San Diego solo attorney, Marc Adelman, to lead State Bar next year

by Nancy McCarthy
Staff Writer

San Diego sole practitioner Marc D. Adelman was elected the 72nd president of the State Bar after urging his colleagues on the board of governors to end their differences and "focus on our common vision."

Adelman, 47, won on the first ballot, defeating Alameda County public defender Pauline Weaver and San Diego journalist Peter Kaye, who ended his upstart candidacy moments before the vote and threw his support to Adelman.

A long-time bar activist, the new president becomes only the second sole practitioner to serve as its president. Adelman has represented San Diego and Imperial counties on the board of governors for three years, chairing the Committee on Regulation and Discipline, the Legal Committee and the ADR Task Force.

During a debate and their campaign speeches, all three candidates alluded to the contentious nature of the board during the past year and urged the members to set aside their differences.

"We need to immediately dress our wounds and take the offensive on accomplishing long-term strategic goals," Adelman said. Those include developing a strategic plan with a focus on an efficient discipline system, improving existing programs and continuing budget review.

He called for a zero-based budget in each of the bar's seven departments, and said each department should be evaluated every seven years. Noting that just over 10 percent of the bar's budget is devoted to communications and bar relations, Adelman suggested the bar should restructure its communications operations, perhaps similar to an Office of Public Affairs it had 10 years ago.

Adelman also said he will try to smooth the way for a new executive director, expected to be hired by the beginning of this month. "The president's role should be directed inward" and the new executive director should take over some of the bar's outreach efforts, he said. "The president should work tirelessly to get our board back on the issues."

He pledged to conduct business in "an open, inclusive manner," acknowledging a criticism by Kaye, who accused the board of engaging in three practices for the past year: secrecy, censorship and stupidity.

Kaye, who has spent six years on the board as an appointee of Gov. Pete Wilson, took numerous potshots at his colleagues. He complained that public members of the board have been excluded this year, called the vote supporting a change in the medical malpractice law "stupid and arrogant," and said the board "has shot itself in the foot so many times that we should consider replacing our secretary with a staff podiatrist."

As head of a group looking at how the bar develops its annual budget, Kaye called that process outrageous and outlandish. He proposed a $25 cut in annual dues, but noted that his suggestion was "greeted with all the enthusiasm of Andrew Cunanan as a party guest."

Weaver had described herself as a consensus-builder and said her priorities were long-range planning and outreach to attorneys and the public.

"We have to speak up with one voice; we have to defend ourselves," she said of the bar.

Adelman will take office Sept. 13 at the bar's Annual Meeting in San Diego.

In other election news, the bar's young lawyer division elected David B. Norris president and will send the current president, Stephen M. Levine, to the board of governors as its representative. Norris was admitted to the bar in 1990 and practices in San Diego.

Levine, who has been an attorney since 1988, practices in San Francisco.