California Bar Journal
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Funding the conference
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Let me make one thing perfectly clear: The State Bar's conference of delegates is alive and kicking. Despite the virtual shutdown of the bar since June 26, and legislative efforts to sever the relationship between the conference and the bar, the annual work of putting on a conference of delegates has continued. The conference met last October, as it has for the past 64 years, considered more than 100 resolutions, and resolved to continue its work as an integral part of the efforts of California lawyers to improve the administration of justice.

Resolutions have arrived seeking to amend, repeal or enact statutes in every conceivable area of the practice of law. We have just completed the nominations cycle of selecting attorneys from throughout the state to serve on our resolutions committee.

As is the case with the 17-member executive committee and other committees of the conference, these individuals serve without remuneration for the hours they will spend researching, writing and debating the merits of resolutions they will be assigned for analysis.

At the same time, we are not blind to the political turmoil that shuttered the State Bar, which some attribute to actions taken by the conference in past years which were purportedly contrary to the will of our profession. A widespread belief persists that mandatory dues somehow have been spent by the bar to support "political" action. Critics somehow believe that disagreement with the messenger is best accomplished by killing the messenger, even though the per-lawyer cost of operating the conference is trivial and the conference is largely funded by the delegates themselves.

The conference clearly must take steps to convince the skeptics that their money will not be spent to pay for a microphone at which views they do not endorse are expressed, and, more importantly, that their money will not be spent to lobby passage of resolutions they do not endorse. Therefore, the conference executive committee proposed, and the bar board of governors approved, a proposal to raise funds through voluntary, tax-deductible contributions to the Foundation of the State Bar of California. Donors may designate contributions to support the work of the conference as the educational arm of the State Bar.

Matt St. GeorgeThrough strict application of Keller guidelines, funds donated to the foundation may be used to support the dissemination, debate and ratification of resolutions similar to the vast majority of resolutions historically submitted. Reso-lutions found to be outside of purview will be handled in a separate manner. No foundation funds would be used to lobby any ratified resolution with the legislature.

In addition, depending upon legislative action and the continued observance of Keller restrictions, strict limits will remain in place on the use of mandatory State Bar funds to lobby any resolutions ratified by the conference. No mandatory dues would be used to lobby any resolution found to be outside purview but ratified by the conference.

With this action, those of us who support the historic mission of our profession have undertaken to address the objections we have heard about the alleged "misuse" of mandatory dues. I call upon every attorney to join in supporting an independent, self-funded conference of delegates through contributions to the Found-ation of the State Bar. Over the next few months, you will be notified about the means by which you can send money to reflect your support.

Regardless of your political beliefs, you are welcome on the floor of the conference of delegates. Any delegation, and any 10 attorneys, may submit for our consideration any resolutions you wish to have debated in October. The sooner the better. For more information, contact us at 310/937-1126 or visit our website at

If you ever have said you wish you could change the law, here is your opportunity.

Matt St. George is chair of the executive committee of the conference of delegates.