Friday, April 19, 2002
State Bar-Conference of Delegates Split Moves Forward
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
The State Bar Board of Governors will vote in May on a blueprint for separating from the Conference of Delegates and contracting with it as an independent entity under a plan approved yesterday by an organizational “divorce” task force.
Board action will allow State Bar lobbyists to place bills that would authorize the split and the new contractual arrangement and will continue an ambitious timeline under which a new conference corporation, to be called the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations, will incorporate and adopt bylaws.
The State Bar Board of Governors is expected to consider a package, including contracts outlining the relationship between the two entities, at its June 21 meeting in San Francisco.
The action keeps on track a separation and cooperation move that was launched in January after years of tension between State Bar and the conference. The conference was long an integral part of the larger organization but became a target of sharp criticism from attorneys and legislators who claimed that resolutions approved by the conference at its annual meetings committed lawyers to political stances that many opposed.
The panel, formed by State Bar President Karen Nobumoto, agreed on Jan. 26 to work out a formal split under which the conference could retain the benefit of sharing costs and quarters during the State Bar annual meeting but for the first time in several years would be the master of its own house when asking the Legislature to amend laws to improve the quality of justice.
Working through several open issues yesterday, task force members agreed that the conference would incorporate as a nonprofit public or mutual benefit association with an initial board made up of the conference’s current executive committee.
There was general agreement on a five-year contract between the two organizations, but no consensus yet on the particulars. Discussions ranged from seemingly minute issues, such as whether there could be mutual links on the groups’ websites without charge, to the more global, such as whether the State Bar would be allowed to start a new conference-type organization and vest it with the prestige traditionally accorded the Conference of Delegates.
On that latter point, Nobumoto said it was unlikely that the State Bar would want a new conference after the difficulty in reaching an agreement over the current one.
“We’re going to honor what we struggled to get to, believe me,” Nobumoto, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney, said.
Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Matthew St. George, a former chair of the Conference of Delegates, offered:
“We’ll promise not to go out and create a new State Bar.”
Potentially the most contentious issue—the question of what power the State Bar Board of Governors would have over conference resolutions once they are passed—was resolved with an agreement that the board could opt to lobby anything the conference passed but could not assert jurisdiction over conference actions and then just sit on them.
If the board takes a conference item and decides not to lobby it, the conference will be able to take it back and lobby it on its own. A resolution could also be lobbied jointly by the two organizations. Members agreed that there should be close cooperation on resolutions, when possible.
“If there is anything that you want to take, we want to offer it to you, as a service,” St. George told State Bar representatives.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company