(Spoiler alert: This blog has nothing to do with mediation, today!)

On April 25, 2016, a legislative analysis was issued regarding AB 2878 which is not only the dues bill but also possibly the mechanism by which to de unify the California State Bar into two parts; a regulatory function and a trade association function.

In a lengthy and detailed analysis, legislative counsel discussed the turmoil within and mismanagement of the Bar during the past year. (See, “Analysis”) http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_28512900/ab_2878_cfa_20160424_141537_asm_comm.html

The turmoil included the litigation with its former Executive Director while the mismanagement included allowing approximately 300 complaints of the unauthorized practice of law to sit idle and unattended to in a drawer for anywhere from two to six months (Id. at 11-12.), spending approximately $76.6 million for a building in Los Angeles although the legislature only approved $10. 3 million (Id. at 15), and securing it with seventy percent of its Public Protection Fund. (Id. at 15-16.) The Bar, again without input from the legislature took out a $10 million loan to make tenant improvements to three floors in its building in San Francisco, securing that loan with future member dues.  (Id at 16.)  (That security has since been replaced with other collateral.)  Further, the members took trips to El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru and Mongolia (Id at 22) ostensibly to protect the public from “unscrupulous lawyers”. (Id. at 21.) While there, they signed an accord “… with the nation’s foreign affairs minister pledging to work together to educate Salvadorans living in California about available legal resources. …”. (Id. at 21-22.)  Needless to say, such an accord is within the province of the U. S. Secretary of State, not the California State Bar. (Id.)

The analysis also addressed the anti-trust implications of the 2015 U. S. Supreme Court decision in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission (2015) 135 S. Ct. 1101 in which the Court held that since the dental Board was controlled by “market participants” (i.e. dentists) without “active supervision” by state officials, the state itself could face anti- trust liability.  (In short, the State of California could be held liable for the anti-trust activities of the State Bar.)

Given this analysis and the fact that “

[p]rotection of the public shall be the highest priority of the State Bar of California” ( California Business and Professions Code Section 6001.1), the hearing of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary held the next day-on April 26, 2016- was quite lively and telling.  (See: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=3628 )

Lasting more than 80 minutes, most of the members agreed on one thing: that de-unification had to be seriously considered and investigated. The Bar had been given more than enough time to correct its issues, and it has failed. To give it more time would be worse than simply moving the chairs around on the Titanic. While some members did not want to vote the bill out of the committee unless and until there were reforms built into it, the Chair convinced them to vote the bill out so that it could be used as the vehicle by which to make amendments providing for the investigation and possible de-unification of the Bar.

Obviously, the legislative process for AB 2878 affects every one of the 186, 152 active members of the Bar. (Analysis at 8.) I urge each lawyer in  California  to voice his/her opinion by writing to the members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee including:    Assembly Member Stone (Chair of Assembly Judiciary) – Senator Jackson (Chair of Senate Judiciary) and his/her own Assembly member and Senator.

To find your legislator, click here: http://www.legislature.ca.gov/legislators_and_districts/districts/assemblydistricts.html

… Just something to think about.

UPDATE: Several weeks ago, I posted a blog about a bill introduced into the California Senate  entitled “Civility in Litigation Act” which would require a potential plaintiff to attempt to resolve the matter before filing suit by writing a letter to the other party explaining the dispute and giving that party an opportunity to respond.

Unfortunately,  the bill- SB 1256 -died in committee on a party line vote. The Democrats voted against it while the Republicans were for it. So much for civility!


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