California Lawyers Association

Keeping Our Promise to Advocate for You

By President Emilio Varanini and 
Chair of the Board of Representatives Betty Williams

Advocacy was one of the main benefits we and others envisioned when we left the State Bar to chart our own course as the voluntary bar association for all California attorneys in 2018.  Advocacy for our members, the legal profession, and the public. 

As the statewide association for attorneys in California, and the second-largest voluntary bar organization nationwide, we have a special voice in speaking for attorneys and the profession. That voice is enhanced when we work with our partners such as local and affinity bars, legal aid organizations, and bodies such as the Access to Justice Commission, to work for the improvement of our profession, the laws, and our system of justice.

Today, we are extremely proud of the association’s robust advocacy efforts, which have soldiered on during the past year despite a global pandemic. We take this opportunity to share a few examples.

In the past two months alone, we have shepherded through a resolution at the ABA House of Delegates, organized the upcoming virtual Legislative Day for members to interact with state lawmakers, and condemned the rise in hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Read on for more information about each of those accomplishments.

House Resolution to Increase Traffic Stop Safety

 As an active participant in the ABA’s policy-making body, the ABA House of Delegates, in which state bars around the nation have the leading voice, CLA helps set policies, goals, and norms for our profession and the system in which we serve.  This fits CLA’s mission statement: “Promoting excellence, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law.” 

At the House of Delegates Mid-Year Meeting in February, CLA took the lead on a resolution to address racial profiling at discretionary traffic stops in which drivers are automatically ordered out of the car, by calling for the enactment of policies and the use of training as to when drivers should be ordered out of cars. Such policies and training serve to reduce racial profiling, remedy implied bias, and enhance officer safety in a setting in which Americans most often encounter law enforcement. This resolution was drafted due to the efforts of our Racial Justice Committee. Several other ABA groups joined as sponsors, including the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and the ABA Criminal Justice Section. The resolution was approved overwhelmingly by the ABA House of Delegation.

The drafting and passage of the resolution built off our work last year at the ABA House of Delegates, when CLA supported important resolutions relating to the remedying of systematic discrimination and put forth what became the association’s first-ever approved House resolution. That resolution urged governments to pass anti-lynching legislation to “make it clear that such measures have no place in a system dedicated to the fair administration of justice and the rule of law.”

CLA’s work in the House and its building on House resolutions to advocate on behalf of its members, the profession, and the public will continue.

Legislative Day

Please join us on April 14, 2021, for our annual Legislative Day. The free virtual event offers an opportunity to interact directly with lawmakers and explore the legislative issues that affect your practice and the profession. We’ll also present CLA’s Legislator of the Year award to Assemblymember Mark Stone. Legislative Day is an annual event at CLA in which the leadership of CLA and its Section have the opportunity to engage the top legislative leadership.  This event is part of the active engagement of CLA and its subject-matter expert Sections with the Legislature, the Judicial Council, and the State Bar in shaping fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law in accordance with our mission.

In the afternoon, we’ll break out into smaller sessions to dive deeper into legislative issues of particular interest to members of our Business Law and Privacy Law Sections. Many of our Sections have had a long-standing presence in serving as experts and commenting on proposed laws and initiatives in the Legislature, the Judicial Council, and elsewhere. Other Sections are beginning to ramp up their involvement; all are welcome.

Standing in Solidarity with Asian Americans

We know the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is hurting right now due to the rising tide of hate crimes enhanced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As lawyers practicing in California, the state with the largest AAPI community in the United States, and as stewards of the fair administration of justice and the rule of law, we must do everything we can to confront and address bias of any sort. We took the first step by issuing a joint statement from us and our CEO calling on everyone to speak up and step up for justice against anti-Asian discrimination. 

We Welcome Your Ideas

In addition to these key initiatives, we routinely weigh in on changes impacting the legal profession and our legal system through our advocacy efforts. We’re always looking for opportunities where we can make your voice heard on policies affecting the profession and our legal system, such as through ABA resolutions or laws, rules, and regulations such as through the Legislature, the Judicial Council, and the State Bar. Let us know how we can become even better advocates for the profession, the public, and you. 

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