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Discipline unit keeps backlog in check

By Amy Yarbrough
Staff Writer

The new year is off to a good start for the State Bar’s discipline unit, which ended 2012 with an investigations backlog of just five cases.

Other figures compiled late last year were similarly positive. The Office of Chief Trial Counsel reported that it had a lower-than-expected backlog of 232 complaints where the investigations had been completed, but charges had not been filed. In doing so, the office exceeded its goal of rounding out the year with no more than 250 complaints in backlog. Cases older than six months that have not been either dismissed or formal charges filed are considered backlogged.

In addition, the State Bar also saw a significant increase in the number of discipline trials begun in 2012 – 176 last year compared with 101 in 2011 and 112 in 2010.

The figures are some added good news for the State Bar which announced last January that it had, for the first time in decades, eliminated its investigations backlog.

“By maintaining a zero backlog, we are slowly showing our constituency, the people of California, that we are deadly serious about meeting our regulatory responsibility,” Executive Director/CEO Joe Dunn said.

Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim said that the fact that her office started out last year with a zero backlog was probably the biggest factor that led to the low numbers in December. Kim said it also helped that without old cases to worry about, investigators were free to focus on the new ones.

“We just pressed on people to monitor this backlog every day,” she said.

The State Bar is planning to look for ways to further expedite the handling of cases by continuing to strengthen its audit processes and holding additional summits with law enforcement and other outside agencies.