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Melissa Ho

Frustrating Arizona Board of Governors Election Results

Ugh – What were people thinking?

Last week, the State Bar of Arizona announced the results of the Board of Governors election. This was a critical vote because the Board recently voted to increase our bar dues by $60/year despite receiving a report that this would result in the Bar having a cash surplus of $3.7 million by 2019. (This passed by one vote.) Prior to the vote on bar dues, Arizona already had one of the highest bar dues in the nation. (And we’re a mandatory bar, so you can’t be a licensed Arizona attorney unless you’re a member of the State Bar.)

Thirty-three people ran for the nine slots on Board for Maricopa County – eight of which were incumbents. I thought it was awesome that so many people were interested in making a difference in how the State Bar operates. I made my list of candidates whose actions and profile were compatible with how I wanted my State Bar to govern me.

Here are the nine people who won the election in Maricopa County:

  • Melissa Ho (Incumbent, Opposed the Increase)*
  • Lisa Loo (Incumbent, Voted For the Increase)
  • Geoffrey Trachtenberg (Incumbent, Opposed the Increase)*
  • Steven Hirsch
  • Samuel Saks (Incumbent, Opposed the Increase)*
  • David Derickson (Incumbent, Opposed the Increase)*
  • Diane Drain (Incumbent, Voted For the Increase)
  • Richard Coffinger (Incumbent, Opposed the Increase)
  • Jennifer Rebholz *

* = On my short list of candidates

"'nough said..." by Arnaud DG from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

“‘nough said…” by Arnaud DG from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

What is up with the power of the incumbency?! With thirty-three people running, I’m surprised that we’re only adding two new faces to the Board for Maricopa County. I seriously wonder how many people voted for people they liked vs people who supported their beliefs about how the State Bar should govern its members. Our Board has a history that lacks transparency and they voted to increase our dues that made no sense when they crunched the numbers.

I was pleased to read that we had the highest voter turnout ever for a Board of Governors’ election, but that statement is pretty pathetic when the State Bar announced that only 35% of eligible voters participated in the election. With ~12,000 attorneys in Maricopa County, that means 7,800 people didn’t vote. 7,800 people forfeited their right to bitch about how the Board operates until the next election.

This lack of participation suggests a lack of responsibility among our members, and that makes me sad and frustrating. We’re a self-regulating profession – why wouldn’t you vote when given a say in how we operate?

These results help me understand why some of my fellow legal eagles say that nothing’s ever going to change with the Board. But I hope that in the increase in voter  participation and the fact that a significant number of people who were elected are dedicated to transparency and fiscal responsibility are signs that change is possible and coming in the State Bar. I hope the next Board will have the power and pull they need to fix some of the mistakes previous Boards made and to be more dedicated to providing value to the State Bar’s members.

 

Let’s Fix our State Bar – Vote in the BoG Election! Here’s Who Made My Short List.

Starting May 7th, Arizona lawyers in Maricopa County will get to vote for our representatives on the State Bar Board of Governors (BoG). Make sure you vote in this election – it matters!

Arizona State Capitol by Willem van Bergen from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Arizona State Capitol by Willem van Bergen from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The BoG “oversees the policy making and operation” of the State Bar of Arizona – including whether our bar dues go up. In Maricopa County, we will be voting for the nine people who will represent us on the BoG. In the last full BoG election, only 2,500 of the 12,000 eligible lawyers in Maricopa County voted and the difference between who was/wasn’t elected came down on handful of votes – so your individual vote makes a difference.

Here’s what I know about the dues increase that was just passed:

  • It passed by only 1 vote. (As my lawyer friend put it, “We are only one Board member away from rationality.”)
  • The financial committee met the day before the vote and determined that the proposed increase would result in a $3.7 million cash surplus by 2019. What does the State Bar need with $3.7M?! And this money is not earmarked so who knows how they’re going to spend it.
  • The BoG has an executive committee made up of five board members and wields significant influence. They all voted in favor of the dues increase. It appears they agreed to vote as a united front, which makes me question their integrity. There is one guaranteed opening on the executive committee with Whitney Cunningham moving out of the presidency. There are other executive committee members who are up for re-election (Lisa Loo in Maricopa County and Alex Vakula in Yavapai County). If these two aren’t re-elected, a majority of the executive committee will change which will have an enormous impact on what the Bar does moving forward.

Thirty-three people are running for the nine BoG openings in Maricopa County. I read their profiles and made my list of potential votes based on the following criteria.

  1. Every candidate who gets my vote must be an incumbent who voted against the dues increase or spoke about fiscal responsibility, transparency, and keeping dues down. Finances are such a hot topic in the Bar right now. If a candidate didn’t mention money, I feared they would be too afraid to take a stand when it mattered. I need a BoG who will speak for me. Bonus if they mentioned keeping up with changes in technology.
  2. I eliminated any candidate who’s had something in their profile that raised a red flag for me.
  3. I took the resulting list and sent it to my fellow lawyers whose judgment I trust and who have been in the legal profession significantly longer than I have. I asked them to tell me if any of them violated the “No Jerks” rule and if they had any specific endorsements.

Here’s my short list of Maricopa County BoG candidates who might get my vote:

  • Chad Belville
  • Stephen Brower
  • Ted Campagnolo
  • David Derickson
  • Nick Dranias
  • Richard Erickson
  • Greg Gnepper
  • Isaac Hernandez
  • Melissa Ho
  • Steven Keist
  • Michael Kielsky
  • Clarence Matherson
  • Bert Moll
  • Christopher Raddatz
  • Jennifer Rebholz
  • Sam Saks
  • Geoffrey Trachtenberg

If you practice in Yavapai County, the choice is easy. Vote for Andre Carman, who is running against an incumbent that voted for the dues increase (while serving as the BoG’s secretary-treasurer).

Voting for the BoG will be online from May 7th until 5 p.m. on May 21st. Look for an email from the Bar with instructions. Please make sure you take a few minutes to vote and encourage other eligible lawyers to vote too. We have an opportunity to vote for people who are motivated to make significant changes in our Bar. Let’s vote in some people who will work for what we want.

The Record Reporter published the vote on the bar dues increase, including the list of how each BoG member voted.

For more information about how important this election is, please visit Sam Sak’s site, Moving the Bar Forward and Mo Hernandez’s site Transform the Bar.