Alan I. Rothenberg, a prominent Los Angeles attorney and president of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, Saturday was elected president of the California State Bar on a campaign vow to promote public education programs and enhance minority access to the legal profession.
Rothenberg, 50, a senior partner of the 125-lawyer firm Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg & Phillips, was elected by the Bar's 21-member Board of Governors on a seventh ballot after they deadlocked on Friday.
"I offer no magic formulas or solutions, just a pledge to provide energetic and effective leadership," Rothenberg said after winning election to the one-year post as head of the 117,000-lawyer state Bar.
"He's a warm and visionary type of leader who is especially good at sensing the problems and needs of the public and lawyers alike," said San Francisco attorney Frank Winston, a candidate for the position who was eliminated in early balloting. "He's been part of a core of leaders this year helping the Bar reach out and provide greater public access to lawyers, and find ways of settling disputes before they get to court."
Rothenberg, who was the soccer commissioner for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Summer Olympics, is vice president and treasurer of the Bar and a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. Board of Trustees.
He is also president of the Constitutional Rights Foundation and is an analyst on ESPN.
As head of the trial department of his law firm, Rothenberg has represented clients ranging from former baseball player Steve Garvey to former Iranian hostage Jerry Plotkin, a Sherman Oaks insurance adjuster who settled a libel suit against a newspaper that reported he was under investigation as a possible drug dealer.
The Plotkin case triggered a national debate on journalism ethics and touched on several of the major free press legal issues of the decade.
"Look at the pursuits he's gone after and what he has achieved," said Mickey Kantor, Rothenberg's partner for 15 years. "He's a person of boundless energy, extremely well organized and one of the best people I've ever met at bringing people together."
Kantor added that Rothenberg "has a great commitment to pro bono activities by lawyers (to provide free legal service) to people and organizations who can't afford it."
The Bar's Board of Governors deadlocked Friday, when attorney Kevin Culhane of Sacramento won 11 votes and Rothenberg received 10. Twelve votes were needed for election. When a second ballot produced the same result, the meeting was adjourned until Saturday.
The term of Colin Wied of San Diego as president ends in September. Rothenberg will be inaugurated at the Bar's annual meeting in San Diego in September.