Civility

From a bar-leader lunch to CAALA Vegas, it’s about the need to get along in the name of civil justice

Stuart Zanville
2018 September

On a recent Friday afternoon, 11 current and future presidents of L.A.’s three leading trial attorney bar associations had lunch. With each other. Think about it, six top plaintiff trial attorneys and five prominent defense attorneys having casual conversation over lunch. No acrimony, no arguing, no verbal fisticuffs – just lunch. L.A. Superior Court Presiding Judge Dan Buckley wasn’t present, but he would have been proud.

The lunch was arranged by CAALA President Mike Arias so that CAALA, LA-ABOTA and ASCDC’s leaders could get to know their counterparts and talk casually about how the three associations can continue working together to strengthen the trial bar and the Civil Courts in Los Angeles.

The conversation touched on several subjects of mutual interest to the three organizations such as their annual Joint Litigation Conference, Court Funding and the joint PI MSC Program. But, the conversation kept coming back to one topic: how can the three organizations promote civility between attorneys from both sides of the counsel table?

The trial attorney leaders unanimously agreed to develop more plans and programs to encourage civility between their respective members and members of the other trial bars. You will hear more in the coming months.

If you are reading this column while attending the CAALA Convention, you may wonder what a civil lunch between plaintiff and defense attorneys has to do with CAALA Vegas. The answer, of course, is everything.

CAALA Vegas is open to defense attorneys, too

CAALA’s annual convention is the nation’s premier trial lawyer association gathering. Three thousand attendees will hear more than 130 attorneys, jurists and legal professionals speak during the four-day convention.

But the convention is more than just education sessions and networking receptions. It is a microcosm of the entire legal community. While the primary focus will always be on the plaintiff civil attorneys who proudly call themselves trial lawyers, other attorneys and legal professionals are in attendance.

Look around and you will see CAALA attorney members, plaintiff attorneys from other trial lawyer and ethnic bar associations, judges, legal service providers, legal staff, defense counsel, corporate attorneys, elected officials, public interest lawyers, government and municipal attorneys, law students and their law professors.

Earlier in this column I wrote that LASC Presiding Judge Dan Buckley would approve of the lunch between defense and plaintiff trial attorney leaders. Here’s why.

If you have heard Judge Buckley speak to legal associations, attorney gatherings or law students, you probably heard him talk about the importance of promoting civility between plaintiff and defense trial attorneys. It’s a topic that’s dear to his heart.

He has often said that CAALA Vegas, with plaintiff and defense attorneys in attendance, is the perfect example of civility between trial attorneys.

At the end of this year, Judge Buckley will conclude a remarkable run in the leadership of the L.A. Superior Court, a term that spans nearly 10 years.

Judge Buckley earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from Notre Dame, then became managing partner of an L.A. law firm and in 2002 he was appointed to the L.A. Superior Court. In 2012 he became the supervising judge of the civil courts after serving as assistant supervising judge. In January 2015 he became Assistant Presiding Judge and in January 2017 he was named Presiding Judge of the world’s largest trial court.

In addition to teaching the importance of civility, Judge Buckley has worked tirelessly to improve the L.A. Superior Courts after the devastating budget cuts of recent years.

Along with Court Executive Officer and Clerk of Court Sherri Carter, Judge Buckley has overseen the reinstatement of Court services, the re-opening of Courthouses, the move of Civil Courts to the Spring Street Courthouse and the expansion of the Small Claims and UD Trial Courts.

Judge Buckley and Carter have also made technology a major priority, pushing hard to bring the Court’s antiquated technology systems up to and beyond current legal industry standards.

Judge Buckley speaks at numerous legal events, including CAALA Vegas and CAALA programs. He rarely says no when asked to be part of a CAALA program or speak to members, whether they are new lawyers or members of CAALA leadership.

The L.A. Superior Court is comprised of thousands of hard-working, dedicated bench officers and legal staff; but much of the credit for the improvements in the Court can be attributed to the leadership of Judge Buckley.

When his term as PJ ends at the end of the year, Judge Buckley will have more time to travel and follow Notre Dame sports, but he will also return to the Courtroom as a trial court judge; a decision welcomed by both plaintiff and defense attorneys. My guess is that he will continue encouraging civility in the courtroom.

As some of you may know, my college football allegiance is solidly in favor of the USC Trojans. You may also know that USC’s major national rival is Notre Dame. As my way of saying thank you to Judge Dan Buckley for all that he’s done for the courts, the trial bar and for our association, I hereby agree to root for the Irish when they play my Trojans this November. It’s one more example of how Judge Buckley’s actions result in civility.

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: stuart@caala.org.

Copyright © 2021 by the author.
For reprint permission, contact the publisher: Advocate Magazine