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Volunteer — the opportunity is there

By Sheldon Sloan
President, State Bar of California

Sheldon Sloan

Last month at the State Bar Board of Governors’ annual planning meeting, we had the privilege of meeting with The Honorable Timothy Simon, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s appointments secretary. Secretary Simon shared with us words of wisdom about seeking appointment to serve on countless commissions, boards and other entities in the current administration, and I wanted to pass on his excellent advice to all of our members.

While lawyers immediately think of appointment to the bench — and Secretary Simon did relay some good advice on that as well — he emphasized that there are seemingly unlimited opportunities for our members to apply for other positions of great importance to California. “For those who want to be on the bench,” he noted, “they need to apply regardless of whether or not they see a vacancy in their county . . . If you wait until there is a vacancy, you are almost guaranteed to miss it” because of the thorough screening process required through the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE). “The governor appoints largely on the basis of scoring in this process,” he said.

His main thrust, however, centered on the open positions on countless other boards and commissions for which lawyers may submit applications. “For lawyers, there are many positions in this administration besides the bench,” Secretary Simon said. “There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t turn around to find positions open on a different board or commission” that had not been on the radar.

He pointed to two current members of our Board of Governors as prime examples. Third-year member Jeffrey Bleich of San Francisco was appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to the California State University Board of Trustees, for which he now serves as vice chair, and just a few weeks ago Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick was appointed as the newest public member to the State Bar Board of Governors. He also alluded to another appointment of a member of the Board of Governors that had not yet been announced by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

“I encourage bar members to apply to serve in this administration, and I encourage you to refer potential candidates,” the Secretary said, stressing that political party does not play a big role in the appointments process. Noting that all three bar board members are affiliated with the Democratic Party, he said: “Party does not come up except in cases where representatives of party are required” to fill a certain number of positions on a commission.

On matters of diversity, he commended the bar for its advancement of the Pipeline to Diversity program and said it is imperative for the “legal community of California to be reflective of all of California.” He noted that a great deal of his time is spent on the road recruiting potential candidates and that diversity in appointments is a primary goal of Gov. Schwarzenegger. Secretary Simon said he also looks forward to working with me, as your president, and our executive director, Judy Johnson, in filling the three vacant public member positions on our board.

To get involved in the appointments process and to consider throwing your hat in the ring, just visit the governor’s Web site (Appointments). Be sure and follow the instructions carefully as to the online application, including sending in the signed hard copy of the last page.

Also, please consider applying for many positions open annually on State Bar commissions, committees and entities. While it is too late to apply this year for most State Bar appointments, watch the California Bar Journal and our Web site monthly for positions that open, and also prepare to apply next December and January for 2008 vacancies. For more information, go to our Web site (Committees & Commissions).

The important thing to remember is that lawyers are vital to the operation of our state as well as our State Bar. As Secretary Simon said, “We need your ideas. Your ideas are very important to our formulating this governor’s ideas.”

I urge you to get involved in this process today; it could change your life and help all of us to have a better California.

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