Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Morrison Address May Lose Bar Convention Lunchtime Spot
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
The Morrison Address, for over 50 years a feature of the annual State Bar convention, may lose its Saturday lunchtime spot under a restructuring initiative approved by the State Bar Board of Governors at its meeting in Los Angeles.
The board on Saturday approved a resolution authorizing its staff to “explore alternative scheduling” for the Morrison Address, which is given each year by a prominent attorney or judge. At this year’s convention the speech was given by retired Chief Judge Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who spoke about her work as a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
The lecture is sponsored by the Alexander F. Morrison Lectureship Foundation. Tickets for the luncheon this year were $35.
A State Bar spokesman said the address has been given as part of the bar convention for at least the past 50 years, interrupted only by WW II. It has been a luncheon event since 1976, the spokesperson said.
During discussion of the resolution, board member Sheldon H. Sloan of Los Angeles asked how much money the State Bar receives in return for the publicity the event generates for the firm of Morrison & Foerster. He was informed by State Bar staff that the foundation pays the expenses of the speaker but does not make any payment to the State Bar.
This year the luncheon was also the occasion for the presentation of the Bernard E. Witkin Medal, honoring “legal giants...who have altered the landscape of California jurisprudence.” The award went to Robert D. Raven of Morrison & Foerster.
Raven, 80, did not attend.
According the firm’s Web site, Alexander Morrison and Constantine Foerster began practicing law as Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco in 1892.
While the resolution the board adopted spoke in terms of rescheduling the event, a memorandum from State Bar Executive Director Judy Johnson discussing the planned changes suggested it could be replaced entirely. Johnson wrote that staff would “explore alternative programming,” possibly including making the lecture an “MCLE event rather than a featured Annual Meeting luncheon.”
Board member Russell Roeca of San Francisco, chair of the board’s Planning, Program Development, and Budget Committee, said yesterday that while the Morrison Address may or may not be moved to a new time, it is not likely to be eliminated.
“No one’s asking to have it go away, I can tell you that,” Roeca said.
Morrison & Foerster partner Roland Brandel, who has for the past three years arranged the speakers for the address, said yesterday he had just learned of the board’s action.
The firm has no formal connection with the foundation, which is administered by the State Bar, Brandel said. The foundation was created by Morrison’s widow and a group of firm partners in 1930 and funding the lecture is its only function, the attorney explained.
The lunchtime schedule for the event is “all I’ve known,” Brandel commented, adding:
“I’ve gone to these lectures since I was a puppy.”
Wald was forced to shorten her remarks this year because the presentation of the Witkin award took more time than anticipated, Brandel noted.
The board resolution also calls for staff to work with the Administrative Office of the Courts to “develop a Bench and Bar Luncheon”—an event which could replace the Morrison Address in the Saturday noontime spot.
The California Judges Association will hold its annual convention this year from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 in San Francisco, but next year both the CJA and the State Bar will meet in Monterey over the second weekend in October.
As part of the same resolution, the board adopted a schedule of “themes” for an event, to be called the State Bar Spring Summit, which will replace the bar’s Mid Year Meeting. The Mid Year Meeting began as a State Bar event to replace the Conference of Bar Leaders, which had been organized by the Conference of Delegates.
The former State Bar Conference of Delegates this year completed its spin-off from the State Bar. It met last month under its new name, the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations, in Anaheim next door to the hotel which housed the State Bar convention.
A date for the first Spring Summit has not yet been set, but it will probably be early or mid-June, the governors were told. The theme will be “Leadership Conference”; it will be supported by a grant from the State Bar Foundation, the bar’s charitable arm, and will “focus on providing leadership skills to attorneys from diverse backgrounds,” according to Johnson’s memo.
The 2005 summit will focus on the theme of “Access to Justice,” and the 2006 event theme will be “Access & Fairness/Diversity and the Courts.” In 2005 the topic will be delivery of legal services to low- and middle-income persons, while in 2006 it will be elimination of bias in the legal profession.
The board resolution also called for making the Bar Leader’s Conference, an all-day event for bar association presidents-elect, incoming presidents, and executive directors held this year on the convention’s first day, a regular feature of future conventions.
In other action Saturday, the board:
•Adopted a change in its procedural rules, conforming them to legislation which went into effect this year, allowing the president to be elected as many as 270 days before the State Bar convention. Though the change could allow a presidential election as early as January, the rules give the board’s president discretion to call the election at a time of his choice, and current President Anthony Capozzi said after the meeting he does not intend to schedule an election sooner than June.
•Stiffened rules governing lawyers who report name or address changes to the State Bar in the wake of two instances in which non-attorneys began practicing law using the identities of members whose names were similar. Under the new rules, which take effect Jan. 1, additional documentation of name and address changes will be required before replacement bar cards are issued.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company