California Bar Journal
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3 candidates unopposed for bar board

Voting continues until Sept. 3; new members take office in October

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Three unopposed candidates will begin three-year terms on the State Bar Board of Governors in October, while four other candidates battle it out to represent two other seats on the 23-member board.

Candidates from Districts Four (San Francisco and Marin counties) and Eight (Orange County), and office two in District Seven (Los Angeles) ran without opposition and were automatically elected.

The seats in District 6 (Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties) and office one in District 7 (Los Angeles) are contested.

Unlike recent years, when more than a dozen candidates sought office and issues ranged from outright abolition of the mandatory State Bar to its financial accountability to the elimination of the discipline system, this year's race is relatively quiet.

Most of the seven candidates have a history of activism within the State Bar; one is a legal services attorney, another is a prosecutor. Only one candidate favors the elimination of a mandatory bar. Only one woman is running.

Ballots were mailed last month to attorneys who practice in the two districts with a contested election. The last day to vote is Sept. 3, and new board members will take their seat at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting in Long Beach.


Scott H. McNutt began his association with the State Bar when he joined its business law section. He served as chair of its debtor-creditor and bankruptcy committee and now co-chairs the section.

"It was a wonderful experience for me because it allowed me to play a part in the development of legislation which served the public well," he said.

Scott H. McNuttAlthough the sections were one of former Gov. Pete Wilson's targets when he vetoed the bar's dues bill in 1997, McNutt now believes the education sections' future is bright and that the board of governors is interested in making them effective.

The new representative of San Francisco and Marin counties on the board, McNutt, 44, says other key issues in the coming year are the question of multidisciplinary practice and potential changes in the discipline system which are now pending in the legislature. Dispensing with the sizeable backlog of discipline cases is urgent, he said, describing the task as an unglamorous job which requires energy and diligence.

"I think it's a very exciting time to be involved with the State Bar," McNutt said. "The result of the last two years of contention is that the State Bar is largely reinventing and rebuilding itself to be more effective and to serve the interests of its constituents better."

An insolvency attorney with Severson & Werson in San Francisco, McNutt received his law degree in 1982 from the University of California at Davis law school after graduating from Yale in 1978.

He is a member of the Financial Lawyers Conference, the Bar Association of San Francisco and the American Bar Association.

He and his wife, Lee Manus McNutt, have two children, and McNutt spends most of his free time devoted to his family. He also assists his wife with her involvement in the creation of a new campus to house the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Day School in Foster City.


Brian BrandtBrian Brandt is the only candidate for the board of governors who favors abolition of the mandatory State Bar. The former president of the Western San Bernardino County Bar Association instead wants to make the bar a voluntary organization "that would actually be working in the economic interests of its membership."

Brandt, a 37-year-old sole practitioner, says he is seeking a seat on the board because he wants to change the way things operate. His first order of business would be to transfer the discipline system to the Department of Consumer Affairs, although he believes such a drastic step should first be submitted to the membership for a vote.

He also opposes the MCLE program in its present form because "it doesn't serve the membership as well as it could." The entire program should be tailored so attorneys could benefit better than they do now from continuing education.

As a medical malpractice and personal injury attorney, Brandt says he routinely reads several legal journals in order to stay abreast of developments in the field. He believes he should be able to receive MCLE credit for the hours spent in keeping current.

Brandt received his law degree from the University of Santa Clara law school. He is a sole practitioner in Upland and belongs to the Consumer Attorneys of California and the American Trial Lawyers and has served as president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Inland Empire, chair of the Inland Empire Special Olympics and president of the Upland Kiwanis Club.

He and his wife Camille have two daughters and expect a third in October.

They grow grapes on a small vineyard and produce about 30-40 cases a year. A UCSB graduate, Brandt still tries to surf once a month.

The State Bar is at a crossroads, and the coming year offers an opportunity to make substantive changes and respond to critics, says James Herman.

"The dues crisis presented great challenges, and we should listen to the critics and steer the bar's course with that criticism in mind," he says. "The great challenge of rebuilding the State Bar is to bring the membership back into the fold."

A former president of the Santa Barbara County Bar Association, Herman, 54, urges the bar leadership to be cautious about "reassembling the same structure."

Although he is a strong supporter of continuing education, he says the current mandatory component of MCLE "has to be revisted and at the very least reshaped." The widespread opposition to mandatory continuing education among respondents to a recent California Bar Journal survey demonstrates the need "to readdress the needs of our membership relative to the bar," he said.

James HermanThe issue of multidisciplinary practice also is one the bar must face soon, and Herman believes the bar "should be inside the tent rather than outside the tent. Multidicsiplinary practice is inevitable."

A partner in Rogers, Sheffield & Herman in Santa Barbara, Herman is a trial lawyer, concentrating on complex business disputes and commercial litigation. A UCSB graduate, he received his law degree from California Western Law School and was a Robert Marshall Fellow at NYU law school, where he received his LL.M.

He is involved in a wide variety of legal and community activities, including serving as a delegate to the Conference of Delegates, membership in the bar's litigation section, co-hosting a local law radio program, and serving as a board member for the Santa Barbara Grand Opera.

Herman is married to Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille.

DISTRICT 7 (Office 1)

Patrick R. Dixon has spent nearly 25 years in the Los Angeles district attorney's office, with more than 10 years as assistant head of its major crimes division. He also has a long list of bar activities on his resume, ranging from a stint on the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation to chairing the committee of bar examiners.

Patrick R. DixonIn his race to represent one of the two offices in the bar's Los Angeles district, he won the endorsement of the influential Breakfast Club, which for more than 30 years has backed successful candidates for the board of governors.

In light of the bar's financial problems during the past two years, Dixon believes the organization needs to return to fundamentals. "To me, to a great extent, that means admissions and discipline," he said.

Dixon now serves as special counsel to the committee of bar examiners and believes it is crucial to retain the integrity of the bar examination and the admissions process. He believes the bar's discipline system was, prior to Gov. Wilson's veto, the most professional system in the country and he wants to get it back on track quickly.

Lawyer civility also is high on Dixon's list of important issues, and he believes the bar can encourage civility from its bully pulpit. He also supports continuing the MCLE program, but favors the reduced number of required hours contained in legislation pending in Sacramento as well as consideration of innovations to the program.

Dixon currently is special counsel to the Committee of Bar Examiners and last year was named "Prosecuting Attorney of the Year" by the LA County Bar Association's criminal justice section.

His wife, Diane, is corporate vice president of communications and worldwide advertising for Avery-Dennison, a manufacturer of office products. They have a daughter, Colleen, who will be a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley this fall.

Los Angeles attorney Joseph Fedorowsky views a seat on the board of governors as "an opportunity to do some public service and share my perceptions and expectations of the bar."

The 48-year-old Los Angeles sole practitioner believes the State Bar's main problem is a failure to reflect the views of its members. "California attorneys are frustrated, alienated and apathetic," he said, "and I think it's because they don't have a collective voice through the State Bar."

Joseph FedorowskyTo make change, the bar should make greater efforts to determine attorneys' concerns, then mold its agenda to meet those concerns, he said. "It seems to me pretty clear that basically attorneys want admissions and discipline, not political and social engineering kinds of things, to be the bar's core values."

When deciding how to proceed with its continuing education program, for example, Federowsky thinks the bar should do what the members want. "If the membership feels it shouldn't be mandatory, why not pursue that course?" he said. "It doesn't mean we can't have continuing education, but we need to listen to the membership."

Federowsky represents Hispanic and African-American families in substandard housing cases in Los Angeles County. He also has handled First Amendment litigation for nonprofit organizations.

He received his law degree from Pepperdine law school after graduating from the University of Arizona.

His wife, Shana Carlsen, is director of a nonprofit research and development organization which focuses on options for sustainable cities technology. The couple has two daughters and a son.

DISTRICT 7 (Office 2)

Maria VillaPrivate practitioner Maria Villa expects a crowded schedule in early October: She will be sworn in as a representative of District 7 on the State Bar Board of Governors and she'll give birth to her first child. Asked how she will juggle such big changes in her life, Villa laughed and said she'll no longer be managing partner of her firm, a two-person partnership with her husband.

Villa plans to focus on communication and outreach to bar members "to let them know we'll be responsive." An accomplished business manager, the 39-year-old Villa believes the bar would regain its members' confidence when it displays fiscal responsibility.

Winning the trust of legislators is dependent on winning trust from the public, Villa added.

As a longtime bar activist, Villa also thinks that some of the distrust in the bar is a misperception and that it is more responsive to attorneys than they think. The bar leadership "has gotten the message" of the 1997 dues veto and is working to make changes, she added.

Villa was president of the Mexican American Bar Association of Los Angeles County, a founding fellow of the Foundation of the State Bar of California, a delegate to the Conference of Delegates, and is currently a member of the LA County Bar Association, Latina Lawyers of Los Angeles, Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, and is deputy regional president of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

She practices business litigation with her husband, Stephen Lathrop, in Los Angeles. The couple enjoy tennis and skiing.


Robert Scott Wylie has been involved in State Bar activities for most of his 10 years of practice, currently serving as chair of the legal services section. As he takes the Orange County seat on the Board of Governors, Wylie says he hopes to participate in rebuilding the bar after two years of havoc wreaked by Gov. Pete Wilson's 1997 veto of the fee bill.

Key issues, Wylie believes, are the future of continuing legal education, a concept he generally supports, and how to restructure the bar's other programs.

Since 1993, Wylie, 35, has been executive director of the Public Law Center, a public interest legal services office operated by the Orange County Bar Association. The agency operates a hybrid program, coordinating the work of more than 1,400 volunteer attorneys and representing 4,000 clients in about 1,500 matters annually.

The bulk of the practice focuses on elder law and family law, particularly domestic violence.

Robert Scott WylieAlthough his heart lies with pro bono work, Wylie acknowledges that it is unlikely the staffing and programming of the bar's legal services program will ever match pre-veto levels. However, he noted that next year's state budget includes $10 million for legal services, and he praised the bar's Access to Justice Commis-sion for continuing its work over the last two years with "little or no" staff-ing or financing.

Although Wylie believes attorneys have an ethical responsibility to offer legal services to those in need, he opposes mandatory pro bono requirements for lawyers.

"I don't think any client should ever be subjected to an attorney who does not believe in them," he explains.

Wylie, who received both his law degree and his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, has served on the Orange County Bar Association's board of directors since 1996, been a member of the State Bar's legal services section's executive committee since 1996, served on the bar's disaster assistance task force from 1993-95, and was a delegate to the Conference of Delegates for three years.

He is an adjunct professor of law at Chapman University School of Law, Whittier Law School and Western State University College of Law.

Wylie is single and describes himself as a workaholic, but in his spare moments he loves to read and is "trying to learn about good wine."