Michael Traynor’s Reflections on his Time as BASF President

Michael Traynor’s Reflections on his Time as BASF President

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Bar Association of San Francisco’s (BASF) asked past presidents to look back on moments during their tenure. Michael Traynor of Cobalt, who served as BASF president in 1973, has authored The Emergence of BASF as a Public Interest Force, a letter reflecting on the organization’s civil rights actions during the early 1960s and 70s.  

An excerpt of the letter is below. 

In the 1960s, even the largest firms were modest in size, lawyers rarely moved laterally, partners fostered associates’ careers expecting them to become partners, and BASF had traditional committees, a lawyer referral service, and social activities. With significant exceptions, most members were white men who did not prioritize public interest law reform. But "The Times They Are a-Changin,'" as Bob Dylan sang, the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement grew, and San Francisco hosted the 1967 "Human Be-In" and "Summer of Love." 

More women were becoming lawyers and leaders, including the late Joanne Garvey (President, 1981). Lawyers increasingly sought to contribute to the administration of justice, liberty and equality, and access to legal services. 

This particular story begins in 1967. Ronald Reagan was Governor and a judicial vacancy opened in San Francisco. Instead of BASF’s recommendation, the Barristers Club thought he should appoint a lawyer with exceptional criminal and civil law experience. It recommended Robert Merrill and helped secure his appointment, and he began a distinguished career as a trial and appellate judge. 

In 1969, the People's Park controversy erupted in Berkeley and over 400 demonstrators were taken to Santa Rita jail. Within three days, the Barristers Club assembled a task force of volunteer lawyers to serve as neutral observers and obtained a federal court order appointing them in aid of the court’s civil rights jurisdiction. 

Read the full piece on BASF’s website.

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