California Bar Journal
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Guide to Legal Literacy is available online

The State Bar's Guide to Legal Literacy, now available on the bar's web site, provides a description of the legal system in clear language for non-lawyers. The site is helpful to those who need basic answers to legal issues such as those surrounding divorce and child custody, serious injury lawsuits and court-approved wills.

The focus of the guide is on answering basic questions: where do laws come from; how is the legal system structured; how do cases come to court and what happens there; who are the participants in the legal system and what is their role; how are legal proceedings conducted? The website provides links to each of these and other related topics.

For example, in describing the stages of a criminal case before trial, the guide outlines steps from the grand jury, to arrest, to entering a plea at arraignment, to discovery. It differentiates between criminal and civil cases and outlines the stages of a civil proceeding as well. The role of attorneys and clients' rights and responsibilities also are explained.

Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, with the Law Center of the University of Southern California, originally prepared the booklet in the early 1990s for the State Bar's Law Works and Legal Resource Centers programs. The material was updated in 2001.

The guide can be found at

For more information, contact the Office of Media & Information Services at 415/538-2283 or by e-mail at

Nominations sought for four State Bar awards

The State Bar is seeking nominations for three awards presented annually to California attorneys who have provided substantial free legal assistance to the state's low income residents. In addition, a new award honoring efforts toward promoting diversity in the legal profession has been established.

Nominations are being accepted for the following awards:

n President's Pro Bono Service Awards: Recognizes outstanding pro bono legal service contributions made by an individual attorney or a team of attorneys from each of the nine bar districts.

The award is presented in these categories: corporate (employed by a corporation), government (employed by a local, state or federal agency), retired and recently admitted (first four years of practice). In addition, small (2-10), medium (11-99) and large (100+) law firms will be honored for their contributions. A branch of a law firm is also eligible for nomination.

Loren Miller Legal Services Award: Honors an attorney who has demonstrated long-term commitment to legal services and who has personally done significant work in extending legal services to the poor. 

Jack Berman Award of Achievement: Honors a young lawyer (first five years of active State Bar membership or age 36 and under) who has provided outstanding service to the legal profession and public, and dedication to issues of concern to new and young lawyers.

Diversity Award: Honors outstanding efforts made by a bar association and an individual attorney in promoting diversity in the legal profession.

The deadline to submit applications is June 7. Guidelines and nomination forms may be accessed on the bar's web site,, or by contacting Kate O'Connor, 415/538-2141,; or Rodney Low, 415/538-2219,

"A Week in Legal London" scheduled for June 23-28

The State Bar's Litigation Section is sponsoring "A Week in Legal London" from June 23-28. The London program offers an opportunity to experience the inner workings of the English legal system, expand litigation skills and engage in thought-provoking discussion with members of the London legal community.

Participants will attend sessions at the Royal Courts of Justice, the Old Bailey, the High Court of Justice and the Courts of Appeal. MCLE credit will be offered.

For additional information contact the litigation section at 415/538-2546.

Chief Justice appoints lawyer regulation panel

Retired appellate Justice Elwood Lui was appointed by Chief Justice Ronald George last month to once again examine a State Bar-related issue - this time the focus is California's lawyer discipline system.

Lui will head the 11-member Advisory Committee on Lawyer Regulation, appointed to study recommendations by an ABA panel that last year scrutinized the bar's discipline operations.

"The committee is charged with reviewing the recommendations concerning structural issues contained in a report provided by the American Bar Association's Standing Commit-tee on Professional Discipline issued in June 2001, and making its own recommendations to the court," George said.

Among other things, the ABA group recommended that the Supreme Court take over the discipline system because of uncertainties in bar funding. The bar must win authorization from the legislature for its fee bill. Although it managed to win a two-year authorization last year, in recent years it has had to go to Sacramento every year to get a fee bill.

In 1998, George appointed Lui as a special master to oversee a one-time assessment the Supreme Court ordered to keep the discipline system afloat during the financial crisis which followed Gov. Wilson's veto of the bar's fee bill.

Two legal services boards need new members

The State Bar of California is seeking applications from attorneys interested in serving on the boards of directors of two legal services programs, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) and California Indian Legal Services (CILS).

Both non-profit Legal Services Corporation-funded organizations provide legal assistance to the rural poor.

Five two-year positions are open on the CRLA board. Its 45-member board meets four times a year to make policy decisions governing the program's operations.

One three-year position is open on the CILS board. It also meets four times a year.

Deadline for receipt of applications for both boards is May 31.

Interested attorneys should apply by letter, listing the reasons they should be appointed. A resume outlining work experience, community activity and educational background must be included.

The materials should be sent to Chris Zupanovich, State Bar of California, 180 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105; or Questions may be directed to 415/538- 2534.

Rules revision project gets underway

The board of governors has reinstated the 14-member Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct in an effort to evaluate existing California Rules of Professional Conduct. Public hearings will be held in San Francisco June 29 and at the State Bar's Annual Meeting in Monterey Oct. 10-13.

MCLE compliance group 2 faces Feb. 1 deadline

Members of MCLE compliance group 2 (last names H-M) who are not part of an exempt group must complete 25 hours of continuing legal education by the compliance deadline of Feb. 1, 2003.

Attorneys who comply after that date may be subject to a $75 fine.

E-briefs offer bar updates

The State Bar offers timely updates on recent news developments or announcements of interest to lawyers. If you wish to be put on our mailing list, please provide your e-mail address to