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James V. Lacy

Arnold’s state bar veto deserves kudos

Governor Schwarzenegger did the right thing when he vetoed legislation setting the state bar’s dues last month. Even the California state bar’s president has called the Governor’s concerns about mismanagement at the state bar offices “legitimate.” What surprises me is that the story of embezzlement and other problems at the regulatory office for California’s lawyers hasn’t gotten the attention in the main stream media that it deserves.

According to the California Bar Journal, an audit found that an employee of the state bar stole $675,000 from the organization, and someone else made an unauthorized disclosure of a rating of a candidate for the appellate bench.

I generally believe that the state bar ought to stay out of judicial ratings completely. I have served on a state bar committee and there is no way I could ever be convinced that politics is not at the core of much of the committee work. It simply is impossible for lawyers to give “neutral” ratings to judicial candidates. Anyone who thinks that might also believe that a shark only eats enough prey to preserve the Eco-balance in it’s particular part of the ocean. So the leak didn’t surprise me. It also doesn’t surprise me that the guy that got screwed by the wrongful disclosure was former Republican legislator Chuck Poochigian. Poochigan was rated “unqualified” by an “impartial” board of Democrat lawyers the state bar setup to advise the Governor on appointments. By making their private advice public, some liberal employee literally “screwed the Pooch.” There should be calls for a detailed investigation of everything about that leak. This partisanship is yet another reason why the state bar should be banned from just about everything it does except continuing legal education. The current state bar does not deserve any credibility on these matters.

In his veto message, Arnold also cited the fact that the state bar is spending $12 million more than it did four years ago on attorney discipline, yet prosecutions of unethical lawyers has actually decreased over the same time period. Management pay practices and spending in general were also questioned.
But what about the embezzlement?! Where the heck are the news media stories on that? Imagine if someone embezzled $675,000 from the Governor’s budget! There would be plenty of stories on that, right?!

Heads should roll at the state bar. The legislature, lead by conservatives, should not pass and stop any funding bill that allows this creapy politics at the state bar. The state bar should be stripped of any role in commenting on judicial appointments, and it ought to have it’s regulatory power on lawyer ethics taken away and turned over with adequate funding to public integrity units of District Attorneys offices across the state. That would fix the state bar!

And, our Governor deserves credit for standing up for some decency in the legal profession.