Three State Bar Court judges petitioned
the Supreme Court last month to overturn legislation which changes the way judges are
appointed to the court that disciplines California attorneys.
appointment process is an unconstitutional infringement upon the Supreme Courts sole
power to make the appointments as well as an intrusion upon the courts inherent
authority over attorney discipline and admissions, the judges argued.
They asked the
court to declare the legislation unconstitutional because it violates the separation of
powers provision of the California constitution.
was filed by James Obrien, presiding judge of the bar
court, Kenneth Norian, the review departments public or non-attorney
member, and hearing judge Nancy Roberts Lonsdale. One of the judges attorneys,
Timothy J. Fox, said the State Bar is not involved in the litigation, nor is it paying any
of the judges legal expenses.
Senate President Pro Tem John Burton and signed by Gov. Gray Davis last year, the
legislation (SB 143) amends the Business & Professions Code by transferring the
appointment of three of five hearing judges from the Supreme Court to the governor, the
Senate president pro tem and the Speaker of the Assembly.
asked the court to issue an order permanently barring the three from making any
also replace the lay review judge with a judge who is an attorney.
main concern is that the method by which the new judges are selected is unconstitutional,
said Fox. Perhaps the flaw in the process is that it removes from the Supreme Court
its traditional power to discipline attorneys. One reason attorneys are disciplined by the