Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, March 3, 2011


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Divergent Proposals Mark Bar Governance Task Force Meeting




The State Bar yesterday moved a step closer to proposing changes in its governing structure, as members of a task force charged with studying the subject mulled presentations by task force members with differing views.

Members of the Task Force on Governance in the Public Interest—which was created pursuant to a mandate included in last year’s State Bar dues bill—gave no indication, however, as to where they stood during the meeting held at the State Bar’s Los Angeles headquarters.

“It is pretty clear that change is coming,” State Bar President—and task force chair—William Hebert told the MetNews during a short recess. “We just don’t know what it will be yet.”

Four alternative proposals were presented yesterday:

•A plan offered by Board of Governors members Angela Davis of Los Angeles and Jon Streeter of San Francisco, described by Streeter as “an incremental approach to reform.” The plan would reduce the number of elected lawyer members of the board to 13, add three lawyers appointed by the Supreme Court, and retain the current arrangement of having six public members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.

Districts used to elect attorney members would be enlarged, based on appellate court district boundaries. The plan would also require that half the members of the board’s disciplinary committee be public members and that at least one of the attorney members be a Supreme Court appointee.

•A proposal by attorney member Wells Lyman of San Diego, who would reduce the number of attorney members to nine, but elect them from districts as at present, and increase the number of public members to nine, with the three additional appointments being made by the Supreme Court. The president would be elected by the board and would be the 19th member.

‘Publicly Appointed Members

•A plan offered by attorney member Loren Kieve of San Francisco, under which 12 attorney members would be elected in a manner similar to the Streeter/Davis plan, and there would be 10 “publicly appointed members.” Four of the latter group would be appointed by the governor, two by the legislative leadership, and four by either the Judicial Council or the Supreme Court.

Those members could be either lawyers or laypersons, but a minimum-number-to-be-determined would have to be non-lawyers. Kieve would also have the president elected during the second-year of a three-year board term, rather than the third year, and serve a year as president-elect.

He would further require that the president be an attorney.

All of the past presidents have been attorneys, but this is not a legal requirement.

 Kieve also proposed that the board meet in Sacramento at least once a year so as to interact with legislators.

•A plan by attorney member Michael Tenenbaum of Ventura County under which there would be 12 attorney members elected by lawyers statewide and 10 public members—six appointed as at present, plus four by the Supreme Court—plus the president, who, as at present, would be elected by the board and could be either a lawyer or a layperson.

Members previously received a proposal from Hebert that would do away with attorney member elections entirely. Under Hebert’s proposal, potential bar governors would be vetted by a committee and then considered for appointment by the high court.

The composition of the board would also reduce the number of attorney members from 17 to 11, while keeping six representatives chosen by the governor and lawmakers.

All of the presenters faced spirited questioning from board members, none more so than Tenenbaum, whose proposal for statewide elections was derided as a move away from the diversity of membership that has characterized the board in recent years.

Statewide Elections

Tenenbaum claimed statewide elections would move the board away from parochialism. Many worthwhile proposals “never come to the table,” he argued, because district governors will not support then in view of the opposition of local bar associations.

That view drew dissent from board member Gretchen Nelson, a former Los Angeles County Bar Association president, who said there was no evidence of such insularity on the part of board members. “I disagree with you entirely on that,” she told Tenenbaum.

Lyman asked about the impact of statewide elections on racial, geographic, and ethnic diversity, which Tenenbaum said were irrelevant to the ability to do the work of a board member.

“There are days I wish I was a Navajo,” Tenenbaum said. But that should not be a criterion for service on the Board of Governors, he commented.

Hebert said the task force would meet next on March 25 in Sacramento.


Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company