May It Please The Court

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Quote of the Day - I love being in Scotland. I'm looking forward to getting back and having a pint. . . . - Billy Boyd
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Orange County's Celtic Bar Association Makes It Into A Court Opinion

Bloggers eagerly scour court opinions to see whether an appellate judge has included their blog in the opinion, and several have notably been included.  MIPTC hasn't tracked court opinions so much, but I did stumble across this court opinion, which references an association I helped found:  the Celtic Bar Association.

The Celtic Bar Association meets just after work at 5:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at Muldoon's Irish Pub in Newport Beach, owned by lawyer Ron Schwartz.  His law office is above the pub, likely more famous for its St. Patrick Day celebration and its steady stream of Irish performers. 

The Celtic Bar Association got its start fittingly in a bar in Belize on a Hispanic Bar Association trip.  Co-founders Scott Well and I were sitting having a drink.  We were grousing that there were many minority bar associations like the HBA, MALDEF, the Asian Bar Association, the Italian Bar Association, and ... and ... and ... well - you get the idea.   We complained that the Celts should have our own bar association but that there wasn't anyone with enough interest to start one up.  Joe Chariez joined us and listened to the tail end of our woes, but surely got the gist of our motivations. 

Sure enough when we got back from the trip, Scott and I did nothing about starting up a group of Celts.  Joe Chairez, on the other hand, was full of vigor having just finished a term as the president of the HBA.  He set up a meeting of Celtic attorneys at Ron's office, with plans to go downstairs after the formative meeting.

True enough, several of us showed up for the first organizational meeting but none were interested in actually having a meeting.  We just wanted to go downstairs and talk.  It didn't hurt that Ron's pub also served drinks. 

Twenty-five or so Irish, English, Welsh, European and Spanish attorneys signed on to found the Celtic Bar Association.  We've now got a rather sizeable membership, which includes many judges and arbitrators.  We've taken trips to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Spain and big plans to travel to many other European countries.  In fact, regular readers will remember my Scotland travelogue series, which got many compliments and several to take the trip themselves.

So when I read this recent opinion where the losing attorney challenged the bias of Celtic Bar Association member Robert Thomas, who is now a neutral with the Orange County office of JAMS, I was intrigued.  The cast of characters in the opinion feature many other members of the Celtic Bar Association.

The Appellate Court ruled that Judge Thomas correctly refused to recuse himself from an arbitration just because both he had run into one of the attorneys in the case on the Scotland trip and at a Celtic Bar Association.  So have about 65 other Orange County attorneys on the Scotland trip and about 125 attorneys at various Celtic Bar Association meetings.

Bar trips allow attorneys to get to know one another.  They also allow attorneys to get to know judges in a more informal setting.  But they're merely social events, where niceties are passed between professionals.  In fact I know Judge Thomas from the Scotland trip and the Celtic Bar Association meetings, as well as having participated with him on an MCLE panel.  But not so much that I'd even dream that he'd swing a decision in my favor if I appeared in front of him - especially if another member of the Celtic Bar Association were on the other side of the case - or not.

Sure, Judge Thomas and I would make the required disclosures that we are social acquaintances, but there's really nothing more to it than that, much in the same way that there was no reason for Judge Thomas to recuse himself in the case underlying the opinion.

And now that you've read the opinion, those long-haired shaggy cows standing knee-deep in a field behind the Colloden House are called Highland Cows, pronounced "Hee-lin coos" if you're from Scotland.

I was there too.   And by the way, if you're in Newport Beach on the Third Tuesday of the month, stop by.  I'll buy you a drink. 

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, March 09, 2009 at 19:00 Comments (0)


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