California Bar Journal
CBJ - November 2009 #01.
Governor vetoes the State Bar fee bill
California Bar JournalNovember 2009Governor vetoes the State Bar fee billBy Nancy McCarthyStaff WriterReacting to Gov. Schwarzenegger's veto of the State Bar dues bill last month, bar President Howard Miller said the governor's concerns are "legitimate" and may force the bar to make some necessary changes. "Events such as the governor's veto message can challenge the State Bar to renew itself as an institution and its service to the public and the legal profession," Miller said. (Read Gov. Schwarzenegger's and State Bar President Howard Miller's messages.)
Although SB 641 - authorizing collection of $410 in 2010 dues from active members - won passage in both houses of the legislature by wide margins, Schwarzenegger said he would not sign the bill "because the State Bar cannot continue with business as usual." In particular, he criticized the agency for a recent state audit that found inefficiencies in the discipline operation, the embezzlement of $675,000 by a former employee and the unauthorized disclosure of the rating of a candidate for the appellate bench.
"As the organization charged with regulating the professional conduct of its members, the conduct of the State Bar itself must be above reproach," Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message. "Regrettably, it is not."
He encouraged the bar to "resolve these issues as soon as possible" so the legislature can reintroduce a dues bill early next year.
The bar faced a similar crisis in 1997 after Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a two-year fee authorization, charging the organization had "done its best" by its actions not to deny but to verify the charges of disgruntled members who characterized it as "bloated, arrogant, oblivious and unresponsive." Although Schwarzenegger's criticism was not as harsh, he said Wilson's concerns about inefficiencies remained "unaddressed" and the bar's role in evaluating judicial candidates suggests its "political agenda continues."
The bar is funded by its members and must win legislative authorization to collect fees from those members. In recent years, it has obtained one-year bills, despite efforts to win multi-year authorizations.
After the 1997 veto, the bar assessed each active member a $77 fee and asked lawyers to pay the full...