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Two are focused on state court budgets. Another is fighting for a stronger female presence on an increasingly male-dominated board. And a fourth continues to pursue a long-held obsession to see all court rulings published and citable as precedent. They are the four candidates for two Bay Area seats in the ongoing elections for the State Bar’s Board of Governors, the 23-member group that sets the rules and regulations for California lawyers. Competing in District Four, comprised of San Francisco and Marin counties, are Jeffrey Bleich, a partner handling complex litigation and other matters in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson, and Dena Cruz, counsel in the San Francisco office of First American Title Insurance Co. Running in District Three, made up of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, are James Scharf, an in-house counsel at the California State Automobile Association in San Jose, and Michael Schmier, an Emeryville solo practitioner. In the San Francisco race, both Bleich, 43, and Cruz, 47, have plenty of experience with bar groups. Bleich, who lives in Piedmont, is a past president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, while Cruz, of Orinda, is on the State Bar’s Task Force on Sections, co-chairs its Council of State Bar Sections and is an adviser to the Bar’s Real Property Section. Bleich puts priority on court funding, contending that the Bar needs to work with Sacramento to “ensure that the courts are open and that the essential services for indigent people and programs designed to help pro se litigants and those with language difficulties aren’t lost.” He says he has worked with State Bar leaders over the last year “to protect those critical services.” Cruz, a graduate of the Santa Barbara College of Law, worries most about gender diversity on the board. Only two female lawyers serve on the panel now, and their terms will expire in October. Female candidates are running in three other State Bar races. “I don’t think that the board [members] can encourage diversity and push law firms to hire women when they themselves don’t reflect it,” she says. “The board needs to have more women and more people of color on it.” Bleich, who got his degree at Boalt Hall School of Law, points out that Queen’s Bench, a women’s bar association, has endorsed him, and that anyone who has worked with him knows that he cares about diversity. Both Cruz and Bleich say that the Bar should act more as an advocate for its members, even as it acts to boost public confidence in lawyers. The District Four race is usually decided by voters from San Francisco, which has 14,803 active lawyers. Marin has 1,889. In the other election, Scharf, 43, faces Schmier, 59, a man who has run unsuccessfully for governor, attorney general, the Legislature and the State Bar twice on the issue of getting all state court decisions published. Schmier, whose degree is from the University of Michigan Law School, says he believes the State Bar should stand up to the state’s judges — many of whom oppose his goal — and make it possible for lawyers to cite all decisions. “I’d like to see the Bar board follow the state of New York, the state of Texas and the state of Michigan where the bars led the fight to get rid of these rules,” he says. Scharf, a graduate of Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, is more concerned with financing the state’s courts. “Adequate funding of the judiciary is one of the most important issues facing our community,” he says, “and the Board of Governors can take a lead role in lobbying and helping the governor and Legislature understand the importance of funding for the judiciary, so that a long-term budget can be put into place.” Scharf notes that he is part of a coalition of lawyers and judges who have invaded Sacramento this year to lobby legislators. Scharf also pushes the concept of the Bar providing law-related education to youngsters. It’s as important as the Bar’s core functions of admissions, regulation and discipline, he says, and is one way “to improve the public’s perception of our profession.” Schmier, who says he also wants the Bar to address the rising costs of discovery for attorneys and the speed of the civil justice system, accuses his opponent of being a “slate candidate.” Scharf was endorsed by all four counties in the district as part of a years-old agreement that rotates the governorship between the Peninsula and the East Bay. “He gets the mailers from all the bar associations,” Schmier says, “and unless somebody is willing to spend a lot of money, it’s very difficult to compete with that.” Scharf says the endorsements indicate he’s a quality candidate. “Taking turns is fair,” he says, “and it increases geographic diversity on the State Bar Board of Governors.” Without the agreement, Bar officials in the district say, candidates from Santa Clara, with 8,028 active lawyers, would have a distinct advantage. Alameda has 5,923 active lawyers, Contra Costa 3,323 and San Mateo 3,201. Ballots for the Bar elections were mailed out on April 30, and the last day to vote is June 30. The winners will take office in October during the State Bar’s annual meeting in Monterey. The District Four victor will replace Russell Roeca, a partner in San Francisco’s Roeca Haas & Hager, while the winner in District Three will take over for Redwood City solo Vivian Kral.

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