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Schwarzenegger signs bar’s two-year fee bill

Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the State Bar’s fee bill into law last month, extending for two years the bar’s authority to charge annual mandatory membership dues for the state’s attorneys.

The bill, AB1529 (Jones), increases dues for both active and inactive lawyers in order to keep the bar solvent.

Dues for active lawyers will rise by $5 next year to $395 and will increase to $400 in 2007. The fee for inactive attorneys, which has not been raised for nearly 20 years, will be $115 next year and $125 in 2007. Bar leaders believe the higher fee accurately reflects the services, benefits and regulatory obligations of inactive attorneys.

The bill also restores the “scaling” statute to its original intent of insuring that truly needy lower-income lawyers receive appropriate reductions in their fees, and insures the continued solvency of the Client Security Fund, since $5 of the active dues increase and $10 of the inactive increase will be used to support the fund.

The governor also signed a bill that provides the courts and the bar the authority to exercise civil remedies in order to prevent the unauthorized practice of law by non-lawyers.

SB894 (Dunn) contains a provision, sponsored by the State Bar, to permit attorneys who have been placed on inactive status while enrolled in the Lawyer Assistance Program, to be credited for the time on inactive status toward any period of actual suspension imposed by the court.

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