by KATHLEEN O. BEITIKS
Authors of ballot arguments for the State Bar's upcoming plebiscite have been selected by Secretary of State Bill Jones. Bar President Jim Towery will write in opposition of the dissolution of the bar, and Peter Keane, former Board of Governors member, will argue in favor of the measure.
Selected to write an additional opposing argument, as well as a rebuttal, was former State Bar President Donald Fischbach. Sen. Quentin Kopp (I-San Francisco) will present an argument in support of the dissolution of the bar.
Kopp is the author of the bill, SB 60, which mandates the State Bar to conduct a plebiscite of its members.
Jones also announced the appointment of a monitoring panel for the plebiscite. Members of the panel are: San Francisco attorney Gary L. Gray, Los Angeles attorney Peter Appleton, former Supreme Court Justice Allen Broussard and Fischbach.
The question to be posed to attorneys is: "Shall the State Bar be abolished as the agency regulating lawyers in this state on behalf of the Legislature and Supreme Court, with its regulatory functions turned over to another body or bodies and some or all of its other activities handled by a voluntary bar association or associations?"
The two main arguments for each side are not to exceed 500 words, and the rebuttals, one for each side, are limited to 250 words.
The Board of Governors voted last October to mail ballots on May 1. The results must be reported to the state legislature by July 1. An outside accounting firm, Price Waterhouse, will mail and tally the ballots.
Attorneys on both sides of the measure have formed "Lawyers Committee for a 'Yes' Vote" and "Coalition to Save the Unified Bar," making appearances throughout the state to support their respective arguments.
A debate on the issue was held at last month's annual Bar Leaders Conference in San Jose, with Towery and Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) defending the concept of a unified bar and Keane and Appleton arguing against the mandatory organization.
Kuehl warned the audience that the plebiscite question does not offer an alternative regulatory agency. "This campaign to do away with the State Bar reminds me of the guys who used to run for student government at UCLA on the platform of doing away with student government," she said. "They just wanted to do away with it. They had nothing in mind to replace it with."
Keane, however, called the bar an expensive, inefficient anachronism and criticized the cost of the discipline system. He argued that most bar functions should be handled by a voluntary association, and admissions and discipline should be the job of a state agency under the judiciary.
SB 60 also directed an audit of the bar. Six auditors have been working in Los Angeles and San Francisco at a cost to the bar of approximately $100,000.
Fischbach has been especially critical of the audit component of SB 60, saying that it is a waste of money since the bar has been audited 71 times in the past 10 years, at a cost of about $1 million.
Printing, mailing and other costs associated with conducting the plebiscite are expected to run more than $200,000.
More than 70 local and specialty bars and the California Judges and California Public Defenders associations have voted to support the unified bar, including according to Gail Tuzzolo, campaign director for the Coalition to Save the Unified Bar.
Keane said he knew of no official endorsements by organizations opposing the mandatory bar.