As I write what is my final column for the Riverside Lawyer, I reflect on something one of my predecessors told me at the end of the installation dinner last September: “Enjoy it. Go to everything to which you are invited. It will go fast.” I’ve certainly enjoyed my time as President, but “fast” has been an understatement. I took this advice and accepted all invitations. Below are some of the things I experienced.
I had the honor of acting as a scoring judge for the final round of the 2017 Riverside County Mock Trial Championship. In years past, I had acted as a scoring judge for earlier rounds. This prior experience did not prepare me for the caliber of the presentation I saw in the final round. It was great to see high school students, whom had obviously invested a lot of time and effort into the difficult constitutional law fact pattern provided, argue for the rights of their clients. The polish and passion demonstrated by the participants leads one to hope they go on to become attorneys and practice locally.
When I was sworn in more than 10 years ago, it was a quick affair, done with my graduating class and I do not believe there were any parents in attendance. If any pictures were taken, I’ve certainly never seen them. The swearing in ceremony in Riverside is something completely different. Thanks to Presiding Justice Manuel Ramirez (Court of Appeal, Riverside) and the Riverside County Superior Court (and likely many others), the swearing in ceremony for new bar admittees in Riverside is truly a momentous occasion. The ceremony I attended this year was brimming with tearful and joyous family members, there to celebrate the new attorneys and their achievement. Justice Ramirez took the time to get to know each of the new attorneys and impart words of wisdom. I and my Federal and San Bernardino analogs were provided an opportunity to speak to the new attorneys and encourage them to get involved in the local bar associations. Overall, it was a fantastic event and one that I would have not experienced but for my time here at the Riverside County Bar Association (RCBA).
I also enjoyed a very nice evening at the Asian Pacific American Lawyers of the Inland Empire (APALIE) installation dinner. Held at the Citrus State Historic Park, this was a fun evening that, in addition to installing the new board of APALIE, honored Presiding Justice Manuel Ramirez. It was a beautiful venue and I met some great attorneys at the event. I hope to attend further APALIE events and I hope their members remain active within the RCBA.
Though I have been aware of Project Graduate since its inception six years ago, I had the pleasure of attending their graduation for the first time. It was a heart-warming ceremony that was very moving for all in attendance. The program, a collaborative effort between the RCBA, the Department of Social Services (DPSS), and the courts, was developed to provide attorney volunteers to advocate for youths in foster care, and to provide guidance, ultimately culminating in their completion of high school. It is a wonderful program and it is inspiring to see all involved reaching out to help these students graduate high school. Former RCBA board member Brian Unitt and all others involved, cannot be commended enough for the work they have done with this program.
May was host to “Spring into Action,” the RCB Foundation’s first fundraiser. By all accounts, the event was a success. Held at Benedict Castle, the event included music, food, and items for auction. Among the items auctioned were vacation packages, helicopter rides, gift baskets, and tickets to sporting and other events. The event earned over $10,000 for the Riverside County Bar Foundation. These funds will help continue the RCBA’s tradition of giving back to the community through various programs such as Project Graduate, Good Citizenship awards, the Elves, and Adopt-a-High School and RCBA Reading Day. I must commend the RCB Foundation committee for planning and putting together this event. It is my sincerest hope that this will only be the start of an annual springtime fundraising event for the RCB Foundation. Given the dedication and attention devoted to this year’s event, I know the Bar will be in good hands going forward.
In all, it has been a year that has passed quickly for me. Though I will not be President of the RCBA much longer, I will certainly try to stay involved with the community, including some of the great programs and events to which I was introduced this past year.
Jean-Simon Serrano is an associate attorney with the law firm of Heiting & Irwin.