Tuesday, May 17, 2011

State Bar "Governance in Public Interest Task Force" Issues Report

The State Bar's "Governance in the Public Interest Task Force" issued its mandated report late last week.  The final report was pretty much what everyone expected (see earlier blog post). The governance task force was legislatively mandated as part of the 2011 State Bar Fee Bill (AB 2764 by the Assembly Judiciary Committee) and is required to make recommendations “for enhancing and ensuring that public protection is the highest priority in the licensing, regulation and discipline of attorneys.” The mandate reflected concerns by some lawmakers over what they perceived as lawyer-friendly board actions, including a liability insurance disclosure requirement that opponents considered watered-down and a Find Legal Help feature on the State Bar's website that doesn’t permit searches by practice area.
The majority report calls for the appointment of three lawyers to the board of governors, the election of 12 from five bar districts, and a seat for a young lawyer representative. Some members could be reappointed, a new executive committee would be created and half of the board’s two regulatory committees would be public members. 

The minority report (which was specifically authorized in the legislation mandating the task force and report) recommends paring the board down from 23 to 15 members — nine lawyers, six nonlawyers. The Supreme Court would oversee a committee that would screen applicants and appoint the members.

The task force recommendations were made to the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees, along with the Supreme Court, and will play a role in the Legislature's deliberations over this year's Bar Fee Bill, SB 163 by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Noreen Evans (perhaps to the extent of one or the other recommendation being made a part of the bill).

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