President's Message

Heather Stern
WLALA President 2018-2019

February 2019

I blinked and, without much fanfare, the first month of 2019 was over. At the blurring rate I’ve been going, time spins forward without necessarily much to show for it. The exception of course was the two characteristically outstanding WLALA programs I attended in January.  Those were very memorable!

The first was a joint movie night organized by WLALA and the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ).  We filled a movie theater with attendees from both organizations for a showing of “On the Basis of Sex.”  This biopic of the early career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, long before her appointment to the bench, covers much of the same material as the documentary “RBG” but through actors as opposing to through interviews and other historical material.  Whether through actors or interviews, the life of Justice Ginsburg offers a tremendous amount of inspiration, and knowing I was surrounded by a cadre of women lawyers and judges in the same theater too, made the night even more special.  Bravo!

The second was an MCLE on Special Education Law, organized by moderator and WLALA Board Member, Julie Stromberg and featuring panelists Maronel Barajas, Litigation Director, Disability Rights Legal Center; Inés Kuperschmit, Partner, Olivarez Madruga Lemieux O’Neill; Professor Julie Waterstone, Southwestern Law School Associate Dean for Experential Learning, Director of the Southwester Law School Children’s Rights Clinic, and Clinical Professor of Law; and Heather Zakson, Special Education Law.  This was the first program of its kind held by WLALA and given the excellent turnout, it will certainly not be the last.  Special education law, as we learned from the panelists, has its roots in a federal law that pre-dates, and was an example for, the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The concept in essence is that every eligible child is entitled to a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) by means of a uniquely tailored “individualized education program” (IEP).  Beyond the acronyms, we learned that there is a LOT packed into the meaning of those words, substantively and procedurally.  As usual, our expert panelists were happy to share their knowledge and wisdom with the audience, and our audience was happy to soak it all in.  Many kudos to Julie Stromberg for championing and organizing this successful and needed program. 

And stay tuned because a fun byproduct of this program is a collaboration in process for potential new legislation in this area.  Yes, WLALA does have committees that are involved in proposing new legislation, as well as a track record for getting proposed legislation enacted into law, and if you want more details on that, come to our upcoming February 12, 2019 program, “California’s Legislative Process: How to Change the Law and Not Get Burned.”  We will learn more than we ever wanted to know perhaps on how the proverbial “sausage” is made.

If you haven’t yet realized it, WLALA is a busy bar organization.  These two programs were only a part of what we offered in January, and there is much more already in the works for February, March, April and beyond.  We look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming events, and if you have a great idea for a program, reach out to us – before you blink and the year goes by.  We are always looking for great new program ideas!