Friday, April 26, 2019
County Bar President Says Counsel for Justice Board Is Constituted of Persons Who Don’t ‘Know What They’re Doing’ and Changes Required If Pro Bono Efforts Are to Continue
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles County Bar Association President Brian S. Kabateck has pointed to the prospect that projects of the group’s charitable arm, Counsel for Justice, will be shut down in light of LACBA’s continuing financial plight and a failure of the unit to garner sufficient funds from outside sources.
“Closure of the projects is possible,” he told the Board of Trustees on Wednesday night, adding that his view is that it is “likely.”
Kabateck said that while CJF boasts of having raised $60,000 through its golf tournament last year, it remains that maintaining the entity is a $1 million financial drain on LACBA. He warned CJF last year that it would have to become financially self-sufficient to continue in existence as a LACBA unit.
CJF maintains a Domestic Violence Legal Services Project, Veterans Legal Services Project, Immigration Legal Assistance Project, and AIDS Legal Services Project. The LACBA president said he views the services as worthwhile.
Faults CJF’s Board
While the matter listed on the agenda was a discussion of whether CJF should be urged to amend its bylaws to change its name, Kabateck’s remarks went beyond that issue. After expressing admiration for CJF’s immediate past president, Mark Garscia of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, who was present at the meeting, and its current president, Brian K. Condon of Arnold & Porter, he said of the group’s Board of Directors:
“I don’t think they know what they’re doing.”
He remarked that there are “people on the board who know less about fundraising than kids selling cookies.”
The Board of Directors of CJF has 25 members. In addition, there is an executive committee comprised of six CJF officers and six LACBA officers.
“Change the name or not,” Kabateck commented, “something has to change.”
Altering the unit’s name is something Kabateck has called for on various occasions since he took office July 1. He told the trustees Wednesday that the name sounds like something out of a “Marvel movie.”
He derided the method employed when the then-independent Foundation of the Los Angeles County Bar Association in 2014 changed its name upon merging with LACBA’s fundraising organization, Projects Inc. Kabateck recounted that a public relations firm was hired to come up with an appellation.
The bar chief told the trustees that when he seeks funding for “Counsel for Justice,” the nature of the group is not apparent, and, he said, “I have to explain what the hell” the name “means.”
Kabateck said of the current name:
“I don’t like it. It doesn’t raise money.”
Two names that have been suggested, he noted, are “Los Angeles County Bar Association Pro Bono Projects” and “Los Angeles County Bar Association Foundation.” Use of the word “foundation,” Kabateck observed, could deter contributions from other foundations.
He reported that at the last meeting of CJF’s board, the directors expressed a reluctance to amend their bylaws to effect a name change. That, he contended, reflected “tone deafness of the board” and a failure to “look at the bigger picture.”
Garscia Explains Reluctance
Garscia said CJF “is not looking to change its name” because it has been, since 2014, working to build name recognition. At the outset, he said, sections were unsure what “Counsel for Justice” was—but, he advised:
“When we go to section meetings now, they know who we are.”
He disclosed that of the 35-or-so persons in CJF leadership positions, “a half dozen do the work.” Those persons, Garscia said, oppose a name-change because it is they who have been building the name recognition.
Trustee Edwin C. Summers, corporate counsel for Avery Dennison, who chairs LACBA’s Finance Committee, cautioned that before the CJF’s name is changed, the cumulative financial impact should be assessed, in terms of such items as printing new stationery.
LACBA Vice President Bradley S. Pauley of Horvitz & Levy, LLP, who has been elected as senior vice president effective July 1, suggested that, for a while, a new name be used followed by “Counsel for Justice” as a “tagline,” in smaller print.
Trustee Jo-Ann W. Grace, president and general counsel of the Metropolitan News Company and incoming LACBA vice president, mentioned that an alternative “compromise” would be to retain the present name but insert, as a tagline, “Los Angeles County Bar Association Pro Bono Projects”—an idea which LACBA Treasurer William Winslow said “sounded good to me”
The discussion did not culminate in a motion.
An attachment to the agenda, for informational purposes, was an April 11 statement, appearing on LACBA’s website, ascribing to the association a position in favor of full disclosure—except for matter redacted where compelled by national security—of what was then the forthcoming “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Under “new business,” Summers said that at the risk of “ruffling feathers,” he wanted to indicate that he was “astonished” at the issuance of “something like that,” without board approval, “on an issue that’s partisan.”
“I disagree that it’s partisan, at all.”
He said it was merely a declaration in favor of “transparency in government.”
Grace offered the view that a LACBA president should only issue a statement in the name of the “9,000-plus” members of the association in response to something that is “absolutely outrageous,” such as an assault on judicial independence. She opined that the April 11 statement did not relate to “an attack on our judicial system” and should not have “gone out” in the absence of “any contact with this board.”
Phil Lam, who is vice president of diversity, inclusion & outreach, spoke out in favor of the statement, saying:
“We do want to stand up for principle.”
(A redacted version of the 448-page report on the investigation was released April 18.)
Text of Statement
The April 11 statement reads:
“Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s ‘Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election’ is due to be released any day, following a two-year investigation. This comes after interviewing hundreds of witnesses and spending thousands of hours looking into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.
“Already there are rumblings that United States Attorney General William P. Barr is planning to release a heavily redacted version of the report that could leave the final findings in doubt.
“The Los Angeles County Bar Association urges Attorney General Barr to fully disclose Mr. Mueller’s report on all public matters that do not affect national security. Only through full transparency can the American people be confident that the special investigation and findings are free of political influence.
“LACBA President Brian S. Kabateck added, ‘The Los Angeles County Bar Association supports transparency in our government, regardless of whatever conclusions and recommendations the report contains. Absent matters of national security, we urge the Attorney General to present the people a complete copy of this report. Access to justice and openness in our government is something all lawyers should strive to achieve.’ ”
Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company