A second two-thirds vote then would be taken before
the board actually takes a position on legislation.
Response to criticism
Despite objections from some governors that the procedure hobbles
the bar unnecessarily, the board agreed that the new requirements send a strong signal to
Sacramento that they are responding to past criticism of political activities. The new
procedure also makes official the bars compliance with last years hard-won fee
bill, which restricts its use of mandatory dues, and with a recent court ruling.
I think this is the approach we should have taken years and
years ago, said Fresno attorney Paul Hokokian.
We need to be cautious, added Ron Albers, a board member
from San Francisco, and a super-majority just adds another barrier that makes us
even more cautious.
The board approved the new procedure by a 13-3 vote.
Bar lobbyist Larry Doyle and David Long of its research department
said that with few exceptions, legislative positions taken by the board over the past 10
years have met Keller criteria for expenditure of members mandatory dues.
Those positions have related almost exclusively to regulating
the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services, including improving the
structure and procedures of, and access to, the courts, Doyle and Long wrote in
materials prepared for the board.
Further, most legislative positions were approved by the board by
almost unanimous votes.
Nonetheless, the bars political activities were a key element
of former Gov. Pete Wilsons 1997 veto of the bars funding bill, as well as the
subsequent fight for funding in the legislature and litigation recently decided in
In Brosterhous v. State Bar of California, Sacra-mento County
Superior Court Judge Morrison England prohibited mandatory dues from being used to fund
the activities of the bars educational sections or the Conference of Delegates.
Florida and other state bars require two two-thirds votes on
The Florida, Michigan and Texas bars also have in place parameters on
legislative activities similar to those required by Keller and have experienced reduced
litigation and controversy over political positions.
In supporting the proposal, Tom Warwick, a board member from San
Diego, said, I dont think it will affect how many items we send to Sacramento,
but it may have the effect of stemming litigation over our activities. Id rather
reduce the potential for getting sued.
Although board member Palmer Madden voted for the new procedure, he
expressed concern about the bar restricting itself unnecessarily.
The question is, how many shackles are we gong to carry
before we can do anything? he said.
After adopting the new procedure, the board approved seven proposals
it will sponsor as legislation, including changes to the code of civil procedure, the
probate code and an amendment to the California Rules of Court.
The board also okayed a requirement that its sections, committees and
the Conference of Delegates include a disclaimer in any political position they take
stating that their action does not represent an official position of the State Bar.