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LA’s Sloan to lead State Bar

By Diane Curtis
Staff Writer

Sheldon H. Sloan, a Los Angeles attorney and former municipal court judge, has been elected the 82nd president of the State Bar of California.

Known as a skilled parliamentarian and for keeping people on point during meetings, Sloan will succeed Riverside attorney James O. Heiting. His term will run for a year and begin in October at the State Bar’s Annual Meeting in Monterey.

In two rounds of balloting by the bar’s board of governors at its June meeting, Sloan was chosen to lead the more than 200,000-member organization. The other contenders for the position were Paul Hokokian, a lawyer with the Fresno County Department of Child Support Services, and Demetrius Shelton, deputy city attorney of Oakland.

“I’m honored that members of the board of governors have seen fit to entrust me with the privilege of becoming president,” said Sloan. “I look forward to helping lead the bar into the future and will do whatever I can to live up to the board’s confidence in me.”

A graduate of UCLA and the University of Southern California School of Law, Sloan, 70, of counsel with Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith LLP, specializes in representing clients doing business with, or regulated by, government agencies. He was a federal prosecutor in Washington, a Los Angeles municipal court judge for three years in the 1970s and has served on the Judicial Council of California and as president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

One of his top priorities is working to restore civility to the legal profession. “There is a breakdown in civility,” Sloan said, pointing to such actions as a lawyer scheduling depositions when he knows opposing counsel is going on vacation and big law firms using their strength to “paper to death” solo practitioners simply to overwhelm them.

“You can practice law and do a good job for a client without being aggressive and rude and causing a lot of trouble for everybody.” Sloan said he initially was going to form a commission to evaluate problems and come up with solutions, but found that the Santa Clara bar had put together its own Code of Professionalism. “I was convinced we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel.” He will use the Santa Clara code as a foundation for crafting a professionalism pledge that lawyers can voluntarily sign.

Another priority, along with working with the legislature on the fee bill and other measures, is the bar’s Pipeline Project — doing outreach and supporting projects that get young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds — interested in becoming lawyers. “These kids at a young age can say, ‘That’s what a lawyer does? I can do that.’ It cuts across ethnicity.” In his campaign statement, Sloan, known as “Shelly,” called the Pipeline Project “the best idea I’ve seen since I was elected to the board of governors three years ago. I think it should be seen through to completion and then modeled throughout the nation.”

The Pipeline Project stemmed from an idea broached during John Van de Kamp’s bar presidency and advanced during the current administration of Heiting. Sloan said he had no hesitation about furthering other people’s projects if he thinks they’re worthwhile. A good leader, he said, can “recognize a good idea and build on it.”

Another characteristic of a good bar president, he added, is that he can lead “by logic and persuasion” as opposed to issuing edicts. The latter wouldn’t work with the board of governors, anyway, he said. “It would be like herding cats.”

Regarding regulation and discipline, Sloan said that “by and large, I think we do a pretty good job.” His only suggestion would be to require a closed-session report at each board meeting on cases that have been outstanding more than three years “so that we can be assured that cases are not falling through the cracks as they were prior to (Chief Trial Counsel Scott Drexel’s) assuming the reins.

A Minneapolis native, Sloan, along with his wife, Shelby Jean Sloan, a commissioner for the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, is an avid golfer. He has four children and nine grandchildren.

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