California Bar Journal
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


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Front Page - November 2001
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News / News Briefs
Applicants sought to oversee bar's diversion program
Let's have another cup of - legal advice
Foundation leads students to capital
Six honored for professional service
Warwick, six others named to California Judicial Council
Several thousand lawyers suspended for failing to pay dues, certify MCLE
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Trials Digest
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From the President - Remembering the fallen
The rule of law is our strongest weapon
Pro bono work is lawyers' duty
Letters to the Editor
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Law Practice - Success: The top eight requirements
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You Need to Know
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MCLE Self-Study
Planning for education expenses
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Ethics Byte - Lawyers move on in usual way despite disaster
Former city councilman spent his son's settlement
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Public Comment

Six honored for professional service

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Former Oakland City Attorney Jayne W. Williams was named the Public Lawyer of the Year last month in recognition of her efforts to advance the public's interest.

Jayne W. WilliamsThe award, presented by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, is given by the State Bar's Public Law Section.

Until a year ago, Williams had spent her entire legal career in the public arena, beginning as an associate legal counsel to Oakland's HUD-funded model cities program. She became a deputy city attorney, director of the city's office of personnel and was a deputy city attorney before being named to the top job in 1987.

Although Williams recently joined a private law firm, she works in its public law department, representing cities, counties, redevelopment agencies and special districts.

Michael J. GassnerWilliams also has a long resume of professional and community affiliations. She has "looked outward to her community and inward to the heart of her profession and dedicated herself to advancing the public's interest and the good of society," said George.

Also honored last month as the Family Law Section's Judicial Off-icer of the Year was Commissioner Michael J. Gassner, who was recognized for outstanding service to the community. A longtime family and juvenile law practitioner, Gassner has been a commissioner for the San Bernardino Superior Court since 1996. Prior to his service on the bench, he practiced with his parents, Beverly and Larry Gassner, who are known locally as the family law dynasty of the Inland Empire.

"He treats everyone - attorneys, parties, staff, clerk, bailiff - as if they're an integral part of making the system work," said family law section chair Katrina West, who nominated Gassner for the award. Des-cribing Gassner as "very unassuming," West said he is noted for the efficient way he runs his courtroom and for thinking "outside the box."

Norbert EhrenfreundThe American Bar Association also honored retired San Diego Sup-erior Court Judge Norbert Ehrenfreund with an Award of Judicial Excellence presented by its Judicial Division National Conference of State Trial Judges. A judge for 20 years, Ehrenfreund remains on full-time assignment despite his formal retirement in 1995.

Known as the "Renaissance" judge, he acted in leading roles in community theater, danced and sang in a children's musical, and wrote two plays on important legal issues. As a judge, Ehrenfreund is known for his passion for justice. He initiated reforms in Family Court to protect battered women and to bring peaceful resolutions in child custody disputes. He is known for counseling defendants and ex-inmates and is dedicated to community-based solutions to substance abuse. Two years ago he participated in the ABA Central and Eastern European Law Initiative conference on Albanian Criminal Procedure.

J. Lawrence IrvingA former federal judge, a law professor and a member of the State Bar Board of Governors also were honored last month for civic leadership and excellence in "the teaching, practice, enactment or adjudication of the law."

Each received the Bernard E. Witkin Awards from the San Diego Law Library Justice Foundation.

The recipients are:

J. Lawrence Irving, former judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District, who resigned his lifetime post in 1990 after Congress enacted mandatory sentencing guidelines. Irving, who chairs Sen. Barbara Boxer's federal judicial screening committee for the southern district, is a private mediator and is of counsel with Butz, Dunn, DeSantis & Bingham. He and his son founded an annual charity golf tournament benefitting the San Diego Child Abuse Prevention Foundation.

Janeen Kerper Janeen Kerper, professor of law at California Western School of Law. Director of Latin American Programs, William J. McGill Center for Creative Problem Solving, Kerper is fluent in Spanish and French and has taught trial advocacy courses in Latin America.

Judith M. Copeland Judith M. Copeland, partner with Copeland & Tierman. She represents San Diego on the State Bar Board of Governors, served on the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation for six years and was the recipient of the 2001 National Association of Women Lawyers President's Award. She was elected to the bar board of governors in 2000.

Thirteen recipients have received a Witkin award since 1995.