Friday, October 30, 2015
Bar Ponders Ending Sections’ Say-So Over Finances
Former President of Association Says Officers Are Running ‘Roughshod’ Over Sections; LACBA Insists No Actual Change Would Be Effected
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Los Angeles County Bar Association’s 26 sections would lose all control over their own finances, under a proposed bylaw change presently before the group’s Board of Trustees.
The measure—quietly approved by the board’s Executive Committee (comprised of LACBA’s officers)—was slated to be voted upon by the full board Wednesday night. The recommendation had not been shared with the full board until Tuesday when that proposition, along with other suggested bylaw changes, was disseminated in an email accompanying the agenda.
On Wednesday afternoon, various sections became aware of the proposal, triggering a flurry of emails, some expressing indignation that such an action was contemplated without notice to the sections.
Bradley S. Pauley, chair of the Appellate Courts Section, sent an email to 17 section leaders shortly before 4 p.m., assuring recipients:
“I just spoke with [LACBA President-Elect] Margaret Stevens, who very graciously agreed to put this proposed Bylaw Amendment over to a future meeting in order to allow the Section Leaders to provide any comments.”
Pauley’s email was relayed by various recipients to other lawyers involved in section activities.
Former President’s Comments
In an email to 23 persons prior to Pauley’s announcement, a former LACBA president thundered:
“This is astounding! Does the Executive Committee (the Officers) really believe that they should run roughshod over the Sections? At whose pleasure do they serve?”
The former LACBA leader (who asked that his name not be used in quoting the email) went on to say:
“They are really putting the Trustees in a spot, as the Trustees have a duty to the Sections. While the bylaws give the Trustees the power to confiscate the Sections Assets, why would any good leaders do so without a thorough discussion with the sections which most of us believe are the life blood of the Bar? Are they afraid to discuss the fact that the Bar is in financial trouble and it truly needs to use the Sections’ funds to stay afloat?”
At present, Art. X, Sec. 14 of the bylaws says:
“All dues and other funds collected by a Section shall be deposited with the Association to the credit of the Section and may be drawn upon and expended for Section purposes as may be directed by the Executive Committee of the Section, subject to the Section’s obligation to pay an appropriate amount toward the Association’s overhead and meet other financial guidelines set by the Association….”
The revised bylaw, if adopted, would preclude a section from drawing upon funds it generated through its programs or otherwise, or which were derived from section dues.
It would also end the requirement that LACBA segregate section funds from the general fund. That requirement, however, has not been observed for years, according to a LACBA statement released late yesterday.
The proposed Sec. 14 provides:
“All dues and other funds collected by a Section shall be deposited with the Association and shall be subject to such financial guidelines as may be set by the Association from time to time….”
The controversy comes at a time when there is growing disenchantment with LACBA on the part of some sections, with one section contemplating establishment of an autonomous organization. A common complaint is that an effort is being exerted by LACBA Executive Director Sally Suchil to unreasonably dictate to, if not regiment, the sections.
These concerns were voiced at a retreat of section leaders on July 26 of last year, it has been learned.
At the retreat on Sept. 25 of this year, there was “considerable expression of frustration over the process for the approval and administration of section programs,” which must have clearance before they implemented, a participant at the retreat said yesterday.
Another participant reported that “leaders of various sections voiced concern with what they perceived to be a general lack of support from LACBA and questioned whether LACBA valued the contributions of the sections.”
A LACBA spokesperson late yesterday released the following statement, in response to an inquiry by the MetNews:
“As a matter of historical perspective, the Bylaws provision concerning Section finances has been out of date for years, and has not reflected, for close to a decade, the reality of LACBA’s financial practices. That provision, however, has been largely overlooked and was inadvertently not amended when LACBA’s Bylaws were overhauled a few years ago. The proposed revision of that Bylaws provision tracks the reality of what has been in effect for a number of years, and which Section leaders have experienced for the same period of time.
“A corollary of the foregoing is that Section leaders have been well aware of LACBA’s practices, and have followed those practices, for quite some time. However, because the cleanup language change came without any fanfare, some Section leaders reached out to the LACBA officers before [Wednesday’s] Board meeting and asked for additional time to review the language. In deference to the request, President Paul Kiesel took the matter off the Board of Trustees’ agenda for further input from and discussion with the Sections. It is anticipated that Section leaders’ comments will be solicited for review prior to the next Board meeting.”
Although the proposal on section funds was put on hold, other bylaw changes were effected at Wednesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting, with an eye to increasing revenues by opening various categories of LACBA membership to a greater number of persons, including those in U.S. territories and possessions and foreign nations. The changes are:
•All attorneys who were admitted to practice in some other state, and not here, may become LACBA “general members,” dispensing with the requirement that they have an office in California.
•“Judicial members” now include administrative law judges, as well as persons performing judicial roles in a court or local or state agency in any state or in a U.S. territory or possession.
•To be a “faculty member” of LACBA no longer necessitates being a full-time teacher or administrator at a law school within California, and eligibility is extended to those who are on faculties of any American Bar Association-accredited law school, not only those approved by the State Bar of California.
•A “government/public service member” no longer needs to have an office in California and membership is broadened to include those employed in a U.S. territory or possession.
•The status of an “associate member”—previously accorded exclusively to non-attorneys—is now extended to “persons admitted to practice law only in jurisdictions outside the United States, its territories and possessions.”
In one instance, potential membership was restricted. “Law student membership” will be available, prospectively, only to those enrolled at institutions accredited by the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners or by the American Bar Association.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company