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Bill Seeking to Overhaul Cal. State Bar Dies in Legislature

Assembly Bill 2878, the proposed law that would have fundamentally changed the makeup of the California State Bar's board of trustees by doing away with elected reps and membership dues, died on the floor of the California legislature. This despite many vocal critics of the state bar's exposed shortcomings and lack of transparency.

It is difficult to tell whether or not the bill was blocked because of broad-based unpopular sentiment or if it was blocked because the proposed changes didn't go far enough.

Drama on the Floor

State legislators expressed their grievances and concerns with the state bar last Tuesday. The proposed law came amid complaints that the quasi-governmental entity was saddled with unacceptable backlogs of claims related to lawyer misconduct, poor bookkeeping and inexcusable executive compensation. Among some of the evidence that was presented (or cited) to buttress a movement for change was the pile of complaints that the bar never got around to addressing at all.

One of the more significant changes would have ousted the current board members -- many of whom are seen as unqualified cronies -- and replaced them with professionals with actual educational or professional experience in one of five specified areas of expertise.

All votes that had favored the bill came from Democrats. Republicans largely rejected the bill.

The "Titanic" of the State Bar

Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco begged his colleagues to change the direction of the "Titanic" that is the state bar. But that did not happen.

At least one Republican legislator, Don Wagner of Irvine, said that he voted nay on the bill with the hopes that a future draft would include even heavier reforms of the bar's management processes. This was probably largely motivated by the California bar's iffy bookkeeping practices.

One of the more significant changes would have ousted the current board members -- many of whom are seen as unqualified cronies -- and replaced them with professionals with actual educational or professional experience in one of five specified areas of expertise.

No More Fees?

One of the more popular suggestions was the abolishment of annual state bar membership fees which currently stand at $390 per year. With the rejection of the law, it appears that annual lawyer fees will remain for at least another year.

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