Thursday, May 6, 2010

The elusive Yuba-Sutter Bar Association:
how many are in it and what do they think?

A Google search for the Yuba-Sutter Y-S Bar Association turns up a site which provides scant information about itself, other that it is recognized by the State Bar Association and claims one “Molly S.” to be its contact person.

"Molly S." could be reached at certain. Or, at least, could be reached at that number once upon a time.

The live person answering that contact number advises callers trying to reach one “Molly S.” to call her at a different number, extension. #313.

That turned out to be the California Rural Legal Assistance agency -- or at least a pre-recorded message purporting to be the CRLA.

A pre-recorded voice ticked off a roster of persons who could be reached at a long list of telephone extensions. The person named at extension #313 was not “Molly S.”

The CRLA message advised that “Molly S.” was one of two persons who could be reached at extension #317. Alas, when the caller punches #317 in the connection is immediately terminated.

With fingers drumming on desktop, I think, OK. So forget this “Molly S.," the spokesperson who may or may not exist at a phone number that may or may not be functioning.

A wider Google search turned up a “Yuba-Sutter Bar Association.” Attorney Geoffrey Wander was listed it’s the current president. Wander is well-regarded in the legal community, so far as I know, and a nice guy, to boot.

Maybe he knows how many members the YSBA has, or knows someone who does.

Another pre-recorded message answers his phone. Mr. Wander is currently unavailable, but would respond if the inquiring party would please leave a call-back number.

My message was not returned that day, or the next – and the weekend was fast approaching.

By now, of course, my interest in the phantasmagoric entity operating under the moniker “the Yuba-Sutter Bar Association” had deepened considerable. It has no direct phone number, no email address and no live person to reply if it had either.

This was not the first time I’d had trouble establishing contact with the YSBA.

Years ago I tried to reach it in connection with a completely different story. In those pre-Internet times even less information was available on the organization. All that could be determined was that it was rumored to exist.

Many phone calls back then to reasonably friendly attorneys revealed that they, too, had heard there was a Yuba-Sutter Bar Association and it reportedly met semi-regularly for lunch at a local restaurant.

A name was floated for an attorney who was said to be president of the association in that bygone era.

I contacted him. I said I wanted to cover the organization’s next scheduled luncheon meeting. Maybe do a short news article about the issues the group discussed. Was a speaker planned?

I reassured the YSBA president that I had similarly covered the Sacramento, Nevada and Butte County bar associations. In fact, those groups had me on their frequently-called-media list.

I waited for a response. And waited. And….

After a noticeable blank space, the YSBA president finally filled the void with one of those classic yes-no-perhaps answers lawyers like to give.

Yes, there was a YSBA and it occasionally did meet, but not often and perhaps I might use my time more productively by focusing my attention, uh, elsewhere.

That man is now a superior court judge.

Recalling that experience sharpened my interest in tracking down the YSBA – the group that may or may not exist somewhere other than the Ethernet and the to-do appointments list of a few ambitious attorneys who liked to convene informally every so often to brag about their latest cases and schmooze with other movers-and-shakers with a keen eye towards someday running for a salaried public office, or a maybe a juicy gubernatorial appointment.

Wander – the last known president of the YSBA – is also one of the main stars of a stage play I had been writing about recently in a column for a daily newspaper. The column’s subject matter is completely unrelated to legal issues.

So I went that Sunday to the theater where Wander was appearing in a matinee. I buttonhole him before the show and asked him about the YSBA -- point blank, face to face.

Does this YSBA exist, despite all evidence to the contrary? Where is it located? How many members does it have? When and where do the members meet?

Wander was there and spared me a few minutes.

Yes, he had been president of the YSBA, but that was some time ago. One Dave Ashby, he thought, was the current president of the association. I should talk to him.

As to how many members the YSBA had, he wasn’t sure, Wander said. There were around 50-75 members in it when he was president.

“But that doesn’t represent all the lawyers in the area,” Wander reminded.

Lawyers must maintain membership in the State Bar of California. As the SBC puts it in its official publications:
Founded in 1927 by the legislature, The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court. All lawyers practicing in California must be members of the State Bar. The mission of the State Bar: "Preserve and improve our justice system in order to ensure a free and just society under the law."
The dues and fees cover mandated training such as MCLE, or Mandatory Continuing Legal Education. These training sessions help lawyers up-to-date with California’s constantly changing laws and legal procedures.

Wander did share a few comments on the Santana, Vasquez matter and the keen interest it has sparked in the area’s legal communities, but I will expand on those comments later.

I called Ashby’s Yuba City office. David Isaac Ashby was indeed the same David Ashby who was the president of the YSBA, the receptionist confirmed, but he was in trial that week and was not taking calls. If I left my telephone number, he might get back to me some time later, but it probably not is until next week.

Hmmm. At this point, I remembered a quote:
THE MILLS OF GOD (THE GODS) GRIND SLOWLY - "At some point a sinner will be punished; many decisions or events that are important in one's life take time in coming. Some 1,600 years ago the Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus wrote: 'The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind small.' One of Longfellow's translations was a 17th century poem, 'Retribution,' by Friedrich Von Logau:
Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all.
From "The Dictionary of Clichés" by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).
There comes a time when you finally realize you are getting the run around – the old shuck-and-jive.. It is not necessarily the fault of the individuals handing it to you – they would like to help you, really, but just can’t. It’s the way the system works. Everything has been arranged – just so – to match certain parties’ preferences.

Proof of this can be seen by comparing the online information provided the Nevada County Bar Association and that by the Yuba-Sutter Bar Association.

I finally gave up on the unforthcoming YSBA and got the facts and figures I needed by other means.

I determined that neighboring Nevada County (with its Grass Valley-Nevada City twin-cities quite similar to Yuba and Sutter’s Yuba City-Marysville) had a total population of about 97,000 in 2008, published figures showed.

The lawyer-tracking website reports there are 287 attorneys in Nevada County. The Nevada County Bar Association itemizes (with name, address, phone and email), a membership of about 170.

Yuba County’s population was 73,000 and Sutter’s 92,000 for a grand total of 165,000 in 2008. Avvo reports a total of 205 lawyers in the bi-county area.

Compare the established 160 bar members in Nevada County, with the “guesstimated” 50-75 in Yuba-Sutter.

Rounded off, that means about 30 percent of the lawyers practicing in Yuba-Sutter are members of the local bar association, while about 60 percent of the lawyers practicing in Nevada County are active members of their county bar.

Perhaps David Isaac Ashby, Esquire would care to comment on these comparative figures. Someday.

Stay tuned.

Tom Nadeau


Blogger Jennifer said...

I like this article. I, too have had issue with trying to get ahold of someone, anyone with this organization.

October 29, 2010 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger Jim Sharpe said...

The non-Profit Status of the Yuba Sutter Bar Association is now suspended. I have been trying to get in touch with them to offer my services. They do not respond.
Jim Sharpe 530 592-5046.

June 24, 2011 at 10:30 AM  

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