legislation written by Senate President Pro Tem John
Burton which changed the appointment process for three judges, transferring the appointing
authority from the Supreme Court to elected officials and eliminating the position of one
non-lawyer judge. Discounting fears that the new process might politicize the bar bench,
the Supreme Court upheld the legislation and ruled that it retains the ultimate authority
over attorney discipline.
said the new appointees are individuals of high integrity and have allayed his concern
about politics. But he remains worried, he said, that the appointing authorities may
either reappoint or withhold reappointment based upon the nature of the rulings.
And, he added, there is a possibility we wont be so fortunate in future
The new judges insist politics wont enter into their
Robert Talcott, named to the bar court by Gov. Davis, said he
originally disagreed with the Burton legislation and did not think it would be upheld.
But, he joked, now that Ive been appointed, Im fully in favor of it.
a more serious vein, he acknowledged the perception that politics might play a role in the
appointment process, but said the professionalism and integrity of the new judges help
mute that concern.
Paul Bacigalupo, named to the bar court by Assembly Speaker Bob
Hertzberg, and Jodi Remke, appointed by the Senate Rules Committee, both offered
assurances that they wont be swayed by politics in their rulings.
I believe I was appointed based on merit, experience and my
commitment to the administration of justice, Bacigalupo said. I dont
think its a legitimate worry, Remke added. Im not concerned I
would be swayed by outside forces.
Talcott, who served on the bar board of governors with Obrien and sat
on the first selection committee for new judges, said the court is exactly what the board
originally hoped for: a highly professional discipline process that is fair to all
of those who are affected by it or participate in it.
Talcott, who has a long record of public service as well as private
practice, said he considers serving as a bar court judge probably the single most
important job in the overall judiciary in the sense that it really is a public protection
who came from private practice as a litigator specializing in employment, construction and
business litigation, also has extensive experience as a judge pro tem, mediator,
arbitrator and a hearing and settlement officer throughout Los Angeles County. This
is a fascinating opportunity to serve the bar and the community, he said. It
has been my ambition.
Remke acknowledged hearing concerns about the State Bar while working
as a staff attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee, but was not involved in any
legislation affecting the bar. Instead, she said, she was interested in attorney
discipline and the publics perception about lawyers. Since joining the court two
months ago, she has been impressed that the bar has tried to address legislative concerns
dealing with funding, operations and streamlining.
and the other judges also said they are impressed with the professionalism of the bars
prosecutors and the court staff, as well as with how seriously all parties seem to view
disciplinary proceedings. Remke said the staff is extremely streamlined now and as the
courts caseload grows, staffing levels may have to be re-examined.
Talcott said he quickly noticed that about half the attorneys
appearing before the bar court represent themselves and suggested they could benefit from
outside counsel. Because disciplinary charges have such a serious potential result -
disbarment, suspension and the loss of a lawyers ability to pursue a livelihood
Talcott suggested the creation of a group of volunteer attorneys to support those
representing themselves. He acknowledged that a small number of lawyers represent
respondents, but said economic issues often prevent those facing disciplinary charges from
paying legal fees.
I think in a truly fair system, if the Office of Trial Counsel
is fully staffed, is full time and has investigators, it should be equally balanced on the
other side, Talcott said.
The respondents just dont know where to begin.