Friday, July 12, 2002
Marcus, Ipsen Elected to Board of Governors in ‘Outsiders’ Near Sweep
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Self-styled “outsider” candidates David M. Marcus and Steven J. Ipsen defeated establishment-backed bar activists in the two Los Angeles County races for the State Bar Board of Governors, State Bar officials reported yesterday.
Building on last year’s first-ever defeat of a candidate selected by the influential Breakfast Club, Marcus and Ipsen edged club picks and longtime bar activists Matthew St. George and Michelle Katz.
Marcus, a partner in the Century City office of Marcus, Watanabe, Snyder & Dave, and Ispen, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney, were both backed by last year’s successful insurgent, Matthew Cavanaugh.
“It looks like my endorsement is now worth more than the Breakfast Club’s,” Cavanaugh said yesterday.
Cavanaugh’s pick, Roderick Anthony McLeod, also finished first in the Bay Area board seat, although not in the Orange County seat, where Joel Scott Miliband won. Cavanaugh’s choice won in an special election earlier this year in the East Bay-San Jose-based seat.
Marcus, Ipsen, McLeod and Miliband will be sworn in Oct. 12, along with James Otto Heiting of Riverside, who ran unopposed. Members are elected to staggered three-year terms
Since his election to the 22-member board last August, Cavanaugh has continued his campaign against what he calls “bar junkies” and has said he hopes to bring on board members who will focus on lowering dues and taking other actions that help the State Bar’s nearly 140,000 active members.
Too often, Cavanaugh said, the Board of Governors defers to State Bar staff on policy decisions. He also criticized the State Bar for spending dues money on what he called social programs.
Marcus cautioned against reading too much into his election, given the low turnout. In the Ipsen-St. George race, the margin was so close than St. George said he would seek a recount.
“I just think it’s prudent,” he said.
Of 43,496 lawyers eligible to vote in District Seven—Los Angeles County—just over 6,000 cast ballots in the two races. Marcus got 3,138 to Katz’s 2,947, while Ispen scored 3,082 to St. George’s 3,055.
Marcus said many of his votes came from friends and colleagues.
“And besides,” he added, “there are three lawyers in Los Angeles named David Marcus, so maybe everybody thought they were voting for them.”
But Marcus said that unlike in earlier years, “A Breakfast Club endorsement is not helpful.”
The club has hand picked candidates to represent District Seven for the last three decades, and until last year either persuaded would-be challengers not to run, or backed their own selections so massively that they always prevailed.
In the wake of last year’s defeat, the club pulled out all the stops to get their candidates in this time around. Candidates estimated spending thousands of dollars on mailings to every attorney on the district, advertisements in the legal media, and other campaign expenses.
The club compiled a list signed by a virtual who’s who of legal Los Angeles, including the president and past presidents of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and a host of local and ethnic bar associations.
There were glitches. Not every active lawyer got the mailings, and ballots—which were sent out by a New York elections firm on April 30 and had to be mailed back by July 1—in many cases took several weeks to get to their destination.
But candidates also posted statements on the State Bar’s website and Ipsen and Marcus, who ran an almost no-cost campaign except for a single newspaper advertisement, had a message that apparently resonated with the less than 15 percent of lawyers who did vote in District Seven.
“With your vote I intend to join other Board members in the fight to reduce our bloated bar dues, the highest in the nation,” Ipsen said in his statement. “As California attorneys we look to the State Bar for guidance on issues of fair dealing and professional ethics; yet, the State Bar tries to justify charging attorneys nearly double that of any other state including New York?”
Bar leaders responded with a flurry of e-mails and letters to newspapers about dues, noting that California’s unified bar fee that includes discipline costs should not be compared with other states, in which discipline is handled by outside agencies that may charge higher fees.
Breakfast Club President Jo-Ann Grace, who is president of the Metropolitan News Company and co-publisher of the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, decried what she said was a victory for the least qualified candidates.
“It is regrettable that those individuals who have cared enough about the interests of the legal profession to have rolled up their sleeves and been involved in organized bar activities are now denigrated as ‘bar junkies’–-and those who have not been involved triumph in Board of Governors’ elections,” Grace said.
This year the board ran two consummate bar activists in St. George, a former president of the Conference of Delegates who led the organization in a year when its entire budget had been slashed, and Katz, and leader of the Beverly Hills Bar Association and president of the California Dispute Resolution Council.
St. George said the voting showed that a “small and vocal minority of attorneys around the state” have a continuing animosity toward the State Bar, which imposes annual license fees and prosecutes in cases of alleged breach of professional standards.
“I think that what this shows is that when people don’t vote, a large majority takes the status quo for granted, a small discontented minority can win,” he said.
He said he wanted Cavanaugh to know that, with new support on the board, “he is now the insider.”
“The ball will be in his court and I hope he will work in a positive way to carry out the reforms he wants,” St. George said.
Cavanaugh said it was not yet clear whether his election victories would turn into lower dues or a change in State Bar policies.
“I’m not sure yet if the bar junkies, the insiders, the non-reformers, have gotten the message yet that their day is over,” Cavanaugh said. Until they realize that, or until we have a majority on the board, I don’t think you’ll see many changes.”
Marcus said he could “not claim any sort of mandate,” and was open to “any thoughts or suggestions on issues that anyone has to make.”
He also had a message for the bar leaders who signed the Breakfast Club endorsement letter for St. George and Katz:
“Next time I hope they have the responsibility to those people who might pay attention to their endorsement to at least talk to the other candidates first.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company