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State Bar senior executive Starr Babcock
is appointed general counsel

Starr Babcock

Starr Babcock, a member of the State Bar’s senior management team for more than a decade, was named general counsel last month. Babcock, who earlier worked in the Office of General Counsel for six years, was hired for the bar’s top legal job by the organization’s board of governors. He assumes the post Aug. 9.

The bar’s 19-person legal department provides comprehensive litigation services, including filing and defending lawsuits, and it represents the bar in all matters pending in state and federal courts and administrative tribunals. The office also drafts and reviews contracts and other business transactions, provides real property advice, interprets existing rules and regulations, analyzes proposed legislation and provides legal advice to the board of governors and all State Bar departments. With a $4 million budget, attorneys in the office appear in federal and state courts and represent the bar in discipline and admissions cases before the California Supreme Court.

Babcock currently serves as the senior executive of member services, where he oversees 60 employees and a $40 million-plus budget. He also manages the bar’s insurance programs, legal services, outreach to other bar associations, the continuing education program and assistance for attorneys with substance abuse problems. Prior to his current activities, he served as a special assistant to Executive Director Judy Johnson, where he acted as the bar’s liaison with the Supreme Court.

“Starr will be a wonderful general counsel,” said State Bar President Howard Miller. “He is highly knowledgeable about legal issues involving the bar, has great experience within the bar, and will bring an important element of stability in the midst of increasing evolutionary change.”

Babcock has spent most of his career working with either the State Bar or the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and said the new post is a logical next step that enables him to continue in the public service arena. “I’m grateful and honored by the opportunity to serve as the State Bar’s general counsel and to assist the board of governors in its work and mission,” he said. “I’ve had the privilege of working in the judicial branch for the past 20 years at both the State Bar and the AOC and believe that experience will serve me well in leading the Office of General Counsel.”

Between stints at the bar, Babcock was managing attorney from 1996-2000 at the AOC’s office of general counsel, with oversight responsibility for all litigation affecting the Judicial Council, the AOC, the appellate courts and justices, and trial courts, judges and court employees. He managed a series of AOC initiatives, including simplified jury instructions, compliance with trial court funding and the unification of California’s municipal and superior courts, and development of a statewide approach to litigation management.

In 2007, he was appointed by Senior U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson as a pro bono mediator and special assistant to the federal court in its efforts to insure adequate health care in California’s prisons. The same year, Chief Justice Ronald George named Babcock to a task force that recommended ways to improve the selection and retention of judges.

He also was a member of a Supreme Court committee that reviewed a proposal to transfer the State Bar’s discipline system to the Supreme Court, and he served on the Committee of Bar Examiners.