California Bar Journal
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


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Front Page - October 1999
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Johnson confirmed for second term as bar's top prosecutor
Courts serve up mixed rulings on State Bar
Ethics association elects Karpman president
Six new governors join bar board
New group targets health care fraud
Public law section creates online library of public law links
JoAnne Spears honored
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Trials Digest
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Slaying an imaginary dragon
The perfect ending: Results
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From the President - This bar year ends on a high note
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Letters to the Editor
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Public Comment
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Legal Tech - Tips for network administrators
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New Products & Services
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1999 Honors
State Bar cites pro bono service
Young lawyers salute San Diego sole practitioner for outstanding service
State Bar hails 'lawyer's lawyer'
Aided by attorney, parolee cited, hired
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MCLE Self-Study
The Rigors of Fee Agreements
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Ethics Byte - Before you sue for fees, think again
Woman who impersonated husband ordered reinstated
Attorney Discipline
MCLE ruling
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Continued from Page 1
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all of the exemptions from the MCLE program may be questioned as a matter of policy," wrote Chief Justice Ronald M. George, "the challenged exemptions may not be found unconstitutional."

The MCLE program was challenged by retired attorney Lew Warden, now 79, who lost his license in 1993 for failing to complete his MCLE requirements. He argued that the program violates his fundamental right to practice and that the exemptions for five groups of attorneys violate the equal protection clause of the constitution.

The First District Court of Appeal agreed, ruling in 1997 that there is no rational basis for the exemptions.

But the high court found that the exemptions actually meet the rational basis test because those who are exempt are less likely to represent significant numbers of clients on a full-time basis.

"Although some individuals within each of these [exempted] classes may be in as much need of MCLE courses as other attorneys," George wrote, "the exemptions in question cannot properly be found to be irrational or arbitrary under the traditional deferential standard."

Justices Joyce Kennard and Janice Rogers Brown dissented. Kennard said clients of part-time lawyers need just as much protection as those who hire full-time attorneys.

"Try to imagine a law that exempts from professional competency requirements those surgeons who operate on only a few patients each year," Kennard wrote, "or those commercial pilots who make only a few flights, or those engineers or contractors who build only a few high-rise buildings or freeway overpasses.

"The very idea is ridiculous."

The ruling notwithstanding, the MCLE program has drawn heavy criticism over the years for the questionable content of some courses, the perception that they are simply money-makers for providers, and widespread unhappiness with what some critics call the "sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll" special requirements.

Two out of three attorneys who responded to a recent California Bar Journal survey said they believe MCLE should not be mandatory, although many also said that even without a requirement they would continue to educate themselves in the interest of professionalism.

There was widespread opposition to the special requirements and the exemptions.

Bar leaders were predictably pleased with the court's ruling, but also showed no interest in punishing the thousands of attorneys who have put off taking courses while awaiting the court's ruling.

"MCLE is probably a good thing and we probably need to do it," said newly elected President Andrew J. Guilford. "But we need to be cautious and make it painless."