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For the fourth time in less than two years, lawyers in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are choosing a representative for the State Bar’s Board of Governors. Sunnyvale solo practitioner Tahir Naim, Oakland Deputy City Attorney Demetrius Shelton, and Richard Tamor, a partner in Oakland’s Tamor & Tamor, have thrown their hats in the ring, and the counties’ 24,000 lawyers have until June 30 to vote. The election is the fourth in the Bar’s District Three in recent memory partly because two former governors from the area — Erica Yew and Marie Weiner — were appointed to the bench. The victor, who will join the board during the Bar’s annual meeting in September in Anaheim, would replace Carl Lindstrom Jr., who last year won election to finish out Yew’s term on the board. Shelton, 37, with the support of three of the four counties’ bar associations, as well as that of several past Bar presidents and minority bar groups — including the Charles Houston Bar Association and the East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association — appears to be the favorite in the race. The Santa Clara County Bar Association, however, refused to endorse Shelton, or any other candidate, because its members felt that Shelton — a member of the Alameda County Bar Association — violated a time-honored “gentlemen’s agreement” that rotates board representation among the four counties in District Three. Shelton ran last year when it was Santa Clara’s turn at the seat, likely causing Tamara Lopez, the county’s anointed candidate, to lose the election to Lindstrom. Shelton has downplayed the controversy, choosing instead to focus on his qualifications for the seat. Stressing a “proven track record of leadership,” he points to years of bar-related activities, including a current position on the National Bar Association’s Board of Governors. Shelton, who resides in Albany, pledges to be “a strong advocate for fairness, access to legal services and promoting diversity and progress” within the legal system. He also says he supports the concept of multi-jurisdictional practice, wants to see mandatory continuing legal education courses offered online, and would work to keep down annual dues and other costs. Shelton says he wants to focus on the needs of “new lawyers, solo practitioners and government attorneys.” But he says he would listen to all members of the Bar. “All decisions must be based on how they benefit the membership,” he says. “That must remain paramount.” And he believes outreach and networking would help many of the state’s lawyers change their perceptions about the Bar. “Outreach is always good,” he says, “to let people know the Bar is moving forward, progressing and working on programs and projects that benefit the members and public at large.” Naim, 42, is also making his second run at the seat. He also lost to Lindstrom last year but believes many of the issues remain the same. He too supports multi-jurisdictional practice and will be talking to in-house counsel — one of the groups that could benefit by opening the state’s borders to out-of-state lawyers — for their thoughts. Naim, who has six years of experience on the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, wants to take a look at the current dues charged lawyers and see if they are warranted. He also wants to make sure that the Bar is doing enough to crack down on the unauthorized practice of law by non-lawyers. Naim says he believes some changes could be made in the MCLE system, possibly lessening the number of required hours and letting lawyers take classes in the area of their specialties. “Let’s have people declare [their] practice area and take courses in that,” he says. “Let’s make it a lot more relevant to their practices.” Naim, who works at home, does employee benefits, executive employment agreements and tax law, and believes those business skills would help him on the Bar board. “You’ve got to have some background that lets you understand a balance sheet and at least basic management principles,” he says. Tamor, 34, is a past president of the Filipino Bar Association of Northern California. He practices complex civil litigation and criminal defense. The Alameda resident’s basic platform is to “bring the Bar back to the membership,” in that he believes the organization has the reputation of an exclusive club. Lawyers complain about paying dues, Tamor says, but he thinks that’s largely because the Bar doesn’t explain adequately how it uses the money. “The budget and accounting of the State Bar,” he maintains, “are sort of a mystery to a lot of people.” To most lawyers, Tamor states, the Bar is nothing more than a compliance letter, a Bar journal, a membership card and a dues bill. “The Bar should be more proactive,” he says, “and show what services [it] provides.” Tamor credits the association for putting out publications such as “Seniors & The Law” and “Kids & The Law,” but says they need to be in every lawyer’s waiting room. He also says the Bar needs to use technology more wisely. “You should be able to change your information online,” he says. “You should be able to pay your dues online.” Tamor also claims to be a good communicator. “I can get along with Joe Blow the Bag Man,” he says, “as well as the multi-million-dollar CEO of a company.” All three candidates are pleased by one aspect of the race: No matter who wins, the board gains another badly needed ethnic minority member. “Diversity is very important,” Shelton says. “It’s wonderful that will be the case.” Any voting lawyer who has lost or misplaced a ballot can contact the State Bar for a replacement.

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