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11 candidates running for bar board

Staff Writer

2006 Board of Governors Election

2006 CYLA Board Election

Mike Aguirre and Bonnie Dumanis have had their run-ins. When Dumanis, San Diego's district attorney, held a news conference to suggest that her office take over the criminal prosecution division of Aguirre's city attorney office last year, he declared that he'd been ambushed. The next day, Aguirre accused Dumanis of improper fundraising at City Hall. "War," "fight" and "feud" were just a few of the words used by newspapers and City Hall observers to describe the relationship.

Now the two — who ran against each other in the primary for the 2002 district attorney race that Dumanis won — are pitted against each other again, along with another candidate, Stephen Grebing, for the frequently unopposed District 9 seat that covers San Diego and Imperial counties. But this time, Dumanis and Aguirre have issued no harsh words, and there's likely to be little, if any, campaigning.

"There's no hidden agenda," said Dumanis, who said she didn't know Aguirre was running for the seat on the 23-member State Bar board when she made her decision. Aguirre agreed, noting that they both had their own particular reasons for running. "There's not going to be a battle," he said, emphasizing that he supported Dumanis in the general district attorney election and "now we work together and collaborate so we haven't had any problems." He said he has no plans to campaign.

For his part, Grebing, a former San Diego County Bar Association treasurer and board member who is with Wingert, Grebing, Brubaker & Goodwin, says while their name recognition may help Aquirre and Dumanis, he thinks it could backfire. "They've publicly fought one another on issues. I don't have that baggage, so I think that helps me."

The race is unusual. Veteran bar watchers say they can't remember an elected attorney ever running for the board of governors while holding office, much less two elected officials running for the same seat. Unusual or not, said former State Bar President John Van de Kamp, such a high-profile race by public attorneys is good news.

"I think it's great for the bar to get people of their stature and visibility," said Van de Kamp, a former Los Angeles district attorney who won his seat on the bar board a decade after stepping down as California's attorney general.

Ballots were mailed May 1; the last day for voting is June 30. New board members will take their seats at the Annual Meeting in October.

Dumanis, a former superior court judge, said that now that she is off the bench she wants to continue bar activities and lead by example to bring in more lawyers — especially prosecutors — to "give back to our communities in professional and civic ways." Also, she said, "it's important to have prosecutors' voices heard." No one knows the area of discipline more than prosecutors, she said, and "ethics is one of our primary concerns."

Bonnie Dumanis

Dumanis, 54, has been on the boards of the San Diego County Bar Association and the Lawyers Club of San Diego. She served several years as a member of the State Bar's Judicial Nominees Evaluation Com-mission. She said she also wants to support bar efforts to encourage pro bono services, provide rehabilitation to lawyers with substance abuse problems, monitor the discipline system, keep dues "in check" and stop "phony lawyers" who harm the public.

Michael Aguirre

Aguirre, 56, got the idea to run, he said, when the board opposed a move to support a bill that waives the attorney-client privilege for public lawyers as an effort to fight corruption in government. "I really feel that the State Bar can play a major role in helping to bring about the reforms needed to deal with the corruption problem we have in public service," he said. He added that he supports Executive Director Judy Johnson's business plan for the bar and believes she should have the "consistent support" of the board. "Every time there's a new president, we tend to go off in a new direction and not focus . . . The most important thing at that level is to get behind the executive director and make it work."

Stephen Grebing

Grebing, 36, said he's particularly concerned about the State Bar's decision to offer more member benefits, a job better left to local bar associations, he said. "I'd want to stop the encroachment. I don't think it should go any further," he said, noting that member benefits have helped local bars attract members.

He was responsible, he said, for overhauling the benefits program offered to San Diego County Bar Association members, including procuring free legal Internet research and more cost-effective malpractice and personal lines of insurance. He thinks it's too late to have the State Bar rescind its moves to offer insurance and some other member benefits, but he'd like to see "more coordination and communication" between the State Bar and local bars when such policies are contemplated.

In Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7, eight candidates are running:


Michael Bury

MICHAEL L. BURY, 51, is a sole practitioner emphasizing family law in Chico. The current president of the Butte County Bar Association, Bury has served on its board for two years and previously served as the California Young Lawyers Association representative for his bar district. His CYLA service included a stint as an editor of the group's Opening a Law Office guide. In addition, he presently chairs the board of directors of the Community Action Agency of Butte County.

A member of the ABA and the National Association of Counsel for Children, Bury also serves by appointment as minor's counsel, civil mediator and judge pro tem. He holds his undergraduate degree and MBA from San Jose State University and received his law degree from California Northern School of Law.

John Dutton

JOHN J. DUTTON, 75, has been a judge, a deputy district attorney, a law professor and a lawyer in private practice in San Francisco, San Jose and Auburn, where he currently practices. A graduate of UC Berkeley, where he also received his law degree, Dutton started his career at McCutchen Doyle Brown and Enersen in San Francisco before switching to the Judicial Council and then to general practice in San Jose.

He served as a municipal court judge in San Jose from 1964-71, and then taught at McGeorge Law School, where he was director of the Center for Legal Advocacy.

Dutton's work includes corporate and business matters, partnership dissolutions, condemnation, bankruptcy, personal injury and probate, as well as business litigation, appellate work and criminal matters.


Richard Frankel

RICHARD A. FRANKEL, a business and employment attorney from San Ramon, is unopposed in District 3. Frankel currently is president of the Contra Costa County Bar Association and was on its board of directors from 1994-2003.

He lists among key issues facing the State Bar a disclosure requirement for uninsured lawyers, higher standards for ethics exams, access to the courts by unrepresented litigants, repair or replacement of court facilities and more judges. Frankel, 58, said his goal is "to bring enthusiasm, objectivity, creativity and consensus-building to the process of guiding" the bar.

A businessman for 15 years before getting his law degree at John F. Kennedy School of Law in 1982, Frankel has a long list of community and legal organizations on his resume, including judge pro tem in Contra Costa County and chair of the county bar association's delegation to the State Bar's conference of delegates (now the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations).


Leonard Herr

LEONARD C. HERR JR. thinks the State Bar is too big, too inefficient and too expensive and would like to see a decrease in bar dues and return the organization to a focus on its core functions. The civil litigator with Dooley, Herr & Peltzer LLP in Visalia has a couple of suggestions to increase efficiency:

  • Use volunteer attorneys to hear lawyer discipline cases and

  • Centralize State Bar operations by closing one of its two main offices.

Herr, 53, said the current State Bar Court is comprised, in part, of career bar attorneys who have never practiced law. Instead, he said, the bar should use the "voluntary services of members of the State Bar to act as hearing referees" in areas where they have expertise. Such an arrangement would save thousands of dollars, he said.

In addition, Herr said the bar's offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles are duplicative and consolidation would allow a reduction in staff.

Herr served one year on the board of governors as the California Young Lawyers Association representative and was a member of the JNE Commission. He also ran for the board in 2003. Herr received his law degree from the University of San Diego law school.

John Peterson

JOHN E. PETERSON, 64, would have a threefold focus if elected to the board of governors: the lawyer assistance and alternative discipline programs, law as a profession not a business, and communication with the 7,700 lawyers in District 5. Currently of counsel with Jory, Peterson, Watkins, Ross & Woolman in Fresno, a firm he co-founded, Peterson has a long list of bar activities, including the presidency of the Fresno County Bar Association, Fresno County Legal Services and the Association of Business Trial Lawyers' San Joaquin Valley chapter. He also served on the JNE Commission and the executive committee of the State Bar's legal services section, and was a co-founder of the county's Court Facilities Foundation.

"My full-time practice of law is over," Peterson says. "I do not need more resume items." He added that he wants to give back time and energy to a profession that has served him well.

A graduate of Wesleyan University, Peterson received his law degree from UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall.


Howard Miller

HOWARD B. MILLER says that throughout a 45-year career, "the law has been my life." Now, he says, he's concerned about several issues — erosion of attorney-client privilege and encroaching federalization of legal ethics; the lack of civility in trial practice; the need for increased access to the courts through legal services and court availability, and the "continued need to promote equal opportunity, not just at entry levels but through a lifetime."

Miller, 68, is a partner and has a civil practice with Girardi & Keese in Los Angeles. He taught for many years at the University of Southern California law school and participated in "The Advocates," a trial type national PBS television show. He was president of the Los Angeles Unified School District board and 20 years later served as the district's chief operating officer. Miller attended Pepperdine University and received his JD from the University of Chicago.

Theodore Bryne

THEODORE BYRNE wants to "implement measures that will increase the value of the State Bar membership, ensure fiscal responsibility and promote a positive image of attorneys" if he is elected to the board of governors. A litigation attorney for the Federal Aviation Administration, Byrne, 39, previously had a solo practice for 10 years after earning an LL.M. in taxation from Loyola Law School. A licensed commercial pilot, Bryne, of Redondo Beach, serves as a major in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the U.S. Army Reserve and acts as trial counsel in separation boards and courts martial.

He served for many years as a bar leader with the California Young Lawyers Association, the ABA Young Lawyers Division and the Barristers (of the Beverly Hills Bar Association). He received the Barristers' Lawrence E. Blake Award for distinguished service for developing support programs for young lawyers and publishing a legal handbook geared toward senior citizens. Byrne earned his undergraduate degree from Seattle University and his JD and MBA from Pepperdine.

Richard Longaker

RICHARD LONGAKER, current president of the Santa Monica Bar Association, opposes dues increases for State Bar members, favors more support programs for lawyers, would like to spare attorneys from waiting in the long security lines at courthouses and supports the bar's role in rooting out the unauthorized practice of law. He says additional revenue should come from non-dues sources and that lawyer support programs should include education to counter negative perceptions of lawyers.

Longaker, 56, also wants to support increased funding for the courts, the Lawyer Assistance Program and legal access for minorities and the homeless. A partner of Longaker & Associates in Los Angeles, Longaker has been a judge pro tem in Los Angeles and served on the board of directors of the American Corporate Counsel Association, Southern California. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara and his law degree from Loyola Law School.

Bar activities have included the Bench Bar Coalition, the State Bar Conference of Delegates and various section activities.


Running for the California Young Lawyers Association board are: District 1: ANU CHOPRA, 32, of Yuba City. District 3: PAMELA KONG, 31, of Oakland, and DEAN FEALK and CONNIE MERRIETT, both 33 and both of Palo Alto. District 5: BRETT JOLLEY, 30, of San Joaquin. District 7: ANN RAMIREZ, 28, of Los Angeles and ZACHARY ROTHENBERG, 31, of Santa Monica. District 9: JOANNE DOUGHTY, 33, and KALPISH MEHTA, 31, both of San Diego.

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