Tuesday, June 25, 2002
Santa Barbara Litigator James Herman Elected State Bar President
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Santa Barbara civil litigator James Herman was elected president of the State Bar of California Saturday and will lead the organization for a year beginning in October.
The State Bar Board of Governors elected Herman, 56, in a single round of balloting conducted as part of the board’s June meeting in San Francisco. Voting followed low-key candidate speeches by Herman, Los Angeles lawyer Maria Villa and Whittier Law School program director Scott Wylie in which each called for consensus and continuity following a period of rebuilding.
But Herman said he believed his colleagues appreciated his request that they also “look at the big picture” and “ask the bigger questions,” like how the State Bar can better serve lawyers who are aging, earning less and working harder.
“I remember especially the pride I had when I first raised my hand in taking the oath as an attorney,” Herman told the board before the vote. “I remember that pride every time I attend an admissions ceremony. By the end of 2003, I want us to restore that sense of pride to every lawyer in this state—pride in being a member of the State Bar of California.”
After a brief break in which ballots were counted and Herman’s election was announced, he stood, spread his arms and beamed as his colleagues gave him a sustained ovation.
The election in a single round meant Herman won an outright majority in the three-way race.
Board members said they expected Herman to be easy-going and inclusive.
“Jim’s very human, very down-to-earth,” Judith Copeland of San Diego said. “I don’t think he has any hidden agenda.”
Copeland added that the board wanted to do without “grand schemes” or “big excitement,” and to take time to work through a governance blueprint hammered out over the last year.
“The board has to stop changing every year,” Copeland said. “We have a governance model. Let’s start governing that way.”
Matthew Cavanaugh of Long Beach said he voted for Herman in part because he backed Cavanaugh over the last year on some controversial votes. But he added:
“I think any of the three would have done a good job.”
James Otto Heiting of Riverside, who will join the board at the State Bar’s fall annual meeting when Herman takes the presidential oath, said he was looking forward to working with the new leader.
“He’s a very well-intentioned man,” Heiting said of Herman. “He is very concerned about diversity and wants to do the right thing.”
Herman becomes the third member of the Santa Barbara firm now known as Reicker, Pfau, Pyle, McRoy & Herman to lead the State Bar as president. Dale Hanst served as president in 1983; before that, name partner Kurt Pyle served as president.
Herman said his firm in his “humble little fishing village on the Central Coast” is unusual in that it still promotes professional development and participation in a way that most leading firms did once, but no longer.
“We are a firm that is behind the idea of bar service,” he said.
Herman was born and grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and first moved to California as a member of the Air Force studying Chinese at the Defense Department’s language institute in Monterey. He was introduced to Santa Barbara as a student at the University of California’s campus there, and graduated in 1971.
Master’s of Law
He later worked for Disney in Florida, handling light and sound for music acts like Cat Stevens. Then he returned to California to attend law school at California Western School of Law in San Diego, earned his degree in 1975, then earned a master’s of law degree from New York University School of Law in 1976.
He worked for eight years as a Los Angeles deputy public defender and then joined his current firm.
He is married to Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille.
Herman told the MetNews that the State Bar has had “an important period of rebuilding” after the organization was virtually shut down because of then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s 1997 veto of the bill that would have authorized the annual collection of dues from all California lawyers.
“We are prepared now to start reaching out to our stakeholders, working closer with the court,” he said.
He also gave a hint about his leadership style.
“I see the president’s job as asking the questions, and the board’s as working together to come up with the answers,” Herman said.
He will be sworn in as State Bar president on Oct. 12 in Monterey.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company