Spring has sprung, and it is starting to feel like a real, live re-opening is afoot. More of us are emerging from our shelters and returning to social life, partially or fully vaccinated, perhaps feeling a bit blinded and rubbing our eyes in the light at the end of the tunnel, after a solid year spent in the half light of shelter-in-place.

With fingers crossed, I am hoping that it is not too early to talk about life after the pandemic. I’m looking forward to getting to a place where we’ll be able to see our close friends (all fully vaccinated of course) without a mask, and confidently enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant (at least on the patio), but I’m wondering how long it will be before folks have any interest in being crammed together cheek to jowl at an indoor concert or spending an evening hanging out in a bar full of strangers.

When everyone (or everyone who cares to be) is vaccinated, will this whole unpleasant episode fade in our memories to the point where the no-longer-so-novel coronavirus is no bigger a worry than the flu—just get your booster shot every year or so and get on with it? Or will we still have to worry about whether the person at the next table over or next to us in line at the bank might be carrying one of the alphabet soup of dreaded new variants, with a new one arriving from Brazil or Santa Barbara, Michigan or Michoacán every month?

We here at MCBA certainly hope that we will be able to gather in community sooner rather than later, greeting friends in-person, perhaps even with a hug or a handshake. And we will do that when it is permitted. Even then, will things ever truly “get back to normal” or will some things be different going forward? Who knows? And with almost as many answers as there are experts, we shall have to wait and see….

I do know one thing. Over the past year, the lines between the haves and the have-nots have been drawn even more starkly in our society. And most lawyers and other professionals have been pretty darned lucky to have been able to keep plugging away throughout the pandemic in relative security.

My first order of business this year has been to keep the lights on and continue the pivot that we’ve had to make to virtual programming, keep MCBA relevant for our members, and begin anticipating and facilitating our eventual return to “in-person” events. My second order of business has been to strengthen MCBA’s community involvement and pro bono efforts through our partnerships with local organizations doing good work and through our own Lawyers in the Library program. This month I want to highlight some of those efforts.

2021 Wiley Awards with Legal Aid of Marin

Last month, MCBA partnered with Legal Aid to host a virtual version of our annual Pro Bono Awards Luncheon. With so much of our legal system powered by money, I think that it is important to recognize the example set by attorneys and legal professionals who make the time to provide pro bono legal services to those for whom any legal representation would otherwise be out of reach.

Our legal system is an awe-inspiring and gigantic dynamo, with enormous power to distribute money and benefits. Most of us spend our time trying to work the controls of this dynamo, in one way or another, and have come to know one part or another of it. One thing that everyone who works with it understands is that it requires a whole lot of money to control the dynamo and to keep it running. Unfortunately, the more money that people can afford to feed into the machine, the better their chances of achieving good results. With that wind up, I say hats off to those who work the controls to provide access to justice for those who can’t afford to feed the machine.

For those of you who missed the party, MCBA board member Mary Sackett has prepared a full writeup of the awards celebration which you can read here.

MCBA To Participate in the 30th Annual Food from The Bar Campaign.

Every year the legal community comes together to help end hunger in San Francisco and Marin. This year unfortunately, more people than ever are facing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its inception, the Food from the Bar (“FFTB”) campaign has raised $9,045,054, equivalent to more than twenty-two million meals for neighbors struggling with food insecurity.

MCBA will once again have its own contribution page to promote the FFTB campaign; individuals or firms who wish to donate directly can do so via that page on MCBA’s website. I am also delighted to announce that the Marin Community Foundation has agreed to kickstart this year’s drive with a generous contribution of $15,000 to the FFTB program with MCBA. We encourage individual attorneys and local firms to give generously through MCBA. Larger firms may even want to start their own firm contribution page—any firm in Marin is eligible. To do so, please contact Rachel Breuer at the San Francisco Marin Food Bank.

Stay tuned for an email announcing the official start of the FFTB campaign on April 15, with a link to the MCBA contribution page.

Changes of Scene for Two MCBA Heroes

On the subject of giving to the community, I want to give a big shoutout to Jose Varela and Laurie Joyce, who have both given enormously to help balance the scales of justice in Marin, and who are both moving on from their current gigs.

For the past eight years, Laurie Joyce has served as the pro bono volunteer coordinator for Legal Aid of Marin, working hard in a part-time position to connect volunteer attorneys with Legal Aid clients. Under Laurie’s leadership, Legal Aid joined with other organizations to start a web site to match pro bono volunteers with low-income Marin County residents in need of legal help: www.marinprobononetwork.org. With more need than ever for pro bono lawyers, Laurie’s position is becoming a full-time job, and she has decided that the time has come for her to move on. Laurie is looking forward to taking a step back from the front lines to become a research attorney, where she’ll be in a position to become one of the attorney volunteers herself.

And it’s a bittersweet pleasure to announce that Jose Varela officially retired as our Marin County Public Defender at the end of March. Jose joined the Public Defender’s office in 2001 and was named as Marin’s Public Defender in 2010. Over his tenure, Jose has worked tirelessly to protect the Constitution and all of our rights by ensuring that any person accused of a crime in Marin has access to a quality defense regardless of their ability to pay. Jose has also been a long-time, steadfast supporter of MCBA. He has served on MCBA’s Judicial Evaluation Committee and the Diversity Committee and has been a leader in promoting diversity on our local bench and in our community, including by co-founding ALMA. In case you missed it, last month the Marin IJ ran an inspiring article about Jose’s career.

Thank you, Laurie and Jose for everything you have done for the people of Marin and the Marin legal community!