Making a Difference in the Fight against Drunk Driving
Alumnus Brandon Stallings explains how the road he has traveled has led him to professional and community involvement, first with the California State Bar as the youngest member of the Board of Trustees, and now in a leadership role in the fight against drunk driving. He challenges us to find our places to serve in our communities.
“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.” – Abraham Lincoln
In my first year of law school, I was intent on working for a constitutional law think tank. I wanted to fight the intellectual fight in such a way that I would eventually be arguing in front of the United States Supreme Court. The practical aspect of how I was going to get to this level in changing the lives of Americans never quite made it into my planning. I thought that if I got into law school, practicing constitutional law would naturally follow.
Instead, my life took an unexpected twist toward practicality when an OBCL Alumni, asked me to work for him as a law clerk in Bakersfield, CA. I still had the same dream, but figured that the “mundane” practice of law would give me some skills to help in my quest. Little did I know that this life choice would eventually lead to being hired by the District Attorney’s office, where I’ve worked for the past 8 years as an advocate for justice and for victims who oftentimes don’t have a voice.
But despite the rewarding work of being a prosecutor, I still felt like there was more I needed to do in personifying the words of Abraham Lincoln.
I became involved with the local Bar association and eventually served as chair of the Young Lawyer Section and was elected to a director position with the Kern County Bar Association. In 2015, I was elected to serve a three year term as the 5th District Representative on the California State Bar Board of Trustees, a body of 19 members who oversee every aspect of attorney discipline, regulation, education and admissions, just to name a few.
With these various responsibilities, it would seem like that desire to do good in the community would be satisfied. However, God knew better than I how to fill that void.
In 2013, I was training for a marathon and was participating in a local 10k that benefitted an animal shelter. I ran the 10k on a hot, sweltering Bakersfield morning, and was exhausted from the effort. As I stopped for a glass of water, a lady I knew came up to me and started excitedly telling me about a 5k benefit that she was putting together to benefit Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She wanted me to participate and kept pressing me for a commitment. I was exhausted and wanted to say “no,” however, my fiancée, now wife, Alekxia, counseled me to be open to the idea and “volunteered” me to serve in this new capacity.
Thankfully, I listened to Alekxia and I began serving locally on a 5k planning board that benefitted Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). In 2016, I was asked to chair the Advisory Committee for the local MADD chapter and to oversee the operations and finances being spent to educate the public on the dangers of DUI’s.
MADD works with victims of DUI related collisions and their families, giving presentations to students about the dangers of DUI’s and works with probation to reach first time offenders and to offer classes on how to avoid becoming a repeat offender.
Our local MADD advocate, reaches out to victims of these types of crimes and offers counseling to all those affected. I don’t have the ability or access to these victims, nor would I even know how to speak to their individual needs. It’s been an honor to serve in a capacity where funds can be raised to hire professionals to minister to those most affected and to do so far more effectively than I could.
As attorneys, we sometimes don’t look for opportunities to be community leaders outside of law or how we can make a difference outside of public policy. Our work can be all-consuming and we get wrapped up in the minutia that comes with the effective practice of law. At the end of the day, the last thing we want to think about is another organization, or expending energy to lead a group of people to address seemingly insurmountable issues that have arisen in the community.
I write this article in hopes that we all personify Abraham Lincoln’s admonition to work as hard as we can, so our communities can be proud of us as professionals and ministers of justice.
It’s good to have our lofty goals – goals that may not be achieved in this lifetime – but we need to be cognizant of the real needs of our fellow community members. If there is a people group that is particularly vulnerable or hurting, I urge you; get out of your routine, and to see what difference you can make as a community leader.
May God bless you as you find your unique community-oriented mission field!
Brandon Stallings is a veteran prosecutor with the Kern County District Attorneys office. When not actively working in the community, he enjoys music, serving in his church, and is an avid runner. Brandon lives in Bakersfield, CA with his wife and daughter.