MCLE compliance deadline Jan. 31

by Nancy McCarthy
Staff Writer


The First District Court of Appeal ruled March 13 that the bar’s MCLE program is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection rights of California attorneys who are not exempted from it. Exemptions from MCLE requirements for retired judges, full-time professors at accredited law schools, and officers and elected officials of the state are unconstitutional, the appellate court said. It did not address exemptions for full-time state and federal government lawyers.

The bar appealed, asking for expedited action, and the Supreme Court agreed in June to review.

The MCLE compliance card is printed on page 4 of the hard copy of the January 1998 Bar Journal. By printing the card in its paper, the bar saved $32,000 in printing and mailing costs.

Full compliance instructions and additional copies of the card are available on the bar’s fax retrieval system. Instructions about the system or information about the program is available from the Office of Certification by calling 415/241-2100.

Although the MCLE program’s future is in limbo, it is technically in effect. “As required by the California constitution, the State Bar needs to enforce the statute,” said Jerome Braun, the bar’s senior executive who oversees MCLE compliance. “We recognize the fact that Warden will be decided in the upcoming year. There are no penalties at this time, but the statute is still there and we expect people to comply.”

Braun noted that if the court upholds all or part of the MCLE program, attorneys will have to comply with its requirements. Those who wait to complete their hours may face a late charge or possible inactive status.

Kris Krobot, the bar’s head of certification, said her office has received numerous inquiries from attorneys who continue to fulfill their MCLE requirements. “We believe a lot of lawyers are already fulfilling their requirements,” she said.

Under existing rules, most attorneys in compliance group one are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education between Feb. 1, 1995 and Jan. 31, 1998.

Eight of the hours must be in the area of legal ethics and law practice management, with at least four of the eight hours in ethics.

One hour of the total requirement must address substance abuse and emotional distress, and another hour of study must be devoted to elimination of bias in the legal profession.

A maximum of 18 hours of self-study is allowed.