California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA — APRIL 2001
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - April 2001
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News / News Briefs
Bar foundation gives $50,000 grant to fund Conference of Delegates
Bar hit with $2.35 million fee demand in lawyer dues case
Bush administration ends ABA review of judicial candidates
Special publication in May Bar Journal
Davis appoints two public members to board of governors
George lauds five years of reform
2001 Annual Meeting will be held in Anaheim
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Trials Digest
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Legal Tech - FindLaw: Lawyers' home on the web
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Opinion
From the President - Butter a slice, not a full loaf
Is it wrong to copy a song?
Letters to the Editor
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Update on ethics
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MCLE Self-Study
Kids and the Law
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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You Need to Know
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Public Comment
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - 2 new rulings send litigators back to basics
Forgery, grand theft, fraud convictions lead to resignation
Attorney Discipline
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State Bar elects its first woman minority president
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By NANCY McCARTHY
Staff Writer
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Karen S. Nobumoto, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles, will become the first African-American woman president of the State BarKaren S. Nobumoto, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles, was elected the first minority woman president of the State Bar of California last month. The longtime bar activist also will be the first government lawyer, and only the second woman, ever to lead the 175,000-member bar.

Nobumoto, who turned 49 on April 1, is a prosecutor in the career criminal unit of the DA's target crimes division. She said she would seek an immediate transfer to a position which will require fewer court appearances and free her to fulfill the time-consuming duties of the presidency.

Elected on the fourth ballot by the 18-member board of governors, Nobumoto bested four other candidates. It was the first election in recent years in which all five members of the third-year class ran for the bar's top post.

Nobumoto will be the 76th president of the California bar, the largest in the country, and will begin a one-year term in September, succeeding East Bay mediator Palmer Madden.

Her election also marks the first time the bar has chosen a president-elect this early, an experiment supported by former bar presidents who felt an extra six months will provide an adequate orientation period for the incoming president.

In a seven-minute speech, Nobumoto called herself a team player, committed to building consensus, and outlined an agenda which includes expanded services to bar members, a review of bar governance and assuring fairness in the discipline system.

She also said she favors action on the remaining recommendations made by Special Master Elwood Lui, who was appointed in 1998 by the Supreme Court to oversee the use of a special fee assessment the court ordered in the wake of former Gov. Pete Wilson's veto of the fee bill. Lui, a retired

See NOBUMOTO


IOLTA, baby bar, whistleblower proposals face the legislature
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By LARRY DOYLE
Contributing Writer
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Thanks to an all-absorbing energy crisis and the continuing effects of term limits, the introduction of bills in the California legislature this year more resembled a last-minute deluge than the traditional trickle over a period of months. 

More than 2,100 bills (76 percent of the total) were introduced in the final week preceding the Feb. 23 bill introduction deadline - 1,251 on the final day alone.

Included in this number are many bills that could have a significant impact on the State Bar and/or the practice of law. And, thanks to rule waivers and amendment, more are still being introduced.

Two of the most significant measures to appear so far are sponsored by Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Darrell Steinberg. The first is AB 363, which would specifically extend statutory "whistleblower" protections to state and local government attorneys. Steinberg is working with the State Bar and

See WIDE RANGE


New discipline chief picked
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By KATHLEEN BEITIKS
Staff Writer
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A northern California attorney whose legal career has encompassed multiple areas of law practice has been named chief prosecutor for the State Bar. Mike Nisperos Jr., manager of the Citizen's Police Review Board in Oakland, was named to the post last month by the board of governors after a nationwide search.

In his role as chief trial counsel, Nisperos will oversee the bar's attorney discipline system, which is often lauded as a nationwide model.

Nisperos, 51, replaces Judy Johnson, who served as the bar's chief prosecutor from 1994 until she was named executive director of the State Bar last April. For the past 10 months, assistant chief trial counsel Fran Bassios has headed the office.

Nisperos, who requires state Senate confirmation in his new post, will become the fourth person to head the bar's discipline operation since it was overhauled in 1989.

Bar president Palmer Brown Madden said Nisperos brings a wide range of life experiences to his new job. "The board wanted someone to head up

See NISPEROS


Kids and the Law coming in May issue
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A revised print version of the State Bar's popular Kids and the Law: An A-Z Guide for Parents will be published as a second section to the May issue of California Bar Journal in conjunction with Law Day activities.

Supported by a $34,000 grant from the Foundation of the State Bar, Kids and the Law has been updated to reflect changes in laws affecting the state's young people. It is also available on the bar's website, www.calbar.org, where it can be downloaded. A limited number of print copies will also be available.


Supreme Court upholds summary disbarment
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By NANCY McCARTHY
Staff Writer
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Attorneys convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, even if the crime was not committed during the practice of law, can be automatically disbarred, the California Supreme Court ruled last month.

And if the offense falls within the statute's criteria, the offending lawyer is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing, the justices said.

In two cases challenging California's summary disbarment statute, a unanimous court upheld the statute, offered new guidance on the meaning of moral turpitude and reasserted its own authority over attorney discipline.

The rulings came in challenges to the statute by Cristeta Paguirigan, convicted in 1997 of forging two declarations in a civil matter, and Stuart K. Lesansky, who pleaded no contest in 1998 to one count of an attempted lewd act upon a child.

Lesansky, 48, had argued that the summary disbarment statute applies only if the underlying offense demonstrates unfitness to practice law. Contending that his criminal offense was "a wholly private act unrelated to the practice of law," Lesansky said he should not be subject to summary disbarment. He also argued that his offense did not constitute moral turpitude.

Justice Joyce Kennard did not agree with either suggestion. Instead, she said the court did not agree that "a lawyer's private acts may never demonstrate unfitness for the legal profession. Fitness to practice law

See COURT UPHOLDS