The candidates are: Ronald E. Albers, a deputy public defender from San
Francisco; James R. Jay Greiner, a Sacramento criminal defense attorney; Karen
S. Nobumoto, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney; James D. Otto, a civil litigator from
a mid-sized Torrance firm; and David L. Roth, an Oakland general practitioner specializing
in real estate law. Each now serves as a vice president of the bar board.
The winner will succeed Palmer Madden, an East Bay mediator and
former partner with McCutchen, Doyle, Brown, & Enersen in Walnut Creek. Although the
new president will not take office until September, the six-month interval is expected to
provide an adequate orientation period a goal past presidents have suggested is
joined the board in 1998, shortly after former Gov. Pete Wilson nixed the bars fee
bill, forcing the layoffs of about 500 employees. They watched the bar sink to its lowest
point and begin a slow return to more solid footing.
Each has been involved in most of the organizations major
Albers, 51, chairs the boards administration and finance
committee and had a hand in helping to reduce bar dues by $50 this year and developing
long-term financial planning to keep the dues low, he said.
issues in the coming year will be better use of technology, improved access to justice,
better services to members and continued refinement of the discipline system, particularly
launching a diversion program for alcoholic and drug-abusing lawyers. He also wants to
improve the bars educational efforts online by offering higher quality programs and
adding a video component.
Since the shutdown, weve done a lot to redirect the State
Bar to improve the way we serve our members, Albers said. This is a year to
solidify our gains.
Greiner, 45, a Sacramento criminal defense attorney, says he would
bring to the presidency a vision for improved communication with lawyers and lawmakers,
responsibility in the fiscal and technological arenas, and innovation in finding
alternative sources of funding.
The bar president always faces big issues, ranging from discipline to
dues to improving technology, he said, and has to have a broad, big vision picture,
be mindful of all the interests of the bar and respond accordingly.
His service on virtually every committee of the board, as well as the
past presidency of the Sacramento bar association, provide a solid foundation of both
familiarity with bar issues and a wide range of resources, Greiner said.
As a prosecutor in the career criminal unit of the Los Angeles
DAs target crimes division, Nobumoto has litigated cases involving unauthorized
practice of law and has dealt with victims of ineffective counsel. She is therefore keenly
aware of the bars public protection role and supports a strong and effective
In the past three years, she has made increased diversity within the
bar a priority, serving two years on the boards appointments committee. If elected,
Nobumoto, 48, would be the first African-American woman president of the California bar.
Like the other candidates, she stressed the importance of improved
technology to provide better member services, and said she will work closely with the
legislature to win a multi-year fee bill to insure stability and continuity of the
important services we provide.
Otto, who practices commercial litigation and environmental law with
John Hill & Associates, agrees that the board should continue to fine-tune the
discipline operation, taking care of the bad eggs rapidly and dealing swiftly with
the complaints that are without merit.
Elected on a pledge to make the bar more member-friendly, Otto, 51,
says that pledge remains a goal and an area where the bar can make inroads. The
profession needs to become something that people dont feel disaffected with,
He suggests the bar can do a better job of reaching out both to
members and the public. We can benefit if people see us as an important service
provider, he says.
Sole practitioner David Roth, 47, has focused in the last three years
on creating a clear division between the board of governors, which he says should set
policy, and the staff, which should implement that policy. The president, he said, should
limit himself or herself to presiding over the board and acting as a spokesperson for the
Differing priorities of past presidents, who serve for only one year,
have created a lack of continuity, and meddling by previous boards has contributed to
dysfunction within the bar, he said.
I think the president of the State Bar should focus on being
the bars representative to our three important constituencies our attorney
members, the public and the state legislature, Roth said. The president needs
to take to the public the message of what a great job the lawyers of California are doing
for them and the importance of lawyers in the justice system.
The president needs to make our attorney members aware of what
the bar is doing for them and needs to restore in the legislature confidence in the fiscal
and organizational integrity of the bar so we can achieve a multi-year fee bill.