In a clear rebuke to California’s system for regulating attorneys, the Assembly on Tuesday decisively rejected a bill that sought to overhaul the State Bar.
A recent audit of the quasi-governmental agency lambasted it for a backlog of claims related to attorney misconduct, which the agency is tasked with investigating. The audit also spotlighted shoddy recordkeeping and high executive pay.
Legislators aired their frustration with the State Bar on Tuesday, arguing a bill that would have altered the entity’s board of trustees by eliminating six elected members, fell short of needed change. They pointed to hundreds of complaints to which the Bar never responded, and excoriated the agency for failing to rein in unlicensed practitioners like “notarios,” who often offer unauthorized legal advice to immigrants.
“The State Bar is the Titanic, and if we don’t turn it around we’ll only have ourselves to blame,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, a former prosecutor with the San Francisco District Attorney’s office
Both Republicans and Democrats, some of them attorneys who were licensed to work in California, rose to oppose Assembly Bill 2878. They vowed to block the bill until it enacts broader changes, rejecting it on an overwhelming 8-44 vote. All eight votes in favor came from Democrats.