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Conference of Delegates incorporates as new group

In the latest step toward separation from the State Bar, the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations incorporated last month as a nonprofit corporation to replace the existing Conference of Delegates.

A task force overseeing the conference's future also accepted several proposals to govern the new body's method of collecting dues, sharing expenses at the bar's annual meeting and how its resolutions will be considered for inclusion in the bar's legislative program. The proposals go to the board of governors by late summer.

In addition, the new CDCBA began contract negotiations with the bar to establish a new relationship between the two.

The latest developments move the conference closer to its anticipated formal split from the bar, giving it the independence it desires while at the same time protecting the bar from the kind of political fallout which has resulted from some controversial positions taken by the conference in past years.

The newly incorporated CDCBA has as its purpose "to provide an educational forum for local and specialty bar associations throughout the state of California to propose and debate matters concerning the advancement of the science of jurisprudence and the improvement of the administration of justice" in California.

Senate approves UPL bill

A bill to boost the punishment of non-lawyers who practice law without a license was approved last month in the California Senate by a vote of 27-6. SB 1459, sponsored by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, and backed by State Bar President Karen Nobumoto, makes a misdemeanor conviction of UPL punishable by up to a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine, or both. The bill also adds 90 days in jail for subsequent convictions.

Under existing law, a disbarred or suspended attorney who practices law can be charged with a felony, but a non-lawyer faces only a misdemeanor.

When SB 1459 was introduced, it would have created a wobbler - an offense that can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor - for non-lawyers with more than one UPL conviction. However, because felonies carry "Three Strikes" implications, the bill faced resistance from some lawmakers who are reluctant to create new non-violent felony law. It was amended to increase the penalty for a misdemeanor UPL conviction.

Nobumoto, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles, has spotlighted UPL as a serious problem in the immigrant community in particular, where unscrupulous non-lawyers prey on people who speak limited English, presenting themselves as immigration consultants or legal advisors.

Morrison & Foerster honored for pro bono work

In recognition of its longstanding commitment to pro bono activities and its efforts to support creation of the California Access to Justice Commission, Morrison & Foerster LLP will receive the ABA's 2002 Pro Bono Publico Award next month.

Nominated by the State Bar of California, the firm contributed more than 73,000 hours of pro bono work in 2001, totaling more than 5 percent of its billable hours. The Bay Area offices alone produced more than 36,000 pro bono hours, which equates to 100 hours per attorney.

Several Morrison & Foerster lawyers have played leadership roles in legal services positions in California and also have been leaders in the national effort to support legal services to the poor. The bar's nomination papers emphasized the firm's work in the 1997 creation of the Access to Justice Commission, particularly the efforts of Jack Londen and former partner and now Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Laurie Zelon, who both have chaired the group.

The commission distributed $30 million in state funds over the past three years to legal services programs and a $10 million annual appropriation remains in the state budget. Commission efforts also have resulted in the inclusion of access to justice issues in judicial training events and a statewide language access project.

The bar noted that after it had to shut down most of its operations in 1998, Morrison attorneys took over sponsorship of meetings and undertook successful fundraising to support the commission during the bar hiatus. "Were it not for that support," the bar said, "the commission may have lost critical momentum right at the outset."

Southwestern professor will receive ABA award

Myrna Sharon Raeder, a Southwestern University School of Law professor since 1979, is one of five women who will receive the 2002 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the ABA's Commission on Women in the Profession next month.

Raeder has written and lectured extensively on gender bias in prosecuting, sentencing and the corrections system for women, and she helped create the university's part-time law degree program for mothers.

President of the National Association of Women Lawyers from 1994 to 1996, Raeder also served as the first woman president of the ABA's criminal justice section in 1998.

The Margaret Brent awards honor outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence in their area of specialty and have actively paved the way to success for other women lawyers.

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