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The County Upon A Hill

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 6, 2018

By Kevin Hammon
2018 SCCBA President


John Winthrop famously described the early American colonies as the “city upon a hill” with the eyes of all people upon them.  In 2018, I submit that the city upon a hill is not a city at all, but rather a county.   Santa Clara County is a model to not just the rest of the country, but the world. We are the birthplace of Hewlett Packard and Apple Computer, and now home to over 6,500 technology companies.  Santa Clara County embodies innovation, diversity, and compassion. This County is committed to serving all of its residents, employing extensive efforts to provide resources to its most vulnerable members. 


We understand that our collective standard of living is enhanced when we take care of our senior citizens, foster children, homeless, criminal justice clientele, and mental health patients.  Our county upon a hill is indeed a special place- not just in the way that we govern and innovate- but in the way that we treat each other. Our respect for human dignity is unparalleled.     


Our county is politically and socially progressive. Following the 2008 passage of Proposition 8, Santa Clara County joined Los Angeles and San Francisco to become one of the first governmental entities in the world to sue for the right to administer same-sex marriages.  Just last year, Santa Clara County was awarded an injunction enjoining an executive order stripping “sanctuary jurisdictions” of federal funding. This is our county. This is our community. These are our values.


I believe that the words “Santa Clara County” appear in the name of our bar association not simply for geographic context but rather they serve as a reminder that we are part of a larger community.  While the Santa Clara County Bar Association cannot and should not become an agent for unrestrained partisan advocacy, I do believe it is important for lawyers to stand for something.  The SCCBA’s Statement of Purpose, set out in By-Law Article II, Sec. 2, recognizes that our society is faced with political and social questions that may be serious, complex, and highly controversial.  The Statement of Purpose authorizes the SCCBA to express official positions on these types of issues in order to help the public understand and attempt to solve problems.   


Long before Proposition 8 and the Marriage cases, the SCCBA supported the right to same sex marriage.  We opposed the state of Arizona’s SB 1070 which invited rampant racial profiling against Latinos, Asian-Americans, and others presumed to be “foreign” based upon how they look or sound.  More recently, our association opposed North Carolina’s discriminatory public restroom legislation, and maintained that a license to practice law in California should not depend upon the applicant’s immigration status. 


Our Mission Statement provides that we serve the public by promoting full and equal access to the legal system by all individuals. As lawyers, it is up to us to breathe life into terms like due process, judicial independence, equality, and justice. The SCCBA has not shied away from that challenge in the past. I look forward to continuing that tradition long into the future.

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