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State Bar fee bill moves through the legislature

At press time, the State Bar's 2004 fee bill had been approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and was awaiting approval by the full Senate. If approved, AB 1708 will return to the Assembly for concurrence in Senate amendments. The Assembly approved an earlier version of the bill in May on a 55-19 vote.

AB 1708, sponsored by Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, keeps the fee for both active and inactive lawyers flat for the fifth consecutive year at $390 and $50 respectively.

The bill also includes a provision to enhance the bar's ability to recoup costs assessed against disciplined attorneys and money paid out by the Client Security Fund. Current law severely limits the bar's tools for pursuing such obligations. AB 1708 will allow such costs to be treated as a money judgment, thus giving the bar a new avenue to pursue collection.

The bill also would substantially narrow a loophole in existing law that allows high-income attorneys and arbitrators to take advantage of a fee reduction option originally intended to apply only to low-income attorneys.

The bar currently is conducting a random audit of 100 attorneys who scaled their dues this year, asking them to submit copies of their tax returns.

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