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He speaks softly, his handshake is not exactly hearty, and he seems immune to losing his cool. But don’t tell Carl Primavera that he doesn’t have enough fight in him. You might just wind up on the wrong end of his bayonet. Only days before ceremonially assuming the leadership mantle of the Philadelphia Bar Association, the 48-year-old incoming chancellor reflected on what brought him to this point and shared his vision for the organization’s immediate future. And he put to rest any notion that he doesn’t have the requisite passion to defend the association’s interests or battle for his own agenda. A chancellor, after all, has to be more than a photo-opportunity-craving cheerleader for lawyers. Just take a look at the past three people to hold down the job. Mark Aronchick battled on behalf of failed federal judicial appointee Frederica Massiah-Jackson. Edward Chacker coordinated a five-county effort to oppose a controversial tort reform bill in the state legislature that he felt aided the corporate world at the expense of the poor. And current chancellor Doreen Davis locked horns with the some of the city’s most powerful judges concerning funding of court-appointed attorneys. So what will the mild-mannered Primavera do when confronted with such situations? The Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzberg & Ellers partner answered that question by swiveling around in his office chair and retrieving what at first glance appeared to be a metal rod mounted on a plaque. He quickly removed a cloth covering the top of the object and revealed a faux bayonet given to him by a client. Primavera, a land-use litigator, had secured a permit for the client to build a gigantic factory outlet mall in the middle of Gettysburg’s farmland, which was achieved only after major battles with local homeowners who objected to the invasion of their serene community by such a commercial endeavor. The project is now a major success, and he said the once-skeptical local residents love it. Inscribed on the plaque was a note of thanks for Primavera’s work on “the second battle of Gettysburg.” “I may not be the best talker or the best fighter, but I have my insight on things, and I know which side to bring out for a situation,” Primavera said. “People sometimes confuse my graciousness for being completely conciliatory. But they’ve never seen the bayonet.” And Primavera will no doubt get at least a few opportunities to pull out his Civil War weaponry in 2001, as he inherits several hot-button issues from Davis. Chief among them is the court-appointed attorney funding issue. Emotions ran high after Philadelphia Common Pleas Court President Judge Alex Bonavitacola and Administrative Judge John W. Herron announced in September that they no longer wanted to be in the business of handling the assignment and payment of court-appointed attorneys who handle criminal, juvenile and dependency cases for indigents. Harsh words from defense attorneys about the judges that hit the pages of The Legal Intelligencer have created some tension between the two sides. The judges first said they were going to put out a request for proposal and have since hired a respected consulting group to study the issue. The latter initiative cooled some of the rhetoric coming from association members who felt an RFP would have created an environment where cost-effective representation superseded quality representation of the indigent. Primavera opposes in principle the idea of an RFP, but he said he hopes there will be less acrimony between the court and the association than there is now. He believes the association can hold onto its stance while being open to new ideas. “This is an important issue for the public sector,” Primavera said. “We, as lawyers, have to show the world that equal justice for all is not just a phrase. But we need to work as partners with the courts to make sure we live up to that commitment to the indigent.” BAR VOTING ISSUE Another issue that will almost certainly take up much of Primavera’s time during at least the first quarter of next year is that of bar association voting methods. Davis, acting on the recommendation of a committee she formed, circulated a petition to change association bylaws and add Internet and mail-in ballots to the current in-person only voting format. After getting the requisite signatures, the proposed bylaw amendment must be voted on by the entire association membership. Primavera, along with the majority of the board of governors, opposes the concept of Internet and mail voting. He led the charge last month to form an ad hoc committee that will study the issue and present a report to the board at its annual retreat in January. He said there will most likely be a dueling bylaw amendment proposal to come out of the ad hoc committee, possibly including a plan to allow for absentee ballots for members whose offices are outside Philadelphia’s business nerve center, Center City. Davis does not believe such a plan adequately addresses the needs of Center City lawyers who are too busy to make it to the polls. But Primavera said the association needs to stress active participation from its members. “I’m going to talk about that in my speech [at Tuesday's annual meeting],” Primavera said. “If you can’t take 10 or 15 minutes out of your life to come down and vote, then you are not really investing much into the association.” In terms of his own agenda, Primavera is exploring an initiative to improve the relationship between the association and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, hoping the end result would be more funding for the Philadelphia Bar Foundation. He also envisions a partnership between the association, the courts and organizations like Pennsylvania for Modern Courts that would encourage more citizen participation with jury trials. Primavera plans a continuous celebration of the 10th anniversary of the public interest section, highlighting lawyers in the private and public sector doing this kind of work. The celebration will be weaved into various association events through the course of the year. Serving his clients while achieving these goals will be a challenge, along with finding time for his wife and 9-year-old son. But Primavera said it would be made easier by his long-standing motivation to practice law. The son of a registered nurse and a violist — his now-retired father conducts the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra — Primavera grew up in Upper Darby, Pa., and took a liking to the law as early as high school. By the time he enrolled at Penn State University as a political science major, he was certain of his career choice, even clerking for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. Upon graduation, he immediately entered Temple University Law School, where his classmates included his predecessor Davis. During his first year after law school, Primavera clerked for the late Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge G. Fred DiBona, whose family played a key role in the young attorney’s early career. While working for the judge, he also spent time assisting DiBona’s son, Fred Jr., at his law firm, Presenza & DiBona. LAND USE EXPERTISE At the advice of DiBona, Primavera accepted a position with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, where he first gained an interest in land use litigation. “I had seen the civil side and the criminal side so it was a logical next step,” Primavera said. “The redevelopment authority really exposed me to land use, urban renewal, dealing with various agencies. It was the perfect blend of political science and the law.” After four years, though, Primavera wanted to try his hand at large-firm life. At the suggestion of the DiBona family, he contacted Harold Cramer, a senior partner at Mesirov Gelman Jaffe Cramer & Jamieson. He soon accepted a position as an associate there, growing through the ranks with contemporaries such as Alan Kessler, Kenneth Aaron, Tony Watkins and Bradley Moss. Primavera gradually became one of the preeminent land use attorneys in the city, which earned him management roles at Mesirov during the early 1990s. He was part of the team that helped guide the firm out of the recession-linked layoffs, serving as litigation department chair and being elected to two three-year terms on Mesirov’s executive committee. But last year he decided to make the move to Klehr Harrison. He had been working with Klehr Harrison attorneys in representing the Goldenberg Development Co., developers on the DisneyQuest project at Philadelphia’s Eighth & Market Streets. Aside from Goldenberg, Primavera’s diverse client base includes CVS Pharmacy, Kmart, Philadelphia waterfront developer Bart Blatstein, Alright Parking and Keystone Outdoor Advertising. Since joining Klehr Harrison, Primavera has worked with the University of the Arts in its Philadelphia Center City campus project, as well as developers of a high-rise on 15th and Chestnut Streets and a telecommunications hotel at 15th and Spring Garden Streets. Though Klehr Harrison name partner Leonard Klehr certainly has Philadelphia Mayor John Street’s ear, Primavera said his land use expertise was never called into action during the recent jousting over where to place the new Philadelphia Phillies stadium. But as a member of the business community and a land use lawyer, he certainly has his opinions about the subject. “I think it would have been really exciting to have a downtown stadium that could have connected to North Philadelphia,” Primavera said. “I think it could have done for North Philadelphia what the Avenue of the Arts has done as a link to South Philadelphia. A major development like that would have no doubt sent over tiny ripples of development and investment into a community that needs it. “But it got too contentious and too expensive, and I think the South Philadelphia site has the infrastructure already in place. Some things can be done to make it a better place to visit. Ron Rubin and Comcast are looking into putting in some restaurants and clubs. So I don’t think it will be as immediately satisfying as Center City would have been, but it may be more practical in the long run.” ITALIAN ROOTS As a proud Italian American, Primavera is a former Justinian Society chancellor. He said has always remembered that esteemed Italian-American practitioners such as DiBona, Edward Mannino, Anthony “Skip” Minisi and Joseph Jacovini paved the way for younger lawyers like himself to opportunities that were not always so readily available. “I think Italian-American lawyers my age or younger might take for granted [the opportunities available today],” Primavera said. “There was a time with the Justinians where we thought about the organization’s future, because so many of us are now at big firms. But we can use that as strength.” “I still think [discrimination against Italian American] lawyers exists today. It’s just not as outward. Some people just assume that you’re from a lower economic strata or you possess a limited level of sophistication. So we’re still victimized by stereotypes, but we’ve made great progress. I think we need to keep our sense of hurt over that and use it to help others or are less fortunate [through pro bono work]. You don’t forget the past; you learn from it.” The coming-out party for Primavera is bound to be especially sweet, if only for the fact that it has been a long time coming. He originally ran and lost a close race in 1996 to Ed Chacker. He decided to try again two years later and was unopposed. “Everything has a way of working itself out for the best,” Primavera said. “Losing turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. Ed really wanted it, and I was very young then. I think I’ve matured since then. I’m better equipped to serve the association now.”

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