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The four candidates for a vacant State Bar Board of Governors seat are no strangers to the public eye or to controversy — they include a longtime foe of the State Bar, along with faces from past Bar and state races. And only a few weeks into the race, one candidate is already taking issue with a rival’s claim of four bar association endorsements. The District 3 candidates are: Boalt Hall professor Stephen Barnett, San Mateo attorney Michael Lynn Gabriel, Redwood City Attorney Vivian Kral and Emeryville attorney Michael Schmier. A special election will be held to fill the post vacated by Marie Weiner, a partner at Burlingame’s Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy, who was appointed to the San Mateo County Superior Court in May. The seat represents attorneys in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The term expires in 2004. The contenders tout a host of ideas to improve the lawyer group, including dismantling the State Bar if it can’t be fixed. Barnett, 66, has been a proud critic of the State Bar over the years. He has criticized the lawyer group about Minimum Continuing Legal Education, how it runs elections and attorney discipline. Recently he filed a federal suit against the State Bar to change rules that bar allowing out-of-state members from voting for Bar governors or running for those offices. Hoffmann v. The State Bar of California, C020999, was withdrawn from federal court and will be refiled in San Francisco Superior Court, the professor said. If elected, Barnett will recuse himself when the board discusses the case, he said. Barnett wants to slash Bar dues, reform MCLE and take a look at the Bar’s dual role of representing and policing lawyers. And if the State Bar can’t be streamlined and costs cut, he added, it should go. The California Supreme Court or the Judicial Council should take over its functions if that happens. Gabriel ran for the district seat in August 2001 and unsuccessfully ran for a state Senate seat in 1993. The 48-year-old tax lawyer says he still has plenty of good ideas for the Bar. Gabriel plans to use his Bar seat as a platform to garner support for a proposal to allow people to use their individual retirement accounts to buy homes. Gabriel said he plans to present the idea to Congress, and support from California attorneys will help give the idea momentum. Gabriel also wants to create an Internet bulletin board where lawyers can seek advice from colleagues and create a similar one for Board of Governors queries. Kral, a Redwood City attorney who ran for District 3 in 1997, will make a second attempt this fall. In 1997, Alamo attorney Palmer Madden — who later became State Bar president — beat Kral and San Jose attorney Bick Nguyen for the seat. Kral was in court Monday and was unavailable for comment. According to Kral’s candidate statement, she has been endorsed by the Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara bar associations. Kral, however, says she will be a reform candidate who wants to make the Bar more financially responsible. Kral, who was a judge pro tem for the State Bar Court, wants to keep an eye on Bar prosecutions so that “unwary” lawyers aren’t hounded over technicalities, her statement says. Schmier, who has taken two unsuccessful swings at the attorney general seat and once ran for the State Bar board, has also thrown his hat into the race. Schmier’s platform, as it was in many of the other races he has entered, is that all appellate opinions should be published. Schmier also could not be reached for comment. Although the race has just started, one candidate has cried foul about endorsements. Barnett says that the four bar associations that have backed Kral have a written agreement to rotate endorsements. The “Tammany Hall” deal anoints one candidate and robs other contenders of a chance to compete for the bar association’s support, said the law school professor, who went to an Alameda County Bar Association meeting last week to complain. An Alameda County Bar Association officer who was at the meeting said Barnett was persuasive, but the group decided to table the issue for now. “The endorsement is over,” said Spencer Strellis, an Oakland attorney who is vice president of the Alameda County Bar Association. Strellis said Barnett did not appear to seek the group’s endorsement, but merely wanted to discuss the agreement between the district’s bar associations. “We decided to discuss it further,” Strellis said. State Bar members must cast their votes by Nov. 19. A winner will be announced in early December.

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