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New Access Council gets started with 25 appointees

Twenty-five people, including lawyers, judges, academics and career services professionals, have been appointed by the State Bar Board of Governors to the new Council on Access and Fairness.

The council, which will hold an orientation April 21 in San Francisco, is charged with increasing diversity in the legal profession through recruitment, retention and advancement and follows up on last year’s Diversity Pipeline Summit, headed by board member Ruthe Ashley.

“The diversity of the council is really broad and deep,” said Ashley, adding that staffers considered geography, age, representation from the former five legal access committees and from the Diversity Pipeline Task Force in making recommendations to the board. “We looked at every aspect that we could to make sure we had a really broad diversity of members. The exciting and amazing thing about it is that every single one of them are so well qualified.”

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte was named chair, and Luis Rodriguez, special counsel to the Los Angeles County Public Defender, was named vice chair. “I am so pleased,” said Harbin-Forte. “I think every interest is represented. I’m really looking forward to working with all the members in charting a new path in terms of diversifying the bar and bench.”

One of the main things the council hopes to accomplish, Harbin-Forte said, is to continue the work begun not only by the Diversity Pipeline Task Force but by the other committees, such as the California Women in the Law and the Ethnic Minority Relations Council. To that end, she said the council may convene another diversity summit and will monitor the annual reports now required on diversity from the courts and the State Bar. With those reports, the council has the opportunity “to identify exactly where the leakage in the pipeline is.”

She said the panel could do comparative and statistical analyses that will show where the most work is needed and enable the council to suggest programs “at the local and state level that will help us plug those leaks.”

The council includes four members representing four of the five legal access committees that were disbanded in order to create a more focused Council on Access and Fairness dedicated to improving diversity. It also includes five members of the Diversity Pipeline Task Force, which was charged with institutionalizing the Pipeline Project started by former bar Presidents John Van de Kamp and James O. Heiting, and continued by current President Sheldon Sloan.

New Council on Access and Fairness Committee members appointed to one-year terms are:

  • Russell Roeca, San Francisco
  • Brenda Harbin-Forte, Hayward
  • Sarah Redfield, Sacramento
  • Cynthia Faatz, Santa Clara
  • Craig Holden, Los Angeles
  • Marina Hsieh, Santa Clara
  • Anthony Solana, Los Angeles.

Appointed to two years terms are:

  • Michael Nava, San Francisco
  • Angela Bradstreet, San Francisco
  • Patricia Cowett, San Diego
  • Stuart Forsyth, Los Angeles
  • Eve Hill, Los Angeles
  • Edwin Reeser, Los Angeles
  • Richard Tom, Rosemead
  • Leah Williams, San Francisco

Appointed to three-year terms are:

  • Ina Bendich, Berkeley
  • Therese Cannon, Alameda
  • Kinna Patel Crocker, Sacramento
  • Rodney Fong, San Francisco
  • Dustin Johnson, Modesto
  • Linda McCulloh, San Francisco
  • Tina Rasnow, Ventura
  • Maria Carmen Sigler, San Jose
  • Luis Rodriguez, Los Angeles
  • Fumiko Wasserman, Los Angeles

Donna Clay Conti, senior attorney with the Judicial Council, was named liaison with the Administrative Office of the Courts.

“These are the best and brightest thinkers,” said State Bar Executive Director Judy Johnson. “They’re people who can provide the best strategic thinking on how to advance the bar’s diversity agenda within legal constraints.”

All council programs and activities are funded through voluntary contributions to the State Bar Elimination of Bias/Bar Relations Fund. No mandatory attorney dues are used.

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