Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, October 11, 2019


Page 1


Governor Newsom Signs Bill Hiking State Bar Licensing Fees

Active Members to Pay $438 Annually, Roughly a $100 Increase


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Gov. Gavin Newsom has released his message to the state Senate upon signing the bill that hikes annual State Bar dues for active members to $438 and for inactive members to $108.

The statement, issued Wednesday night, says:

“I am signing Senate Bill 176, which would authorize the State Bar of California to collect increased annual membership fees for 2020 and makes various changes regarding the State Bar. It also states the intent of the Legislature that the State Bar be included as part of the annual budget process for the State of California beginning with fiscal year 2021-22.

“In signing this bill, I acknowledge the Legislature’s intent. However, the Administration will need to work closely with the State Bar to understand the implications including the Bar in the state budget process. As such, I am directing the Department of Finance to begin discussions with the State Bar but I am not committing to including the State Bar in the annual budget process.”

The bill does not elaborate on the role that is envisioned for the State Bar in connection with budget determinations; it simply states:

“It is the intent of the Legislature that: [¶] “The State Bar be included as part of the annual budget process for the State of California beginning with the 2021–22 fiscal year.”

Under the law pertaining to 2019 dues, the basic licensing fee for active members was set at $315, but there was added $40 for the Client Security Fund, $25 for disciplinary activities, and $10 for the Lawyer Assistance Program, coming to $390; with an optional $5 deduction based on a disinclination to support lobbying activities, the mandatory amount was $385.

Permissible Deductions

Previously, lawyers earning less than $40,000 a year from all sources could subtract 25 percent from the amount billed; the amount is raised to $60,478.35.

Business and Professions Code §6033 authorizes the State Bar to collect from licensees “voluntary financial support for nonprofit organizations that provide free legal services to persons of limited means.” The new law provides that the invoice for the licensee fee is to include a $40 assessment toward that purpose which the licensee may deduct.

Also added is this language:

“Notwithstanding any other law, the State Bar is expressly authorized to collect, in conjunction with the State Bar’s collection of its annual license fees, voluntary donations on behalf of and for the purpose of funding California ChangeLawyers, which promotes a better justice system for all Californians.”

In 2015, the California Bar Foundation changed its name to ChangeLawyers.

State Bar’s Position

The State Bar had requested a dues hike to $813.

Los Angeles attorney Alan Steinbrecher, who chairs the State Bar Board of Trustees, commented yesterday:

“This is an important milestone for the State Bar. Approval of this fee increase demonstrates recognition by both sister branches of government that achievement of the State Bar’s mission of public protection, furthering access to legal services, and increasing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession requires that the agency be appropriately funded.”

He continued:

“For most attorneys, the increase is moderate, considering the 20 years the base fee remained unchanged; the increased income threshold for scaling will assist lower income attorneys in managing the impact of the increase. We are grateful to the Legislature and the Governor for this progress and look forward to working with our stakeholders in the coming legislative term to arrive at a fee bill and a more predictable process for seeking fee adjustments as needed over time.”

State Bar Executive Director Leah T. Wilson said:

“The increase will enable the State Bar to add an additional 19 positions the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel, to begin making needed investments in technology and building maintenance, and perhaps most significantly, to extend a fair and equitable retiree health benefit to all staff for the first time in the State Bar’s history. The law provides for future phasing in of technology and capital improvements, enabling us to continue making much-needed infrastructure improvements.”


Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company