Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, May 23, 2023


Page 10


In My Opinion

State Bar Says It Is Dedicating Itself to Spreading Truth. But Is It?


By Kristian Whitten


(The writer is a retired California deputy attorney general and member of the UC Hastings Class of 1973.)


Since my last report on April 6, this newspaper has reported on further fallout from State Bar employees being corrupted by now-disbarred celebrity lawyer Thomas V. Girardi, including that State Bar Board of Trustees Chair Ruben Duran has been quoted as saying that the State Bar investigates possible misconduct wherever it might occur, saying:

“The status of attorneys, or the size of their practice, cannot and will not impact our decision to investigate misconduct.”

This followed the March 22 letter from California Supreme Court Executive Officer Jorge E. Navarrete to the executive director of the State Bar, Leah Wilson, directing that amendments to California Rules of Court 9.11 and 9.90 be considered and drafted so as to better assess actual and potential conflicts of interest of each candidate for the State Bar Court and State Bar Board of Trustees.

To this directive, Wilson responded with a statement that the State Bar welcomes such changes, saying: “Collectively, these actions will help us improve public trust in the integrity of the state bar.”

On April 19, Navarrete also directed the State Bar to submit a draft of an updated ethics code for its Board of Trustees by Aug. 1, and to develop policies for when and how often the trustees should be trained on conflicts of interest.

However, there has been no similar investigation at the State Bar into, or even any apparent ongoing interest in its summary decision to change the information on its public website about all of us graduates of the former Hastings College of the Law to say that we graduated from “UC College of the Law, San Francisco.”

After numerous UC Hastings alumni complained, the State Bar changed the listings back to indicate we graduated from UC Hastings, explaining that “[o]ur practice has been to include the name of the law school at the time an attorney graduated.”

But a few days later, after this newspaper spotlighted the issue on March 10, our law school alma mater was again listed as UC College of the Law, San Francisco.

The State Bar has admitted that it has no written policy on how to handle law school name changes, but says that the State Bar staff intends to submit a proposal on the subject for approval of its trustees later this year.

Retired Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Richard Flier (UC Hastings Class of 1971) was told on the phone by a State Bar employee that the initial change in the State Bar’s listing to UC College of the Law, San Francisco, was ordered by the California Supreme Court. Did that also come from Navarrete? A request to the California Lawyers Association’s Litigation Section for help in uncovering the truth about how all this has come about remains unanswered.

Questions have been raised about the possibility of influence being used by powerful alumni instrumental in the school’s name change, which passed  the Legislature and was signed by the governor last September, like Joseph Cotchett (UC Hastings Class of 1964), former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (UC Hastings Class of 1958), Sen. Thomas Umberg (UC Hastings Class of 1980), and former Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Robert Hertzberg (UC Hastings Class of 1979).

Each of them still advertises himself as a graduate of Hastings College of the Law. Most, if not all, of the rest of us also have media in circulation which lists our law school alma mater as UC Hastings. And the constitutionality of the name change is the subject of ongoing litigation.

Of course, that litigation is itself incentive for those supporting and promoting the name change to see that it is implemented whenever and wherever possible.

No one who has graduated from UC College of the Law, San Francisco has yet taken the California Bar, and the law enacting the name change (AB 1936) does not clearly indicate that it is meant to be retroactive. See generally City of Emeryville v. Cohen (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 293, 308.

Therefore, listing us as having graduated from UC College of the Law, San Francisco is not the kind of accurate information that the State Bar is supposed to have posted about its members on its public website; and certainly not before its trustees have had a chance to fully consider the issue.


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