On the rare occasion that my wife, Erin, is still awake when I return home at night from Sacramento, her first question usually is, "Any setbacks today?" My response is rarely "No."
Running as fast as I can in shoulder-deep water is an apt analogy for the progress we are making. Slow, but steady. In fact, recent cartoons and editorials go so far as to depict me as the captain of a sinking ship. There was certainly a leak, but it has been repaired, and the ship is directed on a slow but steady course.
The seemingly intoleralbly slow progress that has accompanied the board of governors Herculean efforts to avoid laying off nearly 500 hardworking, dedicated, loyal State Bar employees is truly a frustrating phenomenon. These employees have families to support and bills to pay. They do not lobby, pass resolutions or develop policy. No one refers to them as bloated, arrogant or non-responsive.
On the eve of these layoffs, truly good faith efforts to resolve the funding crisis seem to be falling on deaf ears. It seems as though very few feel the pain and loss that these layoffs will bring.
To me, however, the impact is profound. Sacramento is not just another world from ours; it is another universe. In the daily crises that face our legislators, the plight of the State Bar has not been given a very high priority. I and 500 others cannot understand why.
Oftentimes I am asked if I am enjoying myself in the midst of these historic times. I promptly and emphatically respond "no."
Far from enjoyable
It is interesting and intense, but far from enjoyable. How could one enjoy the circumstances that have befallen the State Bar and its employees? The emotional roller-coaster ride of near success, followed by a setback or disappointment, never seems to end.
Side issues continually divert the progress as well. But throughout the struggle, I am often taken back in awe by the wisdom and consideration of many fine, heroic individuals that I have been privileged to meet and work with since the veto. They certainly understand the impact that will befall the public and the membership of the State Bar if our situation is not promptly resolved.
I will never take for granted their influences on me.
I think of Sen. Bill Lockyer's articulate and emotional defense of our First Amendment rights at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
I think of Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg's masterful presentation of AB 1669 in the Assembly.
I think of the extraordinary leadership shown by Assemblymember Martha Escutia in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
And I think of the courage and strength demonstrated by Sen. Tim Leslie in his return to the Senate after his hard-fought battle with cancer. These individuals, despite many pressing concerns, have focused their attention on the impending problems.
The disappointments have been many, but from the beginning all of us have worked tirelessly to end this crisis.
Prior to the veto, I always thought that trial work was the most intense feature of my occupation. I thought that litigation had seasoned me to handle just about any event without stress.
Little did I know or even imagine the grueling and intense challenge that would lie ahead. Intolerable hours and gross sleep deprivation are only minor annoyances in lieu of the monumental nature and complexity of the task.
Despite the setbacks, there is cause for optimism.
The bill is moving toward the Senate floor and, with modest amendments, a consensus could be reached at any moment.
But I have learned over and over again that any conversation at any given time could delay the process. The day-to-day problems that confronted my once busy practice now seem so inconsequential.