In response to what seems to be increased intolerance exhibited in our current society to anyone or anything that is not in line with the “majority”, including the recent significant rise of anti-Asian violence seen throughout the country, our Justice William J. Murray Jr. Unity Bar (Unity Bar) was born.
This section is led by an Executive Committee which was hand-picked based on their dedication to our community and long-term service to our Bar. Our Ex Com is composed of Justice William J. Murray Jr., recently retired from the 3rd District Court of Appeals (DCA) but is still serving the court in a Pro Tem capacity; Judge Barbara A. Kronlund; Deputy District Attorney Jennifer “Kibbe” Day, Vice-Chair; Deputy District Attorney Ranjit “Ron” Indran; Lisa Jimenez, partner with Neumiller & Beardslee Law Firm; and Board of Governors Liaison, Becky Diel, Attorney with McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau, LLP.
The Unity Bar is open to all Association members, and strives to bring together members of various affinity groups along with those who are not identified with any particular group, in the pursuit of promoting unity and diversity in the legal profession. This section will provide a united front for our members to stand collectively in solidarity against all forms of racism and discrimination of any type, and promote unity and solidarity with one another. Through education and fellowship with many types of people from different backgrounds, we can grow to realize each other’s humanity which will engender respect for one another, despite our differences. Being different doesn’t justify hateful speech or actions, and shouldn’t carry a negative connotation merely based on the differences.
What motivated me to start a Unity Bar in San Joaquin County?
There is so much vitriol all around us in society, and we’ve seen it enter our courtrooms with a marked increase in lack of civility in the practice of law most recently.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil Sakauye of our California Supreme Court, has publicly denounced the recent spate of violence against Asian-Americans. She spoke out against all violence, and all discrimination and hate crimes.
In 2021, local attorney Clarence Chan invited me to a candlelight vigil in Stockton for our community to come together and show solidarity against Anti-Asian violence, and my family and I attended the event. Although not planned, I was introduced and asked to speak, and my initial inclination was to decline since I did not have prepared remarks. But I saw the crowd of a couple hundred people looking to me, with hopeful and expectant eyes, faces of all colors from all walks of life, asking me to be their voice. So I did take the microphone. I spoke out against the senseless violence, and against the hate, because our community needs to know that its leaders and elected officials, including our leaders on the Bench and in our Bar, are indeed standing together with them, against hate, discrimination and racism in all its ugly iterations. As the first female South Asian American judge in California, I felt an obligation at this time to do my part and take on a leadership role in this arena.
At our Inaugural Zoom on May 18, 2021, we had an amazing panel of presenters, all champions of diversity and inclusion, who spoke about why the Unity Bar is important to them personally. Our panelists included 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Connie Callahan, California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin, Ret., 3rd District Court of Appeals Justice William J. Murray Jr., Ret., and Governor Newsom’s Judicial Appointments Secretary, Luis Cespedes.
In attendance at our inaugural session were 26 judges and justices from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, California Supreme Court, 3rd DCA, San Joaquin Superior Court, Stanislaus Superior Court, and Sacramento Superior Court. In addition to myself, the judges and justices who were in attendance at our inaugural Zoom were:
During our inaugural Zoom program, we promised to bring some charismatic speakers and programs to our community, and we have done exactly that. At times we may have gotten a little too ambitious, but we’re finding the right balance as we learn and grow together as a section.
Since our formation a year ago, we brought the following to our members and the Bar at large: Our Diversity Series, August-September of 2021, our Executive Committee members moderated panels featuring Sessions on Muslims/Asian Pacific Islanders with Judge Shama Mesiwala from Sacramento, Dr. Metwalli Amer, Founder of and ED of SALAM, and Dr. Mohammad ElFarra, Imam of Islamic Center of Manteca; LGBTQ panel with Judge Zeke Zeidler of Los Angeles Superior Court and Judge Victoria Kolakowski of Alameda Superior Court; Hispanic Americans featuring Judge Emily Vasquez from Sacramento and Judge Jose Alva of San Joaquin County; and African Americans with panelists Judge Samantha Jessner, Assistant Presiding Judge of Los Angeles Superior Court and ABOTA Attorney Linda Sharpe. Since October 2021, weekly Cultural Awareness Briefs are included in the Bar’s e-blasted Briefs; In conjunction with Black History Month and co-sponsored by the Criminal Law section, we featured Justice Murray’s AB 3070 Objections to Peremptory Challenges presentation over 2 noon hours; “Did That Just Happen”, personal stories of discrimination, micro-aggressions, and implicit bias with Judge George Abdallah, Jr., Deputy District Attorney Ron Indran, and Attorney Ramsey Abboushi; in spring of 2022 a 2-part series on Homelessness, featuring Adam Cheshire, Program Administrator for Homeless Initiatives, San Joaquin County, Peter Ragsdale, Executive Director, Housing Authority San Joaquin County, Attorney Becky Diel, DA Tori Verber Salazar, PD Miriam Lyell, Judge Barbara Kronlund.
In the fall we will present a Diversity Series featuring Judge Tim Fall of Yolo Superior Court discussing his struggles with depression and anxiety; practicing law with a disability featuring Judge Roger Ross, Ret. San Joaquin County, Deputy District Attorney Kevin Hicks, and Attorney Alicia Dearn of San Diego; Jewish faith featuring Justice Richard Fybel, Ret., 4th DCA and possibly Judge Robin Appel; Military Veterans with Attorney Josh Hunsucker & Justice Eileen Moore, 4th DCA; and Housing Discrimination based on systemic racism by Judge Tom Delaney of Orange County, Justice William J. Murray Jr., ret, 3rd DCA, and Attorney Lexi Howard, Sacramento.
Additionally, when any other County’s Diversity programs or events are brought to our attention, we ask the Bar Association to share with our Bar’s at-large membership so that whoever chooses may have access to these opportunities. In this way we have served as a clearing house of information-sharing. Many of these out of area programs are remote and offered at no-charge, so be sure to keep an eye out for these announcements.
We are hoping to collaborate with the other Affinity Bar Sections going forward, to continue to bring quality programs and presenters to our Bar, and to be responsive to the requests of our members. Please let us know if you would like us to bring any particular presenters or programs to our county and we’ll try our best to accommodate you.
And watch for a live, in-person event by the end of the year. We’re probably all feeling a little Zoom-fatigue after 2 years of remote learning and viewing. It’s important to see each other in person for live fellowship and to move on and forward.
Our section is especially grateful to Immediate Past Bar President Anna Maples, who encouraged and supported the formation of this Unity Bar since its inception. Likewise, we are thankful for Executive Director Susan Bartman’s and LRS Coordinator Patricia Hubbard’s assistance with keeping our Section running smoothly. Thank you to all the members of the Bar at large and our section members for faithfully supporting our programs.