Welcome to beautiful, sunny Palm Desert, CA for the 2014 Western States Bar Conference! I hope you will find the conference rewarding and enjoyable. You will find many dining options at the hotel and surrounding area as well as activities for everyone, including a fitness center, spa, swimming, biking, hiking, golf, and plenty of shopping, so I hope you take advantage of all that the Marriott and the Palm Desert/Palm Springs area has to offer.
The theme for this year's conference is "The Role of the Bar in our Changing Society." Last year's conference dealt with change. This year's conference will be a continuation of that theme. Nineteen states have legalized the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes with two of those states, Washington and Colorado, having legalized the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes. More states are projected to legalize recreational marijuana use. Alison Holcomb, who is the primary author of Washington's I-502, and who has been invited to numerous countries since, will be discussing marijuana legalization. She will be joined by Doug Ende, Chief Disciplinary Counsel for the Washington State Bar Association and Charles Garcia, President-elect of the Colorado Bar Association who will discuss the issues facing attorneys who practice in states where there is a tension between federal and state law.
The legal profession does not reflect the diversity of the general population - the judiciary even more so. Justice Steven Gonzalez from the Washington State Supreme Court, Justice Monica Marquez from the Colorado Supreme Court, and Erika Anderson, President of the State Bar of New Mexico, will be discussing bias in the judiciary and what the Bar should be doing.
Voters often treat judges as legislators and when judges make unpopular rulings, they are at risk for losing their seats in the next election. We will hear from former California State Supreme Court Justice, Joseph Grodin who was one such judge and from Guy Cook, President of the Iowa State Bar Association, where Iowa just went through such an election.
Our keynote speaker, Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, will provide an interesting and informative program on the 60th anniversary of Brown and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
If you are in need of anything to make your Western States Bar Conference experience more enjoyable, please contact me or the State Bar of New Mexico conference coordinators, Joe Conte and Kris Becker.
Salvador A. Mungia