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DOCUMENTARY PROFILES JURIST’S IMPACT ON BENCH Most judges leave the bench with a trunk full of memories and a long list of opinions bearing their byline. But Judge Thelton Henderson, who has sat on the Northern District for more than 20 years, will also have a documentary film about his life. An excerpt of the work-in-progress was screened last week at The Impact Fund’s 10th anniversary celebration at San Francisco’s Argent Hotel. Abby Ginzberg, a board member of the nonprofit legal organization, is producing the documentary, tentatively titled “No Place in Civilized Society: The Life & Times of Thelton Henderson.” “I feel like Thelton Henderson is a local treasure,” says Ginzberg. “One day he’s not going to be around to tell his story, and it’s going to be really important to know what his example was.” While a documentary about a judge might not sound like the most riveting of films, Henderson’s life story is hardly run of the mill. Recruited by Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department during his third year at Boalt Hall School of Law, Henderson began his career enforcing voting rights in the South at the height of the civil rights movement. There, he struck up acquaintances with civil rights activists Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the federal bench in 1980, Henderson authored a number of important, sometimes controversial, opinions on issues including affirmative action and prison conditions. From 1990 to 1997, Henderson served as the Northern District’s chief judge. “I think that Judge Henderson’s courage and compassion as a judge is directly traceable to his experience in the civil rights era,” says Brad Seligman, the executive director of the Impact Fund. Judge Henderson switched to senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 1998, but still carries an active caseload. On his days off from the federal bench he sits on an Oakland drug court. – Alexei Oreskovic PRO BONO COMMITMENT Pro bono work carries its own rewards for Latham & Watkins of counsel Steven Schulman. But that’s not to say Schulman, Latham’s pro bono counsel, will turn down high-profile kudos from the American Bar Association. Latham is one of four recipients of the 2003 ABA Pro Bono Publico Award, which will be presented in August during the ABA’s annual meeting in San Francisco. The salute from the ABA comes after years of effort at Latham to commit more of the firm’s resources to pro bono, Schulman said. In 1998, the firm logged 36 hours per lawyer for pro bono, and many lawyers at the firm felt that wasn’t enough, Schulman said. The firm’s pro bono committee tried to increase the number of hours devoted to pro bono, but fell short of its goal, he said. Then Latham Chairman Robert Dell got involved, issuing a mandate in 2000 that pro bono was to be a priority. That seemed to do the trick, Schulman said. By last year, Latham had bumped its pro bono hours up to 106 hours per lawyer, representing a firmwide total of 120,087 hours. Once Dell got everyone’s attention, Schulman said, it was just a matter of harnessing everyone’s goodwill in a more organized fashion. Plus, the firm partnered with local organizations that referred cases. “Virtually every lawyer wants to do some sort of public interest work,” Schulman said. “Most people become lawyers because they want to serve the public.” The other award winners are Kimball Anderson, a Winston & Strawn partner in Chicago; Mary Pat Toups, of Laguna Hills; and Pfizer Inc.’s legal division. Schulman, a litigator based in Latham’s Washington, D.C., office, said the recognition is the gold standard of awards and he feels honored on behalf of the firm. But on a personal level, Schulman said, it doesn’t replace the satisfaction he gets from his pro bono work. “There’s no better feeling than standing in front of an asylum judge, learning you’ve won and telling a client they don’t have to go home,” Schulman said. – Renee Deger KING FOR A DAY There were no bugles blaring or cameras rolling last week when San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown issued a proclamation declaring May 15, 2003, Steinhart & Falconer Day. But the 35-lawyer firm was pleased with the recognition, bestowed in honor of its 100th anniversary. Besides the chance to issue a press release, Steinhart & Falconer also got a certificate marking the occasion. “Maybe it’s a little hokey,” said firm marketing director Elizabeth Jasper. “But it’s fun.” What did the firm have to do to get the honor? It just had to ask. The mayor’s office gets about 50 requests every month for a proclamation honoring an individual or organization, said press officer Chandra Lawrence, and most of them are granted. She said every year a couple of law firms ask for recognition of some occasion. Jasper said Steinhart & Falconer is marking its centennial with a series of events, including a couple of charity raffles and a party for clients and staff at the Exploratorium museum. The firm is marking May 15, 1903, when founder Jesse Steinhart was admitted to the California bar, as its official birthday. Jasper said she couldn’t find the date Steinhart opened the office and thinks the records may have been destroyed in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. “We’re generally not chest beaters,” said partner George Gnoss. But with the huge changes in the legal market, “we’re proud of the fact that we’ve been able to maintain our identity.” — Brenda Sandburg TIGHT TIMES Many of the lawyers who work for the city of San Francisco overwhelmingly voted to take a pay cut last week. The Municipal Attorney’s Association ratified a new two-year labor contract with a vote of 199 to 17. Its roughly 430 members work in offices across the city, including those of the district attorney, public defender, city attorney, sheriff and tax collector. “It’s not a particularly good contract for us in the abstract, but in the light of the fiscal realities, we believe it’s a good deal,” said the association’s president, Deputy City Attorney Tom Owen. The biggest concession lawyers make is contributing 7.5 percent of their annual pretax salaries toward their pensions for one year, though they get five additional floating holidays in return. Their base salaries range from about $68,000 to $166,000, Owen said. In the past, the city has paid all or most of the pension contributions. Despite the smaller paycheck, the lawyers made some significant gains in the contract, particularly for attorneys in the lower and middle ranks. The creation of a new salary scheme, called a deep class, will make annual pay raises automatic for employees up to a certain level, said Assistant District Attorney John Dwyer, an association officer. The current system leaves it “strictly up to the bosses of the department” to move someone from class to class, said Deputy City Attorney Sean Connolly, another officer. Another change offers severance pay to employees who have worked at least a year. “Before you had to be here for five years or more before you got severance,” Connolly said. Some higher-level attorneys will benefit from new protections in case of demotions. If a new chief takes the helm, “the union wants to make sure that people who are part of the old regime’s management team aren’t screwed,” Connolly said. The contract retains a new office head’s discretion to put in his or her own management team. But it allows those in some positions to keep the higher pay associated with their old job, and offers the option of leaving with severance pay if offered a position below a certain level. — Pam Smith

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