administrator.
Each was given an ornate scroll by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Buckley bestowed a scroll on the other two honorees on behalf of the court, and Assistant Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile presented a scroll to Buckley.
Likewise, Meyer gave a plaque to Buckley and Prager, and received one from LACBA President-Elect Brian Kabateck.
The “Person of the Year” trophies were conferred by MetNews Co-Publishers Jo-Ann W. Grace, to Buckley, and Roger M. Grace, to Meyer and Prager.
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Robert H. Philibosian, of counsel to Sheppard Mullin emceed the event for the 22nd time, and Father Michael Carcerano delivered the invocation for the 23rd time. The black-tie event took place at a private club in downtown Los Angeles.
In introducing Kabateck, of Kabateck Brown Kellner, LLP, Philibosian remarked:
“We are very, very grateful to Brian for being a leader, along with Mike, of the reform movement that has brought about transparency, responsibility, and fiscal responsibility back to the L.A. County Bar.”
Kabateck told the more than 200 attendees:
“I grew up in a family where my dad taught me to give back, and be honorable and be decent—and that’s who I am giving an award to tonight, someone who is honorable and decent and has decided to give back.”
Meyer was chosen president-elect in 2016 in LACBA’s first contested election in 25 years. He took office as president last July 1.
“In the short time that Michael has been president of the Los Angeles County Bar, what has he accomplished?” Kabateck asked, responding:
“Well, the bar is completely transparent today.”
Anyone may attend any committee meeting including those of the Board of Trustees, members may look at all books and records of the association, and sections have complete control over their own programs, he noted.
(Previously, copies of the bylaws were denied to members and even leaders of sections could not see financial reports.)
“There is no one here tonight I respect more than Michael Meyer for what he has done for the Los Angeles County Bar and the profession of law,” Kabateck said.
Barger noted that Meyer has made “the fiscal health of the bar” his priority, and Buckley hailed him for his dedication to civility in the legal profession.”
Kiesel Not Invited
In presenting the “Person of the Year” award to him, Roger Grace related:
“This is the 30th annual “Persons of the Year” dinner—and it is the 29th time that the Los Angeles County Bar Association has made a presentation. Two years ago, we did not invite the president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.”
The name of the then-president, Paul Kiesel, was not mentioned. The co-publisher said of Meyer:
“What he has done has been nothing short of miraculous, as Brian said. He has ended secrecy, fiscal folly and trickery that was going on.
“And the Los Angeles County Bar Association of today is not the organization that it was, despicably, two years ago.”
Meyer gave major credit to Kabateck for LACBA’s advancements, quipping:
“He’s done all the hard work. I’m the pretty face.”
Accolades for Buckley
Barger and Brazile both described Buckley as “amazing.”
The supervisor termed him “an amazing individual on the bench” under whose leadership the court is “doing more with less resources.”
The assistant presiding judge described him as “an amazing leader,” saying:
“He’s got patience, he’s got understanding, he’s got warmth, he’s got compassion, he’s got dedication—and he’s a fighter. He’s always there for us.”
Meyer said Buckley is “a man for all seasons”—“basketball season, football season, baseball season, at Notre Dame,” adding:
“He goes back for all the games.”
LACBA’s chief said of the Los Angeles Superior Court:
“It’s the world’s largest judicial system, and it runs almost without a hitch.”
There were about 50 past and present Superior Court bench officers in attendance. Jo-Ann Grace said:
“The high—the very high regard—that the judicial officers hold [Buckley] in is reflected by the huge attendance tonight.”
“There are probably more bench officers in this room, right now, than you’ll find at Stanley Mosk [Courthouse] on a Friday before a three-day weekend.”
Buckley was credited with making strides in boosting the court’s use of technology.
“Right now, for our court, we’re going through a transformation and a revolution. And the visionary for that court technology and transformation for our court is right here: Judge Dan Buckley.”
Brazile said that with respect to e-filing, the new phone system, resources available to the judge on the bench, and “efficiencies that we’ve made to make our court a better court and to serve the pubic better,” Buckley has been the “leader,” adding:
“And he leads from the front, he doesn’t lead from the back. He’s always there, showing us how to do it.”
Remembering Frank Zolin
In presenting the “Person of the Year” award to him, Jo-Ann Grace reflected that the honoree at the first dinner, 30 years ago, was Los Angeles Superior Court Executive Officer Frank Zolin (since deceased). He was honored, she said, for all that he did accomplish “and what he wanted the court to achieve technologically.”
He was impeded, she recounted, by budget constraints and “resistance to change.”
Three decades later, she observed, the award was being given to Buckley for his many achievements, including “his feat in actually achieving the technological advancements for the court.”
Buckley, like Meyer, shifted credit to someone else.
“Our court is where it is,” he contended, “because of Sherri Carter.”
She is the court’s executive officer/clerk.
“I am proud to say that I am a judge,” Buckley declared. “I’m proud to say that I’m a part of the Los Angeles Superior Court—and tonight you’re recognizing all of us.”
Barger said that Prager is, to women, an “inspiration,” telling her:
“It is such an honor to meet you, and talk to you, and hear your stories of where we’ve been and where we’re going.”
The supervisor added:
“Long before I ever thought of running for office, she was truly making a difference, not only in the legal profession but in the academic world.
Buckley quoted a colleague on the Superior Court, Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr.—who was a professor at the UCLA Law School from 1983 to 2005—as saying of Prager, the dean there from 1982-98:
“There is no finer leader than Susan Prager.”
She set forth his own impression that she is “the consummate teacher” possessed of a “brilliant mind but a kind heart and a compassionate soul.”
When Roger Grace came to the microphone to give her the award and began “Susan Westerberg Prager,” he was cut off by tumultuous applause. Resuming, he pointed out that the cheering emanated from the Southwestern tables—five of them.
“She has only been there since 2013,” he noted. “But they obviously adore, admire, respect her.”
Prager said she was accepting the award not as an individual, but on behalf of the institution.
Past “persons of the year” in attendance were former Sheriff Lee Baca; former District Attorney Steve Cooley; Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Norman Epstein of this district’s Court of Appeal, “teddy bear” attorney L. Ernestine Fields, attorney/conductor Gary S. Greene, former State Bar President and former LACBA President Patrick Kelly, Philibosian, attorney/civic leader Alan J. Skobin, and Beverly Hills Bar Association Executive Officer/CEO Marc R. Staenberg.
Through the years, presentations have generally been made by the district attorney and by the sheriff. This year, District Attorney Jackie Lacey was unable to attend because of a family matter and Sheriff Jim McDonnell was attending a conference out of town.
However, ornate scrolls from both offices were provided.
Ito Presents Views
At the outset of the program, retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito offered a few words in support of Senate Bill 656, the Judicial Fairness Act, proposed by the Alliance of California Judges. It would, among other things, permit a judge with 20 years or more of service who needs to retire before age 65 to be able to defer receiving full pension benefits until reaching the retirement age.
At present, the judge would merely be refunded his or her contributions, plus four percent, and have no pension.
Ito said the purpose of the bill “is to fix a problem that we’ve had since Nov. 9 of 1994,” continuing:
“I know a lot of you don’t remember Nov. 9, 1994. That was when the first woman president of Sri Lanka was inaugurated; I finished picking the jury in the O.J. Simpson case.”
It was also the date, he said, that the Judicial Retirement System II, or “JRS II,” came into existence, affecting every judge appointed on or after that date. Over the years, Ito explained, various “shortcomings” in the system become clear, which the bill seeks to remedy.
“You, as lawyers and judges, have a vested interest in the quality of the bench and I think it’s easier for us to recruit qualified people if they now they don’t have a cliff-hanger vesting requirement for their retirement.”
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company