Gov. Gray Davis signed a two-year fee bill
authorizing the State Bar to collect up to $390 a year in member dues
but sent back to the legislature a measure to create a diversion
program for alcoholic or drug-addicted lawyers.
SB 479, authored by Sen. John Burton, D-San
Francisco, was returned to lawmakers for technical amendments and is
expected ultimately to be signed by Davis.
The fee bill, SB 352, sponsored by Sen. Sheila
Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and the diversion measure are double-joined,
meaning neither can take effect without the other.
The fee bill enables the bar to collect member
dues for 2002 and 2003 and marks the first time since 1995 that a
multi-year authorization was approved. The bar lobbied hard for a
two-year funding bill in order to facilitate long-range planning.
"This measure gives us the ability to make
long-term strategic plans and to budget accordingly," said State Bar
Executive Director Judy Johnson. "Sound financial planning will
enhance the bar's ongoing efforts to become more efficient and to
assure accountability to our members."
A multi-year fee bill was a key recommendation by
retired Justice Elwood Lui, appointed by the Supreme Court as a
special master to oversee bar finances during the dues crisis in 1998.
Although the bar was authorized to collect $395
this year, the board of governors set the fees for most active members
at $350. The new authorization reduces from $40 to $35 the portion of
member dues set aside for the Client Security Fund, which reimburses
clients of dishonest attorneys.
The diversion bill requires that $10 of every
active member's dues will be earmarked to fund the program, which
Burton and the bar envision as primarily a voluntary operation to
which alcoholic lawyers would refer themselves. It is modeled after a
similar program for physicians run by the California Medical
Alcoholism and drug addiction are generally
believed to account for about one-third of the discipline cases the
bar pursues every year. In addition to the diversion program, the bar
plans to create a special drug court in the coming year to divert
errant attorneys with substance abuse problems out of the discipline
system and into some form of treatment.