| DISTRICT 7, Office 2:
James D. Otto
The State Bar should get back to basics, streamline its operations and communicate
better with the average member, says Los Angeles attorney JAMES D. OTTO.
"I think the State Bar needs to get back to the basics and hopefully we will
eventually get a dues bill to allow the bar to do that," he says. "It needs some
leadership and a change in focus, no matter what happens."
The managing partner of Cum-mins & White enjoys the en-dorsement of the Breakfast
Club, a powerful Los Angeles attorney group which traditionally influences election to the
He said the bar needs to become more cost-effective and less bureaucratic, foster
professionalism, try to bring job satisfaction back to the legal profession and ensure an
The discipline system, Otto believes, should resolve meritless claims quickly and
vigorously enforce serious complaints.
Otto said board members sometimes communicate only with bar activists and fail to
consider the needs and opinions of the majority who do not interact with the bar.
"The bar needs to go out and see what its members want out of the bar and to have
better communication with those people," he said. "It should be doing things to
try to address and fulfill the needs of the average lawyer."
Otto, 47, is a trustee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and chair of three
committees, and he serves as a LACBA delegate to the Conference of Delegates.
He also is a member of the State Bar's business law section task force on complex
litigation, the International Association of Defense Counsel, the American Bar
Association, the Defense Research Institute, and the Los Angeles Superior Court Committee
on Complex Litigation.
Otto and his wife have two sons, 8 and 10, and he coaches their baseball and basketball
teams. In his spare time, he also enjoys swimming and wine-tasting.
A graduate of San Diego State, he received his law degree from Northwestern University
law school and has been a California lawyer since 1974.
Robert K. Steinberg
Los Angeles attorney ROBERT K. STEINBERG says that in spite of the
legislative impasse over the bar's future, he just can't see California without a State
Without intervention by the Supreme Court, which Steinberg believes should step into
the dispute, he thinks the legislature will re-fund the stumbling organization during the
next session, and he'd like to be on board to help with the restructuring.
The discipline system should be separated from the bar, Steinberg says, because lawyers
cannot effectively regulate lawyers. "My personal belief is that administrative law
judges or the attorney general should hear discipline matters," he said.
The 61-year-old civil and criminal litigator also wonders where the dues go. "All
you get now is the California Bar Journal," he said. "Most members feel they
would really like to be participants instead of the bar being a separate entity that looks
This is Steinberg's third run for a board seat; he was unsuccessful in 1995 and 1996.
But without the Breakfast Club's endorsement, he's not optimistic about his chances.
Publicly reproved by the bar in 1989 after pleading no contest to contempt of court for
refusing to answer a question under oath, Steinberg has had a colorful career that
included an unsuccessful run for mayor of Los Angeles in 1969.
He is a member of the bar's criminal and family law sections, serves as an arbitrator
and mediator for the State Bar and the Los Angeles County Superior Court, and is an
advisory member of the Federal Sentencing Commission.
Steinberg belongs to several other legal organizations and is involved with the Special
Olympics, Rebuild L.A. and the Simon Weisenthal Holocaust Center.
A graduate of UCLA, he earned his law degree from Loyola Law School. His son, daughter
and son-in-law are lawyers. "I wish we had one doctor in the family," he says.