David Brooks, Clarence Page, Charles Krauthammer, Maureen Dowd, and I were chatting the other day and we all came to the same conclusion from across the ideological spectrum: it’s not so easy being a newspaper columnist.
Okay, so my monthly opining on this page is not in the same league as some of those well-regarded writers of modern commentary. But on the occasion of my one hundredth consecutive monthly column, I hope you’ll indulge me in a little walk down memory lane.
Looking over the topics of those 100 columns, it looks like the four most popular subject areas were about internal operations of the bar (24 columns), followed by membership concerns (18), the court system (14), and bar volunteers (10). Other popular topics were public policy (8), pro bono (7), diversity (7), and fundraising (6).
During the 8 years it’s taken me to write these columns, many issues facing the legal community have come, gone, and come back again. In May 2008, for example, I was discussing the impact of large cuts to the county’s budget given dramatically reduced tax collections.
“Our challenge is to ensure that complete, impartial access to justice exists in King County. We must insist that our legislators focus not on across-the-board cuts, but instead focus on providing stable revenue sources to ensure that the necessary programs in our legal system, especially the court system, can continue their good work on the public’s behalf. With the same vigor elected officials give to finding ways to spend money in economically strong times, we must persuade those same legislators to solve the county’s looming budget crisis by shoring up revenues and not destroying the programs that protect us all.”
Fast forward to 2016 and the battle to protect our justice system continues: courts are once again facing requests from county officials to cover a shortfall in tax receipts as the county develops a new 2017-2018 budget.
I’ve had to write columns sharing bad news with you. “As we begin a new fiscal year for the bar,” I reported in July 2009, “KCBA finds itself in the midst of the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. We are forecasting a 13% decrease in available revenue for the budget year that began June 1. This significant decrease will unfortunately impact some of our programs in the coming year.” That column ended by my reporting that I had to eliminate four staff positions. Not a happy memory for the individuals who left us or for those of us who remained to carry on the work of the bar.
That said, I’ve been happy to share good news over the years. Every year the bar makes a generous donation to support minority law students. In August 2014, for example, I reported that the bar “continued its tradition of providing financial support to minority law students. This past June we awarded $68,000 each to the Seattle University School of Law and the University of Washington School of Law, for a total of $136,000. The funds come not from member dues, but from charitable donations generously made by lawyers and judges to the King County Bar Foundation.”
One of the subjects I personally enjoy writing about is KCBA’s public policy work. KCBA’s voice is respected and can make a difference in promoting the justice system and defending it when it is under attack. “As we look at the state of public debate in our nation today,” I commented in September “with political leaders unable to find compromise on the critical issues facing our country, our state, our county, and our cities, the need has never been greater for KCBA to use its bully pulpit to develop thoughtful solutions and provide governmental leaders the roadmap to implement those ideas.”
Since that time the bar, through its Public Policy Committee, has taken positions on behalf of the legal profession related to the abolition of the death penalty, universal background checks before gun purchases, marriage equality, legal financial obligation reforms, and much more.
And in addition to keeping members up-to-date about current bar happenings, I take pleasure in sharing with you happenings from our past. Several times I’ve pulled out old bound books of Association minutes from the 1920s or Bar Bulletins from the 1960s to share “news of the day.” In reporting on the year 1912, we saw that the bar took seriously its own role in recording history: “Before adjourning the [June 26, 1912] meeting, Kenneth Mackintosh successfully moved that the president appoint a committee of three ‘to cause a portrait of the late Hon. R.W. Prigmore to be painted and hung in the King County Court House.’”
Ultimately recording our living history during this 21st Century through my monthly columns is one of the legacies I hope that I will leave to future KCBA members. And now that I’ve reached the milestone of 100 columns, I am thinking that if I ever miss a publication deadline from our editor (this month for example is cutting it really close — just ask Gene Barton who’s proofing this now!), he’ll now have plenty of old columns he can re-run for me when he needs to. Hey, if reruns worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me?
Andrew Prazuch is KCBA’s executive director. He can be reached by email (email@example.com) or phone (206-267-7061).
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