Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Conference of Delegates Reveals Plan to Hold Annual Meeting Separately From State Bar
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations has announced plans to break away from the State Bar and begin holding an independent annual meeting during the spring of 2011.
Some members of the Los Angeles County Bar Association delegation to this year’s conference expressed disagreement with the decision, announced Saturday by newly installed Chair Lilys D. McCoy during her inaugural address.
Former State Bar President John Van de Kamp criticized the decision as “very unfortunate,” predicting that the conference will “lose attendance and momentum” by proceeding in the manner set forth by McCoy.
He opined that it “would be best to meet in conjunction with the State Bar in so far as is humanly possible,” and some sort of arrangement allowing both groups to meet in the same city should be arranged for 2011.
But McCoy said the separation would enable legislators to attend, as well as increase the amount of time available to delegations and lobbyists to act on resolutions.
Although the conference has traditionally been held in conjunction with the State Bar Annual Meeting, this year the meeting was moved from the Manchester Grand Hyatt to the Hilton San Diego Bayfront in the face of strong opposition by some delegates to the original venue.
The 1,625-room waterfront hotel is owned by the Manchester Financial Group LLC, whose chairman, Doug Manchester, contributed $125,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign to overturn the right of same-sex couples to marry.
It has been the target of a boycott organized by Californians Against Hate, a non-profit organization devoted to drawing attention to the major donors to the Yes on 8 campaign, and the hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE, since last July.
Pickets marched in front of the hotel Thursday night as the State Bar events began, followed by another protest Saturday afternoon involving the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers of Los Angeles, The Beverly Hills Bar Association, the Bar Association of San Francisco, Barristers Club, California Employment Lawyers Association, National Lawyers Guild and Santa Clara County Bar Association.
Having contracted with Hyatt to reserve the space for its 2009 and 2011 annual meetings before the divisive Proposition 8 campaign, the State Bar took the position that it could breach its commitment to the hotel because the cost of doing so, if borne by the members, could violate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting public entities from using mandatory dues money for political actions.
McCoy told the MetNews that knowing the State Bar convention was going to return to the Hyatt in 2011 was “what really propelled us” into making the decision to separate the conference.
Faced with the “untenable” possibility of 30 percent of delegates boycotting the meeting, she explained that such opposition to the Hyatt was the “but for” cause of the decision to move this year’s meeting. “We just did not want to fall into the same trap in 2011,” she said.
“It’s human nature to be timid of change…but sometimes we have change thrust upon us,” McCoy added, comparing the circumstances facing the conference to “a little bird who looks over the nest, gets pushed, and it can fly.”
She said the conference still plans to meet alongside the State Bar next year in Monterey and that it will “continue a productive partnership with the State Bar” in the future, but declined to predict what will happen after 2011 as “that calls for speculation.”
State Bar Deputy Executive Director Robert Hawley said that the State Bar “kind of gave birth” to the conference, which was originally funded by the State Bar, and “it’s nice that they are becoming more and more self-sustaining.”
As the conference has “come to a point they have the wherewithal to start charting their own course,” Hawley said “we will have to explore what’s mutually beneficial” for the future.
Los Angeles attorney Holly J. Fujie, whose term as State Bar president ended Saturday, said, “It’s so hard to say so far in advance what’s going to happen, but we respect the conference and they do wonderful and important work, and we’ll see what happens in 2011.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company