Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New State Bar Governance Model Appears in SB 163

Just over a week after the State Bar's "Governance in the Public Interest Task Force" issued its legislatively mandated report (including both majority and minority reports; see earlier post), Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Noreen Evans has amended her SB 163, this year's State Bar Fee Bill, to include a hybrid version of the two - with an added legislative twist.

In some respects, SB 163 now represents a clear Solomonic "splitting of the baby" between the majority and minority reports. Where the majority report sought to maintain the current 23-member board, with 12 of the 17 attorney members elected and a 17/6 ratio of attorneys to public members, and the minority report called for an all-appointed 15-member board with a 9/6 attorney/public member ratio, the SB 163 model calls for the board to be comprised of (after the terms of existing members expire, no later than 2014) 19 members (exactly midway between the two models), of which 13 will be attorneys and 6 non-attorney public members.
The 13 attorneys, in turn, will be comprised of six elected from new districts paralleling the existing Court of Appeal districts (a feature of the Majority Report); five appointed by the Supreme Court (a feature of both reports) and - the only completely new feature of the bill - two appointed by the Legislature, one each by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee. This addresses a point of legislative concern that appears to have been hanging around since the last time Jerry Brown was governor - the disparate appointing authority between the Governor (who has four public member appointments to the Board) and Legislature (which has two). Under SB 163, both the Governor and the Legislature would have the authority to appoint four board members - although the Governor's would all be non-attorney public members and the Legislature's would be split between non-attorney public members and attorneys. Presumably the Governor has been consulted with and signed off on this matter, since it was an argument over relative appointing authority long ago (back in 1976) that led then-Governor Brown to veto one of the original State Bar Fee Bills.

One thing both the majority and minority reports and SB 163 all agree on: The name of the Bar's governing body will be changed from "Board of Governors" to "Board of Trustees."

Other provisions of SB 163 would require the board to complete and implement a 5-year strategic plan, with attendant reporting requirement, and would reconstitute the Governance in the Public Interest Task Force in a way more consistent with the new composition of the board.

SB 163 is currently on the Senate Floor, awaiting the vote to send it to the Assembly for further deliberation. That vote will occur this week.

1 comment:

  1. SB 163 also keeps alive the Governance Task Force which will essentially be "Board Lite." Also, it doesn't address the huge "conflict of interest" problems with the public members and the disparity with the length of terms for certain members. Hopefully, the Assembly Judiciary Committee will take a closer look at this because the proposed governance structure does not enhance public protection.