Kopp wins audit of admissions

Staff Writer


State Auditor Kurt R. Sjoberg estimated the job will take approximately 960 hours and cost taxpayers $62,400 plus travel expenses.

The audit was unanimously approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee last month.

"We welcome the audit for we believe that the admissions program, the largest professional licensing operation in the nation and probably the world, is efficiently and effectively run," said Jerome Braun, head of the bar's admissions office.

"We look forward to any suggestions that the state auditor may have as to how to improve an already good program."

Kopp, I-San Francisco, asked for the audit after learning "that approximately $2.2 million has accumulated in a reserve account of the State Bar of California, collected from fees charged applicants and from other activities of the admissions program. . . . The allocation of expenses of the admissions program seems ambiguous at best."

Braun said Kopp apparently thought the reserve was being used as part of the bar's general fund. That is not the case, he said.

Instead, any surplus will be used to offset future expenses.

The Committee of Bar Examiners projects that expenses will exceed revenues this year and in 1999 and 2000.

In a letter to Kopp, bar executive director Steve Nissen wrote, "The carryforward will be used to offset this gap in the short run, but the committee anticipates an adjustment to the schedule of admission fees will be necessary some time during the next year to insure that the admissions fund remains solvent and that the Committee of Bar Examiners has adequate funds to continue to administer what is generally considered to be one of the finest admissions programs in the United States, if not the finest."

The admissions fund is a restricted fund, containing all revenue from registration and application fees, sale of special admission certificates and study materials, law school accreditation fees and interest income.

Revenues have exceeded expenses for the last five years, and nearly $2.2 million accumulated in the fund by Dec. 31, 1997. The money will be used exclusively for admissions expenses.

For most applicants, the bar exam costs $325, plus another $265 for the moral character determination.

The audit will determine the costs and revenues of the admissions program for the last five years and whether they are reasonable, review the reserves, review the bar's fee structure for exams, and prepare a five-year trend analysis for costs, revenues and number of applicants for the bar exam.

The results are to be presented to the legislative committee by mid-May.