1973 MCBA President: Leonard Shaw
Mar 01, 2015
Forty-one years ago, at the age of 41, I entered into the only contested election in the history of the Marin County Bar Association. I ran against Leonard Bjorkland, who had been nominated by the MCBA’s Nominating Committee. I have no real recollection of how the campaign for the Presidency was conducted, but I emerged as the winner, with Bob Praetzel as my Vice President. Len Bjorkland went on to become President of the Association in 1978. The Marin Independent Journal, in its article announcing my election, opined by noting that I “was still on the young side” and then went on to say some nice things. The IJ reporter asked me what the Association does, and my reply was, “How much time do you have?”
I had left my position as Assistant District Attorney in 1969 to join the firm that was renamed Convis, Kennedy and Shaw. Chuck Convis, a former D.A., recruited me to his firm, where I specialized in personal injury work. Chuck had a wrongful death case in the office and asked me to try it with him. The result was the largest injury verdict that had been rendered in Sonoma County up to that time—a munificent $203,510.14, which ended up at $248,000 after appeal and the addition of interest.
Marin Bar Installation dinners were a major event each year and were held at a venue selected by the incoming President. The Meadow Club in Fairfax was often selected (and was a great venue until Kevin Donovan failed to make one of the tortuous turns coming down off the mountain). Dominic’s, now Terrapin Crossroads, was also a favored venue. I selected the Marin Country Club because I lived in Novato, and there was no mountain hazard.
I recall my year as being a very busy one, with many meetings and events and a huge amount of correspondence, which I now wish I had saved. The state of the art was the IBM Selectric Typewriter, carbon paper, and a circular eraser with a brush at one end. All pleadings were typed, often in triplicate. Many typewriter erasers were sacrificed during the process. The small Bar office in the Albert Building had one very busy and efficient Secretary, Donna Igelhart.
The Courthouse was on the square at Fourth and A. The Law Library on the second floor was quite small, and accessible only if you could find Joe Henneberry, the County Clerk, who had the key.
District Attorneys took their coffee breaks at the Court House Creamery, and lunches at Joe’s, both across the street. The jail was in the basement of the Courthouse, and D.A.s, who often entered and exited that way, were frequently joined for coffee and lunch by Lou Mountanos, the Sheriff, and Frank Keating, the Coroner and a local funeral director.
Before my term in office, the Bar Association had discontinued the annual dinner in combination with the Marin Medical Society. One of my goals was to reestablish a close relationship with the medical community. Dr. Dave Costanza, the President of the Medical Society, and I put together the dinner (wives included), and it was a great success. Note that I said “wives”, because at that time I recall no more than two or three women lawyers in Marin. Natalie Holly and Ann Diamond, who was a member of the MCBA Board of Directors, were both practicing what was then called divorce law. Ann went on to become President of the Bar in 1975.
I remember, with great fondness and respect, Superior Court Judges Joe Wilson, Sam Gardiner (who kept a revolver under his robe after the Courthouse shootout) Harold Haley (who was sadly killed in an attempted escape of some San Quentin inmates on trial in his Department and the ensuing shootout), Tom Keating (who never wore a robe while on the bench, and whose hard of hearing court reporter used a steno pad and pen and ink to record proceedings), Warren McGuire; and Municipal Court Judges, Hadden Roth, Peter Allen Smith and Al Goldstein. During my term, I had the honor of officiating at the induction of one or more judges, and I remember the time I was introducing the long line of black robed judges seated in the Board of Supervisors Chambers and blanked out when I got to Warren McGuire.
I had the honor, as Bar President, of planning and officiating at the dedication of the memorial to Hon. Harold Haley which stands on the grounds of the Civic Center near the Justice Building. I had served in the D.A.’s office with my good friend, and my successor as Assistant D.A., Gary Thomas, and later Judge Gary Thomas. Gary, who was trying the case in Judge Haley’s Courtroom, was also taken hostage and was seriously wounded in the shootout. Harold Haley was Gary’s Uncle.
There was a lot of unfinished business at the end of my term as I passed the gavel to the very capable Bob Praetzel.
I want to thank Randy Wallace, the current President of the MCBA, for undertaking this project and inviting me to participate.