California State Bar Steps Into Line With Other State Agencies
The California State Auditor is concerned that the State Bar of California may be putting the public at risk by settling more cases for less severe levels of discipline than it otherwise might have. Because the State Bar rushed to clear its backlog, the state Supreme Court returned twenty-seven settlements back to the State Bar for insufficient levels of discipline.
The audit discovered that during 2011 the State Bar was so eager to clear disciplinary cases that it allowed employees to settle cases with attorneys without review by management or supervisors. Despite the breaks given to problem lawyers and due to poor oversight and workforce planning the State Bar backlog has increased by a whopping twenty-five percent since 2011. The State Bar was also called out for charging its members excessive membership fees.
The California State Bar’s primary mission is the protection of the public through its attorney discipline system the audit states. However the California State Bar’s financial priorities over the past six years did not consistently reflect that mission. Rather than using its financial resources to improve its attorney discipline system, the State bar spend a major portion of its money to buy and redecorate a building in Los Angeles in 2012. The California State Bar agreed that the 2012 acquisition lacked sufficient transparency.
The University of San Diego Center for Public Interest Law is a research and advocacy group that has been lobbying for over thirty years for increased California State Bar transparency. The Center is happy with last weeks result however the legislature must continue its reform efforts. For more information please contact attorney Brian Lysaght of Santa Monica.
Senate Bill 387 and the California State Bar
If signed by Governor Jerry Brown, Senate Bill 387 would require that the California State Bar be mandated to adhere to the same transparency laws as other state agencies, specifically the California Public Records Act and the Bagley-Keene Act.
Senate Bill 387’s recently passed amendments better define the backlog of discipline cases and require the California State Bar to complete a workforce plan for its discipline system. The State Bar will also be required to develop a reasonable spending plan based upon its necessary options.