Tuesday, January 16, 1996
Person of Year Dan Lungren Wins Praise for Dedication to Legal Profession
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Attorney General Dan Lungren has received plaudits from persons of both major political parties for his skill and dedication as a member of the legal profession.
Feted Thursday night at a black tie dinner in honor of his selection as the Metropolitan News-Enterprise's 1995 "Person of the Year," allusions to his expected gubernatorial candidacy were sparse. Two references were made, however, to the brouhaha occasioned last year when Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, while introducing Lungren at the podium during a lunch meeting, expressed the expectation that he would be California's next governor.
Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Mildred L. Lillie of this district's Div. Seven drew laughter after making a presentation to Lungren when she said:
"I would kiss you on the cheek, but I remember how much trouble that Malcolm Lucas got into."
Lillie presented the attorney general with a letter of tribute from the dean of Georgetown University School of Law, of which Lungren is an alumnus. She stood in for her Div. Seven colleague, Earl Johnson Jr., who taught at that school.
Former District Attorney Robert Philibosian, a partner in Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, also recalled the uproar over Lucas' remark.
"Well I'm not a judge, so I can say whatever I want," Philibosian declared, adding:
"So I think Dan would be a great governor."
Philibosian, who introduced Lungren, termed the attorney general a "lawyer's lawyer."
Philibosian told the approximately 150 persons present:
"He knows his first obligation is to his client, and his client is now the people of the state of California."
In presenting the "Person of the Year" award to Lungren, MetNews co-publisher Jo-Ann W. Grace noted that Lungren heads the largest law office in the State of California. She remarked:
"Dan Lungren has received many accolades. Tonight, we honor him not as a leader of a political party or as a potential candidate.
"Rather, we pay tribute to him as a lawyer, a skilled, principled and dedicated member of the legal profession, an expert in law office management, and advocate for changes to better the profession and the public's perception of it."
Lungren, in accepting the award, declared that he is "very, very proud to be a lawyer."
Lungren said that the "challenge of law" was one that he first started thinking about when he was a sophomore enrolled in pre-med courses at Notre Dame. He recalled that one of the toughest "things I had to do in my life" had been informing his parents—who were present at Thursday's dinner—that he had decided not to pursue medicine.
The attorney general said of lawyers:
"If we have a long-term commitment to this society, and think about what we as its lawyers can offer, we can hold our heads high and understand that what we offer is unique. Because we are the ones who hopefully can assist with the great problems that come up, can lead people to put aside their emotion of the moment and understand that it might be worth listening to another.
"We are the ones that can provide the institutional memory of the framework of law....Although we respected the history to get our bearings, we also understand that for the law to be real, the law must be here and now and living, in order to applicable to the people we are serving."
He went on to say:
"I am privileged because I'm a public servant in the sense of being an elected official and a lawyer. Both of those professions, if understood properly, have at their core, the notion of service.
Lungren, a five-term member of Congress, said he has never truly strayed from the field of law.
"During my tenure in Congress and in the Judiciary Committee, we were constantly dealing with matters of law from the federal level," he noted.
"Now as attorney general, being a lawyer has been most of what I do, of what we all do," he continued. "And so if, there is any sense of accomplishment or fulfillment, it is because I have tried to be true to the tenets of this profession, and those who have gone before."
On a light note, Lungren made it clear he does not miss private practice, commenting:
"I sometimes only kiddingly say to myself that I'm so happy to be involved in the law in a public service sense because I don't have to do those damnable billable hours."
Among those presenting scrolls and plaques was District Attorney Gil Garcetti. A Democrat, he told the audience he was comfortable honoring the Republican Lungren because of their work together at both local and state levels.
"He's really done a lot more for us than perhaps most people realize," Garcetti said. "He has been very instrumental...in the wire tap," Garcetti noted, describing this as an essential law enforcement tool.
He characterized Lungren as "a super guy, and a super attorney."
Los Angeles City Council President John Ferraro bestowed a commendation to Lungren on behalf of the full City Council.
"It makes you feel proud to be a public official when there's a man like Dan Lungren who's also a public official," Ferraro remarked.
Supervisor Deane Dana, crediting Lungren with working closely with Los Angeles County law enforcement, presented a plaque to the state's top attorney on behalf of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Assemblyman James Rogan, R-Glendale, presented a scroll on behalf of the Legislature's lower house, and predicted that Lungren will become a "great governor."
Malissa McKeith, an attorney with Loeb & Loeb and a member of the State Bar Board of Governors, presented Lungren with a commendation from the State Bar of California.
"I decided to look up Dan's disciplinary record to see if I could dig up any dirt to bring back and share with you," McKeith quipped. "I hate to say, he's as squeaky as he appears."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Leahy, who, like Lungren, is an alumnus of the University of Notre Dame, presented the attorney general a commendation on behalf of the university. On behalf of himself, he gave Lungren a picture of the kickoff of the last home football game played at Notre Dame stadium last year.
"That is significant because the Notre Dame stadium is now being expanded....I won it this evening, but I would like the attorney general to have it."
The judge won the framed poster during the silent auction that took place during the reception in Lungren's honor. The auction, which is held annually in conjunction with the dinner, raises money for the Friends of Child Advocates, a non-profit organization that supervises volunteer guardians who are assigned to be with abused children during court proceedings.
Lungren was the 14th recipient of the newspaper's award and only the third non-judge to be presented with it, the first being former Superior Court Executive Officer Frank Zolin in 1988. Charles Vogel, now a Court of Appeal justice (nominated to become presiding justice) on this district's Div. Four, was State Bar president in 1990 when he and his wife, Court of Appeal Justice Miriam Vogel of Div. One, were honored.
On Thursday, Zolin resumed his role as emcee of the event, having done so consecutively since 1990, with the exception of last year when he had laryngitis.
Lungren was the ninth to receive the award at a dinner in his honor.
Past award recipients have included eight justices of this district's Court of Appeal, in addition to the Vogels. Lillie received it in its inaugural year, 1983; the late Presiding Justice Lester Wm. Roth was Person of the Year for 1985; retired Justice Lynn Compton was honored in 1989; Presiding Justices Vaino Spencer and Joan Dempsey Klein received the award in 1991 and 1992, respectively; and Justice Norman Epstein was honored as the 1994 Person of the Year.
Other recipients were California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk in 1984, retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Kathleen Parker and Billy G. Mills in 1986 and 1987, respectively, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert M. Mallano in 1993.
Thursday's dinner opened with an invocation by the Reverend Michael Carcerano. Immediately following, the priest joined Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lawrence Crispo, U.S. Attorney Nora Manella of the Central District of California and Elizabeth Turner, wife of Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Paul Turner, in leading the audience in the singing of "God Bless America."
The quartet later sang three of Lungren's favorite songs, the Notre Dame fight song, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "Ave Maria."
Among those in attendance were California Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter, Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Gary Klausner and Assistant Presiding Judge Robert Parkin, former Gov. George Deukmejian, State Bar President James Towery, Pepperdine University School of Law Dean Ronald Phillips, Southwestern University School of Law Dean Leigh Taylor, and numerous trial-court and appellate jurists.
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