McWilliams' opponents sought deadlock in ABA voting

February 14, 1991|By Graeme Browning

It took 8 1/2 hours and an unprecedented 88 ballots to nominate Baltimore lawyer J. Michael McWilliams as president-elect of the American Bar Association because some ABA members wanted a stalemate, the lawyer who represented Maryland in the voting said yesterday.

Mr. McWilliams, who received the nomination Tuesday at the ABA's midyear meeting in Seattle, fought a three-way battle for the leadership of the 380,000-member organization with Allen E. Brennecke of Marshalltown, Iowa, and Roberta Cooper Ramo of Albuquerque, N.M.

Ms. Ramo, who would have been the first woman nominated as president-elect of the 112-year-old lawyers' organization, "had a hard core of supporters," said Herbert J. Belgrad, Maryland's delegate to the 61-member nominating committee.

Supporters of Ms. Ramo "decided they would have a better chance of victory in the House of Delegates," which votes on the nomination at the ABA's annual meeting in August in Atlanta, "so their strategy was to block anybody else from obtaining a majority," Mr. Belgrad said.

The nominating committee includes only one delegate from each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico and 10 ABA sections, Mr. Belgrad said. The committee votes on the nomination by written ballot behind closed doors.

State delegate strength in the House of Delegates, however, is based on the number of ABA members in each state.

Ms. Ramo's supporters hoped that by throwing the nomination to the House that large delegations from California, New York and other populous states might carry the day, Mr. Belgrad added.

Mr. Belgrad said that Mr. McWilliams was within five to six votes of winning on each ballot and that the final tally was 31 for Mr. McWilliams, 20 for Mr. Brennecke and nine for Ms. Ramo with one delegate absent.

Mr. McWilliams, a former president of the Maryland State Bar Association and campaign manager for former Gov. Harry Hughes, has held a number of significant positions in the ABA, including that of chairman of the House of Delegates, the organization's legislative body.

Mr. Brennecke, another ABA insider, also was chairman of the House of Delegates.

In contrast, the highest post Ms. Ramo has held within the ABA has been chairmanship of the Economics of Law Practice section.

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