CAALA’s Gala: A tradition that’s not a contradiction

Celebrating the Trial Lawyer of the Year and other annual award recipients

Stuart Zanville
2015 December

Sometimes CAALA is a curious paradox. You probably know that a paradox is a statement that on the surface appears to be a contradiction, but is nevertheless true.

Here is a description of CAALA that seems to contradict itself: “CAALA is constantly changing and at the same time strongly embraces tradition.”

Both statements are true and together they are among the many things that make CAALA special.

The legal community, our members and yes, the world has changed since CAALA was founded in 1949. We’ve changed, too.

But CAALA is also an association of traditions, and some haven’t changed, they only get better with time.

 One of CAALA’s most endearing, and enduring traditions is the annual installation and awards dinner. For 67 years our association has held a spectacular dinner to install the incoming officers and Board and to honor attorneys and judges who make a difference.

On Saturday, January 16, 2016, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel will be the site of the 2016 installation and awards dinner. This night is clearly our association’s most popular social event.

It’s become so popular it is now known simply as the CAALA Gala. More than 900 attorneys and jurists will be in attendance when 2015 CAALA President Joe Barrett passes the gavel to incoming President Dave Ring.

There are few events within the legal community that truly embody civility, mutual respect and admiration among jurists, defense attorneys and plaintiff trial lawyers. The CAALA Gala does exactly that.

L.A. Superior Court Presiding Judge Carolyn Kuhl will administer the installation oath to Ring, the new CAALA officers (Ricardo Echeverria, Mike Arias, Shawn McCann, Jeff Rudman and Genie Harrison) and the 2016 Board of Governors.

But the highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the annual awards to attorneys and jurists. The Gala has become extremely popular as attorneys and judges spend time with old friends and celebrate their professions. Recognizing judges and attorneys for their dedication to the highest professional standards not only fosters civility and pays tribute to the award winners, it also pays tribute to the entire trial bar and bench.

The 2015 CAALA Annual Award honorees are Michael Bidart (Charlie O’Reilly Trial Lawyer of the Year), Michael Fields (Ted Horn Award), Danica Dougherty Crittenden (Rising Star), The Hon. Roy Paul (Alfred J. McCourtney Trial Judge of the Year) and The Hon. Raymond Ikola (Roger J. Traynor Appellate Justice of the Year).

Trial Lawyer of the Year

Michael Bidart is the 2015 Charlie O’Reilly Trial Lawyer of the Year. He is Managing Partner at Shernoff, Bidart, Echeverria and Bentley where he developed the firm’s health insurance practice. Bidart joined the firm in 1986 and his distinguished career has had a major impact on the healthcare system.

The CAALA Board of Governors recognized Bidart for Rahm v. Kaiser; a difficult and challenging case that resulted in a successful verdict on behalf of Anna Rahm, a young woman who lost her leg due to Kaiser Permanente’s negligent care.

The other 2015 Trial Lawyer of the Year finalists were Torsten Bassell, Rahul Ravipudi, Nick Rowley and Robert Simon.

Ted Horn Memorial Award

Michael Fields is the recipient of the 2015 Ted Horn Memorial Award presented to a CAALA member who has provided outstanding service to the Association and the legal community and whose career represents the best values of CAALA.

Fields has served CAALA and the Trial Bar for his entire 47-year legal career. He was CAALA President in 2003 and was responsible for many programs and policies that have become part of CAALA’s culture.

The other Ted Horn Award finalists were Mike Alder, John Blumberg, Gary Dordick and Arash Homampour.

Rising Star Award

Danica Dougherty Crittenden is the recipient of the 2015 Rising Star Award, presented to outstanding young CAALA members who have practiced law for less than 10 years.

She is an associate at Shernoff, Bidart, Echeverria and Bentley where she has worked on a number of high profile cases and trials since joining the firm in 2010.

Other finalists included John Hinman, Jonathan Howell, Cioffi Remmer and Alyssa Schabloski.

Trial Judge of the Year

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Roy Paul is the 44th recipient of the Alfred J. McCourtney Trial Judge of the Year award.

He was appointed to the L.A. Superior Court in 2000 and is currently assigned to the Deukmejian/Long Beach Courthouse. He began his career as a jurist as a Downey municipal court judge and municipal court commissioner before his appointment to the Superior Court.

Appellate Justice of the Year

Justice Raymond Ikola, Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Three is the recipient of the Roger J. Traynor Memorial Award, presented annually to the Appellate Justice of the Year.

He was appointed to the Orange County Superior Court in 1995 by Gov. Pete Wilson and was named by Gov. Gray Davis to the Court of Appeal in 2001.

Tickets for the CAALA Gala are now available at the CAALA web site , but don’t procrastinate, the event traditionally sells out, and demand this year will be high.

Stuart Zanville Stuart Zanville

Stuart Zanville is the Executive Director of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). Contact him at (213) 487-1212 or by e-mail:

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