February 1998

Bills vie to restructure bar

[AB 1669 dues]

On a split vote, board endorses proposal which would establish a voluntary unit to take control of three functions

Staff Writer

State Bar-supported legislation to split the organization into mandatory and voluntary components was introduced in Sacramento last month by Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys.

AB 1669 was introduced as urgency legislation on Jan. 14 in an effort to keep the State Bar afloat following Gov. Wilson’s veto of the organization’s annual funding bill.

The bill received lukewarm support from the bar’s board of governors, with only 10 members supporting the legislation. Four voted against the bill, and four others -- including three public members -- abstained.

Hertzberg’s bill would:

  • Divide the bar into mandatory and voluntary components;
  • Set dues at $419 for most attorneys this year and $399 next year;
  • Require that all contracts in excess of $50,000 be put out to bid; and
  • Require an annual independent audit of the bar.

Hertzberg’s bill is competing with another bill introduced on the opening day of the legislature, Jan. 5, by longtime bar critic Sen. Quentin Kopp, I-San Francisco.




Executive director begins
promised trimming, eliminates
45 positions to save $3 million

In the biggest budget cutback in the State Bar’s history, 45 staff positions were eliminated last month for a savings of almost $3 million. Warning that more cutbacks should be expected, executive director Steve Nissen called the reductions “the opening round in a longer term effort to streamline the bar and use our members’ money more wisely.”

The personnel reduction, which includes virtually every department within the bar, will take effect 60 days after notices were given Jan. 22.

Some cuts will be accomplished through existing vacancies, and approximately half will result in layoffs of current staff in management, legal services, discipline and bar relations, among others.




Hertzberg: The option is, ‘Fix it, or lose it’

Assemblyman Robert M. Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, introduced AB 1669 Jan. 14 as an urgency bill to authorize the State Bar to collect member dues. The bill, supported by the bar's board of governors on a 10 – 4 vote with four abstentions, divides the bar into mandatory and voluntary components, sets dues at $419 for most attorneys this year and $399 next year, requires an annual independent audit, and requires that all contracts in excess of $50,000 be put out to bid.

Current core functions of the State Bar will remain in the mandatory portion, including the discipline system, admissions, continuing education, creation of professional standards, programs to improve the quality of legal services, the Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE) Commission and the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program.

No dues can be spent on lobbying for legislation not related to the State Bar, regulation of the legal profession or the improvement of the quality of legal services to the public.