Two lawyers, one public member vie for president

Staff Writer 

... Continued from frontpage 


Three other third-year members of the board -- Joseph Bell of Grass Valley, Malissa McKeith of Los Angeles and John Stovall of Bakersfield -- are not running for the presidency. Public member Wendy Borcherdt, who, like Kaye, was appointed to the board by Gov. Wilson, also is not running.

The three candidates disagree on issues such as bar dues, and their priorities are markedly different.

Weaver says the recent $20 dues decrease forced "significant reductions in a lot of areas" at the bar, and she thinks little more can be cut. Adelman, who served two years on the administration and finance committee, says he sees "no rational basis to increase dues," and while further study of the budget and discipline system could warrant future cuts, it's too early to tell.

Kaye, who chairs a board committee examining the budgeting process, believes the bar "can achieve at least another $25 dues reduction without any discernible effect on the bar programs."

Kaye's candidacy marks the culmination of a year when he has publicly criticized other board members for what he has characterized as backroom dealing, secrecy and bad judgment.

His unhappiness began with the way the bar negotiated a $900,000 contract with its Sacramento lobbyist; after he wrote about it in the California Bar Journal, several board members tried unsuccessfully to remove him from his unofficial role as editorial advisor to the paper. One called for his censure.

Kaye, editorial director of NBC 7/39 in San Diego and retired assoc-ate editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune, conceded he is an underdog for the top bar post, but said he "starts with a solid base of support. I have a reasonable expectation of surviving the first ballot."

A family platform

Adelman, 46, says he's not ready to retire after three years as a bar governor. Ongoing issues such as the fate of the MCLE program, mandatory malpractice insurance, the budget and the discipline system will continue to require board attention, he believes.

He also is interested in the concept of making the bar more "family-friendly" by taking into account family issues that face attorneys.

The delivery of legal services to the poor can be improved simply with better use of attorneys' legal talent, he says, adding, "We need to figure out a way to do that."

As a litigator with a primarily business- and tort-related practice, Adelman represents many local charities in trust litigation. If elected, he would be only the second sole practitioner to serve as board president. He says bar activities now consume about one-third of his time, and he believes the presidency would be manageable.

Making time

Weaver says she also could juggle her duties in the Alameda County public defender's office with the demands of the presidency, largely due to the support of her boss, public defender Jay Gaskill.

She agreed with Adelman that ongoing issues like dues and discipline will continue to demand board attention.

Weaver, 48, said she agreed with the decision to appeal the recent appellate decision striking down the bar's MCLE program. Noting she never favored the exemptions the court found unconstitutional, she said, "I think it's a really valuable program."

She has worked on pro bono issues and currently is part of a bench-bar pro bono project which has produced a series of recommendations to encourage pro bono work without making it mandatory.

Loving the bar

"I love the bar, I love being a lawyer," says Weaver, adding she would like the bar to focus on issues that are important to lawyers, such as legislation, and public service projects like the recent "Kids and the Law" brochure it produced.

She has no illusions about how many attorneys feel about the bar, however. "I think you need to go into this job understanding that no matter what the decision, there are lawyers that will be unhappy with it," she says. "You just have to do what you think is in the best interest of the bar."

The 69-year-old Kaye, appointed to the board by Gov. Wilson in 1991, takes a decidedly different approach to the bar. "I don't think we ought to be concentrating on subjects and issues of dubious or marginal interest to the State Bar," he says. "We can't solve problems in Sacramento or Washington and we ought to concentrate on what's going on at bar offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles and how it affects lawyers."

Ending secrecy

Kaye stresses accountability and efficiency, as well as improved unity on the bar board, which has been fractured this year by a split between attorney and public members.

He says the board's work should be conducted "openly and above board so members will be informed in a timely way of the action we take and what it means for them."

Kaye says if he were to become the first non-attorney president of the bar, "it would mean a realization that the bar exists as something more than a trade association for its members.

"It might mean a more realistic appreciation of the activities of the bar that don't specifically pertain to lawyers, like budgeting, personnel, communications and legislative representation," he said.