The State Bar has suspended from practice almost
1,400 attorneys who did not complete their continuing education
requirements and more than 2,000 lawyers who did not pay their dues.
Both numbers far exceed the norm.
In formal terms, the affected lawyers were placed
on "not entitled" status, but whatever the terminology, it means
they can't practice law as of Sept. 1.
State Bar Executive Director Judy Johnson said
the numbers in both categories were high this year because the bar had
not sought suspension for either group in recent years due to the
bar's fiscal crisis and member confusion over what was required.
Those who did not comply with MCLE requirements
- 1,393 - had years to do so. The compliance period for Group 1
(last names A-G) totaled six years and Group 2 (last names H-M) had
seven years to finish their hours.
The deadlines had been extended while a lawsuit
challenging the constitutionality of MCLE requirements was pending
before the Supreme Court. The high court upheld the program at about
the same time Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation which reduced the
number of hours required over a three-year period from 36 to 25.
The board of governors extended the deadline for
Group 2 from 1997 to 2000, and then gave them another year as well.
The deadline for Group 1 was extended from 1998 to 2001. Those who had
not met the original 36-hour requirement had to finish 61 hours (36
hours plus 25) of continuing education by the new deadline; those who
had met the first deadline had to complete 25 hours.
In most years, about 300 lawyers are placed on
not-entitled status for non-compliance.
The bar sent numerous letters before the Feb. 1
deadlines reminding attorneys of the requirement. When the deadline
passed, the bar sent additional letters to each lawyer who was late,
and in the last month sent a certified letter and tried to e-mail or
phone them as well.
"This is really unfortunate because we were so
proactive," said Fran Bassios, special assistant to the executive
director, who oversees the MCLE program.
In order to resume active status, an attorney who
is not entitled for MCLE non-compliance must complete the required
hours, provide the compliance card and documentation of compliance,
and pay penalties and late fees - $275 in most cases.
In addition to MCLE non-compliance, 2,057
California lawyers were suspended for not paying their bar dues. That
compares to about 800 in most years.
Bar officials suspect there is overlap in the
lists of roughly 1,000 names, but have not analyzed the data to
determine precise numbers.
For information, call the office of certification