California Bar Journal
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Board of Governors actions
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At its meeting last month, the State Bar Board of Governors took the following action:

It dropped the elimination of emotional stress component from MCLE requirements, effective Feb. 1, 2003. Attorneys may still take classes in the subject if they wish, but it no longer will be required. The action came after a survey last year found that 77 percent of respondents said substance abuse and emotional stress classes were of little or no use.

The board authorized the addition of a check-off box to the annual fee statement which would enable California lawyers to make a contribution to the California Supreme Court Historical Society. The society has lived a "hand-to-mouth existence" since its 1989 creation, said president Kent Richland, surviving on a budget of about $50,000, most of which comes from large law firms.

Former appellate Justice Elwood Lui, who served as a Supreme Court-appointed special master in 1998 overseeing a special assessment for the bar's discipline system, said he generally opposes check-off boxes on the fee bill, but called the society "a rare exception" whose work deserves attorney support.

The board rejected two proposals to file amicus briefs in Viner v. Sweet, a case involving conflicting standards in malpractice cases. The board nixed a proposal that the State Bar file an amicus which would not take a position on the merits of the case but would ask the court to clarify the standards. In a second vote, it rejected a motion to allow the Business Law Section to file a brief taking a position on the case.

Hearkening back to a position it took on lifting the MICRA cap several years ago (a move which got the bar into serious political hot water), board member James Herman said, "Every time we as a bar decide to take a side where two groups of our lawyers have different positions, we get into trouble. It sets us up to create controversy."

Exercising what he called "a voice of caution," Herman said the debate should be left in the hands of specialty bars with expertise in the area.

The board also approved posting on the State Bar website the imposition of private reprovals against disciplined lawyers, regardless of when that reproval was issued. An attorney had sued to stop the posting of his name on the website because the reproval was issued before the internet existed. Both the superior and appellate courts ruled against him and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.