State Bar of California

Kathy Robertson, Senior Staff Writer
Sacramento Business Journal
Oct 9, 2015 – 2:57pm PDT

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the State Bar of California’s annual dues bill, allowing the agency to collect dues and stay in business another year.

Senate Bill 387 by Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson from Santa Barbara includes new requirements for greater transparency, financial accountability and improved attorney-discipline reporting.

The mandates come after a year of turmoil at the agency that regulates more than 250,000 lawyers in the state. The State Bar terminated executive director Joe Dunn in November 2014. He turned around and filed a lawsuit alleging the bar fired him for filing whistleblower complaints alleging financial improprieties. Then, in June, a critical state audit blasted the bar for inconsistent discipline and shoddy finances.

A reform effort is underway after a management shake-up that brought in three new top executives from outside the agency. The trio — which includes new executive officer Elizabeth Parker, chief operations officer Leah Wilson and general counsel Vanessa Holton — are working to implement the new requirements and move the organization to a new level of openness, Parker said Wednesday.

“It has been very intense, but I enjoy it a lot,” Parker said of her initial weeks on the job. “There’s an awful lot that’s good about this organization, but we need to know who the detractors are, what their criticisms are — and address them.”

The total fee for lawyers in active practice in 2016 will be $430, unchanged from last year. This amount includes licensing fees and other charges, such as a $40 fee for the client security fund that reimburses victims of dishonest lawyers.

Among other provisions in SB 387, the bar is required to comply with the Public Records Act by Jan. 1, 2016 and the state’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act by April 1. Unlike other state licensing boards that operate under the executive branch, the bar is part of the state’s judiciary and has not been subject to open-records and open-meeting laws that apply to others.

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