The next president of the California State Bar, Luis J. Rodriguez, will be the first Latino and the first public defender elected to the position.
The 46-year-old Rodriguez was born in the United States, but moved to Cuidad Juarez with his family when he was an infant and spent his first 10 years in Mexico. He told the Los Angeles Daily News that he felt a bit disconnected from both Mexican and American cultures growing up in the Los Angeles area—never totally accepted in either—but that he was able to gain from the experience of both.
Rodriguez attended Alhambra High School, received a Bachelor of Science degree from Santa Clara University in 1989 and earned a Juris Doctor at Santa Clara Law School in 1992. He was the first person in his family to attend college.
Rodriguez clerked at the Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office while in law school. He passed the State Bar in 1994, immediately joined the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office and has been there ever since.
He served as president of the Mexican-American Bar Association of Los Angeles County in 2001. He was also president of the California La Raza Lawyers Association, president of the Latino Public Defenders Association, a member of the California State Board of Education and chairman of the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness.
Rodriguez was elected to a one-year term as president by the bar Board of Trustees on July 19 after running unopposed. He is currently vice president of the bar and will be sworn in as its 89th president in October.
Rodriguez told the Metropolitan News-Enterprise that he planned to continue the work of his predecessor, Patrick Kelly, and focus on court funding, which has been ravaged by the Legislature the past five years.