SAN FRANCISCO -- Despite the controversial issues darkening the California State Bar, including concerns about the group's expenses, a Senate bill initially anticipated to resolve such matters was not passed by the state legislature.
The California State Bar expressed its dismay over the fate of Senate Bill 846, which failed to pass through the legislative session in September. Now, the Supreme Court had been asked to step in to resolve the issues concerning attorney’s dues in 2017. This situation is the first in almost 20 years for the State Bar of California.
In its announcement, the California State Bar shared its goal of seeking authority from the Supreme Court for the collection of attorney’s fees for next year. This came after SB 846, which was intended to create two agencies in the bar, failed to gain momentum in the legislature. The necessity to push for the bill stemmed from the fact that two trade groups are currently served by the State Bar. Right now, the bar is tasked with being capable of catering to the needs of the lawyers. At the same time, they are also expected to serve as a regulatory body to enforce the rules and regulations to the lawyers.
Under SB 846, the board of trustees of the bar would undergo an overhaul. The majority of the seats in the group would have been appointed to people who do not practice law. According to the bill, members of the board of trustees should be individuals who have demonstrated education or experience or both in specific areas of expertise, including public finance.
In addition to the shake-up in the board of trustees, SB 846 also tackled the annual dues of lawyers. The bill granted the board of trustees the authority to use an accounting firm, which could be an independent national or regional public company, to review the expenses of the California State Bar. It would also require the California state auditor to review the expenses of the bar and submit recommendations or reports about how to address the issues.
A specified amount would be imposed upon attorneys in the state as their annual membership fee. This would be determined by the board of trustees. In addition, the legislature would not be allowed to decrease the maximum amount of membership fee to be imposed on the attorneys.
In her statement following the failure of SB 846, Elizabeth Parker, the executive director of the State Bar of California, stressed the goals of the State Bar. While she acknowledged the issue, she also reassured bar members that a solution will be sought as soon as possible. She also stated that they have reached out to the Supreme Court to resolve the concerns.
“The State Bar’s mission is public protection and we will continue to prioritize that work with as little disruption as possible. We’re going to get through this,” Parker said in her official statement. “While I am disappointed that it was not possible for the legislature to come to an agreement on a fee bill, I am grateful for the important discussions that have taken place. We look forward to working with both houses of the legislature and the chief justice as we continue making important improvements to the State Bar’s governance and public protection activities.”