Mitchell A. Kamin, president and CEO of Bet Tzedek/House of Justice, announced Wednesday that he is resigning effective Sept. 3.
The nonprofit legal services organization, which Kamin has led since 2003, helps more than 10,000 indigent, elderly and disadvantaged people every year.
Kamin, 43, said he will become a partner at a small law firm in Century City — Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks & Lincenberg — which handles complex business litigation and white-collar criminal defense.
“I’m excited about beginning the next chapter in my career,” Kamin said. “I’ve been with Bet Tzedek more than seven years, and we’ve accomplished a huge amount during that time. ... I am handing the organization off in amazing shape for someone who comes in, and I’m sure they’ll find someone great, with fresh ideas and a huge amount of passion and energy who can take it to an even greater place than it is at now.”
Board member Glenn Sonnenberg said Kamin’s decision was not a complete surprise but still a blow.
“If this were a small, fledgling nonprofit and someone of Mitch’s caliber left, it would vary somewhere between significant turmoil to catastrophe. But Bet Tzedek has been around for 35 years; it has a healthy board, a healthy staff, a healthy donor base, great events and a great image. It’s certainly a loss, and he has tough shoes to fill, but because the organization is as strong as it is, it’s not a tragedy.”
Sonnenberg said Kamin brought with him a strong balance of skills, from day-to-day management to envisioning programs that brought new services to more people. Even during the economic crisis of the last few years, Kamin actively expanded the organization, rather than just keeping it afloat.
When Kamin arrived, Bet Tzedek had a budget of $4 million and a staff of 40. It now runs on a $7 million budget with a staff of 70. He tripled Bet Tzedek’s endowment to $4.5 million and set up partnerships with law firms and corporations that yielded $16 million worth of donated legal services last year.
In 2009, Bet Tzedek won the American Bar Association’s highest honor for pro bono work for its Holocaust Survivors Justice Network, a nationwide cadre of 3,600 pro bono lawyers who are handling claims and other services for Holocaust survivors.
In the last few years, Bet Tzedek set up shop in county courthouses and developed a partnership with Jewish Family Service’s SOVA Community Food and Resource Program to provide on-site legal services to clients. Kamin developed or expanded programs handling consumer fraud, landlord-tenant issues and extensive services for seniors and their caregivers, many of which use an interdisciplinary approach involving doctors, social workers and law enforcement.
Kamin said he plans to stay involved with Bet Tzedek and continue doing pro bono work, an important component at his new firm. Several Bet Tzedek board members — including a past president — practice at the firm, commonly known as Bird, Marella.
Speaking the day after Kamin’s announcement, Sonnenberg said the board has not yet initiated plans for replacing Kamin. Kamin said Michelle Williams Court, Bet Tzedek’s vice president and general counsel, will serve as interim CEO until a replacement is found.
Sonnenberg believes Bet Tzedek’s national reputation will attract excellent candidates.
“This organization has legs, and it has strength, and it has support,” Sonnenberg said. “I have no doubt we are going to attract a CEO of the same caliber as Mitch ... and that person will bring their touch and their personality and perspective that will make us stronger.”