Avoiding a lawsuit over the way members of the board
of governors are elected, the State Bar reached an agreement with critics last month on
ways to improve procedures for the 2001 election.
The agreement allows candidates more time to gather signatures and
campaign, more time for attorneys to vote, and will enable candidates to include in ballot
statements mailed to voters a full description of their ideas and campaign platforms as
well as criticism of the bar.
In addition, candidates this year will be able to obtain lists of
attorneys in each district earlier in the election season than in previous years.
Ballots will be mailed to the bars San Francisco headquarters
instead of to an outside contractor, as has been done in recent years.
Former board member Richard Alexander of San Jose, who has twice run
again unsuccessfully, complained about election procedures last year and caught the
attention of Boalt Hall Professor Stephen Barnett and Karl Olson, a First Amendment
attorney with Levy, Ram, Olson & Rossi, who then threatened to sue the bar for
violating candidates free speech rights.
Barnett and Olson characterized the new election procedures as a
blow for democracy and free speech.
The bar board had already created a committee to review its election
procedures and present recommendations for any long-term procedural changes. Those
proposals are expected to be considered in April.