Bar News

MCLE appeal handled gratis

The State Bar's appeal of the ruling that overturned the bar's MCLE program is being handled pro bono by two San Francisco attorneys from Cooper, White & Cooper.

Due to an editing error, the names of Mark Tuft and James Wagstaffe were not included last month in a story about the MCLE appeal.

Tuft and Wagstaffe wrote the brief that was submitted to the California Supreme Court in July.

Ballots due by Aug. 15

Ballots for the 1997 board of governors' election must arrive at the State Bar by 5 p.m. Aug. 15. Ballots were mailed to members in Districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 on July 11. Fourteen candidates are seeking five seats on the board (see the complete election section in the July California Bar Journal).

Wilson vetoes bill to kill 'baby bar'

Another legislative attempt to eliminate the "baby bar" exam requirement for students at non-accredited law schools was vetoed by Gov. Wilson last month.

In rejecting the measure by Assemblyman Lou Papan (D-Millbrae), Wilson said the exam is the "only standard available to students attending these [unaccredited] schools by which to determine the quality of education that they are receiving."

Since 1935, students at schools not accredited by either the ABA or the state Committee of Bar Examiners have been required to pass the First Year Law Students Exam before progressing. Papan's bill was the third attempt in four years by the legislature to eliminate the requirement.

Award for 'Kids' program

The State Bar's "Kids and the Law" program has received an Award of Excellence from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). The program this year produced the well-received "Kids and the Law" brochure.

$458 fee bill goes to Assembly floor

The State Bar's fee bill, which freezes dues for one year at the current $458, was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee after an amendment to reduce the amount by $25 failed. The bill is headed for the Assembly floor. The committee voted 10-4 to approve SB 1145.

Assemblyman William Morrow, vice chair of the panel and a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the State Bar, proposed a $25 reduction, which drew support from three public members of the bar board. The amendment would have reduced dues for most lawyers to $433 and cost the bar an estimated $3 million.

San Diego journalist Peter Kaye, one of the board members who testified in favor of the amendment, proposed 13 areas for trimming the bar's budget, including elimination of duplicative staff positions, reducing the use of costly consultants and instituting realistic budgeting procedures.

Bar President Tom Stolpman said Kaye pulled the $25 figure out of thin air and said the numbers could not be supported. The amendment, which was rejected on a 7-7 vote, would have cost the bar $3 million per year, said bar financial officials.

Board moves to study split of Ninth Circuit

Concerned about a proposal to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the board of governors is supporting an American Bar Association resolution which calls for the creation of a bipartisan commission to study the federal appellate court structure.

At its recent meeting, members of the board committee on legislation and court relations heard that the last major structure and alignment of the federal courts of appeals was conducted in 1973 by the Hruska Commission.

Because conditions and caseloads have changed dramatically in the ensuing 24 years, committee members agreed with the ABA resolution to study the entire federal system before a decision to split the Ninth Circuit is made.

One proposal for splitting the Ninth Circuit would leave California and Hawaii in the Ninth and form a new Twelfth Circuit to encompass Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Another would divide California into two circuits and a third would put the state and Nevada in the Ninth Circuit, with the remainder of the western states in a Twelfth Circuit.

Committee members expressed concerned that gerrymandering the Ninth Circuit would be based on political considerations.

Committee member Andy Guilford said he was "not outraged" about a proposal to split the Ninth Circuit because it is unwieldy and "we need to make adjustments." However, Guilford said he would not support splitting California.

Ann Ravel noted that "even a study can be politicized" but agreed that "ultimately our real interest is that California is not split."

Wendy Borcherdt urged board members to contact members of Congress to voice their concerns, rather than depending solely on the lobbying efforts of the ABA.