The State Bar may include law firm names in future disciplinary action reports, if a proposal to release that information is approved by the Board of Governors in 1997. The board has sent the proposal out for public comment, along with a separate proposal to list only the disciplined attorney's firm type and size.
Currently, the bar's disciplinary actions only list the name, bar number and location of an errant attorney, without reference to a firm affiliation. Public comment on both proposals is being solicited until Dec. 5.
The proposal came out of the board's discipline committee and elicited some controversy among members of the Board of Governors.
Board member Jeff Tidus of Los Angeles, who is also a member of the discipline committee, said the proposal was in response to a perception aired frequently during the recent plebiscite campaign that the bar focuses on disciplining sole practitioners and small firms.
Jim Towery of San Jose, former president of the State Bar, supported the proposal, calling the issue a "no brainer."
Towery said it was a good idea, primarily an item of consumer information and would encourage more firms to be diligent in monitoring their partners.
Despite his strong feelings on the issue, Towery indicated he would be willing to compromise and support the less controversial proposal of listing a disciplined attorney's firm size and type.
Wendy Borcherdt, a public member of the board, was reluctant to indicate her support, saying that listing the law firm names of disciplined attorneys was a bit like "tarring and feathering."
However, board member Leon Goldin, a sole practitioner from Los Angeles, voiced his support of the concept, claiming that law firms know, or should know what their partners are doing.
Critics questioned the fairness of such a measure and maintain the bar does not have jurisdiction over law firms. It was noted that the proposal also does not address the type of firm activities that would merit discipline or the punishment.
Bar officials said that law firm-based disciplinary rules were recently adopted in New York, but they had no knowledge of similar rules in other states.