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Achieving Diversity in the Legal Profession

Connect with COAF on LinkedInA publication of The State Bar of California Council on Access and Fairness. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors.  They have not been adopted or endorsed by the State Bar Board of Trustees and do not necessarily constitute the official position of the State Bar of California.All activities are funded entirely by voluntary contributions.  No mandatory attorney dues are used for these activities.

April / May 2016 - Spring Issue

For further information about programs or events contact Brandi Holmes at 415-538-2587 or Brandi.holmes@calbar.ca.gov.

Notes from the Chair

Judge Marguerite Downing, COAF Chair

Marguerite DowningI would not call myself a history buff but I am fascinated by the stories of “folks that have gone before me”.  Knowing this, one of my colleagues, retired Judge Bob Bowers sent me an article on Judge Jane Bolin.  If you don’t know, Judge Bolin was the first African American female judge in the United States. 

Appointed at only 31 years of age by Mayor Florello La Guardia as a judge on the New York Domestic Relations Court.  Judge Bolin would continue to serve there for the next 40 years until she reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 years old.   She would remain the only African American female judge in the United States for another 20 years following her appointment.

The reason I am sharing this story about Judge Bolin is that she made it her mission to chip away at the institutional racism that plagued both the court system and the child welfare system.  Judge Bolin is credited with pushing forward a number of improvements within the child welfare system (where I currently preside) and also within the wider community of the City of New York however she remains a relative unknown in the history of the Civil Rights movement.

Her story touched me, and I share it with you to say that we can all make a difference in ensuring that the diversity pipeline continues to flow so that the next generation of lawyers and jurists will reflect the rich history of this state and our country.   We can all make a difference in ensuring that opportunities continue.  Some individuals will work on this issue and make a name for themselves, many more will toil to ensure that there are opportunities for all students who want to pursue a legal career or for that matter an education without any acknowledgement of their efforts.  But we can all make a difference!  So please join COAF as we strive to make that difference.

From the President:
The State Bar—Future and Past

By David J. Pasternak
President, the State Bar of California

David J. PasternakShould California continue to have a unified bar, as it has since 1927? Should the Board of Trustees include a majority of public members? Should any trustees continue to be elected, and if not, who should appoint the trustees? How should the State Bar president and other officers be selected? What should be the State Bar president's term of office? Should there be a limitation on trustees' terms of office? If the State Bar is going to be restructured, which branch or branches of government have the authority to make such changes?  MORE

COAF Highlights           

“In the House” in Bangkok

On September 25, 2016, COAF had the opportunity to “be in the House” in Bangkok, Thailand with  COAF chair, Judge Marguerite Downing and Judge Diana Becton (COAF Judicial Committee Chair and President-Elect of the National Association of Women Judges - NAWJ), participating in a panel  presentation to the Supreme Court of Vietnam on the judicial issues in the United States. Judges Downing and Becton included COAF’s Judicial Appointment slides and shared information on COAF efforts to increase judicial diversity in California, and also focused on NAWJ work to address issues related to Human Trafficking. Los Angeles Superior Court Manager, Nancy Bullock described court systems from an administration viewpoint.  This historical presentation was part of a cultural exchange program partially sponsored by the Pacific Institute who arranged the presentation. 

Tom WeathersTom Weathers: Among Best Lawyers in America

Thomas Weathers was recently selected by his peers for inclusion in the 21st Edition of The Best Lawyers in America for his work in the practice area of Native American Law

CABL Honors Current and Former COAF Members

Margalynn ArmstrongDiana BectonPaul HendersonJudge Diana Becton will receive CABL’s 2016 Bernard S. Jefferson Judge of the Year. Also, Paul Henderson is being honored as the Attorney of the Year and Margalynn Armstrong is receiving the Public Interest Award. All awards will be presented during the 39th Annual CABL Conference at the Hilton Garden Inn, Emeryville, California on April 30, 2016. 

Pathway to Law School Introduces Students to Law Careers

By Ruthe Catolico Ashley, Esq., Member COAF, ED Emeritus, California LAW

Ruthe AshleyLaw Academy students from Florin High School’s California Partnership Law Academy greeted attendees at the inaugural Pathway to Law School Summit held at the University of California Davis School of Law on Saturday, February 20, 2016.  Earlier, invitations were sent to education partners who, with the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness, had created an innovative “boots on the ground” program whose vision was to create “A Diverse Legal Profession” in order to reflect the rich diversity of California’s population.

The population of the State of California consists of individuals with a broad array of backgrounds and life experiences, including those from different socio-economic backgrounds, different racial and ethnic backgrounds, first generation students, individuals with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQ’s and those who have work and family responsibilities.  Studies show that diversity in the legal and judicial system is crucial in building public trust and confidence in the legal system and of fairness in the court systems.  Furthermore, lawyers are prominent civic and community leaders, as many elected officials and other local, statewide, and national leaders, are professional lawyers.

Therefore, it is imperative that our leaders represent the rich diversity of our communities to ensure that the diverse interests of all communities in California are taken into consideration and reflected in public policy decisions, particularly communities that are traditionally underrepresented.  Furthermore, in this global economy, it is increasingly important that attorneys are able to respond to demands by global clients to ensure maximum cultural interaction and sensitivity.  By creating a diverse legal profession, lawyers will be better equipped to respond to the rapidly changing socio-economic environment.  Our goal is to work to build a better, more inclusive profession by providing a clear pathway for students from diverse backgrounds to be introduced to careers in the law. 

The collaborative effort includes sixteen (16) high school law academies created under the California Partnership Academy model with the California Department of Education, twenty-nine (29) California Community Colleges and six undergraduate and law school entities (go to California LAW for a complete list) – all committed to fulfill the Mission: “To establish a pipeline of diverse students from high schools, community colleges, four-year institutions and law schools into law or law-related careers so that the legal profession reflects the diverse population of the State of California.”

"This summit brought together for the first time, our entire educational pipeline from 10th grade to law school.  It was exciting for teams of teachers at the high school and community college level to have a chance to share concerns and solutions with each other.  Between panels, the buzz was positive and palpable,” stated Ruthe Ashley, Interim Executive Director of California LAW (Leadership-Access-Workforce), the organization that was created to support and build this pathway and host of this summit.

Inspiring speakers, including Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye and newly-minted Executive Director of the State Bar of California Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, both spoke of their strong support of the educational pipeline and the absolute need for a diverse legal profession to increase trust and confidence in the justice system.  Both believed the pipeline introducing students to careers in the law, especially those in disadvantaged communities, is an absolute necessity to meet the profession’s goals for diversity.  Our lunchtime keynote was the barrier breaking American Bar Association President, Paulette Brown.  Ms. Brown is the first woman of color to hold the ABA’s highest office and her Diversity 360 Commission is redefining diversity for the legal profession.

Panels addressed the growth, success, and challenges of the high school law academies as well as the structural and implementation challenges facing the community college law pathways.  Undergraduate deans of admissions shared information on transfers from our partner community colleges into undergraduate institutions.  All six law schools were represented on the final panel on Tips for Success Along the Pathway to Law School. 

The first piece of the pipeline was launched in 2010 with the creation of the first six high school law academies throughout California.  The State Bar asked to work with the California Department of Education to build these academies using the California Partnership Academy model.  That model targeted “at risk” students in public high schools thereby creating highly diverse classrooms.  This was the first “boots on the ground” program for the State Bar of California under the leadership of then Executive Director Judy Johnson.   Former Board of Governor member Ruthe Ashley, working with Patricia Lee, Special Assistant for the State Bar’s Diversity work, led the formation and implementation of the law academies. 

On Law Day (May 1, 2014), 24 Community College Presidents or their designees, six partner undergraduate Chancellors and Deans of their respective law schools all signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to creating the Pathway to Law school from community college to law school.  The project was brought to life by Thuy Thi Nguyen, then chair of the College to Law School committee of the State Bar’s Council on Access and Fairness.  Now in its second year of implementation, this Pathway summit was the first event to bring the entire pipeline from high school to law school into one room.  “It was an exciting day where old friendships were cemented and new ones were started.  I learned so much and now am ready to inspire my entire team in the work that we are doing,” stated Emily Quinlan, California LAW’s Board Secretary and Faculty Champion at Saddleback College.  All are looking forward to the 2017 Summit which will be held at University of Irvine, School of Law. 

Monthly Civil Rights Commemorations

Phyllis ChengBy Phyllis Cheng, Chair, COAF College/Law School Committee

Black History Month: February

Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

Women’s History Month: March

International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women, took place for the first time on March 8, 1911. The public celebration of women's history in the United States began in 1978 as "Women's History Week" in Sonoma County, California. The week including March 8, International Women's Day, was selected. In 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Barbara Mikulski co-sponsored a joint Congressional resolution proclaiming a national Women's History Week. In 1987, Congress expanded the celebration to a month, and March was declared Women's History Month.

Fair Housing Month: April

National Fair Housing Month celebrates the passage of the Fair Housing Act in April, 1968, a national law that prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, and gender. The Act was later amended to include protections for people with disabilities and families with children. In the State of California, there are additional protections for marital status, sexual orientation, ancestry, source of income and for arbitrary characteristics such as age or occupation.

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month: May

Asian-Pacific Heritage Month originated in congressional bills by Reps. Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta, Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.  President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration, and President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.

LGBT Month: June

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, LGBT Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world.

Civil Rights Act Anniversary: July

The most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The law also provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation. Earlier in 1964, the 24th Amendment abolishes the poll tax, originally instituted in 11 southern states to make it difficult for blacks to vote.

Voting Rights Act: August

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Act into law during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act resulted in the mass enfranchisement of racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: September

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.  The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. The month was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: October

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The purpose of the Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.  Held annually, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, but its true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. Employers of all sizes and in all industries are encouraged to participate.

Native American Heritage Day: November

President George W. Bush signed into law legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca to designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day as a day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their many contributions to the United States,  Americans of all backgrounds are encouraged to observe November 28 as Native American Heritage Day, through appropriate ceremonies and activities.  It also encourages public elementary and secondary schools to enhance student understanding of Native Americans by providing classroom instructions focusing on their history, achievements, and contributions

April 12, 2016 was Equal Pay Day... But No Time to Celebrate!

On April 12th  we recognized that women earned less than men. At 103 days into the new year women's earnings finally caught up with what men were paid the previous year. Consider the wage barriers women face in our state. In 2014, women in California made 84 percent of the wages of their male peers. The gap is even larger for women of color—Latinas in California make 44 cents for every dollar that white men make, which is the biggest gap for Latinas in the nation. For more on the equal pay issue, go to the Women’s Foundation of California.

The ABA Commission on Women Lawyers reported that of 200 largest law firms, women equity partners earned 89% of what their male counterparts earned. And other women lawyers earn 86.6% of what male lawyers earn based on a weekly basis.

California Census figures show that for median weekly salaries, women lawyers earned $1,566/week and male lawyers earned $1,986/week (or close to a $22,000 annual difference); for paralegals, women earned $825/week and males earned $923/week (or approximately a $5,000 annual disparity).

Money matters and means as much to women as men. In the law firm setting, it means power, success, appreciation and value to the firm. Where women partners are doing the same work as partners, it should be reflected in their compensation package. Pay inequities for women lead to a variety of issues in the law firm setting, including dissatisfaction for women law partners and associates. Gender bias limits a firm’s ability to maintain some women partners and associates. In the firm practice of law, many women choose to either suffer the inequity or leave the firm. Many women lawyers are not willing to risk their career by suing their firms. Leaving the firm is a better option for discontent women lawyers. Women lawyers deserve to be paid the same as their equal male partners and associates.

State Bar Happenings

Deadline May 6 to Apply to JNE to Evaluate Future Judges

The State Bar seeks active members of the State Bar, former members of the judiciary and members of the public who are interested in volunteering to serve on the 2017 Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE Commission). The application deadline is May 6. The application form and information on the commission are available from the State Bar’s website or from the State Bar's Appointments Office, 415-538-2370, appointments@calbar.ca.gov.

Public Comments on Attorney Blogging -- Deadline May 12

The State Bar Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct solicits comments for an opinion to consider whether attorney blogging should be considered advertising and/or subject to the requirements and restrictions of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the State Bar Act. Contact: Angela Marlaud, 415-538-2116 or angela.marlaud@calbar.ca.gov

COAF Happenings

2016 Judicial Diversity Summit:  Saturday, October 1st , 1 to 5pm, Marriott Hotel, San Diego

Chief Justice Cantil-SakauyePresented by the State Bar of California, Council on Access & Fairness, California Judges Association and the California Judicial Council. The program will focus on the status of diversity in the judiciary. Speakers include Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Associate Justice Goodwin Liu, Justice James Lambden (Ret.), Justice Miguel Marquez, Justice William Murray, Justice Therese Stewart, Judge Diana Becton, Judge LaDoris Cordell (Ret.), Judge Marguerite Downing (Chair, Council on Access & Fairness), Judge Eric Taylor (President CJA) and David Pasternak (President, The State Bar of California).

Friday, September 30, 2016:
“22 Lewd Chinese Women: Immigration and the Underlying Issues of Discrimination”

Marguerite DowningHolly FujieA reenactment and discussion of Chy Lung v. Freeman, a case about Chinese women being detained at the Port of San Francisco as "lewd women" because they were traveling without their husbands. Through this U.S. Supreme Court case we will examine the issues of immigration and federalism, as well as the polarizing issues of sexism, racial profiling and human trafficking. Narrated by Judge Marguerite Downing and Judge Holly Fujie plus a cast of characters and MCLE panel.

Friday, September 30, 2016:      
An “Intelligence Squared” Debate: Considering Race in Higher Education Admissions

Ward ConnerlyEva PatersonFeaturing Eva Paterson and Ward Connerly, moderated by Jeff Bleich.
A moderated debate about the use of race as a factor in higher education admissions post- Fisher v. University of Texas. The audience will be polled prior to the debate and at its conclusion. Pre- and post-debate vote counts will be tallied and the winner will be the side that has changed the minds of most audience members.

Saturday, October 1, 2016: 
15th Anniversary Diversity Awards, Program and Reception.

Hon. Brenda Harbin-ForteChief Justice Cantil-SakauyeFeaturing Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakuye and COAF Founding Chair, Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte. 
Former 15 years of recipients will be acknowledged and 2016 Awards will be presented. Judicial Summit attendees will join us following the Judicial Diversity Summit described above.

September 2015 -- Annual Meeting Issue

Please Join Us! 14th Annual Diversity Awards Reception

Saturday, Oct. 10, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., Anaheim Marriott, Platinum 5 Room. Annual Meeting registration not required -- RSVP to: awardsreception@calbar.ca.gov

Featured Speakers:

  • Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye
  • Keynote Remarks by Judge LaDoris Cordell (Ret.)
  • State Bar President Craig Holden
  • COAF Chair, Hon. Karen Clopton

Honoring Award Recipients:

  • Deborah Broyles
  • Sidley Austin LLP
  • Sacramento County Bar, Diversity Hiring and Retention Committee
  • USF School of Law, Academic Support Program
  • The Judge Stephen O’Neil Trial Advocacy Mentoring Program, Loyola Law School 

Walk the Walk
Premier Showing of EOB Video with commentary by producer Abby Ginzberg

Friday, Oct. 9, 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m., Room TBD.

(MCLE credit for Annual Meeting registrants…others invited to attend.) Other panelists include Robin Pearson (Moderator), Mary Monroe, Gary Roberts, and Carol Ross-Burnett. 

Bar Pass Program Rollout

Saturday, Oct. 10, 4 p.m., Anahaim Marriott, Room TBD

Learn how you can support a new program to help increase bar passage by attorneys from diverse backgrounds. For more information about program location contact Brandi Holmes.

COAF Stakeholder Forum:Achieving Diversity in Higher Education

Saturday, Oct. 10, 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m., Anahaim Marriott, Room TBD

(MCLE 1.5 hours, EOB credit for Annual Meeting registrants—others also invited to attend)--The program will feature a dialogue on theories by Prof. Lani Guinier about the current admissions policies in higher education and law school and the impact on the diversity pipeline into the legal profession. Speakers include Judge Marguerite Downing (Moderator), Janice Austin, Joni Carrasco, Paul Henderson and Michael Trevino.

Addressing Needs of Persons with Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System

Sunday, Oct. 11, 8 a.m - 9:30 a.m., Room TBD

(MCLE credit for Annual Meeting registrants - others invited to attend). Join panelists for this timely discussion:  Robin Pearson (Moderator), Claudia Center, Nedra Jenkins, Paula Pearlman and Michael Waterstone.


For more information about programs or events, contact Brandi Holmes at 415-538-2587 or Brandi.holmes@calbar.ca.gov.

From the April/May 2015 – Spring Issue

In this issue:

Notes from the Chair:
Milestones:  Remembering to Never Forget -- 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 50th Anniversary of the Selma March, and the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act

Karen CloptonMy theme for my tenure as Chair is the “Leadership of Valuing Everyone” and is inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous words about love:  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.(Martin Luther King, Jr.)

What can individual attorneys do personally to advance equal rights, fairness and access? My priorities this year include fostering cross cultural communication in our community and encouraging LOVE, the Leadership of Valuing Everyone, instead of divisiveness and exclusion.  In order to achieve these goals let’s  highlight four constructive actions we can all incorporate into our daily lives that will make a tremendous difference in achieving equity and inclusion in our profession and our practice as well as our personal lives.

1. EDUCATION - Educate yourself:

  • Research your own ethnic background and those of your relatives
  • Read books by authors from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, including books in translation
  • Travel
  • Take courses about other cultures
  • Learn about American history:  knowledge is powerful and persuasive. 

The following resources are a useful starting point.

  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, Holt Paperbacks
  • Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities, Craig Steven Wilder
  • News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media,  Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres
  • The Tyranny of the Meritocracy:  Democratizing Higher Education in America, Lani Guinier
  • Slavery by Another Name, The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, Douglas A.  Blackmon
  • Also, see the documentary film based on the Pulitzer Prize Winning book: http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/
  • Inhuman Bondage, the Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World, David Brion Davis
  • Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Africans in America, Henry Gates
  • Edward Baptist's new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery And The Making Of American Capitalism


2. OBSERVATION - Observe how other ethnic or gender groups are treated and how the differently abled are treated:

  • Notice whether people are comfortable talking about differences
  • How does your workplace treat people who are different?
  • How does your neighborhood treat people who are different?
  • Notice whether certain groups are missing in meetings, leadership positions, job training opportunities, etc.

 3. FAMILIARITY - Acquaint yourself:

  • Get to know co-workers and neighbors from different cultures, religions, and physical abilities
  • Attend local cultural fairs and programs
  • Learn how to prepare culturally diverse foods and share with others
  • Learn basic conversational greetings in another language
  • When traveling immerse yourself in the local culture

 4. INTERVENTION - Stand up for yourself and others, speak up when you witness racially motivated actions, religious bigotry, subtle exclusion, or implicit bias, or sexist conduct:

  • Let the speaker know that such speech or conduct is offensive
  • Let everyone know that you do not agree
  • Actively refute others’ denial that racism or bias exists  (we are all biased)
  • Speak up, silence is consent
  • Learn to identify implicit bias in yourself and others; take the Harvard implicit association test at www.iat.harvard.edu

Together we can follow these four paths to making meaningful change.

Celebrating Fair Housing Month – April 2015

April has been designated as Fair Housing Month to commemorate the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. Current COAF member, Phyllis Cheng, contributed the following article to the State Bar Real Property Section. The article is reprinted with permission from the Real Property Section and Ms. Cheng

April: National Fair Housing Month

In 1963, William Byron Rumford, the first African-American member of the California Assembly, introduced the Rumford Fair Housing Act, which barred landlords from denying housing because of ethnicity, religion, sex, marital status, physical handicap, or familial status. After its passage, massive resistance to the Act led to voter passage of Proposition 14, a constitutional amendment that prohibited any limits on a landlord's absolute discretion to refuse to sell or lease real property. Federal housing funds were then cut off to California and the U.S. Supreme Court declared Proposition 14 unconstitutional. Today housing discrimination is unlawful under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act.

See Building a Better Fair Housing Practice in California, which was published in the California Real Property Journal and republished with permission on the Web site of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Download Report

Phyllis W. Cheng, member of the Council on Access and Fairness, is a Partner in the Employment Group of DLA Piper LLP (US) in Los Angeles. She was formerly Director of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the nation’s largest state civil rights agency, for nearly seven years.

From the January 2015 – Winter Issue:  Happy New Year!

In this issue:

Notes from the Chair: The Leadership of Valuing Everyone -- by Hon. Karen Clopton

Karen CloptonMy theme for my tenure as Chair is the “Leadership of Valuing Everyone” and is inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous words about love:  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.(Martin Luther King, Jr.)

As Vice Chair, I spearheaded the first long-range strategic plan for the Council to be approved by the State Bar of California's Board of Trustees.  In 2014 we commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and I led a stakeholder forum on how the Civil Rights movement and the Act has influenced other equal rights struggles, including the LGBTQ, immigrant, women's, and disability communities.  In 2015, we will continue to commemorate important milestones of the Civil Rights movement and its important impact on all of our communities.  My goals as Chair are:  1)  ensure the strategic plan is effectively implemented and 2) facilitate dialogue and foster unity among all of our stakeholder constituencies to become more effective as a whole to diversify the legal profession in California and beyond and to eliminate bias in the administration of justice and 3) demonstrate how diversity in the legal profession is essential to consumer and public protection and is an ethical and moral imperative.  The members of the Council on Access and Fairness represent the beautiful and talented mosaic that is California and I am deeply honored and proud to serve with all of them and to work together to achieve these three goals.

Milestone Commemorations

1965 was an important year in my life and the Civil Rights Movement and we will be “remembering”  the important legal and formative events from 1965, 1975, as well as 1990 with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act on its 25th anniversary.

1965 Milestones:
  • On February 21, Malcolm X is assassinated in Harlem at the Audubon Ballroom apparently by Nation of Islam operatives, although other theories abound.
    “We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” (Malcolm X).  As we implement our strategic plan and continue to develop the “stereotype threat” curriculum, we are inspired by the leadership and words of Malcolm X.
  • On March 7, six hundred civil rights activists, including Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), leave Selma, traveling eastward on Route 80 toward Montgomery. They are marching in protest of the killing of Jimmy Lee Jackson, an unarmed protester who was killed during a march the prior month by an Alabama state trooper. State troopers and local police stop the marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, beating them with clubs as well as spraying them with water hoses and tear gas.  We must remember the past in order to move forward into the future.
  • On March 9, King leads a march to the Pettus bridge, turning the marchers around at the bridge.
  • On March 21, three thousand marchers leaves Selma for Montgomery, completing the march without opposition.
  • On March 25, around 25,000 people join the Selma marchers at the Montgomery city limits.
  • On August 6, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law, which illegalizes discriminatory voting requirements, such as requiring a literacy test before registering to vote, that white Southerners had used to deprive black Southerners of the vote.  The Law Academies Essay Contest topic is on the Voting Rights Act and we will be celebrating the contest winners at the 2015 State Bar annual meeting in Anaheim.
  • On August 11, a riot breaks out in Watts, an African-American suburb of Los Angeles, California, after a fight erupts between a white traffic officer and an African-American man accused of drinking and driving. The officer arrests the man and some of his family members who had arrived at the scene. Rumors of police brutality, however, result in six days of rioting in Watts. Thirty-four people, mostly African Americans, die during the riot.  The events of 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City are not new.  As American writer William Faulkner noted: “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” ― William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
1975 Milestones:

After non-English speakers testify about the discrimination they face at the polls, Congress votes to expand the U.S. Voting Rights Act to require language assistance at polling stations. Native Americans, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives and Latinos benefit most from this provision. The original Act, passed in 1965, applied only to blacks and Puerto Ricans. The Voting Rights Act leads to the increasing political representation of Latinos in U.S. politics.

I look forward to working this year with State Bar President Craig Holden who has made diversity a priority of his tenure, all of our communities, our wonderful and dedicated staff, the inimitable Pat Lee and Brandi Holmes, and the Council to achieve our goals.

Q&A: State Bar President Craig Holden talks about his passions and goals as president

Craig HoldenLos Angeles attorney Craig Holden presides over the State Bar Board of Trustees as the bar undergoes a management change.  Holden talks about that as well as his other goals for the coming year, including mentoring for young lawyers, supporting diversity pipeline programs to increase diversity within the profession, and finding and implementing innovative solutions that increase access to legal services for those people with few or modest means. See the full interview at HERE.