Bar official says proposed bill rescinds vote

The State Bar president has called a proposed amendment to the bar's fee bill which would fund only discipline and administrative expenses an attack on the bar and the legal profession.

Assemblyman Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, is calling for the amendment to SB 1145, which would make collection of dues for all other bar programs voluntary.

"This is an attack on the bar and on members who voted 2 to 1 to support the unified bar," said bar president Tom Stolpman. "It is an attempt to accomplish legislatively what could not be done democratically in last year's plebiscite vote and to render the legal profession politically impotent."

Morrow also is one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit, Morrow v. State Bar of California, which was filed last month, alleging that the bar's legislative activities violate the constitutional rights of its members. A pre-trial hearing is set for Oct. 27.

The suit and proposed amendment make reference to the bar's support of four bills, including AB 250, Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl's bill which would have created six exemptions to the 1975 Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act's (MICRA) $250,000 limit on physician liability for non-economic damages.

State Bar lobbyist Mel Assagai, also named in the lawsuit, cautioned board members at their March meeting that support of such tort measures might jeopardize their relationship with the state legislature.