California Bar Journal
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Davis signs diversion bill, nixes more access money
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Gov. Davis signed into law a measure to create an attorney diversion and assistance program to be operated by the State Bar to help alcoholic attorneys. The bill, SB 479, sponsored by Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco, was joined to the bar's fee bill, which the governor signed in July. Neither measure could take effect without the other.

Davis had earlier returned the diversion measure to the legislature for technical amendments.

Modeled on a program operated by the Medical Board of California for 20 years, the diversion program is designed to rehabilitate rather than punish alcoholic lawyers.

It will be administered by an appointed board, which will set criteria for participation. Lawyers will either refer themselves or be referred by the bar's discipline system. Ten dollars of every lawyer's dues will be earmarked for the program.

The governor also nixed a proposed $5 million increase for the Judicial Council's Equal Access Fund in the 2001-02 state budget. The fund supports legal services programs for the poor through the State Bar.

In a statement explaining his line-item veto, Davis said, "California is heading into a difficult year with its softening economy and substantial revenue decreases. Consequently, the General Fund expenditures in this budget are down 1.7 percent over the prior year.

"I am open to considering funding for this worthy program in the future when the economy improves."

The fund still contains $10 million.