California Bar Journal
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Lui report urges long-range vision
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Staff Writer
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The State Bar’s annual budgeting process should be scrapped in favor of a three-year fee bill, and the board of governors should restrict itself to policy-making, according to the court-appointed special master who spent 16 months overseeing the bar’s discipline system.

In his final report to the Supreme Court, Justice Elwood Lui also recommended that the bar’s new executive director possess strong managerial skills, suggested a series of technological upgrades to improve efficiency, and offered further refinements of the disciplinary operations.

Chief Justice Ronald George urged the board to review the recommendations and “consider their prompt implementation.”

Bar President Andrew Guilford said Lui emphasized several areas the board is addressing this year, particularly technological improvements, an emphasis by the board on issues and policy, and hiring a strong executive director. (On April 1, Guil-ford announced the hiring of a new executive director. See story below.)

Guilford supports a multi-year fee bill and said, “I’m pleased to have Justice Lui behind us on that.”

Lui, a retired appellate justice and Los Angeles attorney with an account-ing background, was appointed in December 1998 to oversee a special assessment to restore the bar’s discipline operation, which nearly shut down after Gov. Wilson vetoed the bar’s funding authorization in 1997.

As part of that effort, Lui took a comprehensive look at related bar operations, and his final report reflects the overlapping nature of many activities.

Of primary concern, he said, is the annual appeal to the legislature for authorization to collect dues, whose level is set by lawmakers. That process, which requires a major expenditure of time and resources every year, “fosters severe and detrimental financial instability for the


Generosity of members adds up to donation of $11 million
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California attorneys showed unprecedented generosity to the State Bar this year, with only a handful seeking a credit or refund of voluntary donations made two years ago during the height of the bar’s fiscal and political crisis.

In effect, this amounted to more than an $11 million contribution to the bar, sparing the current budget another big hit.

Also on the economic front, more than 15,000 lawyers contributed $770,000-plus to the Foundation of the State Bar, a separate entity that seeks voluntary donations and aids law students and legal programs which help the public.

By late April, almost all active and inactive member dues for 2000 had been paid, adding more than $45 million to the bar’s coffers. A 1997 veto of the bar’s fee bill by then-Gov. Pete Wilson had forced the bar to the brink of collapse.

On the 2000 fee bill, a quarter of the state’s 134,000 active lawyers took a $5 lobbying deduction for a total of approximately $150,000.

About 10 percent of active lawyers took advantage of a new scaling option, which offers a dues


New bar director to draw on experience as practicing attorney, discipline chief
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Staff Writer
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Executive Director Judy Johnson: 'My mom has a knack for aptly summarizing a situation and giving it a more balanced perspective. That perspective has helped me a lot.'Judy Johnson has no illusions about running the State Bar, readily conceding serious doubts about what she calls a daunting prospect. “I really did wrestle with whether or not I wanted to stay here. I did a lot of soul-searching,” said the newly appointed executive director.

“The job does not come highly recommended, but I felt as if it was my duty to do it.”

This month, Johnson, who has headed discipline enforcement since 1994, becomes the fourth bar chief in three years. Tough, blunt and no-nonsense, she is the first person of color and the first woman to serve as permanent director of the 73-year-old State Bar.

“Judy has just the combination of experience we were looking for,” said President Andrew J. Guilford.


Foundation aids law students, programs
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Since 1991, California attorneys have had an option to make a contribution to the Foundation of the State Bar by checking a box on the annual fee statement. The most ever collected was $40,000 the first year.

This year, more than 15,000 lawyers checked the box, donating $50 and swelling the foundation’s bank account by some $766,000.

The foundation executives are surprised, but certainly not complaining.

Executive director James Pfeiffer says the 25-member board now faces a decision about how to spend the unexpected windfall, and he ticks off possibilities that include another grant cycle, increased grants or larger scholarships for law students.

It’s the kind of decision the group is happy to make.