David P. Harris has traveled up and down the state teaching classes for the California District Attorneys Association and has heard the frustrations of government lawyers who feel their voice is not heard by the State Bar. "Somebody needs to represent their interests," says Harris.
A senior deputy district attorney in the Stanislaus County D.A.'s office, he is seeking the District 5 seat on the board of governors.
Harris, 35, is also concerned about the role of the bar in protecting the interests of all lawyers. "The general perception is that it doesn't represent many of the attorneys," he said. "And the perception is enough to be a problem."
Harris said the bar should be working to protect the interests of the state's lawyers before it works on protecting the public. Once lawyers' interests are secured, public protection should fall into place, he says, "but right now it's like putting the cart before the horse."
Harris thinks the bar should move ahead to re-vamp the MCLE program after the appellate court ruled that exempting professors, legislators and government lawyers is unconstitutional. "It would be easier and cheaper for the bar to fix the exemptions," he said, rather than expend funds and energy on an appeal.
A graduate of U.C. San Diego, Harris discovered his interest in law enforcement after a stint as a store detective. He went on to earn his law degree from California Western School of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1986.
He is a former president of the Kings County Deputy District Attorneys Association, a member of the California District Attorneys Association and the Stanislaus County Attorneys Association, and has belonged to several other professional groups.
Harris and his wife Julie, a CPA for Gallo Wines, are the parents of three young children under the age of six and reside in Modesto.
As president of the Fresno County Bar Association last year, Paul S. Hokokian was active in the State Bar's spring plebiscite campaign. Although he remains a strong supporter of the bar, he feels the controversies that have arisen on the board of governors in the intervening year have "tested the limits of all attorneys."
The bar's $900,000 contract with its lobbyist "smacks of a sweetheart deal" and was probably a mistake, he says.
The soon-to-be-hired executive director should be an outsider, and if he or she is an attorney, should possess substantial business skills and experience running a large organization, Hokokian believes. The new bar chief's first order of business should be a review of the entire organization "to justify every office and expenditure.
"Our ultimate goal should be a dues reduction," says Hokokian. "I suspect we can match at least $20 and maybe more."
The 45-year-old deputy district attorney says the bar needs to be both responsive and responsible. "It's somewhat unique among other forms of government," Hokokian says. "It has learned to do less with more money and every other agency has done more with less." Turning that around is the ultimate responsibility of everyone elected to the board of governors in the next few years, he added.
Returning to the person who will replace longtime executive director Herb Rosenthal, Hokokian stressed he or she should "have an open slate and open mind to evaluate our particular organization. It has some special needs, and the new person should be able to point out things we could do better, hopefully with less expense."
A graduate of McGeorge School of Law, Hokokian has worked in the DA's family support division for 12 years. He has been president of the District Attorneys Association, the Fresno County Prosecutors Association, and Criminal Justice Alternatives Inc., as well as maintaining membership in a wide variety of community and professional organizations. He also has been a member of the bar's Conference of Delegates for four years.
Hokokian and his wife are the parents of a 2-year-old son. He is a major in the California National Guard and commander of a security unit.
As a longtime activist in both local and State Bar activities and having been a sole practitioner as well as a partner in large and small law firms, Judith Soley thinks the time is right for a seat on the Board of Governors. "I have the background and perspective to participate and continue to try to represent the interests of the bar against all the conflicting interests that compete for our attention as lawyers and as human beings," she said.
When Soley started to practice more than 25 years ago, she decided if the bar "was going to have a profound influence on my life, I would get involved." She did: president of the Fresno County Bar Association, membership on numerous boards and commissions as well as in a variety of professional organizations, and service on the executive committee of the Conference of Delegates.
Soley would like to see the bar place more emphasis on "what we can do for our members not as lawyers but as human beings." She wants to promote both accessibility and responsiveness, and to urge the bar to "have the right attitude and the right system in place to maximize input. My focus has always been trying to be in a position where you hear what everybody is saying and try to formulate it into a concern that can be articulated."
Dues probably cannot be scaled back much further, Soley says, adding she thinks lawyers get a pretty good deal since fees cover both licensing and regulation. But acknowledging that many attorneys believe dues are too high, she adds that any cost savings that can be achieved are "extremely important."
She supports a minimum level of continuing education at the least, noting that most attorneys want to be good practitioners. "I don't have a problem with MCLE per se but I understand it's an additional economic and time-consuming burden for many," Soley says.
Currently president of Judith Leslie Soley Inc., a two-attorney firm, Soley, 52, is a certified family law specialist and also handles personal injury cases. She has a daughter who will be a freshman at UC San Diego in the fall, and enjoys travel, reading, scuba diving and white water rafting.