Orange County Bar Association President Michael Baroni's installation came with a lil' condemnation last night at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach. Attorneys upset with wacky statements he wrote in this month's Orange County Lawyer about immigrants, the "war on cops," and apocryphal anti-American demonstrations decided to do something about it.
Even before the OCBA's Judges Night & Annual Meeting got underway, a dozen protesters greeted attendees with anti-Baroni signs, one reading, "Baroni, Full of Bologna." HA! The new president's first published letter of hot air became the hot topic of the night. Some of those in the audience who hadn't read his choice quotes left before the installation after they learned of them.
Then came time for Baroni's installation by retired Judge James Gray. When the prez walked up to the podium to give his acceptance speech, dozens of lawyers called it an early night by standing up and walking out. At that moment other attorneys unfurled a giant "We Stand With ALL Immigrant Communities" banner in Baroni's direct line-of-sight and began chanting. They didn't take kindly to the new president's published notion that refugees come to this country not wanting to assimilate but "remake" these United States into an oppressive homage of their native lands.
"He seemed extremely uncomfortable at the podium," says attorney Karina A. Gutierrez. The Lawtina is a DACA recipient and member of the OCBA. Baroni's only response to the protests was to whine about his installation not being a "forum," adding that he'd gladly talk to aggrieved folks at another time. Security officers at the banquet hall stood in front of the banner obscuring the meat of its message.
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After Baroni's speech concluded, the conversations continued. "The main goal that we were trying to get out of this is to open things up," Gutierrez says. "The OC Bar Association needs to ensure that they are not forgetting about the vulnerable communities here."
The OCBA board of directors had already issued an apology for Baroni's polarizing screed, but dissenting attorneys are following up last night's protest with a list of demands. They want an apology from Baroni himself for making xenophobic comments before having him—and the board of directors—meet with OC immigration advocates.
While the new OCBA president wants a tighter relationship between the Orange County District Attorney's office and law enforcement agencies to turn a "cops are racist" media tide, attorneys want to bend the corner towards a universal representation program for the county. Other demands also include a more diverse executive board, implicit bias training and a funding commitment for immigration attorneys.
Baroni: the gavel is in your hands.