A time to be thankful

An expression of appreciation to those who work so hard to make OCTLA what it is

Ted B. Wacker
2015 December

As President of OCTLA for 2015, I really feel it appropriate to say “thank you” for all of the effort this Board has put into the organization, and for all we accomplished this year. 

At the end of last year, I personally took on the opportunity of a lifetime in starting my own firm. I knew this endeavor would not be easy on my family including my wife Erin and our three children John, Kelly and Danny.   These opportunities however, arise only every so often, and when they do it is important to take advantage of them. 

I also knew that starting my own firm while at the same time leading this great organization would be a huge commitment. Quite candidly, I had a private meeting with both Executive Director Janet Thornton and our then President Casey Johnson to let them know I was starting my own firm and that this would result in me likely not having as much time to devote to the presidency of OCTLA. I did not want to in any way hurt the organization, so I offered to either resign or delay my presidency a year.

Both Janet and Casey emphatically said, “Don’t worry about it, you can do this.  We have your back.” In addition, I also approached then Vice President Vince Howard with the same dilemma. Again, the response was the same, “I will always have your back.” With that unyielding support, I felt confident that I could indeed lead this organization this year. So I want to personally thank Janet Thornton, Casey Johnson and Vince Howard for their support this year.  I could not have had better bookends than to sandwich my Presidency between Casey and Vince.

Off to the races

So, we were off to the races: We had an incredible retreat at Aviara Country Club in San Diego in January. Our board came together as one just like any sports team would do getting ready for a season. And also knowing my situation of starting my own firm, this entire Board stepped up and supported me personally as well as this organization so that we remained one of the top TLA’s in California. So I also want to say “thank you” to this entire Board for the support they provided throughout this year. It is amazing what a unified team can do working together. This passage says it all.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.)

Our Installation was held at the Balboa Bay Club. Justice John K. Trotter was the officiant for the swearing in of officers. This was especially poignant for me as Justice Trotter has been a friend of my wife’s family for over 30 years.  My very good friend and colleague, Carlos Prietto, who I started in practice with almost 25 years ago, provided the introduction for me. Sadly, this was the last time I would see Carlos alive. He passed away suddenly a few weeks later.  He has been missed by me, as we would meet for lunch every few months. I am thankful that he was there to introduce me as President. Carlos, I miss you, my friend.


Overall, we simply had a great year as an organization. I am not going to be able to single out every event or every Board member that contributed to the success of the organization this year. However, I wanted to briefly mention a few and highlight some of our events throughout this year. 

The real backbone of OCTLA has always been our monthly educational seminars at Tustin Ranch Golf Course.  The education committee was led once again by Cynthia Craig and co-chaired by Janice Vinci and Brent Caldwell.  Cynthia took charge of this committee and provided some of the best educational seminars with incredible speakers. And Janice and Brent stepped into new roles as chairs of this committee and did an excellent job.

We also co-sponsored the CAOC/ Consumer Attorneys of the Inland Empire Palm Springs weekend MCLE seminar at Rancho Las Palmas Resort in May 2015. This event has grown each year that OCTLA has been involved.  We have a great partnership with the leaders of CAOIE including Jason Sanchez, Greg Rizio and Greg Bentley. This was a very special event in which the CAOIE inducted Tino Garza into the Hall of Fame. It was a very emotional introduction of Mr. Garza, provided by California ABOTA Attorney of the Year, Bill Shapiro.

We also had our most successful ever Columbus Day Bench and Bar Golf Tournament at El Niguel Country Club. We had a Cuban theme with Fedoras, Cuban cigars, Cuba Libre and Mojito drinks served on the course, and ended the day with a Cuban band playing at the cocktail hour. I wanted to specifically say thank you to our Executive Committee member oversight for golf, Geraldine Ly. She truly cares about OCTLA and gives so much of her time and effort; it is really incredible. And again, I want to thank Janice Vinci for acting as chair of the golf tournament along with Rob Gibson who has been the primary leader for the golf tournament and making this event a success for many years.

Our Gavel magazine is published quarterly. This really amounts to a full-time job – collecting, reviewing and editing articles, and coming up with new and cutting-edge topics for our members. We also publish pictures of our events in the Gavel along with “outside the law” photos and judicial interviews. This committee was once again headed by Sarah Serpa of Callahan and Blaine. It is not an easy job and oftentimes a thankless one. I really want to give a shout out to Sarah and to Atticus Wegman of Aitken, Aitken and Cohn for all of their hard work in putting together Orange County’s finest legal publication.

Finally, we recently ended this year with our annual Top Gun Trial Attorney of the Year awards gala at the Fairmont Hotel on November 21, 2015. Our Top Gun selection committee was chaired by Rob Gibson with oversight by Jim Pantone. The process of reviewing the nominees and vetting each candidate is an arduous process to say the least. I want to thank Rob and Jim and all of the Top Gun selection committee for the work they did. We have a separate committee that actually plans the Top Gun event and this year that committee was chaired by Paul Lee. Our community outreach committee, led by Kevin Liebeck, Jim Pantone and myself, helped select our charity for this year, Miracles for Kids. We helped raise money for this great charity to help families of children with serious illness at CHOC Hospital.

Of course, none of the accomplishments of this organization would have been possible without the efforts of OCTLA’s Executive Director, Janet Thornton. She has been the fearless leader of OCTLA for well over 20 years. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Janet for all of her efforts every year and this year is no exception. Without question, OCTLA would not be as strong as it is without Janet Thornton at the helm. You are the captain of the ship!

Thank you to CAALA and its Advocate magazine for giving OCTLA the opportunity to provide this President’s message each month. We appreciate it.

And lastly, thank you to every trial attorney out there for doing what you do. We are always better off working together collectively.

Ted B. Wacker Ted B. Wacker

Ted Wacker has been a trial attorney involved in litigating cases for nearly 25 years and past President of the Orange County Trial Lawyers’ Association (OCTLA). He specializes in catastrophic injury cases including individual personal injury cases involving accidents, medical malpractice, elder abuse as well as mass tort pharmaceutical and medical device cases. Mr. Wacker was selected as a California Super Lawyer for 2013-2017.

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