|to low-paid attorneys, leaves intact the Commission on Judicial Nom-inees
Evaluation (JNE) and the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program which funds
legal services, and offers all attorneys the option of taking a $5 lobbying deduction if
they object to some of the bar's lobbying efforts.
Bills will be mailed at the end of
November and must be paid by Feb. 1, 2000.
Details of the measure include:
Attorneys who make less than $25,000 per year will
be entitled to a 50 percent reduction in dues, and those earning less than $40,000 will
receive a 25 percent break.
In addition to fewer hours, the MCLE requirement
includes four hours of ethics instruction and eliminates the exemption for retired judges.
(The MCLE changes require a new rule of court, which the bar likely will send to the
Supreme Court early next year.)
The bar will continue to be governed by a mostly
elected board of governors.
It must submit to regular financial and
Schiff and Hertzberg said the new legislation will protect consumers and make the bar
"Consumers with complaints about attorneys desperately need the protections and
lawyer disciplinary system afforded them by the State Bar, and lawyers deserve a bar that
better serves their needs as a profession," said Schiff.
"At long last," added Hertzberg, "Californians can once again have
confidence that the attorneys they hire will be held accountable for their mistakes. This
bill . . . makes the bar better by making it more accountable to both lawyers and the
Wilson vetoed the bar's dues bill in October 1997, charging that its members considered
the organization "bloated, arrogant, oblivious and unresponsive." He also
accused the bar of violating lobbying restrictions placed on it by the Supreme Court by
taking political positions with which its members disagreed.
Without a dues authorization, the bar could collect only $77 from its members. The
resulting financial crisis led to layoffs of nearly 500 employees in June 1998, the
elimination of most programs and the almost total suspension of its discipline operation.
Year-long efforts to win a new dues bill collapsed at the last minute in 1998, but the
bar managed to convince the state Supreme Court in December to order an emergency
assessment of $173 to support the discipline office.
In a related development, the bar board of governors decided that attorneys who made
voluntary dues payments in 1998 and/or 1999 may apply all or part of those fees to their
2000 or later membership dues or may request a refund.
At a meeting in mid-September, the board unanimously approved a policy to credit
voluntary payments to member accounts, acting on what board member James Otto called
"a matter of honor."
When Wilson vetoed the bar's fee bill, the bar solicited voluntary dues payments and
collected $9.8 million from members in 1998 and about $1.8 million last year. Although it
promised that fee overpayments would be refunded, the bar offered no refunds or credits
without passage of a fee bill in Sacramento.