Law review: Ode to the Golden State

Ravn Whitington / Porter Simon
Ravn R. Whitington

Lawyers need law. Shoot. It’s right there in the name. Without law, lawyers would be cast upon the public as a rudderless group of insufferable pontificators – arguing ad nauseum without direction or restraint. They would, in essence, become politicians. Wait…nearly a third of the members of Congress have a law degree? You don’t say? Well, that may partially explain the spectacle on display last week in the United States House of Representatives.

In case you missed the frenzy, it took members of the House four days to discharge their obligation under Article I, Section 2, Clause 5, of the United States Constitution, to “chuse their Speaker.” Chuse? That’s not a misprint – just an archaic spelling of “choose,” proving yet again the Constitution was drafted in, and for, another age, but I digress.

So chuse, the members did. After prolonged, and very public, intra-party politicking, the Republican majority elected Kevin “The-15th-Try-Guy” McCarthy as the Speaker of the House. McCarthy – to his credit – is not a lawyer, but a one-time firefighter and now career politician. He hails from Bakersfield and represents California’s 20th Congressional District. The man took an absolute beating and horse-traded away the powers of the Speaker to get the job, but hey, he is now two tragedies away from serving as the next President of the United States. In the words of Dwight Yokam and Buck Owens, “how many of you that sit and judge me, ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?”

That the Grand Old Party selected (browbeat to lukewarm reception) a Californian to lead the House is rather remarkable. Only two years ago, the Man from Mar-a-Lago tweeted, “California is going to hell. Vote Trump.”

Judging by speeches, articles, flags, and those ubiquitous bumper stickers, the out-of-state conservative consensus is that Californians are a cadre of rouge socialists who can’t clean their forest floors. And maybe we are. Just a bunch of “gentle people” with “flowers in [our] hair,” as Scott McKenzie observed.

Considered it a coup then that the Speaker’s gavel is, like Notorious B.I.G. and L.L. Cool J, “going back to Cali.” In fact, it never really left. Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat who represents California’s 11th Congressional District – which encompasses San Francisco, held the Speakership (twice) before McCarthy assumed the position. Between Pelosi, who is soon to do like Otis Redding and sit on a “dock of the Bay watching the tide roll away,” and McCarthy, a Californian will have served as Speaker of the House for five of the last nine congressional sessions. Not a bad run. Unless, of course, you’re not from California. 

But here’s the thing, California – like it or not – is a force to be reckoned with. It is the fifth largest economy in the world, the most populated U.S. state, has the most members of Congress, the most law schools, and darn near the most lawyers. California is, and Californians are – much to the chagrin of denizens elsewhere – everywhere. The Red Hot Chili Peppers perhaps said it best, “tidal waves couldn’t save the world from Californication.”

And so, Speaker McCarthy, a Californian, will shepherd the passage of federal law through the House of Representatives for at least the next two years. When presidential aspirations come knocking – and they always do – McCarthy will look to join California Commanders in Chief Richard Nixon and Ronald Regan. But Gov. Gavin Newsom or Vice President Kamala Harris might have something to say about that. A California v. California presidential showdown in the making? Just what that Nation craves. Ah, “California dreamin’, on such a winter’s day.”  

Ravn R. Whitington is a partner at Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada. Ravn is a member of the firm’s Trial Practice Group where he focuses on all aspects of civil litigation. He has a diverse background in trial practice ranging from complex business disputes to personal injury to construction law, and all matters in between. He may be reached at or

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