Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
April 28, 2016 – 2:51 PM

  • Former Sen. Joe Dunn fired as State Bar’s boss
  • Accused of deception, he’s now suing quasi-public agency

Joe Dunn’s ears must have been burning Tuesday.

At 10:31 a.m., the former Orange County state senator, who is now running for a seat in Congress, dispatched a campaign news release touting his support by a school union.

At that very moment, 416 miles to the north, the Assembly Judiciary Committee was delving into dysfunction in the State Bar leading up to Dunn’s dismissal as its executive director in 2014.

The State Bar is a unique entity – a quasi-public agency that simultaneously acts as regulator of the state’s 200,000-plus attorneys and as a trade association that protects lawyers’ financial interests.

That dual role lies at the heart of the controversy. Dunn sued the State Bar after his dismissal, claiming that those who fired him were trying to cover up bad behavior, but an outside investigative report, which the State Bar released two months ago, accuses Dunn of deception and influence-peddling.

“Dunn’s repeated failure to provide adequate or truthful information to the board (of the State Bar) provides an adequate basis to terminate his at-will employment,” the report concluded.

Meanwhile, State Auditor Elaine Howle has castigated the State Bar for failing to protect the public from incompetent or venal lawyers during Dunn’s reign and squandering money meant to support its regulatory activities.

“Rather than using its financial resources to improve its attorney discipline system, the State Bar dedicated a significant portion of its funds to purchase and renovate a building in Los Angeles in 2012,” Howle’s report said.

Elizabeth Parker, who succeeded Dunn as the State Bar’s executive director, described it to the Judiciary Committee as “an organization in turmoil.”

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