On November 14, 2018, several members of the legal community ventured out into the smoke-filled air and gathered at the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel for the San Joaquin County Bar Association’s (“SJBCA”) 78th Annual Meeting and Luncheon.
Outgoing SJCBA President Michael Norton welcomed everyone to the event and, as they ate lunch, the audience got to enjoy a slideshow memorializing many of the events the Bar Association sponsored during the year.
Presiding Judge Linda Lofthus delivered the State of the Courts Address. In the spirt of Thanksgiving, Judge Lofthus identified a number of items for the County court system to be grateful for, including receiving additional funds from the state, which allowed the court to hire additional staff and fill commissioner positions (congratulations to incoming commissioners Erin Guy Castillo and Jayne Lee). Judge Lofthus was also grateful for the unique diversity in the courts and the bench. She also spoke about the state of the courthouse, which has shown to be a great improvement over the old courthouse in its first full year of operation, despite some lingering issues that are being addressed. Looking to the future, Judge Lofthus spoke about the success of the electronic case management system, which is allowing the court to introduce an e-filing pilot project. The pilot project will begin with existing cases in civil, probate, and family law. Judge Lofthus encouraged law firms interest in participating to contact Court CEO Rosa Junquiero.
Mr. Norton recapped the year for the Bar Association and its approximately 478 members. Among other things, the Bar Association offered continuing legal education programs. The Bar Association continued serving as the Lawyer Referral Service for the county, providing the public with 30-minute consultations with a peer-reviewed attorney for a small fee. SJCBA also administers the Court Assigned Counsel program, providing competent counsel to represent indigent defendants where there is a conflict with the Public Defender. The Bar Association also provides attorney networking, access to justice through programs such as the Lawyers in Library program, and Across the Bar.
Mr. Norton also reminded the audience that the Bar Association offices have moved to 6 S. El Dorado St. and identified many of the Bar Association’s new employees, including new Executive Director Robert Oakes. A vote to amend the Association bylaws was carried unanimously by voice vote (but with at least one abstention, as this author was still chewing during the vote).
The recipients of the SJCBA’s two prestigious awards were also announced. Michael Lay of the San Joaquin County Public Defender’s Office was selected as the 2019 Outstanding New Lawyer’s Award recipient and will be recognized in February at the New Lawyers’ Reception. Tom Keeling was selected as the 2019 Law Day Award recipient and will be celebrated at the May Law Day Luncheon.
Finally Mr. Norton introduced the 2019 Bar Association President, Heather Rubino. Ms. Rubino spoke briefly, praising Mr. Norton for his leadership. To conclude the program Ms. Rubino announced Mr. Oakes, the new officers of the Board of Governors PresidentElect Armando Villapudua, Secretary Rebecca Sem, and Treasurer Anna Maples, and the new members of the board Ashley Belden, Sean Geddes, Michael Moore, and Spencer Sinclair.