Though Nov. 14 began like any other day, it would soon become unforgettable for the Santa Clarita Valley.
This seemed to be the theme at the Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association’s 15th anniversary Awards & Installation Gala on Dec. 11, as it was also the day the gala had originally been scheduled for.
After the Saugus High School shooting, plans quickly changed and the event was rescheduled, but the Bar Association did not let that day go unrecognized.
Instead, the organization took the opportunity to recognize three men who went above went above and beyond the call of duty on Nov. 14, according to Jeffrey Armendariz, the group’s community outreach chair.
“That morning started out much like many mornings for most of us, but for three veteran law enforcement officers, the day quickly evolved into something much more than routine,” he said, referring to Detective Daniel Finn of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Officer Gus Ramirez of the Los Angeles Police Department, and Officer Sean Yanez of the Inglewood Police Department, the off-duty officers who were among the first on scene at Saugus.
Finn, Yanez and Ramirez were in attendance at the gala as special guests, as Armendariz recounted the events of Nov. 14.
“With all three exemplifying textbook interagency training and cooperation and providing, I’m certain, something very precious to this badly hurt and students — human comfort and tenderness,” Armendariz said.
He went on to name each of the first responders and law enforcement agencies who arrived at Saugus, minutes after the incident.
“In many cases, these first responders were dispatched to Saugus High School, but in the majority of these cases, these officers, like (Detective Dan) Finn, (Officer Sean) Yanez and (Officer Gus) Ramirez, were self-dispatch and committed to preserving the safety of all Saugus students,” Armendariz added.
Commissioner Jeffrey Harkavy of the Los Angeles Superior Court said he was talking with Ramirez, who said something that struck him.
“He said, Wa large town, but we’re a small community,’ and we saw evidence of how small and how closely connected we are back on Nov. 14,” Harkavy said.
The theme remained as the gala proceeded with its regular schedule, recognizing past presidents, honoring the outgoing board, installing the new board and presenting the evening’s awards, such as the Lawyer of the Year award, which went to Mark Young of Donahoe & Young and the President’s Award.
“The President’s Award this year is very unique because it’s going to be given to a nonlawyer, somebody who has nothing to do with the legal profession quite frankly, and that is our superintendent for the William S. Hart (Union High School) District Vicki Engbrecht,” Armendariz said. “The award was intended to be awarded to her on Nov. 14, the date of the tragic events at Saugus High School, and certainly, her day was a very different day as much as it was for our officers here tonight.”
Though Engbrecht, who worked closely with the Bar for its annual high school and eighth-grade speech competitions, was not in attendance to receive the award, Armendariz noted that she will be retiring after 40 years in education. “We will certainly be losing someone of great stature and who’s truly committed to the district and to the Santa Clarita Valley community.”
Also of note was another event that occurred on Nov. 14.
“I’m pleased to tell you, on Nov. 14 — that day we were supposed to meet — the Judicial Council met and they approved the prioritization list of the projects that will be funded over time,” Harkavy said. “Two courthouses in L.A. County were designated as immediate need, and at the top was Santa Clarita.”
“Even though the Santa Clarita Valley has grown tremendously and this association has grown, we’ve gone from four courtrooms to three,” he also said.
The proposed courthouse would turn those three courtrooms into 24.
“I can’t tell you when this would happen, but I believe there has been some progress in getting a courthouse that is worthy of all of you, and worthy of the clients and all the causes that you serve,” he added.
Immediate past-president Claudia McDowell took some time to recognize the Bar’s anniversary.
“In 2004, the (SCV) Bar Association started as a junior varsity to the San Fernando Valley Bar because we didn’t have enough members, and over the years, it has grown and we’ve become our own Bar Association,” McDowell said.
Harkavy agreed, adding, “We refer to you as judges’ partners for reason, because it is a collaborative effort. We all have responsibilities, we all have our duties to perform, but there’s a common goal and a common mission. And that is to serve the members of our community with regards to their legal needs in a fair, efficient manner as possible and all of you are instrumental in fulfilling that mission.”