In the upcoming Arizona Attorney Magazine is some content that may too often be overlooked by members of the State Bar of Arizona. But the candidate statements for the Board of Governors election are worth a few minutes of everyone’s time.
The board oversees a large budget and everything the association does. So in the spirit of getting the word out every way I know how, here, again, are their statements. (Photos of the candidates will be in the May print magazine.)
Board of Governors Candidates
Attention! For the first time, the Board of Governors elections will be conducted online. Does the State Bar have your e-mail address of record? (Rule 32(c)(3), Ariz.R.S.Ct.)
The following districts are holding elections in early May: District 2 (Yavapai County), District 6 (Maricopa County), and District 8 (Pinal County). Active and judicial members vote in the board elections.
Watch for two e-mails from firstname.lastname@example.org. The first communiqué in late April will announce the upcoming election; the second e-mail in early May will indicate that the election is under way and will provide you with login instructions so you may cast your vote(s).
The candidates were asked to respond to the following questions:
Why are you interested in running for election to the Board of Governors? What do you believe are the significant issues facing the members today? If elected, how would you hope to address these issues?
* = Incumbent
District 2—Yavapai County
Jensen Law Firm, P.C.
The State Bar of Arizona does an outstanding job of educating and regulating lawyers toward improving our justice system, and I hope to do my part to add to that in both the Prescott area and in the Verde Valley in District 2.
Serving the public’s legal needs promptly, efficiently, fairly and reasonably during stressful economic times and despite negative public perceptions.
- Easy access CLE programs offerings in Prescott and the Verde Valley.
- State Bar help to lawyers in differing practice areas (including specialties) by using inexpensive technology to assist in practice specialty areas such as blogs, e-mail groups, mentoring by electronic means, etc.
- State Bar becoming more helpful to lawyers in “bottom line” economic ways, rather than just policing the practice of law.
- Supporting “public access to justice” by easy and inexpensive access to an Internet-based information system allowing legal research, court filings, etc.
Alex B. Vakula
The Vakula Law Firm, P.L.C.
I am running for the Board of Governors to represent all of Yavapai County. Significant issues today include technological innovations, access to CLE and legal resources, mentoring for younger lawyers, and disciplinary issues. I am a proponent of a consistent, statewide e-filing system. The AZTurboCourt used by Maricopa County is excellent technology and should be instituted throughout Arizona. I also hope to continue to expand the quality of CLE programs provided outside of the metro areas. The State Bar has been extremely accommodating in this regard, and I want to expand these efforts. While the major law schools and the Maricopa County Superior Court continue to maintain excellent legal research resources and materials, the options are more limited in rural Arizona. Technological solutions can help close this gap. Mentoring for young lawyers is also important for our profession. We should encourage more mentoring programs to provide direction and to teach the importance of professionalism and respect for colleagues. I am optimistic about the new probable cause committee and Judge O’Neil’s appointment. These are significant improvements that should provide more consistency, but will also need to be reviewed and assessed going forward.
District 6—Maricopa County
James J. Belanger
Coppersmith Schermer & Brockelman, P.L.C.
I have no single-issue agenda for the State Bar. I believe that the most pressing concerns for members are ensuring that they get the maximum value for their dues, that the disciplinary system is and remains fair and beyond reproach, and that the image of our profession is raised and enhanced with the general public. What I would bring to the Board is a wide variety of experience and empathy, and a very simple promise: (1) to truly listen to members’ concerns and to think deliberately about the issues that come before the Board and (2) to use my best judgment to do what is best for all of our members. I don’t see this as an opportunity for a sound bite-type solution. I fully expect that this will be hard and oftentimes thankless work, and what I bring to the table are simply the tools and experiences I have marshaled over the last 20 years of practice and a commitment to try to do the right and the best thing for all of us.
David H. Benton
Maricopa County Office of General Litigation Services
Currently, I am President of the Maricopa County Bar Association. As one who had to work my way up through the ranks into leadership of the Bar Association, I believe I have the knowledge and experience to assist the State Bar Board of Governors. As I am sure others will recognize, our economic landscape has been practically reshaped. Every business sector, including the law, is doing business differently and will continue to do so, even when things get better. Firms are cost conscious, clients scrutinize every bill and want more for less, and client development has taken on a whole new urgency. This is true for both the public and private sector. I bring important perspectives from both sectors. The focus is on service. I believe that we, as either practicing attorneys or those legally trained with JDs, bring a whole host of skills and viewpoints that will service clients, and the public, in a number of ways. Attorneys serve the public by way of their clients. I will work to encourage legal professionals to serve the public; advocate for programming, rules, or bar directives that facilitate this goal; and labor to reward legal professionals whose paramount goal is service.
Arizona Attorney General’s Office
I have been a member of the Board since 2009. I am grateful for your support in allowing me to be on the Board these past two years. I am interested in running for the Board, because I care deeply about the attorneys in this State, who need to have a voice on the Board.
Significant issues facing the members today include:
- The dire and continuing effect that the economy is having on the members’ practices or businesses;
- Making sure that the new disciplinary rules issued by the Supreme Court are applied fairly and appropriately;
- The need to make the Bar relevant to its members and to be responsive to our members.
If re-elected, I would address these issues as follows:
- Petition the Supreme Court to decrease Bar dues.
- Work closely with Bar counsel on any issues that arise with implementation of the new disciplinary rules.
- Act as a voice for the attorneys on issues that are important to them. The Board needs to make concerted efforts to show that we represent them, that we care about them, and that the Bar does not exist just to impose discipline.
Thank you for your support.
Richard D. Coffinger*
I believe our Bar may soon be facing some of its greatest challenges in its 78-year history. Powerful opponents have given notice that they want to strip Arizona attorneys of the privilege of self-regulation. I want to ensure that the SBA retains attorney discipline. I also want to ensure the continuation of merit selection of judges and the SBA’s involvement in this process.
I will continue to support:
- Improved on-line communications between the SBA and its members, allowing members to comment before BOG votes on significant policy issues
- Fairness in discipline and prompt dismissal of meritless charges
- Improving FASTCASE to include ARS annotated
- Express security clearance for all attorneys when entering courthouses
- Rule changes to ensure increased candor in lawyer advertising
I will continue to oppose:
- Increase in SBA membership dues, staff and regulations
- Budgeting money for random examinations of attorneys’ trust accounts, without probable cause
- Ban on citing Arizona Court of Appeals’ memorandum decisions as persuasive
I have served on Board committees, including Discipline Oversight, Rules (which recommend proposed rule changes and comments to the Arizona Supreme Court), and Finance–Audit. I was one of only three of the 26 Board members who opposed SBA staff salary increases this year.
Crowe & Scott, P.A.
Thank you for the privilege of serving as a member of your Board. I learned much during my first term—as a member of the Rules Committee, the Finance Committee, and otherwise—and believe that I can be more effective in serving you with the benefit of that experience.
The Bar should, of course, strive to be responsive and service oriented. All lawyers—women, large firm members, sole practitioners, minorities, seniors—should have an opportunity to be heard and participate in the making and adoption of policies that may impact us and others. The process should be transparent.
The Bar has a special responsibility to its members in spending their money. It should be accountable for and exercise fiscal responsibility in the use of those resources. The Bar has made great strides in putting its financial house in order, even in the wake of a ruinous recession.
I favor merit selection of judges. I have chaired a task force on MCLE and believe that the program can be improved upon. Changes are also being made in the area of lawyer discipline, which should help to make that process both more fair and less time consuming.
Diane L. Drain*
Law Office of D.L. Drain, P.A.
In this economy we all need to be fiscally responsible, whether dealing with our own funds or those that we control as fiduciaries. The State Bar is fiduciary of the members’ funds. Therefore, the Bar has a duty to spend the members’ funds wisely. The Bar has an equally important duty to provide services that aid everyone—Bar members, judiciary and public—as related to the practice of law. The challenge is that sometimes these duties are diametrically opposed.
Members of the Board of Governors are in a difficult position. They are servants to many and masters of none. They must be strong enough to make difficult decisions, but wise enough to seek alternatives in order to mediate opposing opinions. They rarely address issues that are supported by all factions: members, judiciary, public and government. Despite this difficult position, it is incumbent on every member of the Board to put aside personal agendas and concentrate on promoting quality legal services. This can be done by providing answers to ethical conundrums; offering solutions for practicing smarter; mediate attorney–client disputes in a non-adversarial manner; encourage professionalism; and, but only as a last resort, support a fair and equitable discipline system.
Peter A. Gentala
Arizona House of Representatives
I am a conservative. My political views fall squarely in the center–right portion of the spectrum. Indeed, one of the main catalysts for my decision to attend law school was a particularly cogent dissenting opinion by Justice Scalia. Over the last 10 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the conservative position is somewhat underrepresented at the Bar. If I’m right about that, I have no one to blame but myself for not being involved. Thus, I’m pleased to offer my candidacy as a like-minded option to my fellow center–right attorneys.
If you are not conservative, I hope you will consider voting for me anyway. I believe that a healthy and vibrant public life—from the courtroom, to the halls of the Legislature, to the ballot box—depends upon goodwill, civil discourse, and integrity of process. If I am elected, I will be pleased and honored to work with board members of all persuasions and perspectives.
If you would like to learn more about my candidacy for the Board of Governors (along with other musings) I invite you to follow me on Twitter: @pgentala.
The State Bar’s dues are very expensive, even for a mandatory bar. The Bar spends these dues on self-congratulatory activities and presenting awards. I will dedicate my efforts to reducing Bar dues and cutting costs.
Presently, membership in the Bar Association is mandatory, unlike New York and Colorado where Bar membership is voluntary. I believe that we should have a voluntary Bar Association. No individual lawyer should be forced to join the Bar Association.
Arizona Bar-sponsored MCLE is outrageously expensive. I will work to cut the cost of CLE programs.
Presently the Bar is perceived as a club representing the interests of select lawyers. I will work to ensure that the interests of all members are respected and represented, including sole practitioners, small firms, public lawyers and in-house counsel.
Honest lawyers are often terrorized by a heavy-handed office of Bar Counsel while other lawyers committing egregious acts are lightly punished. I will work to ensure that Bar discipline is handled in an even, respectful and polite manner toward all lawyers.
The Bar has taken political positions in the past. I will work toward ensuring that the Bar sticks to its legitimate business rather than involving itself in politics.
Melissa S. Ho
Polsinelli Shughart, P.C.
In addition to creating the policies which govern our members, the Board of Governors serves as ambassadors for our profession. I would be honored to be a part of this process. Current members of the Board reflect both diversity and dedication to public service. However, the Board is missing a connection to members new to the practice. I have an ability to work with personalities spanning all spectrums, and I pride myself on my ability to communicate broad concepts to groups of individuals regardless of their underlying motivations.
My objective is to assist the Board in conveying information regarding our purpose and value of our services such as ethics assistance, member assistance and ongoing education. I wish to serve as a conduit between members and our larger Board.
Communication with all of our members and sister-bar organizations is paramount. My leadership roles with the Arizona Asian American Bar Association, the Young Lawyers Division and the Arizona Woman Lawyers Association will strengthen the needed exchange of information. Despite publishing minutes from Board meetings, nothing will replace a live spokesperson for the Board of Governors. Through the broader dissemination of information, members of our profession, and the public we serve, will benefit.
Alan R. Hock
Hock Law Group
For 15 years I have been privileged to practice law—first as a criminal prosecutor, then criminal defense, Judge Pro Tem, Criminal Law Specialist, Supervising and Managing Attorney. But now I’m nearly 60, and it’s appropriate to consider how to use this experience to benefit the next generation of practitioners. I can think of no better legacy than to marshal my experience in the service of this profession I love.
1) Ours is the last self-regulating profession, but that independence is threatened. We must overcome any attempt to share regulation with non-attorneys. Failure to do so spells disaster for the rule-of-law. 2) The membership of the Bar has only been growing two percent annually, but the cost of operations and members’ expectations increase exponentially. We must keep our financial house in order. 3) Admission by motion has the potential to significantly affect the dynamics of what has heretofore been a local organization. We must be vigilant for the unintended consequences of this dramatic change.
I will dedicate my time and energy, informed by my training and experience, to solve these problems and those not yet foreseen.
Tabatha A. LaVoie
LaVoie Law Firm, P.C.
I have always been inspired by the opportunity I have as an attorney to serve others. I am interested in continuing to serve our community and to help both our profession and our fellow colleagues through the work of the Board of Governors.
In a struggling economy, our fiscal policies must reflect the priorities of our profession, but the quality of our services to our members should not be sacrificed. Understanding the diversity of our membership and their needs is critical in order to offer effective solutions. In the past few years, the Bar has made some process improvements and offered tools to assist members with their practices. We must continue to encourage our members to look to the Bar not only as a resource but also as supportive community. If our members viewed the Bar as a method of first resort instead of last, then, perhaps, some of our members would work harder to find a balance between advocacy and professionalism. If elected, it will be my pleasure to serve you. I will work to find efficiencies and support mechanisms to help you in your practices, and to promote and encourage professionalism.
Arizona Corporation Commission
One of the biggest challenges facing the State Bar and its members is the loss of esteem for attorneys and our legal institutions. Some of this loss is attributable to irresponsible, bad actors, and some of it is attributable to the perception that some attorneys and courts do not respect their role within our constitutional republic. For example, when a fundamental societal institution like marriage is challenged in the courtroom, there is an impact on the public standing of our legal institutions.
While litigants and attorneys should be free to argue their cases in our courts, I do not believe the Board of Governors, or the State Bar, should be viewed as cheerleaders for legal arguments that eviscerate the distinction between declaring what the law is and declaring what it should be. As attorneys, we have an obligation to safeguard constitutional rights, but we must also respect the fundamental principles of popular sovereignty and the right of the People to govern themselves. If I am elected to the Board of Governors, I pledge to speak for that view.
Jack Levine, P.C.
I am running for the Board of Governors because I favor change that is long overdue. I am for reducing the size and cost of the State Bar by transferring its CLE and section activities to our local county bar associations and by transferring lawyer discipline, the specialization programs, and membership records to the Arizona Supreme Court. In the meantime, I favor a cap of $50 for all CLE programs to avoid CLE tuition being used as a covert method for increasing our dues.
I strongly support the admission of lawyers to our courthouses without being subjected to security measures. I believe the most significant issue facing us is restoring the public’s faith in our legal system. I will propose regulations to constitutionally limit personal injury advertising that is harmful to the legal system and to the image of the profession.
Finally, I will propose changes to our merit selection rules to require competitive examinations for judicial candidates and elevate standards for judicial retention.
We shouldn’t have to put up with the status quo. With your help we can change it.
Lisa S. Loo*
General Counsel’s Office at Arizona State University
I am running to continue to impact the policy-making arm of the association that prescribes the professional standards for the practice of law in Arizona. The practice of law today is dynamic, challenged and assisted by technological advances, globalization of business and personal relationships, economic retrenchment, and public perceptions. The Bar can best serve its members when it assists its members in enhancing their legal competencies, professionalism and ethics in these dynamic times while ensuring the public’s trust in an inclusive legal profession. To accomplish these goals, the Board must set policies that will drive services to members that will directly impact our competencies regardless of whether we became a Bar member in 1950 or 2010 or any of the decades in between. I served on the Board’s IOLTA Task Force to resolve concerns raised by members and their financial institutions. I am working on a statewide project for the Board that is examining challenges faced by diverse lawyers, and recommending policies that will drive the delivery of collaborative and innovative services that will meet these challenges. I want to continue these efforts and ask that our members return me to the Board of Governors. Thank you.
Joseph C. McDaniel
Joseph C. McDaniel, P.C.
I’m interested serving on the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Arizona because I’d like to help my fellow lawyers in every way I can.
This economy appears (from my viewpoint as a bankruptcy lawyer) to be a depression, not a recession. I am aware that many young lawyers and new law graduates are having trouble finding jobs in this economy, and that established lawyers in large firms are being let go because of economic pressures.
Currently, the option of permitting law firms to “outsource” their legal work to lawyers in India is a factor that could have massive negative effects on hundreds of thousands of lawyers in the United States.
The State Bar of Arizona has done many things to help working lawyers, including providing “Fastcase” as a research tool, and trying to assist lawyers in finding jobs. If I’m elected, I will favor every economic benefit that can be provided to lawyers, and I will vote against everything that appears to me to place unnecessary burdens on the backs of working lawyers.
Overall, I want to help lawyers deal with a bad economy.
Cantelme & Brown, P.L.C.
If elected, I will work to increase the Bar’s value to all of its members. Among other things, I will work to:
- Keep dues low
- Simplify lawyer reporting requirements
- Increase free networking and referral opportunities
- Support the independence of the Bar sections
- Expand leadership opportunities for all members
With good leadership the Bar can help improve every member’s practice—without instituting additional regulations. I will push to reform the rules governing our practice to make them more efficient and sensible while assuring the public is protected. For example, I will advocate for revamping CLE reporting to make it easier to earn and keep track of credits. I will also work on making electronic access to selected Bar publications free. The Bar can do more to assist members in terms of professional development. If elected, I will ensure the Bar provides additional networking events and referral opportunities for its members.
I have the passion and experience to achieve these objectives. I have served the Bar for over five years, most recently as chair of the Mentor Committee and, prior to that, by serving on the Board of Governors as YLD president. To learn more, visit http://www.SamForBOG.com.
Gaetano “Guy” Testini
Wilmer and Testini, P.L.C.
The reason I am interested in running for the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors is to act as a conduit for greater dialogue between the State Bar of Arizona and its members. Because membership in the State Bar of Arizona is mandatory, an issue that arises is the members not feeling like they are receiving value for their dues. As a partner in a two-person firm that handles a small area of the law, I have been fortunate to take advantage of the benefits that the State Bar offers its members. All too often I have spoken with other attorneys who are unaware of precisely what benefits their dues provide for them. Many members are unaware that the State Bar of Arizona website offers Fastcase, a free legal search engine, or that the State Bar of Arizona offers CLE classes in many different formats, including audio CDs, DVD, webcasts and podcasts. As a member of the Board of Governors, I will work closely with member services to ensure that members become more aware of the services available to them, so they can realize the value they receive for their dues.
Geoffrey M. Trachtenberg
Levenbaum & Cohen
For more than 14 years, I have answered “yes” to serving our profession in a volunteer capacity, having been recognized as “Volunteer of the Year” in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by the Arizona Association for Justice. I have conceived, developed and administered a document database for trial attorneys (www.azdocuments.com), participated in drafting proposed rules and legislation, and handled over 200 trials, arbitrations and mediations. Now, I’d like to bring my experience “in the trenches” to the Board.
I will bring a perspective to the Board that some of our administrators have not had. As a litigator and manager of a law firm, I have current “on the ground” experience with the modern realities and economics of law practice. As the practice of law changes continually in response to legislation, technology, the economy and a multitude of other pressures, practical experience is critical to fairly and realistically guide our organization.
As a Board member, I’d champion fresh approaches to ethical rules and/or enforcement concerning lawyer advertising, random trust account examinations and the complex and ever-changing lien/subrogation environment. I’d work to develop improvements that are cost-effective, sensitive to the needs of our active members while promoting confidence in the administration of justice.
District 8—Pinal County
Richard T. Platt*
Pinal County Attorney’s Office
The Board of Governors manage an organization of lawyers. I practice in a semi-rural county. I manage the largest law firm in Pinal County, all being public lawyers. I also have substantial experience in private practice and I understand the needs of the private practitioner as well.
The members have not seen an increase in annual bar dues since 2005. The Bar has operated in the black and with a surplus for a number of years. Through careful management, another dues increase may not be necessary for several more years. I will continue to strive for fiscal responsibility in bar management.
The lawyer discipline system needs to be responsive to the complaints from the public and yet maintain the ability to be fair to the respondent. As a chair of the Discipline Oversight Committee, I will continue to maintain and improve the disciplinary process as it applies to all.
I am involved in bar leadership, serving as Treasurer of the Bar. As co-chair of the Finance Committee, I assist in the fiscal management of the Bar by attending meetings and making decisions on financial matters.