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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Fourteen candidates vie for five board of governors seats

Fourteen lawyers are running for five seats on the State Bar Board of Governors in a hybrid election that for the first time permits voters to cast ballots electronically or with a traditional mail-in ballot. The would-be governors include two candidates who have run previously, two with a discipline record, big- and medium-firm lawyers as well as several solo practitioners, a public defender, bar activists and candidates running as outsiders. Three women are seeking a seat. One of the seats in Los Angeles is the most heavily contested, with four lawyers running for election. Two candidates castigate the bar for a variety of complaints, including perceived corruption, bloated bureaucracy and alleged misbehavior of bench officers. Others take a far more measured approach, focusing on issues such as access to justice and service to attorneys and the public as well as traditional areas of MCLE reform, streamlining the discipline system and reducing bar dues.

Ballots were mailed April 30 to voters in districts with an opening on the board; they must be returned by June 30. The winners, who will take their seats in September, will serve three-year terms on the 23-member board.

The candidates are:

DISTRICT 2 (Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Napa, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma, Tuolumne and Yolo counties)

Mark S. BordenSonora attorney MARK S. BORDEN quotes two film characters in his candidate statement, complaining a la Howard Beal that, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Borden, 57, has more than 30 years of legal experience and believes the bar “offers no benefits for its membership” and in fact is interested only in “exercising its bureaucratic powers and collecting monies from lawyers.” Hearing from the bar, he says, is akin to hearing from the IRS. “They either take your money or you have a heap of problems, generally not of your own making.”

Borden believes the bar should be voluntary, be more financially responsible and that the discipline system should be governed by the state.

Karen M. GoodmanKAREN M. GOODMAN has a long resume of bar activities, ranging from involvement in California Women Lawyers (where she was past president) to the Conference of Delegates to the Legal Malpractice Specialization Commission. The 50-year-old Sacramento trial lawyer is a principal in Goodman & Associates, where she handles professional liability, business and real estate litigation.

Goodman’s candidacy focuses on fair and affordable justice for Californians, a transparent judicial selection process that will enhance the public’s trust in the justice system, and removing barriers to advancement in the legal profession, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender.

She has the support of several bar leaders in her district.

DISTRICT 3 (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties)

Alec ChangPalo Alto lawyer ALEC CHANG says if he’s elected to the board of governors, he will work to ensure continued funding and support for the judiciary and “maintain the quality of the lawyers that make up the bar in terms of their knowledge, skills, responsiveness and sensitivity to the communities they serve.” An anti-trust lawyer for nearly 20 years at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Chang, 40, has a long record of involvement with bar activities. He serves on the boards of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, the Asian Pacific Bar Association of Silicon Valley, the Asian American Law Fund of New York, and was president in 2001 of the Asian American Bar Association of New York.

As a member of the hiring and diversity committees at Skadden, Chang says he is particularly attuned to the challenges facing law students and new lawyers.

Mike SchmierThree-time candidate MIKE SCHMIER continues to beat the drum for overturning the California rules of court that allow appellate judges to “depublish” or withhold from publication selected decisions of their courts. Schmier, 65, of Emeryville, also is running for attorney general, and says he hopes to combine that elective office with a seat on the bar board, working “to integrate both functions applying my 40 years of experience as an attorney, law professor, and public servant.”

His campaign focuses on changing a justice system that he believes is riddled with crime and corruption. He also believes state law is not enforced adequately or uniformly.

Schmier, a labor and employment attorney, has run twice previously for the bar board and also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.

DISTRICT 4 (San Francisco and Marin counties)

David A. DeGrootDAVID A. DeGROOT has a direct platform: he wants to make the State Bar accountable to its members rather than having members be accountable to the bar. He says he can accomplish that goal by reducing bar dues and streamlining MCLE requirements, reforming the discipline system, and limiting the bureaucracy.

DeGroot, 45, is special counsel with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP in San Francisco, where he represents businesses in complex litigation, focusing on licensing, insurance, intellectual property, contract disputes, and toxic torts. He also is president of the San Francisco chapter of the Federalist Society and is a member of the National Advisory Council of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

Ronald P. GoldmanTiburon attorney RONALD P. GOLDMAN says he’s very concerned about the way the bar spends his dues and if elected would try to “find ways to cut costs, lower the budget and yet ensure a high level of service to its membership and to consumers.” As part of that effort, he favors an audit of all bar divisions “to ensure fiscal integrity.”

One of two candidates with a discipline record — Goldman was privately reproved last year for signing his wife’s name on a court document without indicating she did not personally subscribe the answer — he says he would focus on significantly improving the current ADR process for contested cases with an eye to achieving substantial cost savings. He also favors expansion of the bar’s affinity program “so that every bar member would be able to match or exceed their bar dues with the savings from this new program.”

Goldman, 53, handles civil trials throughout northern California primarily representing health care practitioners, and is an adjunct professor at both the UCSF and UOP dentistry schools.

Loren KieveLOREN KIEVE has a diverse background that includes working with large firms on the east and west coasts, his own firm in San Francisco and involvement with a variety of law-related organizations. That resume, he says, would bring to the bar board “a broad knowledge of the justice system; a demonstrated record of and commitment to improving how the bar serves and supports each practitioner; and a lifetime belief in the value of pro bono service and diversity.” Members of the board should demonstrate a commitment to high ethical standards and good governance, says Kieve, 62.

His practice focuses on complex domestic and international disputes and legal problems, including both civil and potential criminal cases, internal investigations, corporate compliance and arbitrations.

DISTRICT 7, Seat 1 (Los Angeles)

Joseph DonniniJOSEPH R. DONNINI is running as an “outsider” who believes the State Bar needs to “position itself to better serve its members and the public at large.” His diverse background, including private practice, inhouse work at large corporations and teaching law, puts him in a good position to help the bar take on the challenges of an evolving profession. Those include “operational, disciplinary, financial, educational and policy agendas,” he says.

Donnini, 39, focuses on business law in his Manhattan Beach practice. He has taught real estate, copyright and international property law courses at Whittier law school and in France, and has served as general counsel to an international petroleum products company and a real estate company. He also has volunteered with Camp Keepsake and Big Brothers.

Gretchen NelsonA former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, GRETCHEN M. NELSON received the Breakfast Club endorsement for the county’s seat one position. A partner with Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, Nelson says if elected, she will work on a raft of issues, including continuing education, licensure, discipline, public education, court funding, expanding diversity, promoting the profession and assuring access to justice.  The bar, she says, “has an obligation to insure that it provides the highest quality service and performs its mandatory duties fairly and with respect for its members and the public.”

Nelson, 55, has been a trial lawyer for more than 25 years with experience at small- and medium-sized law firms as well as solo practice. She serves on the board of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and currently chairs the LA county bar’s judicial election evaluation committee.

Santa Monica criminal defense attorney COLLEEN O’HARA says she is running for the board of governors “because I would like to improve the reputation of the legal profession while also ensuring accountability for the attorneys who shirk their ethical duties to their clients.” During the current economic downturn, she says attorneys have earned a mostly undeserved reputation for “predatory opportunism.” O’Hara, 37, also wants to help the court system work better, particularly with adequate funding. And as a woman, she says she has a unique understanding of the difficulties faced by many in the legal community.

“With my background,” O’Hara says, “I believe that I am well-suited to lead and to realize a transformation of the way that attorneys are perceived.”

DISTRICT 7, Seat 2 (Los Angeles)

Steven HazenWith extensive bar-related activities on his resume, Los Angeles attorney STEVEN K. HAZEN believes he has what it takes to be an effective board member. Hazen, who is semi-retired, says he has extensive experience with the bar’s main challenges: “fulfilling its supervisory role while at the same time enabling and supporting the voluntary activities of its members that enhance the bar. That requires a delicate balancing under the requirements of the Keller case, but both functions can and must be served.” He also said the bar board needs to fulfill a strong oversight function in bar operations.

Hazen, 61, has worked for O’Melveny & Myers, Paul Hastings and Mayer Brown, among others, and currently limits his practice to selected engagements as special counsel or consulting counsel with a focus on corporate transactions and corporate governance. He has not sought any endorsements, nor will he accept funding from any organizations to mount a campaign.

JEFFREY P. LUSTMAN ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2007 and last year, when he says only about 15 percent of the eligible voters cast a ballot. He promises he will “not be kidding around” if elected and will take on both the bar and the bench for unethical behavior. Indeed, he targets bar judges, prosecutors and investigators, Los Angeles Superior Court judges and the California Bar Journal for criticism on his website.

Lustman was publicly reproved in 2006 for failing to show respect to the court. He says it was because he “relied to (sic) the ethics hotline and the bar pulled the rug out from under me.”

Lustman, 58, exhorts voters in his district to “get your apathetic self to a computer” and vote. “There is no excuse for not voting for something besides the usual ‘Lower our dues,’ etc.,” he says. “Just stop aggravating me.”

LUIS J. RODRIGUEZ says he has won the respect of judges, prosecutors and co-counsel during 16 years as a public defender in Los Angeles. And as a member of the board of governors, he says, “I will be a strong voice for our members … Our system has to be equitable to everyone, but equity is only gained through communication, collaboration and effective representation.”

Rodriguez, 42, is endorsed by the Breakfast Club, LA Public Defender Michael Judge, DA Steve Cooley and former State Bare president Holly Fujie. He is a former member of the California Board of Education, former president of the Mexican American Bar Association and former chair of the bar’s Council on Access and Fairness, experience he believes makes him a strong candidate.

Daniel SobelsohnDANIEL SOBELSOHN stresses that he has not been “hand-picked” as a candidate for the board of governor. “I just think we can make the State Bar work better for lawyers and the public,” he says. The 39-year-old principal in the law firm bearing his name says the bar needs to better address the burdens lawyers face every day. If elected, he wants to make the bar more efficient by spending its money wisely, reform the discipline system by prioritizing its efforts and expending resources on lawyers’ serious misconduct, and make access to justice a higher priority. He favors, for example, permitting attorneys to fulfill their MCLE requirement by performing pro bono work for charitable organizations.

Sobelsohn was an associate at Skadden Arps and Sullivan & Cromwell prior to starting his own practice, where he handles business litigation, class action/mass torts and antitrust litigation.