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The California State Bar announced 'historic reforms' under a new fee bill, including an amicable separation from its practice sections.
The voluntary sections will spin off into a non-profit entity, side-stepping an issue that came up last year. The sections were considering a split then, partly because of new restrictions against spending on alcohol and contracting with resort-style venues for events.
For the disciplinary and regulatory arm of the California State Bar, the biggest change comes to the board of trustees. Lawyers will no longer be elected to the board.
The California Supreme Court, the legislature, and the governor will appoint the new board. There will be seven attorney members and six non-attorneys.
The new board replaces the 19-member body, which currently is down four members. Traditionally six lawyers were elected by region.
Attorneys will continue to pay mandatory dues, but they will not go to the practice sections. Lawmakers were concerned that the state bar was not spending enough on discipline.
"These reforms will allow the State Bar to focus on protecting Californians who need access to ethical and competent attorneys by regulating the practice of law, pursuing diversity in the profession and our justice system, and promoting access to justice for Californians of every income level," said state bar president Michael Colantuono.
Last year, bar executives banned the voluntary sections from spending on alcohol and expensive meeting places. The section leaders said that stymied their efforts to attract and retain members.
While considering the issue and possible reforms, the state legislature ended its last session without a yearly dues bill. The state supreme court weighed in by approving the dues but only to pay for disciplinary functions.
Under the law signed by the governor, mandatory dues and fees will remain at $430 for active attorneys.