Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Open Board Meeting
Virtual Meeting via ZOOM
Present: Deborah Barmack, Carole Beswick, Mike Burrows, Ken Coate, Sandra Cuellar, Jennifer Cusack, Michelle Decker, Louis Goodwin, Otis Greer, Milford Harrison, Fran Inman, Mark Kaenel, Lowell King, Bill Lemann, Dan Little, Darcy McNaboe, John Mirau, Dan Murphy, Bansree Parikh, Catherine Pritchett, Brian Reider, Thomas Rice, Michael Rivera, Dan Schenkel, Kristine Scott, Paul Shimoff, Sol Teh, Pete Van Helden, Ray Wolfe and Frank Zabaleta.
Guests: Julian Cuevas, LaDonna DiCamillo and Eric Ustation.
Announcements: D. Brian Reider, primary representative for Best Best & Krieger, has announced he will retire at year end. Congratulations and appreciation for Brian’s active participation and contributions to Inland Action were expressed.
Louis Goodwin, Chair, presiding.
Motion by R. Wolfe/Second by K. Scott/Passed: Thomas Rice will now serve as the primary representative for Best Best & Krieger.
John Mirau made the second announcement of proposed new member San Bernardino Valley College Foundation. Mike Layne, Executive Director will serve as their representative. Please direct questions or comments to John Mirau or staff. The group will vote next week. For more information please see their web site at https://www.sbvcfoundation.org/
Motion by L.King/Second by R. Wolfe/Passed: Minutes from December 1, 2020.
Brian Reider introduced Ruben Duran, Partner, Best, Best & Krieger and Vice Chair of the State Bar of California Board of Trustees.
The State Bar’s mission is to protect the public. They license attorneys and regulate the profession and practice of law in California. They enforce Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys and discipline attorneys who violate rules and laws. In addition, they administer the California Bar Exam, advance access to justice and promote diversity and inclusion in the legal system.
Created by the Legislature in 1927, the State Bar is an arm of the California Supreme Court, protecting the public by licensing and regulating attorneys. The State Bar licenses more than 250,000 attorneys, investigates approximately 16,000 complaints of attorney misconduct annually and distributes over $78 million in grants to legal aid organizations. The full 13-member Board is comprised of:
- Five attorneys appointed by the California Supreme Court, who will serve four-year terms
- Two attorneys appointed by the Legislature, one by the Senate Committee on Rules and one by the Speaker of the Assembly
- Six “public” or non-attorney members, four appointed by the Governor, one by the Senate Committee on Rules and one by the Speaker of the Assembly
The public is encouraged to contact the State Bar to report any complaints about an attorney. They take in thousands of complaints per month and annually investigate 1,000’s of cases and prosecute hundreds of lawyers using their 600 plus staff of lawyers and investigators.
The State Bar is well aware of both the shortage of judges and their lack of diversity. The Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE Commission) is an agency of the State Bar created by statute to evaluate judicial candidates nominated by the Governor. The role of the JNE Commission is to gather information about the candidates whose names have been submitted to the Commission by the Governor and to conduct a confidential evaluation of their judicial qualifications and report its findings back to the Governor.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed and created numerous challenges to conduct the State Bar Exam this year. Normally held in July, they delayed the exam till October after public input and approval of the Supreme Court was achieved for remote testing.
California has a significant “justice gap” with 55% of residents experiencing at least one legal problem per year of which 85% go without “help” or proper representation. The gap is predominantly due to access and affordability. Legal Aid, through non-profits, assist very few as the income limits for clients is extremely low and the rules very strict. The State Bar is trying to close the gap through regulatory changes to enhance the delivery of, and access to, legal services using technology, including artificial intelligence, and online legal service delivery models. A lack of diversity in the field is also a challenge and the Board of Trustees recognize the issue and believe that educational costs are a core problem as is a lack of recognition in many communities.
The Board is reviewing a provisional license for 2019 and 2020 law school graduates to react to the needs of Californians. These individuals could practice without taking the Bar Exam but would be under the supervision of a licensed attorney who would take responsibility. The program is intended as a stopgap measure and those accepted in the program would be termed out in 2022 unless extended.
They are also considering a new hybrid category termed paraprofessional. Acknowledging that some legal problems do not require a licensed lawyer but need more than a paralegal. There are a few states that are trying this and the now the Board is putting together the framework and structure for this addition to help close the gap.
Other measures may include a 5-year retroactive reduction of the passing score of the Bar exam.
A Q & A period followed
Meeting adjourned at 9:05 a.m.