Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Brown Signs Bill Separating Sections From State Bar
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday signed into law SB 36 which will detach all 16 sections from the State Bar, moving them, along with the California Young Lawyers Association, into a private nonprofit corporation.
The State Bar, established as a unified bar in 1927—supplanting the voluntary California Bar Association—now becomes strictly a state disciplinary and regulatory agency, with professional activities shifted into a lawyers-only group. It is to be organized under Internal Revenue Code §501(c)(6) (business leagues or other associations that promote common business interests of their members).
SB 36 declares:
“The Legislature finds and declares that in order to assist the State Bar in fulfilling its licensing and regulatory duties and its duty to protect the public, the Sections of the State Bar and the California Young Lawyers Association are properly separated into an independent nonprofit organization and that these amendments serve a public purpose.”
The legislation, by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, also pares the Board of Trustees from 19 members to 13, with six fewer lawyers being on the board; the “president” will now be the “chair” and will be appointed by the Supreme Court, rather than elected by the board, as will be a vice chair.
The legislation maintains the dues at $315 for practicing attorneys with active status—the amount the Legislature has set since 2000—which, combined with additional fees, comes to $430, due Feb. 1, 2018.
While California lawyers will continue to be required to be dues-paying members of the State Bar, membership in the new association will be voluntary. The State Bar will collect dues for the voluntary group and hand the money over—but may not add any of its own funds to the payment, and must deduct the costs incurred in collecting the funds.
The legislation authorizes the State Bar to continue collecting monies for the Conference of California Bar Associations, the successor, now independent, to the State Bar Conference of Delegates. It provides:
“Any contribution or membership option included with a State Bar of California mandatory dues billing statement shall include a statement that the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations is not a part of the State Bar of California and that membership in that organization is voluntary.”
Open Meetings Act
The State Bar, itself, will be subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act and the California Public Records Act, but the State Bar Court won’t.
It will be required “by January 1, 2019, develop purchasing policies that align with the purchasing policies of other state agencies.”
The bill passed the Senate May 15 39-0, passed the Assembly Sept. 1 76-0, and the Senate accepted Assembly amendments Sept. 12 40-0.
State Bar President Michael G. Colantuono commented yesterday:
“These reforms will allow the State Bar to focus on protecting Californians who need access to ethical and competent attorneys by regulating the practice of law, pursuing diversity in the profession and our justice system, and promoting access to justice for Californians of every income level.”
State Bar Executive Director Leah T. Wilson remarked:
“SB 36 supports the State Bar in our ongoing reforms to focus on our mission of public protection. While transition and change can present challenges, I am confident that we are on the right track to best serve the people of California.”
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company