Tuesday, March 8, 2005
State Bar Opposes Ceding Judicial Council Appointment Power
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
The State Bar Board of Governors has gone on record opposing a proposal that it cede to the state’s chief justice the power to name three lawyers to the California Judicial Council.
Meeting in Los Angeles Saturday, the board voted unanimously to seek changes in the language of draft amendments to Article VI of the state Constitution being circulated by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The proposed amendments were discussed Feb. 17 at a Sacramento meeting that included court officials, bar leaders and legislators.
The Judicial Council, which is the policymaking body for the state court system, includes four lawyers who currently are appointed by the Board of Governors. If the draft amendments were proposed by the Legislature as currently written and adopted by the voters, the State Bar would have to nominate three lawyers for each vacancy, with the chief justice making the final choice.
Members of the council serve three-year terms. Except for the State Bar appointees and two legislative members, all voting members are already chosen by the chief justice.
The council now includes, in addition to the chief justice, one other justice of the Supreme Court, three appellate court justices, 10 superior court judges, two nonvoting court administrators, and a member of each house of the Legislature. The Legislature selects the members who represent it—typically the chairs of the judiciary committees.
The draft provisions would add to the council another superior court judge, another administrator, and two additional trial court or appellate jurists who would serve one-year terms. The administrators would become voting members, and the legislators would become nonvoting.
State Bar President John Van de Kamp said the current system of appointing lawyer members to the council “isn’t broken” and does not need to be changed.
The current attorney members of the council are Rex S. Heinke of the Los Angeles office Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, former State Bar President James E. Herman of Reicker, Pfau, Pyle, McRoy & Herman in Santa Barbara, David J. Pasternak of Pasternak, Pasternak & Patton in Century City, and Santa Clara County Counsel Ann Miller Ravel.
The board will also seek minor changes in language in the proposal requiring the State Bar to “ensure” diversity in its appointments to the council. The proposal would require diversity “in terms of geographic location, type and size of practice, and background.”
The unanimous vote asked that the diversity requirement not be limited to those factors.
The constitutional provisions governing judicial council are contained in Sec. 6 of Article VI. The board also voted, again unanimously, to express concerns about proposed revisions to Sec. 9 which would state that the Supreme Court “has inherent and primary authority over the admission and discipline of attorneys licensed to practice law” in California and that the bar, “subject to the Supreme Court’s supervision and direction, serves as the administrative arm of the Supreme Court in the court’s discharge of its responsibilities concerning the admission and discipline of attorneys.”
Board member Joel S. Miliband of Rus Miliband & Smith in Irvine, co-chair of the board’s Regulation, Admission, and Discipline Oversight Committee, said that language should be revised to more closely “mirror” the language of +In re Attorney Discipline System,+ 19 Cal.4th 582, decided by the state high court in 1998. In that case the court held that the State Bar “is not an entity created solely by the Legislature or within the Legislature’s exclusive control, but rather is a constitutional entity subject to this court’s expressly reserved, primary, inherent authority over admission and discipline.”
The board’s action delegates to Van de Kamp power to devise language more acceptable to the bar.
The proposal to amend Article VI is also expected to deal with court funding issues, but the draft being circulated says those provisions are still being negotiated with the Department of Finance. The funding language, a comment to the draft proposal says, will be “designed to ensure that the basic operating needs of the courts and the Judicial Council are met in a manner that ensures a predictable fiscal environment” and could include a procedure for the judicial branch budget to be submitted “directly to both the Legislature and the Governor”—a practice Chief Justice Ronald M. George has advocated in the past.
In other action at the Board of Governors meeting on Saturday:
•Van de Kamp reported that the bar is having “some success” in seeking legislative support for the bar dues bill, AB 1529 by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, which would increase dues for inactive members to $135, excluding a building fund assessment. Current dues are $40.
That change, Van de Kamp said, would be consistent with the practice in most other jurisdictions, where inactive dues are often about a third of those for active members.
•Executive Director Judy Johnson announced that three attorney members of the board who are in the final year of their three-year terms will run for president of the organization. The board elects a president for the coming year, usually at its June meeting.
Running for the office will be Miliband, Riverside lawyer James O. Heiting of Heiting & Irwin, and San Francisco attorney Roderick A. McLeod of Jones Day.
Neither of the third-year District 7 members, who represent Los Angeles County on the board, have chosen to run for the bar’s top office. Both—David M. Marcus of Marcus, Watanabe, Snyder & Dave in Century City and Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Steven J. Ipsen—were elected to the board as “outsider” candidates.
•The board voted 13-6 to increase the filing fee for lawyers seeking reinstatement from $900 to $1600, and to make the fee payable to the Office of Trial Counsel instead of to the State Bar Court.
•The board voted unanimously to spend $291,000 to fund a member call center. Heiting, who chairs the board’s Planning, Program Development, and Budget Committee, said the long-planned call center should be “up and active” by May 1, and Van de Kamp, who had made it a priority for his term as president, called the vote “really a major step forward in finally getting this thing moving.”
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company