One of my first executive decisions was to change the venue of VCBA’s Annual Installation and Awards Dinner for the first time to the Hyatt Westlake Plaza. I’ve been informed that the last time that the annual dinner was in the East County was more than 17 years ago (when Wendy Lascher received the Nordman Award), when it was held at the Reagan Library. The annual dinner will take place on Saturday, Nov. 17.

To fulfill my mission of proving that the East County can make a great showing of support for the dinner, I formed an ad hoc Sponsorship Committee to get members from this side of the Conejo Grade involved. The sponsorship committee set its goal high by aiming to raise $20,000 in sponsorship from local firms and companies. This committee, which has been working hard since January, is comprised of: Bret Anderson, Jason Burrows, Jim Dawson, Marc Dion, Kevin Dorhout, Kata Kim, Shane Loomis, Al Martinez, Kevin Shaw, Mark Suzumoto, and Scott Williams. We also have two non-attorney committee members: Chai Balke of Merrill Corporation, and Brandon Matloff of Northwestern Mutual. From all the sponsors secured to date, special recognition is due to our most generous sponsor at the Platinum level ($2,500): Creative Dispute Resolution, which retired Judge David Long took over after Paul Fritz passed away. We always appreciate Judge Long’s endless support of VCBA.

Planning for VCBA’s biggest event of the year is done by the Annual Dinner Committee, which has been chaired by Eric Reed since 2010. Eric wanted to be involved because it was an opportunity to help raise funds for VLSP and because of the dinner’s long history. Other members of the dinner committee include Steve Henderson, Jeff Loebl, and myself. Besides handling all the details, Eric has viewed the role of the committee as providing institutional knowledge and giving the event continuity. While the theme and style may change depending on the preferences of each president, one thing that has remained the same is the $100 cost per person to attend. If last year was any indication, Barristers have been making an increased presence at the dinner (Barristers only pay $65).

A popular and entertaining feature of the dinner is the silent auction, which has been chaired by the extraordinary efforts of past VCBA president Don Hurley. For the past ten years, Don and his wife Carol have done all the legwork, from collecting the donated items to setting up the table displays for the items. Don has also had the assistance of representatives from Santa Barbara Bank & Trust as well as VCBA staff to help with logistics during and after the event. Each year, the silent auction has raised between $4,000 and $10,000 for VLSP.  The big ticket items (e.g., condo, Staples suite) have certainly helped with raising the most funds, but many of the smaller items ($100- $150 range) make the auction attractive to all pocketbooks. It is clear that Don has a great system in place that has proven successful year after year.

Of course the main focus of the annual dinner is to honor the recipient of the Ben E. Nordman Public Service Award. Mr. Nordman, a past VCBA president, was committed to public service, and inspired others to get involved and give back to the community. After Mr. Nordman passed away in 1985, it was only fitting that an award be named in his honor to carry on his legacy. Since 1986, it is the highest honor that the VCBA can bestow on an attorney. This award serves “to recognize outstanding contributions made by a lawyer to his or her community by means of community, charitable, or other public service activities. By such recognition to publicize and encourage such activities by members of the legal profession.” A trust fund was also established to underwrite the $1,500 honorarium given to the recipient. The process for recommending the recipient is done by a distinguished ad-hoc group comprised of past recipients, community leaders, and VCBA Executive Committee. The logistical coordination of this gathering is handled by Kevin Staker, who has volunteered his assistance since 1990. This group gives an advisory vote to the three-person Selection Committee made up of the VCBA President, Chair of the County Board of Supervisors, and Chair of United Way, who make the final
decision. The designated ex officio secretary of the Selection Committee helps keep us in check with the spirit and purpose of the award. Mike O’Brien currently holds that position. Every year there is an impressive slate of nominees, which makes the selection of the winner difficult. This year was no exception, and the Selection Committee felt that John Orr was well-deserving of this honor.

At the annual dinner, VCBA also awards several James D. Loebl/VLSP Awards. These pro bono awards, named in honor of Jim Loebl (a past VCBA president and Nordman Award recipient), were first given in 2003 after he passed away. The idea for these awards is credited to past VCBA president Loye Barton. Each year, the Loebl Family contributes $1,500 to the Annual Dinner, and Mr. Loebl’s son, Jeff, has the honor of handing out these awards. Recipients are recommended by Verna Kagan, VLSP Program Manager/Emeritus Attorney, and ratified by the VLSP Advisory Board. As the recipient of a prestigious 2012 State Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award, Leslie McAdam will also receive a Loebl/VLSP Award. The other worthy honoree this year will be Harveen Simpkins.

Please join us for this auspicious occasion so that we can celebrate and honor such shining examples of our profession. Dien Le is a partner at Westlake Village-based Sullivan Taketa LLP, where he represents clients in business litigation, employment litigation, real property litigation and appellate matters in both federal and state courts. He also assists clients with registration of trademarks and copyrights.

About Charmaine H. Buehner

Charmaine H. Buehner is an Assistant County Counsel and is the 2015-2016 president of the Ventura County Bar Association.