EDITOR'S NOTE: The State Bar Board of Governors and the leaders
of the Conference of Delegates, after several months of discussion,
agreed on a legal separation at the board's May meeting in Los
The legal separation of the Conference of
Delegates from the State Bar of California will benefit both groups.
Reconstituting the conference as an independent nonprofit entity will
enable it to speak freely on issues of concern to the legal profession
and the people of California, without the limitations that necessarily
accompany the bar's role as a regulatory agency.
At the same time, in its new status as an
organization separate from the State Bar, the conference will still be
able to provide the bar with the benefits of its expertise, and to
recommend to the bar statutory changes to improve California's
system for the administration of justice, without involving the bar in
issues that lie outside of its mission and purpose. The conference and
the bar stand at their most positive juncture since Gov. Wilson's
1997 veto of the fee bill.
The Conference of Delegates was created as a
means whereby the State Bar could obtain local bar input into and
support for its legislative program. Throughout its history, the
conference has served as a forum whereby members of local, specialty
and minority bar associations could have a say in the law-making
process in California.
It is a forum for debate which benefits the
law-making process by generating numerous proposed changes in the law,
providing detailed analyses with arguments pro and con, and inspiring
high-quality debate among some of California's finest attorneys.
During its more than 70-year tenure, literally
hundreds of conference resolutions in every area of legal practice
have been ultimately enacted into law.
In response to concerns about the use of
mandatory dues, the legislature required that the Conference of
Delegates be self-funded. No mandatory fees may be used to support any
of the conference's activities. By authorizing the conference to
incorporate as a nonprofit professional or trade association, a status
which brings with it the ability to lobby without restriction, the
board of governors has removed both the direct control of the
conference by the State Bar and restrictions which prevented the
conference from addressing many issues it wished to discuss.
The conference, which likely will be called the
Conference of Dele-gates of California Bar Associations (CDCBA), will
continue to meet annually in conjunction with the State Bar's annual
meeting. The State Bar will continue to collect voluntary
contributions for the conference via the State Bar's yearly fee bill
sent to all members. The conference and the bar likely will enter into
a contract to enable those things. To facilitate this transition, the
bar will seek legislative authority to allow it to continue collecting
donations to the conference in the bar's annual billing to lawyers.
The changes envisioned by both the board of
governors and the conference will allow the newly incorporated
conference to return to an open debate of all issues confronting
California lawyers without the fear that such debate will negatively
impact the State Bar as a whole.
Our relationship will be recast in a positive
way: complementary bodies working, each in its own way, towards the
perfection of justice in California. The discord inherent in the
relationship of an independently funded body restricted from taking
independent positions will ease and, we hope, disappear. We
have learned the difficult lessons taught us by the courts, the
legislature and a former governor.
We are now prepared to use these lessons to our
advantage, by creating a new relationship between an improved State
Bar and a new, more effective Conference of Delegates that stands to
work to the great advantage of both.