Friday, September 14, 2007
For Non-Payment of Dues...
Commissioner Jones, Former Judge Karlin Draw Administrative Bar Suspensions
Neither Was Practicing—Commissioners Being Legally Precluded and Karlin Having Been on Inactive Status
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
A sitting Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner and a once-controversial retired judge of that court are among the 1,662 persons who have been placed on administrative suspension as members of the State Bar of California, it was learned yesterday.
Lori-Ann Jones is the commissioner who was suspended from law practice—a fate without immediate consequence for her in light of the prohibition under Government Code §68082 on court commissioners engaging in practice. The former judge is Joyce Ann Karlin, as she was known while on the bench, now using the surname of her husband, Superior Court Judge William F. Fahey.
Contacted yesterday, Jones expressed surprise that she had been suspended, saying:
“Oh, my gosh. I didn’t know that.”
She said she would “clear it up today.”
Until Jones does gain reinstatement, a technical objection to her hearing cases could conceivably be raised in light of rule 10.701 of the California Rules of Court which provides that, except with narrow exceptions, “a person is ineligible to be a subordinate judicial officer unless the person is a member of the State Bar.”
The bar status of commissioners is distinct from that of judges. A judge’s bar membership is in limbo; Business and Professions Code §6002 provides: “The members of the State Bar are all persons admitted and licensed to practice law in this State except justices and judges of courts of record during their continuance in office.”
Commissioners, on the other hand, are members of the State Bar, on either active or inactive status. Although most opt for the latter classification, the Los Angeles Superior Court’s lawyer, Court Counsel Frederick R. Bennett, said yesterday that while he hasn’t researched the issue, he knows of no requirement that a commissioner relinquish active membership, though practicing law is proscribed.
Up until her flukish administrative suspension on Aug. 16, Jones had been an active member. The list of suspended members was provided yesterday.
Waiver Not Sought
Whichever bar status a commissioner chooses, a waiver of dues may be sought, under State Bar Rule 2.16(C)(3)(c), which is routinely granted. Jones acknowledged, however, that she had not filed a request for the waiver.
The mix-up could have occurred because the address the State Bar has for Jones, as listed on its website, is that of the courthouse in Downey. Jones said that she was initially assigned to that courthouse when she became a commissioner last year, but has been at the Inglewood facility since Jan. 2.
Unless a waiver is granted retroactively, Jones will owe the State Bar $400 for active dues for 2007, a $75 assessment based on failing to pay by Feb. 1, and a $200 reinstatement fee.
Should Karlin seek reinstatement, she would also be subject to the $75 late charge and $200 reinstatement fee, but would pay inactive dues of $125.
Karlin in Headlines
Karlin came into the public spotlight in 1991 when she granted probation to a Korean-born storekeeper who had fatally shot a black teenage girl whom she suspected of shoplifting. Then-District Attorney Ira Reiner, instituted a blanket affidavit policy, thus disqualifying Karlin from handling felonies; an ill-fated recall campaign was launched against her; and she drew three opponents in the 1992 election, defeating the trio in the primary.
In 1992, she drew three election challengers, but prevailed in the primary.
Karlin resumed her State Bar membership when she retired from the bench in 1997 in order to spend more time with her daughter, then 2. She opted for “inactive” status.
Two years later, “Joyce Fahey” gained a seat on the Manhattan Beach City Council, ending an eight-year stint last March, further service being barred by term limits. In 2002, she was mayor of the South By city.
On Oct. 8, 2003, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Willett granted her anti-SLAPP motion and dismissed an action brought against her by a City Council rival candidate who claimed that Fahey invaded her privacy. Fahey and her nephew obtained the rival’s Social Security number and were able to uncover that she lied on her candidate statement about having a college degree.
The former judge said yesterday:
“I haven’t heard anything about a problem with my bar dues. There’s clearly a mix up which I’ll take care of in the next few days.”
Supreme Court Action
The California Supreme Court on July 30 acted on a request by the State Bar Board of Governors, filed July 24, that persons on a list of those who had not paid bar dues be suspended from membership.
“IT IS ORDERED that each person hereinafter named is suspended from membership in the State Bar of California and from the rights and privileges of an attorney to practice law as of August 16, 2007, and until payment of all current and accrued fees and/or penalties and/or costs is made,” the annual order said, adding:
“IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that upon payment in certified funds of all current and accrued fees and/or penalties and/or costs, the suspension for nonpayment shall terminate and such person may be fully restored to membership in the State Bar of California and to all rights and privileges, duties and responsibilities incident thereto....”
The list of suspended attorneys provided by the State Bar yesterday was current through Aug. 23. A Sept. 7 Membership Records report listed 139 members who had been suspended for non-payment of dues but had since proffered the overdue funds—though several remained on administrative suspension based on failing to fulfill Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements.
As of Aug. 23, 424 lawyers were on administrative suspension based on deficiencies in their MCLE credits, and 15 of them had been reinstated as of Sept. 7.
The Sept. 7 report listed civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman as among those recently placed on interim suspension following criminal convictions. Yagman, who was suspended Aug. 23, was convicted in federal court June 22 on one count of tax evasion, one count of bankruptcy fraud, and 17 counts of money laundering.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company