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First Latino, public defender in line to head governing board

By Amy Yarbrough
Staff Writer

Luis Rodriguez is poised to become the State Bar’s next president by virtue of being the only trustee seeking that office in the July election.


Rodriguez left unspoken the fact that he would be the State Bar’s first Latino president, talking instead of being the first public defender to hold the position. And, he joked after scanning a wall filled with photos of past leaders, the first with a goatee.

“It means a lot to me that this happened for so many reasons,” Rodriguez said at the May 10 Board of Trustees meeting after CEO Joseph Dunn announced that Rodriguez would be running unopposed. “It’s a great opportunity.”

Along with the other “firsts,” Rodriguez is currently the first elected vice president of the board, a position created last year following the passage of State Bar governance reform legislation Senate Bill 163. Previously, members of the board automatically became vice presidents in their third year and only vice presidents could run for president. As a result of the legislation, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, any member of the board can run for president, the number of vice presidents was reduced to one elected position and an elected treasurer position was added.

The vice president’s duties, formally approved at the May 10 meeting, include acting as vice chairman of the Board Operations Committee, co-chairing the board’s annual planning retreat and overseeing meetings when the president is absent. The vice president would also step in should the president’s position became vacant. Although there is no automatic succession from vice president to president, Rodriguez’s candidacy could be indicative of a future trend.

Three trustees are running for vice president: Nancy Fineman, Craig Holden and Pearl Mann. The treasurer’s election is also contested, with the candidates being Michael Colantuono, David Pasternak and Heather Rosing. The election will take place at a special meeting held prior to the Board of Trustees regular meeting on July 19. Candidates will have the opportunity to submit candidate statements before July 9.

The new officers will be sworn in at the State Bar’s annual meeting in San Jose in October.