|Attorneys who face charges of wrongdoing by the State Bar won new
protections under legislation signed last month by Gov. Gray Davis. SB 143, by Senate
President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, also changes the way judges for the State
Bar Court are appointed. Instead of being appointed entirely by the Supreme Court, bar
judges also will be named by the governor and the legislature.
Under the bill, the
Supreme Court will appoint the presiding judge and two hearing judges, and the governor,
Senate rules committee and the Assembly speaker will appoint one hearing judge each. The
non-lawyer review department judge will be replaced by a member appointed by the Supreme
Court. Burton said the changes are designed to bring diversity to the court, but opponents
believe they could politicize it.
Attorneys facing possible discipline now cannot be compelled to comply with a request
for information within an "unreasonable period of time" or to waive any
statutory or constitutional privilege in meeting their duty to cooperate with such a
request. The bar also must give adequate notice of the charges and an opportunity for the
accused attorney to respond.