a New Lobbyist the Conference Gets a Shot in the Arm
The 2000 annual conference of the State
Bar took place from September 14 to 17 in San Diego. And,
like the proverbial phoenix rising from its ashes, the Conference
of Delegates began a new life. "The Conference"
serves as a forum for bar members to debate proposed resolutions.
It is the first step in a process that allows lawyers to
make changes to various aspects of California law. Local
bar associations send their members as "delegates"
to attend the conference and vote on the resolutions.
The Conference is held concurrently with
the State Bar's annual meeting. There is no magic to becoming
a delegate. Anyone with an interest in participating may
join the county bar's delegation. When signing up to attend
the State Bar's Annual Meeting, you pay the same fee that
regular attendees pay, and you simply designate the fee
for the conference where indicated on the sign-up form.
The fee is in lieu of the regular admission fee you would
otherwise pay to attend the meeting. You are still entitled
to attend all MCLE classes and other events sponsored by
the State Bar. At the same time, you can also participate
in the conference as a delegate.
The last time the State Bar Meeting was
held in San Diego was 1997. The governor, you may recall,
was Pete Wilson. At the time, both the conference and the
State Bar were going strong. A short time later, on grounds
that seemed to stem largely from personal, political reasons,
Governor Wilson vetoed the State Bar dues bill. As a small
portion of the dues provided funding for the conference,
the effect was drastic. The State Bar itself was largely
put out of business for the next two years.
For the past three years the Conference
has limped along without a lobbyist. As a result, many of
the best ideas passed as resolutions did not make it to
the legislature for a chance to become law. The future of
the conference was unclear. Nonetheless, a few diehard "bar
junkies" recognized the tremendous benefits the Conference
provided for the legal profession and fought for its survival.
After all, it is practicing attorneys who deal with the
statutes on a regular basis. In the context of their legal
practices, they often recognize what works and what does
not. These individuals can have a beneficial impact on all
attorneys when they seek to change a particular statute
through participating in the Conference. One such individual,
fighting to keep the conference alive was Sacramento lawyer
Diane Wasznicky, who culminated her three year term
on the Conference's Board of Governors by serving as the
chair of the entire conference in 2000. It was Wasznicky
who was able to announce upon the Conference's return to
San Diego that it was once again going to be able to hire
a lobbyist paid with the voluntary contributions of delegates.
So, you may be saying to yourself about
now, "OK! This sounds interesting, but is it really
worth my while?" Well, ask yourself this. What are
the two main reasons people go to the State Bar Conference
anyway? Primarily to obtain MCLE credits and to socialize,
right? Attending as a delegate gives you an opportunity
to do both. I've already mentioned that paying a delegate's
fee entitles you sign up for any MCLE classes offered by
the State Bar. Many of the delegates frequently take time
off from the conference to attend classes and then return
to the conference floor to debate resolutions. In addition,
SCBA sponsors a hospitality suite where delegates meet every
day at noon to discuss various issues over a buffet lunch.
It is the people that make attending a conference so much
fun. In addition, the connections established over the course
of a conference can be some of the most rewarding contacts
you will ever make in your professional career.
Despite the need to conduct business during
the conference, there are occasional opportunities for a
little fun too. Because Wasznicky was leading the conference,
the Sacramento delegation opened the conference with a procession
around the conference hall to the theme song from Attack
of the Killer Tomatoes. Wearing "SacraTomato"
T-shirts and hats, delegates let down their hair and threw
out tomato-shaped stress balls to the delegates assembled
on the conference floor. The stress balls became a hot collector's
item at the conference. They were considered far superior
to the "mini sombreros" given out by the host
San Diego delegation.
Next year's conference will be held in Anaheim
from September 6 through September 9, 2000. Plan on attending!
Bring the whole family! They can visit Disneyland while
you attend the conference. To become a member of the Sacramento
delegation, simply contact Carol Prosser at the bar office,
448-1087. Or visit our web site at http://www.sacbar.org/conf.html.
You can join the Conference of Delegates Listserv and receive
e-mail announcements of our upcoming events.
As a member of the Sacramento delegation,
you can participate in one or more of the substantive groups
such as criminal law, civil procedure, family law, probate,
business law, or labor law. The first full delegation meeting
will take place in late January. At that time we will take
any and all proposals for resolutions that our members wish
to offer. You certainly don't have to carry a resolution
to participate in the conference, but it is a worthwhile
experience to do so. We will then have additional meetings
through the year, culminating in a Saturday meeting shortly
before the State Bar Convention where we take a formal position
on every resolution as a full delegation. Although each
delegation takes a formal position, delegates are always
free to vote their conscience once they are on the floor.
(Al Gore only wishes the same applied to the Electoral College).
So come on, give it a try. I guarantee that you will have
a good time. We'll see YOU in Disneyland.
Stuart Home, III is an associate with the Sacramento office
of Borton, Petrini & Conron, LLP and is the current
Chair of the Sacramento County Bar Delegation.]