MCBA continues to offer a wide variety of programs, still only on Zoom, but we may be within sight of an actual in-person gathering. I’d like to highlight some upcoming events and solicit your input about the past year and what it means for the upcoming year.

Judges’ Town Hall Meeting

First, I want to encourage everyone who can make it to attend our May general membership meeting, scheduled earlier in the month than usual, on May 13, 2021, at noon. Please join our local judges for a “town hall” conversation about the current state of our Marin County courts and the outlook for the coming year. Presiding Judge Andrew Sweet, along with Judge Verna Adams, supervising judge of the Family Law Division, and Judge Steven Freccero, supervising judge of the Civil Division, (and possible additional judicial panelists), will provide updates and answer member questions about the current status of our courts, the re-opening process, and what we can expect from the courts over the rest of this year. This Zoom event is free to all MCBA members and you can register here.

If you have any questions you would like the judges to answer or issues you would like them to address, please email Mee Mee Wong (mwong@mcba.org) and/or me (tim@ncalegal.com) by May 10, 2021. Or feel free to just call me at (415) 306-5560.

Upcoming Jointly-Sponsored Section Meetings

Throughout the pandemic, MCBA has continued to keep our sections active and vibrant by holding regular meetings over Zoom. Although we all miss the opportunity to meet and see each other in person, these virtual meetings can be very informative, typically provide MCLE credit, and you can attend them from your office, your desk at home, or anywhere. Mee Mee and Denise Belli have become expert Zoom hosts. All the meetings that I’ve had the opportunity to attend have gone off without a hitch, including some excellent programs this past month.

We are excited to host a collaborative meeting between the MCBA litigation section and the Marin Trial Lawyers Association called “A COVID Arbitration Story.” If you’re reading this issue of News & Notes the moment it landed in your inbox, you still have a few hours to register for this event at noon today (May 6). David Lowe and William McElhinny will share war stories about a recent Zoom employment arbitration. Virtual trials and arbitrations are an experience that many of us litigators are likely to have soon, if we haven’t already had the pleasure, and this webinar will be a good chance to learn some “do’s and don’ts” from excellent lawyers who have already had the experience.

And on May 11, the intellectual property section is excited to co-host a presentation on recent developments in music copyright law, featuring MCBA IP section co-chair Jeff Knowles, David Kostiner, co-founder and managing partner of Counsel LLP, and Judith Finell of Judith Finell MusicServices Inc. This event will be co-hosted by the Northern California chapter of the Copyright Society. David and Jeff both have national reputations as IP lawyers specializing in the music industry, and Judith is a musicology expert who was a key witness in the "Blurred Lines" copyright case that pitted Marvin Gaye's estate against Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams. The event promises to be both entertaining and informative. Even if you don’t practice any IP law, the continually developing law in music copyrights has been making news, featuring acts like Led Zeppelin and Katy Perry that we’ve all heard of. Register here.

Future In-Person Events!

As Spring winds into Summer with the COVID vaccine now available to all who want it, we hopefully will continue to experience a return to more normal life. Our MCBA team plans to start dipping our toes into a return to some in-person events, likely kicked off by a free member picnic sometime this summer. Stay tuned as more details are announced.

The date for our Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner for Gary Ragghianti has been a moving target since the start of the pandemic. Originally scheduled for May of last year, it obviously could not happen then. As of last month, we have penciled in the date as October 8 at the Marin Country Club. We are optimistic that by October we’ll have in-person events dialed in to the point where it will be a comfortable and festive event for everyone, perhaps with a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces. It will be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Gary’s achievements, and for many of us to see each other again in person. You can check out the remaining sponsorship opportunities and we will reopen registration as soon as we are certain of the date.

Your Input Matters

As we get through this pandemic together, I would like to think that we can learn some lessons from the experience and come out the other side with a legal system that works better than what we knew before. “Building back better,” as President Biden likes to say.

Following on this tack, a group of researchers at the University of Illinois and the National Center for State Courts has reached out to MCBA and asked us to promote a national study on the impact of COVID-19 on the judicial system. As we know, the pandemic required courts everywhere to quickly change their operations and procedures. The researchers have already conducted a series of focus groups with judges, lawyers, litigants, jurors, and court administrators; they are now launching a national survey to determine which changes worked well—and should be kept—and which didn't, and how changes impacted individual cases and access to justice. They hope that the results of the study will help identify necessary reforms and plan for future emergencies.

You can participate in the 15-minute survey to report on your own experiences with the courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please also forward the survey to associates and (where appropriate) to clients. You may access the survey here. If you have questions about the study, you may contact Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson (wils@uillinois.edu) or Professor Jason Mazzone (mazzonej@illinois.edu).

Closer to home, we at MCBA are very interested in hearing from our members about how the pandemic has affected your legal practice, and in getting your thoughts about ways to improve the administration of justice as we come out on the other side of this long, dark tunnel. The May 13 Court update should provide a good opportunity to share thoughts. Apart from that, I am personally very interested in hearing from anyone who wants to share their experiences and thoughts for the future, especially regarding holding MCBA events both in person and remotely and how we might combine the two. Please contact me any time.