|Senate Bill 144, authored by Sen. Adam Schiff, dramatically alters the
relationship of the Conference of Delegates with its parent body, the State Bar of
California. Responding to the objections of those who were unhappy that their mandatory
dues went to the support of a forum at which issues were debated and resolutions ratified
when they might disagree with the result, the bill calls for the conference to be funded
only from non-mandatory dues sources after Jan. 1, 2000.
The reality is that this has
already happened. The 1999 Conference of Delegates, which will meet in Long Beach from
Oct. 1-3, is being supported entirely from non-mandatory dues. While this year our support
is based more on a "wing and a prayer" given the drastic financial circumstances
of the State Bar, we look forward to working with our supporters in the legal community
throughout the state to ensure that the good work of the conference continues.
I know that many of you reading this are shaking your heads skeptically. What good
work? Whats he talking about? Years of propaganda from opponents of the integrated
bar and a failure by the old State Bar to educate you have taken their toll. Let me tell
you what the conference has done for you, your family and our society in general by citing
one years legislative program.
In 1997, several resolutions passed by the 1996 conference were adopted by the
legislature by the close of that session:
Criminal Law: Civil compromise
was abolished in cases involving domestic violence; a victim, witness or next of kin must
be notified when a parolee is released into the community.
Employment Law: Changed
definition of workplace sexual harassment to include same-sex harassment (as the U.S.
Supreme Court did a year later).
Land Use Law: Required environmental
equity be considered in county, state and regional plans for the placement of hazardous
Family Law: Added preconditions
to the granting of a motion to bifurcate the issue of status of the marriage.
Probate Law: Affected trust
provisions providing for pretermitted spouses and children.
Civil Procedure: Provided for the
exercise of one peremptory challenge against a judicial officer without a showing of
Each year, the conference debates and ratifies more than 100 resolutions which cover
every conceivable area of practice. Our speakers cover the political spectrum. Our debates
are lively, stimulating and educational. We seek to make the practice of law better for
each lawyer in this state and for its citizens.
There is still time to become involved this year. Your local bar association is seeking
delegates to attend the 1999 conference. All are welcome.
You will discover, as I did nearly 20 years ago, that being a delegate on the floor of
the conference gives you the opportunity to speak your own mind to hundreds of colleagues
who will hear your remarks with dignity, respect and vigorous debate.
You will not be disappointed; I guarantee it.
Matt St. George is chair of the executive
committee of the conference of delegates.