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Volunteerism 2010

Posted By Mark Shem, Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Updated: Friday, April 25, 2014

by Mark Shem, SCCBA 2010 President

[reprinted from the February 9, 2010, Daily Journal, SCCBA Monthly Newsletter]

Last month I challenged our members to a “trifecta” of professional activities for 2010:  perform pro bono services, volunteer in the community or donate to a legal service agency.  Throughout this year, I will continue to highlight these three important aspects of the Bar’s service to our community.  This month, I want to highlight and recognize some tremendous individuals who have stepped up to the plate by volunteering to assist with the annual Santa Clara County High School Mock Trial Tournament.  

Hundreds of high school students across the county have been sharpening their analytical and oral communication skills these past few months with volunteer attorney coaches, practicing and training in the art of trial advocacy.  This month in the Downtown Superior Court facility in front of sitting judges and practicing attorneys, they will participate in a mock trial involving a hypothetical criminal case. This year’s case involves Fourth Amendment issues and an allegation of murder.  Jordan Bratton is a comedian whose career was on the rise when entertainment critic Preston Palmer posted scathing reviews of Bratton on social media web sites YellUp and Twitter. Palmer’s reviews singlehandedly trashed Bratton’s career. Now Palmer is dead, and Bratton is on trial for murder. Also at issue in the case is the legality of a police search of Bratton’s computer and online accounts with the social networking web sites.

This collaborative effort between the Santa Clara County Bar Association, the Santa Clara County Superior Court bench, and the County Office of Education has helped initiate numerous legal careers of our colleagues.  One of own local attorneys and SCCBA members, Sam Chuck, participated in mock trial in high school. Sam went on to law school and now practices in Santa Clara County.  

Since the SCCBA Law-Related Education Committee Chair Kevin Hammon made the call for volunteers, 91 of you have graciously volunteered to score the students’ performances.  This list, as of January 29, 2010, includes Brett Burlison, Tom Kuhnle, Judith Sklar, Jeffrey Townsend, Lisa Rogers, Robert Chastain, Patricia White, Chris Cobey, Maria Bellafronto, Clark Stone, Mary Wrightson, Deanna Burneikis, Mia Mosher, Rolayne Edwards, BJ Fadem, Andrea Flint, Nia Hildreth, Dennis Chiu, Michael Desmarais, Alison Buchanan, Jon Swenson, Katie Diemer, Sean Stenstrom, Amir Alem, Emann Chan, Allen Speare, Inchan Kwon, Holden Green, Stephen Kline, Robert Luft, Felicia Jafferies, Dawn Sweatt,  Paul Colin, Mary Huser, Robert Coehlo, Elizabeth Pianca, Sheila Hathaway, David Bicknell, Gregg McKerroll, Susan Fish, Daniel Jensen, Jessica Rauff, G. Hopkins Guy, III, Phuong Fingerman, Dan Fingerman, Anthony Flemmer, Samuel Chuck, Michael Dodson, Nicole Ford, Alfred White, Jim Bratton, Rhesa Rubin, James Towery, Kristen McMichael, Jonathan Hicks, Daniel Rothbach, Harrison Taylor, Crystal Riggins, Mike Vidmar, Johnny Go Go, Jennifer Proctor, Patrick Hammon, Amy Smith, Mary Feldman, Rory Coetzee, Andrew Westover, Bernie Greenfield, Justin Draa, Josh Bennett, Eric Geffon, Katelyn Knight, Leslie Maglione, Yanna Sukhodrev, Kimberly Pham, Karen Heggie, Minal Belani, Nicholas Zeltzer, Rona Layton, Sam Phillips, Jessica Fry, Mike Amaral, Nicole Fraser, Laurel Sevier, Robert Weeks, Patrick Graber, Ben Ebert, Kirsten Fish, George Leavell and James Torre.  Many of these individuals, to borrow a phrase from Judge Socrates Manoukian, belong to the Parthenon of Champions for volunteering for more than one round!

From our local superior court bench, Judges Ramon, Elfving, Loftus, Duong, Monahan, Chang (Ret.), Del Pozzo, Lee, Chiarello, Kumli, Herlihy (Ret.), Arroyo, Overton, Nishigaya, Zepeda, Schwarz, Barnum, Woodhouse, Piecre, McKenney, L. Edwards (Ret.), Clark, Jacobs-May, Kirwan, Persky and Ambler (Ret.) also graciously agreed to donate their time.  And, from our Sixth District Court of Appeals bench, Justices Bamattre-Manoukian and Mihara have once again answered the call to volunteer.  Many of our judges are volunteering for two or more rounds to make sure our students receive the benefit of their experience.

So, if you haven’t volunteered yet in your community, what are you waiting for?

I also want to recognize those SCCBA members who have been members of the Santa Clara County Bar Association for 50 or more years.  They are:

Hon. John T. Ball                      1959

Bertram Berns                         1959

Frank Burriesci                        1956

Stephen Gazzera                     1955

James Gifford                          1959

Russell Roessler                     1955

Lester Sachs                           1960

Thomas Salciccia                   1958

Ernest Schmidt                        1953

Vincent Sevely                          1955

Bernard J. Vogel, Jr.               1956

Our legal community is so much stronger because we benefit from their experience and wisdom.  

If you have not yet volunteered for our county mock trial tournament, the State High School Mock Trial Tournament Finals are coming to San Jose between March 19 and 21, 2010 and will be hosted by the Santa Clara County Bar Association in cooperation with the Superior Court of Santa Clara County.  

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2010: The New Beginning

Posted By Mark Shem, Sunday, January 10, 2010
Updated: Friday, April 25, 2014

[reprinted from the January 12, 2010, Daily Journal, SCCBA Monthly Newsletter]          

I am honored to serve as the 2010 Santa Clara County Bar Association President at the start of the second decade of the new millennium.  After serving in leadership positions over the last ten years, I know our Association is well poised to handle the challenges of the new decade.  The Santa Clara County Bar Association is not the same one I joined back in 1991.  

I cannot help but observe the monumental changes that have occurred in our profession and our society.  Take my grandfather for instance.  When he and my grandmother wanted to buy a home in the country in the early 1960s, many San Jose neighborhoods would not sell to them merely because they were Chinese.  Back then, our Bar Association was predominantly, if not exclusively, comprised of white men.  Members communicated with each other primarily through the mail or phone.  Today, our Association is becoming as diverse and multi-cultural as the county’s population.  We no longer tolerate exclusion based upon race, gender, or sexual orientation.  We now communicate through email, twitter, Facebook, text messages, MySpace, Lawlink, the telephone, and yes, still via snail mail.  Our law practices are no longer confined to the county or town where we are based.  Things have changed in the fifty years since my grandparents searched for a home, and for the better. Our Bar Association reflects the changes in the diversity of its members, practice areas and experiences.  But, the onus is on us, to continue to perfect these changes.  There are still many challenges that face our profession and society.  

It is no secret that our fellow citizens and colleagues are still hurting from the Great Recession.  You read in the papers about home foreclosures, people in severe legal distress, many who cannot afford basic legal representation, and lawyers who are out of work.  Our Bar Association and our members are in the best possible position to help.  One of our founding goals is to "serve the general welfare of the people of Santa Clara County, including the members of the legal profession."  From Association programs such as, the Lawyer Referral Service, Fee Arbitration, continuing legal education, and many more, the Santa Clara County Bar Association offers tools to help.

This year, I challenge our members to help our community by participating in one of three ways--a trifecta if you will-- by doing one of the following.

First, volunteer to provide pro bono services.  Throughout the year, we offer training in various substantive areas for pro bono work, as well as a "boot camp", free of charge to give you the tools and knowledge to help the neediest of our citizens.  The SCCBA Pro Bono Initiative: Helping Lawyers Help Others offers a web site,, providing the names and addresses of legal service agencies seeking volunteers as well as information on the training.   For those attorneys who contribute pro bono hours through this initiative, we recognize your efforts at the annual Pro Bono Recognition Reception in the Fall.   I challenge all of you to contribute at least 60 hours of direct pro bono representation called for in the SCCBA Pro Bono pledge.  In 2009, our members report nearly 30,000 hours of pro bono work.  I challenge you to increase those hours by 25%.  

Those who have participated have reported the joy of helping someone in need.  Providing pro bono services is a way of giving back to the community and serving our community.  Even if  you just help one person’s life to become brighter, isn’t that worth it?

Second, if being immersed in the law 24/7 is not enough, try volunteering in the community.  There are many worthwhile community projects.  If you are looking for a project, may I suggest the high school mock trial program?  Every year in February, budding high school attorneys from various high schools across our county come to the downtown superior court to learn about our judicial system by role playing attorneys and witnesses in a hypothetical criminal case.  The program needs attorneys to come, watch, listen and critique their performance.   And, no one goes to jail at the end of the day. 

On a personal level, after coaching at a local high school for 17 years, I cannot count the number of students who described to me the positive impact the program has had on their lives and career paths.   In particular, one student, who was raised in the shadows of Chernobyl,  participated in mock trial, attended law school, and later clerked for Justice David Souter.  He attributes his career path in part to his experiences in the mock trial program.  He is currently working in the Obama Administration as a legal counsel.   Others still are now individuals whom I am proud to call "colleagues."  To become involved in the mock trial program, contact Law Related Education Chair Kevin Hammon at 408-491-4221 or email at for more information.

In the third week of March, high school students from across California will descend upon San Jose for the State Finals to earn the right to represent the State of California at the National Mock Trials in May.  The Santa Clara County Bar Association is hosting our future colleagues, judges and taxpayers as they continue to learn about our judicial system.  They will need your support so please volunteer for that to become a scorer for the State Finals as well.  Contact Angela Storey at for more information.

Third, if you cannot afford the time, please donate money to legal services including the Silicon Valley Campaign for Legal Services.  Unfortunately in this economic downturn, the big corporate donors have been unable to continue to make their generous contributions.  Legal service organizations across the county are suffering from budget shortfalls as the usual sources have dried up.  I challenge our members to fill the gap and make a donation today.  The equivalent of one billable hour will do.  

I realize we cannot fix all that ails us over night.  But if we can save one mother from domestic violence or help another obtain visitation rights or influence a high school senior to be the first in his/her family to go to college, we will have succeeded.  

As the year progresses, I will periodically report on your efforts to meet these challenges and goals.  

At the Bar Association, we will continue to improve our ongoing programs.  This year, we will upgrade our internal database application.  This upgrade will allow us to upgrade the functionality and design of our website and membership directory, among other improvements.  Implementing this upgrade will continue to place our bar association at the forefront in the use of technology to serve our members.   

You may have noticed you did not receive the annual hard copy of the 2010 Membership Directory.    Unfortunately, the cost of publication has become prohibitive.  An improved database will allow us to make our online membership directory more useful to you.  

We also plan to hire a marketing director to help us more effectively communicate with you and the public about the Association’s many excellent services and programs, including our continuing legal education programs.

 We will continue to offer the CLE programs that you want and need for your practice.  And, we will offer CLE programs that are two or three hours for the incredibly low price of $65.  We will also continue to evaluate ways to keep our Lawyer Referral Service relevant to our members and community.  

In short, we will continue to provide the services and programs to remain your bar association of choice.
We have many challenges ahead and a full agenda on our plate for 2010. But every journey starts with the first step.  Along with the other officers and the Board of Trustees, I look forward to taking those 
first steps with you. 

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