Mindy Morton, President
Welcome to 2012! I hope that you are all still basking in the delights of the holiday season and the joy of giving to others. I am excited and honored to serve as the 2012 President of the Santa Clara County Bar Association. Those who have served before me have left large shoes to fill, and I hope that together we can make 2012 a great year for the SCCBA and for the community. Many thanks to Shannon Stein and the members of the 2011 SCCBA Board of Trustees for a job well done.
Those who know me well know that I have three great passions: the law, music, and Cal football. These seemingly disparate pursuits share at least one important trait, and it is this trait that I hope to focus on this year: community. It is impossible to succeed in any of these pursuits (indeed, most endeavors), without the support and involvement of the community. So my message is that we must remember to build and support the community around us.
In football, victories are only possible when the players unite as a team working together toward a shared goal, and the enthusiasm and camaraderie that the fans enjoy is an essential part of the experience and the victory. It is why live football is so much more compelling than a televised game, because the fans become part of the shared zeitgeist.
Music, too, depends on and improves the community. I sing with Schola Cantorum, a 95 voice community-based chorus. The chorus, as a community, depends on one another to learn the music and the music comes alive when the voices join together and transcend the individual. The audience becomes a part of the community as well, because live music, like football, is interactive, and the performance is a shared experience that depends on the energy and enthusiasm of the performers and the audience. Schola Cantorum believes in celebrating the joy of live music, and this is only possible when there is an engaged and vibrant community.
The Bar Association is its own community, ably managed by Executive Director Chris Burdick and the SCCBA staff. As a profession, we pride ourselves on our community spirit and many of us donate time through pro bono work and volunteering for nonprofits. Pro bono opportunities are plentiful, and you can check out open projects on the SCCBA’s www.probonomatch.orgwebsite. Every hour of time that is donated builds both the legal community and the community at-large. Silicon Valley has many nonprofits that could use your time and experience as well, whether by serving on a board or serving food. My firm has a motto that we are “lawyers in the community as well as the courtroom,” and we take that motto seriously. There are so many ways that you can enrich the community, and I encourage you to engage in and build upon the community around you.
There is another important way that the legal profession and the members of the SCCBA can contribute to the community at-large: uniting to ensure that the courts in California are adequately funded. The recession of the past few years has reduced the state budget dramatically, and the third branch of government, the judiciary, is among the hardest hit. Since 2008, state court funding from the state’s general fund has been reduce by 30%, and justice is becoming out of reach to many in our community. Unfortunately, it is affecting most those who can afford it least. I currently serve on the Open Courts Coalition, a state-wide group that includes members from the public and private sectors as well as former elected officials from both political parties. The Coalition is working to find ways to ensure that justice is accessible in California, and it recommends a balanced approach to the court funding crisis that includes restoring funds to the judiciary, increased court efficiency, and use of court reserve funds to bridge the gap.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye recently stated that “It’s critical that we adequately fund our courts, because they exist to serve the public. The work that legislators do, and bring to the Governor to sign into law, is meaningless if there is no forum to enforce it.” I will be updating you further on the work of the Open Courts Coalition as the year progresses, and I invite you to join me in demanding that all in our community have access to justice.
Every president of the SCCBA has the opportunity to undertake a project to improve the bar and the community, and this year, I have chosen to focus on encouraging our members to volunteer their time to a cause they find meaningful. The SCCBA offers many benefits to its members, but it is important to remember that one of the goals of the SCCBA is to “serve the general welfare of the people of Santa Clara County.” I challenge you all to find a way to serve “the general welfare,” because the more that you give, the greater the community becomes. The joys of giving should not be restricted to the holiday season. Albert Schweitzer once said, “Do something for somebody every day for which you do not get paid.” Please join with me in working to build and invigorate our shared community. Together, we can improve others’ lives and enrich our own.