The ranks of lawyers in the Legislature may be dwindling, but there were plenty in the Senate chambers Monday to honor outgoing Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana. Term limits are forcing the Judiciary Committee chairman and trial lawyer to leave the Senate eight years after he upset then-Republican Minority Leader Robert Hurtt.
“A trial lawyer in Orange County took on the minority leader — and won,” state Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey, said Monday. “Sorry, guys,” Bowen said in a nod to Senate Republicans, “But how fun is that?”
A champion of the plaintiffs bar and the judiciary, Dunn may be best remembered for his prosecutorial-type work during the 2001 energy crisis, when he grilled corporate executives, including H. Ross Perot, about alleged market manipulation.
“This guy is a master of getting a witness in a comfort zone, leading him down the primrose path and then yanking the rug out from underneath him,” Bowen said.
On top of the traditional thanks given to family and staff, Dunn offered kudos to Larry Drivon, the Stockton attorney who has filed hundreds of clergy-abuse lawsuits, plaintiffs attorney Ray Boucher, and even his personal trainer (hey, the guy’s had three knee surgeries in six years).
Dunn’s final days in the Senate may prove his most difficult. As the author of legislation creating 50 new judgeships, he’ll have to negotiate a truce between the Assembly speaker and the governor to return 25 of those bench positions that the speaker eliminated last week.
Dunn remains in office until after the November election, but his final session in the Senate ends next week.
— Cheryl Miller