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The County Upon A Hill

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 6, 2018

By Kevin Hammon
2018 SCCBA President


John Winthrop famously described the early American colonies as the “city upon a hill” with the eyes of all people upon them.  In 2018, I submit that the city upon a hill is not a city at all, but rather a county.   Santa Clara County is a model to not just the rest of the country, but the world. We are the birthplace of Hewlett Packard and Apple Computer, and now home to over 6,500 technology companies.  Santa Clara County embodies innovation, diversity, and compassion. This County is committed to serving all of its residents, employing extensive efforts to provide resources to its most vulnerable members. 


We understand that our collective standard of living is enhanced when we take care of our senior citizens, foster children, homeless, criminal justice clientele, and mental health patients.  Our county upon a hill is indeed a special place- not just in the way that we govern and innovate- but in the way that we treat each other. Our respect for human dignity is unparalleled.     


Our county is politically and socially progressive. Following the 2008 passage of Proposition 8, Santa Clara County joined Los Angeles and San Francisco to become one of the first governmental entities in the world to sue for the right to administer same-sex marriages.  Just last year, Santa Clara County was awarded an injunction enjoining an executive order stripping “sanctuary jurisdictions” of federal funding. This is our county. This is our community. These are our values.


I believe that the words “Santa Clara County” appear in the name of our bar association not simply for geographic context but rather they serve as a reminder that we are part of a larger community.  While the Santa Clara County Bar Association cannot and should not become an agent for unrestrained partisan advocacy, I do believe it is important for lawyers to stand for something.  The SCCBA’s Statement of Purpose, set out in By-Law Article II, Sec. 2, recognizes that our society is faced with political and social questions that may be serious, complex, and highly controversial.  The Statement of Purpose authorizes the SCCBA to express official positions on these types of issues in order to help the public understand and attempt to solve problems.   


Long before Proposition 8 and the Marriage cases, the SCCBA supported the right to same sex marriage.  We opposed the state of Arizona’s SB 1070 which invited rampant racial profiling against Latinos, Asian-Americans, and others presumed to be “foreign” based upon how they look or sound.  More recently, our association opposed North Carolina’s discriminatory public restroom legislation, and maintained that a license to practice law in California should not depend upon the applicant’s immigration status. 


Our Mission Statement provides that we serve the public by promoting full and equal access to the legal system by all individuals. As lawyers, it is up to us to breathe life into terms like due process, judicial independence, equality, and justice. The SCCBA has not shied away from that challenge in the past. I look forward to continuing that tradition long into the future.

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Welcome to 2018! I enter the New Year with gratitude and hope

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 3, 2018

By Kevin Hammon
2018 SCCBA President

My gray hairs have finally outnumbered my brown hairs.  The trunk of my car is still littered with Christmas paper wrapping.   My five-year-old son’s hand paintings adorn the walls, desktops, and floor of my office. I have practiced law for over ten years, but regularly feel overwhelmed by what I have yet to learn.  When I reflect upon my new role as president of the Santa Clara Bar Association, I vacillate between “we will change the world” and “do not screw this up.”

Fortunately, the SCCBA is in many respects a well-oiled machine.  I credit my predecessors and CEO Chris Burdick for creating an exemplary infrastructure.  MCLEs run like clockwork according to a schedule established in the beginning of each year.  The Lawyer Referral Service is carefully managed by SCCBA personnel, connecting potential clients to appropriate attorneys.  Events like the Diversity Committee’s Reception Honoring Unsung Heroes and Judges’ Night are consistently fabulous.  The SCCBA’s budget is closely monitored by the Finance Committee, an on-staff accounting manager, and an accounting firm.  I continue to be impressed by the SCCBA’s outstanding organization, programs, and services.  I am pleased to report that there is only minimal risk of a rogue president causing any major damage to the SCCBA.  

There is no need to radically revamp the SCCBA or reevaluate its mission. The challenge lies in getting the word out, so to speak.  I have been actively involved in the SCCBA in some capacity for most of my legal career, but even I am still learning about the organization. The SCCBA, like many non-profit organizations, is challenged by a lack of awareness on the part of its members regarding the extent of its programming.  The legal profession has become increasingly balkanized. In order to survive, we need to cultivate a sense of community.  This starts with me. It is imperative that SCCBA leadership accept the charge of learning and communicating to members about the SCCBA’s programs and services.  The SCCBA has approximately 3,000 members, 14 committees, and 8 sections and sponsors upward of 100 MCLE programs, events and receptions each year.  Regardless of your practice area or interests, the SCCBA inevitably has something to offer you.  More importantly, you have something to offer the SCCBA.  Last year, the SCCBA celebrated its 100th anniversary.  If we are to survive another 100 years, we need your ideas, perspectives, and passion.         

At the beginning of each year, it is customary for the incoming SCCBA president to identify a theme, project, or an area of emphasis.  I would like to focus on civics engagement for children and youth.  The need for exposing young people to basic legal concepts has never been greater.  I have enjoyed being a part of the SCCBA’s mock trial program since my high school years.  The American Constitutional Society and Constitutional Rights Foundation offer exciting and innovative lawyers-in-the-classroom programs that I believe are worth exploring.  There are opportunities to partner with the Santa Clara County Office of Education in order to better serve the next generation.      

I look forward to being a part of the SCCBA’s future, but I recognize I cannot do this alone. We have outstanding attorneys in Santa Clara County.  I have enjoyed listening to my father’s generation of attorneys.  I have learned from lawyers who have overcome remarkable odds to find success in the legal profession.  I have no illusions that I will inspire you to reimagine the law or learn something new.  Whether your hair is brown, gray, or anything in between, I hope to connect you to resources that will help you become a better lawyer and to support your ideas for improving our legal community. Ultimately, I hope you will consider me a friend- or at least someone who can help you wrap a holiday gift or get a good deal on children’s art.

I look forward to sharing 2018 with you. The SCCBA’s Installation Event & Reception will take place at the McManis Faulkner law firm on January 24, 2018 at 5:30.  I hope to see you there and at other events throughout the year.    

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