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"End of Road” feelings of nostalgia and closure

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 12, 2018

By Kevin Hammon
2018 SCCBA President


“Although we’ve come to the end of the road, still I can’t let go…” Boyz II Men’s classic 1992 ballad, “End of the Road,” takes me back to the middle school auditorium, rotating disco balls, and baggy jeans.  The junior high dance is winding down. C+C Music Factory has just finished making “everybody dance now.” And Kris Kross has already made me “jump jump.” When “End of the Road” hit the speakers, it was time to finish your fruit punch, track down your Hypercolor jacket, and find that special someone to end the night with.  Since 1992, “End of the Road” has resurfaced at weddings, retirements, and graduation parties. The song marks an end to a chapter in one’s life. At face value, the song is about a man struggling to accept that his relationship has ended. But its colloquial meaning transcends its actual lyrics. For me, “End of Road” evokes feelings of nostalgia and closure.


The song comes to mind now as my term as Bar President comes to an end.  My predecessors warned me to expect the unexpected- that the events that come to define your year are rarely those you anticipate in January.  In this regard, 2018 is no exception. I identified civics engagement as the SCCBA’s theme for the year. To that end, we formalized our association’s participation in the American Constitution Society’s Lawyers in the Classroom program, we established a partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, and we collaborated with the Court’s Community Outreach Committee.  Although I am proud of these accomplishments, I view them as first steps toward the larger goals of educating young people, promoting civic awareness, and expanding access to justice. 


And then, the unexpected.  In January, I learned that New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had issued a series of tweets expressing support for the campaign to recall Judge Aaron Persky.  Inspired by our association’s strong advocacy for judicial independence, I authored an open letter to Senator Gillibrand encouraging her to oppose, or withdraw her support for the recall campaign.  Although I tend to agree with the Senator on most issues, this is a significant exception. One can wholeheartedly embrace the ideals of the #metoo movement without compromising one’s support for our legal institutions.  To the extent possible, I believe our foundational legal principles- separation of powers, due process, and judicial independence- should be above the fray of politics. Although I am disappointed by Judge Persky’s recall, I find solace in the growing national conversation about the concept of judicial independence- and our association’s critical role in galvanizing this conversation.  An important, but perhaps overlooked, silver lining to the recall election is the exceptional work of the SCCBA’s Fair Judicial Elections Practices Commission. As president, I could not be prouder of the Commission’s work in ensuring that the election to replace Judge Persky adhered to the high standards of honesty, fairness, and integrity. 


In May, many of us were shocked and appalled by the federal government’s migrant family separation policies.  I was pleased that the SCCBA’s Board of Trustees unanimously issued a statement opposing indefinite detentions, forcibly separating children from their families, and forcing children to appear in court with no right to counsel.  At a fundamental level, this issue carries profound implications for who we are as a nation. As heart-wrenching news stories continue to emerge from along our southern border, it becomes painfully apparent that the issue is far from over. Lawyers have a special role in the immigration debate.  The notion that a person can be labelled “illegal” runs afoul of our most cherished legal values- due process, justice, freedom, and equality. As lawyers, it is important that we not only stand up for these values, but that we speak up when public officials incorrectly cite to the law in order to justify cruel and inhumane policies.          


In September, our Board of Trustees voted unanimously to join the Bar Associations of San Francisco and Los Angeles in an amicus brief on behalf of the Respondent in In re Kenneth Humphrey on Habeas Corpus.  In so doing, our associations took a collective stand against a  money bail system that deprives people of their freedom based solely upon their financial means. 


Through the years, the SCCBA has enjoyed an outstanding relationship with the Bench.  In 2018, nowhere has that relationship been better exemplified than the joint Working Group of Superior Court judges and SCCBA Diversity Committee members.   Their charge was to formulate an Informal Complaint Procedure for Biased Conduct in the Courtroom. The overarching purpose of this informal complaint procedure is to help preserve the integrity and impartiality of the judicial system. This includes treating all courtroom participants with respect no matter their disability, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.  After extensive deliberation, the Informal Complaint Procedure has been approved by both the Bench and the SCCBA. I am optimistic that the procedure will be implemented in 2019. 


As my term expires, I have the unusual experience of writing my last President’s message and chairing my last Board of Trustee meeting before my SCCBA obligations expire.  Our annual Judges’ Night event will occur on December 11, 2018 at the San Jose Marriott Hotel. In light of a labor strike at the hotel, the event was postponed from October 10, 2018 to November 1, 2018, and then to December 11, 2018. I was pleased that the San Jose strike ended in November. The SCCBA is not a political institution, and has not taken a position on any specific labor issues.  However, I believe it is important that we celebrate our accomplishments in a fashion that respects the dignity and hard work of our entire community. I look forward to an outstanding Judges’ Night.


I have thoroughly enjoyed serving as your 2018 SCCBA President.  The experience has been a privilege and an honor- arguably, the highlight of my professional career.  As the song goes, my tenure as SCCBA President has come to the “end of the road,” but unlike Boyz II Men, I can “let go.”  I am more than eager to hand over the SCCBA’s reigns to the creative and exceedingly capable Gabriel Gregg.  I hope to see you at the 2019 Installation Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on January 30, 2019 at the SCCBA offices. Here’s to a relaxing holiday season and an outstanding 2019.  

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