Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Governor Brown Signs Bill Restructuring State Bar
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Gov. Jerry Brown has approved legislation making significant changes in the structure of the State Bar.
SB 163, by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, was signed by the governor on Sunday, Brown’s office said in a statement. It will take effect Jan. 1, although the changes will be phased in over a three-year period. While keeping dues at their current level, less a $10 rebate, the bill makes changes that the author said will enhance the State Bar’s role in protecting the public.
The bill’s opening section reads:
“Protection of the public shall be the highest priority for the State Bar of California and the board of trustees in exercising their licensing, regulatory, and disciplinary functions. Whenever the protection of the public is inconsistent with other interests sought to be promoted, the protection of the public shall be paramount.”
The bill consists of 64 sections, touching every aspect of State Bar operation, although many of the changes are minor or simply clarifying.
Growing out of the earlier work of the legislatively created Task Force on State Bar Governance, the bill will replace the current Board of Governors with a Board of Trustees. The revised nomenclature, the sponsor said, reflects the primacy of the board’s public protection role.
The board would initially consist of 23 members as at present, but would eventually be reduced to 19.
As at present, there would be six public members, with four being appointed by the governor and two by the legislative leadership. But the number of attorney members would be reduced from 16 to 13, and the method of selection would change radically.
Currently, there are 15 members elected from nine districts, and the districts and the number of members from each are apportioned along the lines of “one attorney, one vote.” But under SB 163, six members would be elected, one from each Court of Appeal district; five would be appointed by the Supreme Court; and two would be appointed by the legislative leadership.
The seat currently set aside for a representative of the California Young Lawyers Association would be abolished.
Current board members, however, including those elected earlier this year, will be allowed to complete their terms. Members would be allowed to serve a maximum of two three-year terms.
The current system of electing the State Bar president from among members in the final year of their terms will be eliminated; the board will, from now on, elect a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer annually, and any member may run for those offices.
The president will no longer be limited to voting in case of a tie.
Provisions relating to the governance task force are repealed, now that its work is done, but a new task force—consisting of seven members, including the bar president—will be created to review the new structure and advise the Legislature on governance matters.
The legislation also allows the board to spend up to $20 per member per year to provide legal services to the poor, although members who object may deduct that amount from their dues payment.
Brown signed several other bills on Sunday, including:
•AB 1403, by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which will prohibit judges from imposing blanket time limits on voir dire in civil trials. The legislation, effective Jan. 1, also sets a 30-day time limit in which a party may accept remittitur or additur in lieu of a new trial on damages, unless the court specifies a different limit in its order.
•AB 1407, also by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which will permit a claim against a parent, guardian, or another adult for furnishing alcoholic beverages to a person whom he or she knows, or should have known, to be under 21 years of age, and would permit a finding that the furnishing of such beverages is the proximate cause of resulting injuries.
•SB 384, by Evans, which will allow, if the parties so stipulate, a summary adjudication of an issue that does not dispose entirely of a claim or defense. The legislation is effective Jan. 1 and sunsets after three years.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company