Originally printed in the Daily Journal (.pdf) >
Volume 18, Issue 12
As I write my last president’s column, I think back to installation in January, where I spoke about the importance of building and supporting the community. I finished my speech with a quote from Winston Churchill about the importance of giving, and it is only fitting to finish my year with another Churchill quote: "This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. It is, instead, the end of the beginning.” As the last few weeks of my term come to a close, I find myself thinking about “the end of the beginning” and looking back on 2012.
My major focus as SCCBA President this year was court funding and access to justice, and that fight will continue. The courts are vitally important to our community and our democracy. Santa Clara County received the great news this summer that the Family Justice Center construction project will break ground next year; but without sufficient funding, the day-to-day operations of courts across the state are imperiled. Other counties have already announced courtroom closures, and without action, more will certainly follow. We have been extremely fortunate in Santa Clara County to be spared the drastic effects other counties are experiencing, but unless California makes access to justice a priority, we too will be forced to restrict access to justice. As lawyers, this is a battle in which we should all be engaged, for it goes to the heart of our community. I urge everyone to continue to educate and explain the importance of the courts. Remember: No courts, no justice, no freedom.
The SCCBA held its first community service event this year, at Second Harvest Food Bank. There, SCCBA members were able to build community in a different way, by sorting almost fifteen tons of apples and tomatoes to distribute to the less fortunate in Santa Clara County. This is the time of year when many think about charitable donations, and I encourage all of you to continue to reach out and build our community. No matter what your time constraints or budgetary restrictions are, there is something you can do to engage and improve the community. As I asked last month: Volunteer, donate, engage. The rewards you will reap will be much greater than your efforts.
I am honored to have served as the 2012 President of the Santa Clara County Bar Association. I now join a group that set a high standard for me and for those who follow me: the past SCCBA presidents. Many of our past presidents continue to stay active in the SCCBA and the community, and I hope to continue this great tradition. I will continue to work with the Open Courts Coalition on court funding and I hope to participate in more SCCBA community service events. Of course, I didn’t accomplish any of these goals in a vacuum. To paraphrase President Obama, I didn’t build that. The SCCBA’s many accomplishments are due to the support and involvement of the community, including the board, staff, members, and the bench.
One of the year‘s highlights is that the SCCBA will likely finish the year with a surplus. The SCCBA also continues to grow our membership. With the hiring of our new marketing and communications director, Kristen McDonnell, we have expanded the SCCBA’s social media reach. Chris Burdick, our executive director, was honored with an award from the Executives of California Lawyers’ Association for her years of service and leadership. The SCCBA also signed on to several amicus briefs on important civil rights issues. The Board of Trustees decided to discontinue the judicial survey in its current incarnation, and appointed a task force to examine other ways to provide feedback from the bar to the bench. I am sure that you will hear more on this issue next year.
In closing, I thank Chris Burdick for her friendship, guidance, and sense of humor--the SCCBA is truly fortunate to have such a dedicated and creative executive director. I also thank the SCCBA staff for their hard work and dedication—none of our committees and events would happen without their commitment. Kristen, Craig, Alisa, Irene, Dolores, Veronica, Angie and Tiffany are the true “unsung heroes” of the bar. Steve Haley, Dianne Sweeney, John Mlnarik, Kevin Hammon, Matt Poppe, Jenn Protas, Chester Te and Kate Wilson also deserve thanks for their hard work on the Executive committee. Thanks also to all of the members of the Board of Trustees for their spirited debate of issues and their dedication to doing the right thing for the bar and the community. Finally, thanks to my firm, Bergeson, LLP, and my husband, Cyrus Merrill, for allowing me to take the time to serve as President.
Steve Haley takes over the reins as President in January, and I know he will serve the community and the SCCBA well. I leave you with one final quote from Jack Kerouac:
“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
I wish all of you much luck with your next crazy venture as I say goodbye to this “end of the beginning.”