heard from a number of you who very generously paid voluntary dues last year and now are
distressed that the bar is unable to make refunds or offer a credit toward the 1999 dues.
When the board of governors sought voluntary dues last year, we believed the bar would be
able to win passage of a dues bill and that its financial predicament would last only one
year. As you know, that did not happen.
Although we were successful before the Supreme
Court in obtaining a special assessment for discipline activities, the special master
appointed by the Supreme Court has ruled that those funds must be devoted exclusively to
that operation. He has directed that none are to be used to refund any excess dues paid
The State Bar remains in severe financial distress. The voluntary contributions which
came in last year were spent just to keep the doors open, continuing only a handful of the
bars functions. Indeed, many mandated programs remain unfunded. We are optimistic
that we will win passage of a dues bill this year, which, if a majority bill, will take
effect Jan. 1, 2000. When we have reached that point, we will be in a position to fulfill
our commitment to offer a dues credit to those who helped us last year and to whom we
In order that we obtain that legislation, I ask that you write to your representatives
in Sacramento. The State Bar should be on the radar of every senator and assembly member,
so that when this measure comes before them, they will have a full appreciation of the
Whether they agree or disagree with the amount of dues proposed or the individual
components of the bill, I believe the vast majority of attorneys in this state understand
that it is in the best interest of the public and our legal profession that the State Bar
must continue to exist as a single, unified mandatory bar.
We are making an effort to address the many concerns raised in the past year, and the
fee bill will do that. I hope we can use the current crisis as an opportunity to work
together to achieve a bar which will protect the public effectively, serve our members
efficiently, and remain true to our mission to "preserve and improve our justice
system in order to assure a free and just society under law."
The State Bar mid-year meeting next month is a case in point. In years past, the bar
traditionally has held a mid-year meeting for "bar leaders" throughout
California. Because one of my main priorities this year is to improve communication with
our members, I want to expand the audience for that meeting to include as many of you as
possible. This will be an opportunity for California lawyers to join bar leaders and talk
At a time when the State Bar is undergoing fundamental change, this is an opportunity
for you to make a contribution.
We will hold a public forum at the meeting for just that purpose. Tell us what you
think about the bar and how it can be improved. Share with us your concerns about the
practice of law and how the bar might make the life of a lawyer a little easier.
We can make change and solve problems only if we talk to one another.
The mid-year meeting will be held March 26-27 in Costa Mesa. Attorney General Bill
Lockyer will address the Saturday luncheon and John McKay, president of the Legal Services
Corporation, will speak Friday. In addition, a variety of seminars will be presented on
topics ranging from appointments to the bench to Y2K readiness.
Registration information about the meeting can be found on page 7. I encourage and
welcome your participation.