“Not in my wildest dreams…"
In September 2014, when I was elected to be the next CAALA Secretary, and therefore the President in 2020, I wondered what issues we would be facing when my year as President would come around. In my wildest dreams never could I have imagined a global pandemic, closure of our courts, the cessation of civil jury trials, the cancellation of all CAALA’s live events including the Las Vegas Convention and the Plaintiff’s Trial Academy. And then there was the rising attention to social injustices with the call to end systemic racism, and resultant civil unrest. We suffered the loss of LA sports icon Kobe Bryant, civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis, and a Champion of Women’s Rights and the liberal voice of dissent in the United States Supreme Court for 27 years, Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not to mention who the incumbent President running for re-election would be this year, much less the level of divisiveness we would face in this country.
I will look back on this year not with complaint of the many challenges that our community had to face due to these remarkable circumstances, but with pride in the manner in which we faced them.
I have written many times this year about the ways in which our members have pivoted as necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, turning to new technology to operate their practices remotely. We all have made significant adjustments this year in order to keep ourselves and those around us safe from COVID-19. Our organization has done the same.
Thanks to CAALA’s amazing staff, Stuart Zanville (Executive Director), Bill Smith (Director of Finance and Operations), Liz Hagan (Membership Director), Kwedi Moore (Director of Development), Jordan Smith (Technology Manager), Margie Ruiz (Membership Administrator), and Martha Ruiz (Office Administrator) for their great flexibility, ingenuity, hard work and dedication to this organization. CAALA’s administration and operations seamlessly transitioned to being fully remote, all while keeping the level of efficiency and quality our members have come to expect.
CAALA’s Education Chair, Taylor Rayfield, and Co-Vice Chairs, Christina Coleman and Rahul Ravipudi, CAALA’s Membership Chair Daniel Pierson, and Vice Chair Lauren Horwitz, and CAALA’s New Lawyers Committee Chair, Belinda Theam and Co-Vice Chairs, Derek Tran and Sergio Puche, banded together to form a Programming Committee responsible for this year’s robust webinar programs that helped to educate and entertain our members in the comfort of their homes and offices while on lockdown.
Our Executive Committee including myself as President, Genie Harrison (President Elect), Douglas Silverstein (First Vice President), Minh Nguyen (Second Vice President), Ibiere Seck (Treasurer), Martin Aarons (Secretary), along with CAALA Past Presidents, Ricardo Echeverria, Mike Arias and Shawn McCann met far more often than our scheduled monthly meetings for lengthy discussions and planning for this unique year. Our Board of Governors also met regularly by video conference to protect the interests of this association.
Working with the leadership of the defense bar, myself and past CAALA and CAOC Presidents Mike Arias and Christine Spagnoli, CAALA Emeritus Board Members Gretchen Nelson and Paul Kiesel, along with CAALA member and past CAOC President Brian Kabateck, regularly interfaced with LASC Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile and Supervising Judge of Civil Division Samantha Jessner to address the urgent issues the court and the bar are facing.
We worked closely with our state organization leadership, including CAOC President Micha Star Liberty, to advocate in Sacramento for our interests and those of our clients, before the Governor, legislature, Judicial Council, and Chief Justice. Through these efforts, Emergency Orders were instituted statewide which permitted electronic service of case documents, remote depositions without a court reporter in the same location as the witness, and allowances for certain civil remedies such as minor’s compromise petitions to continue even when the courts were physically closed.
When there were senseless killings of people of color at the hands of law enforcement officers, CAALA issued a statement in rebuke of such acts, and showed our support for measures to combat the systemic racism existing in this country. We offered a program on civil rights litigation and partnered with Justice X to train lawyers in defending those peacefully protesting police brutality.
We honored the inspirational human beings whom we lost this year with statements and tributes to their impact on our city, country and legal community. We spoke out against the atrocities occurring in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict.
As I end this year, I am confident that we have set in motion a new approach to running our organization that will ensure CAALA remains an essential asset to every plaintiff’s attorney. The organization is in good hands for the upcoming year with the leadership of 2021 CAALA President Genie Harrison and the addition of Elizabeth Hernandez as Secretary of the Executive Committee. I personally want to thank Past President Ricardo Echevarria for completing his nine-year commitment of serving on CAALA’s Executive Committee.
I will look back on this year with a feeling of pride and accomplishment for the resilience we have shown, the advancements we have made, and our doggedness in preserving the pursuit of civil justice during these challenging times. In line with our recently adopted motto, CAALA was there for its members by having their backs in this most tumultuous of years.
I wish you all health, safety, success and happiness. May you enjoy the holidays and have a very happy new year. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve as your President.
Jeffrey A. Rudman is the President of the Consumers Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) and the Principal of The Rudman Law Firm, APC, a boutique Martindale-Hubbell AV rated Plaintiff’s law firm handling catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. Jeff has served on the CAALA Board since 2008, and has served as a chair of CAALA’s Membership Committee, Las Vegas Convention, and Education Committee. He is also credited with the creation of CAALA’s Online Document Bank.
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