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

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - October 1999
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News
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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Opinion
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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Discipline
Ethics Byte - Before you sue for fees, think again
Woman who impersonated husband ordered reinstated
Attorney Discipline
Governor signs bar dues legislation
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Continued from Page 1
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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 performance audits.

Schiff and Hertzberg said the new legislation will protect consumers and make the bar more accountable.

"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 public."

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.