California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 1999
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OPINION

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Bar redistricting: It's that time again
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By PAUL S. HOKOKIAN
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The State Bar of California is required to redistrict every ten years. It's time! Business and Professions Code 6012.5 mandates that each decade the State Bar go through a process to ensure an "equitable distribution of attorney members to governors in each district, except for the district containing rural counties such as contained in State Bar District No. 1."

Paul S. HokokianInitially, the board of governors discussed hiring an outside consultant at a cost of $75,000 to analyze possible redistricting alternatives. This author volunteered and was appointed by past president Raymond Marshall to chair the redistricting task force using existing staff, thereby saving the cost of a consultant. David Long was assigned as the responsible staff person to work with the task force. Fellow governors Valerie Miller, District 1, Chico, and Palmer Madden, District 3, Contra Costa, were also appointed to the task force.

The board is currently composed of 23 members. Fifteen attorney members are elected from nine different geographic districts to serve staggered three-year terms. The California Young Lawyers Association appoints a new governor every year.

Additionally, the governor appoints four non-attorney, public members. Further, the speaker of the assembly and the chair of the senate rules committee each appoint one non-attorney, public member. All public members also serve staggered three-year terms. The aforementioned attorney and non-attorney members join with the current president to comprise the entire 23-member board.

The legislative intent of the B&P 6012.5, as the task force interpreted it, was to assure the 19 rural counties comprising District 1 had representation on the board. Accordingly, the task force analyzed many different scenarios to comply with the "equitable distribution" requirement while maintaining the current composition of District 1.

Since 1990, the attorney demographics within California have changed. For example, District 8 (Orange) and District 9 (San Diego) have grown significantly and District 4 (San Francisco/Marin) and District 7 (Los Angeles) have experienced slow growth. In general, the shifts among districts in the distribution of attorneys have been modest.

Districts 8 and 9, which currently have one governor each, could, if added together statistically, justify an additional one-half governor based upon their current attorney population. One plausible scenario would be to merge districts 8 and 9 and Riverside and San Bernardino counties from District 6 into a three-governor district, while combining most remaining counties in Districts 5 and 6 into a larger district that would have only one governor. Accordingly, Districts 5 and 6 would lose one governor to the new District 8-9. The respective governors from Districts 6, 8 and 9 favored the status quo in lieu of a merger. Such a merger would create statistical balance at the expense of artificially consolidating culturally and geographically different communities.

Many of the other scenarios considered would have resulted in a further inequity than presently exists. These other possibilities were likewise rejected. After a series of task force meetings through the summer, the members of the task force have unanimously concluded that the current structure of the board should remain unchanged. This task force recommendation will be considered by the board at its Dec. 3-4 meeting in Los Angeles.

The task force will host two open forums to discuss redistricting prior to making its recommendations to the board. The first will be held on Nov. 10 at the State Bar offices located at 180 Howard St. in San Francisco. The second will be held on Nov. 12 at the State Bar offices located at 1149 S. Hill St. in Los Angeles.

Each forum will commence at 10 a.m. Further, written comments from local bar associations and individuals are being solicited. Send all written comments to the attention of David Long at the State Bar of California, 180 Howard St., San Francisco 94105. All comments must be received no later than Nov. 15.

Lastly, it will be sufficient to continue the existing districts for another decade. This governor anticipates that additional demographic changes will make a major restructuring of the board inevitable by the year 2010 to comply with the "equitable distribution" requirement.

Moreover, the roster of counties within each district will change substantially from the current alignment. Without doubt, such a realignment will create controversy and debate among lawyers, local bar associations, the legislature and the State Bar, as it did during the last major redistricting in 1990. Fortunately, the controversy will be avoided this time.

Paul S. Hokokian, of Fresno, is a deputy district attorney for the Fresno County District Attorney. He represents District 5 on the board of governors.