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State Bar GC Babcock to retire

General Counsel Starr Babcock, who has served as the State Bar of California’s top legal adviser for the past three years, announced that he will retire Jan. 31, 2014 after a 40-year career dominated by public service to the judicial branch.

Starr Babcock

Babcock took the position of general counsel at a time when the State Bar was recovering from a veto of its annual fee bill and undergoing a shift in leadership. Babcock worked closely with Executive Director/CEO Joseph Dunn when he assumed the leadership in 2010. Babcock and the Office of General Counsel also staffed the Governance Reform Task Force, whose recommendations made major changes in the Board of Trustees' governance model and provided the legal analysis and support to increase openness and transparency of public meetings.

In addition, the Office of General Counsel has successfully petitioned and is awaiting oral argument in the California Supreme Court in six cases related to immigration status, moral character standards and access to public records.

“As general counsel Starr reorganized and revitalized the General Counsel’s Office to truly meet the challenges we now face,” State Bar President Patrick Kelly said. “In those efforts he has proved himself to be a tremendous lawyer as well as a thoughtful manager.”

Babcock, 66, will retire with about 25 years of combined service to the State Bar and the Administrative Office of the Courts, the policymaking body for the California Courts. He served as managing attorney of the AOC’s Office of General Counsel. His past roles at the State Bar included senior executive of member services and liaison to the California Supreme Court.

“All of us on the Supreme Court will miss Starr Babcock and the wise counsel and collaborative spirit he brought to his many roles,” Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said. “He has been an exemplar of public service, not only at the State Bar, but also during his earlier service at the Administrative Office of the Courts. On behalf of the court, I wish him the very best in this next phase of his life and thank him for his service.”

In 2007, Babcock 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 ensure adequate health care in California’s prisons. Recently, Henderson issued an order in the case recognizing his instrumental work and designating Babcock as his “Main Pro Bono Man.” “Throughout his service, Starr has acted with great humor and dedication, and he has given his time and assistance freely and without charge,” Henderson said in the July 2 order.

Babcock plans to assist in recruiting and vetting his successor to ensure a smooth transition over the next six months.

A graduate of Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia, Babcock received his law degree at Georgetown University Law Center. He is a resident of San Francisco and he is married to Margo M. Leahy, a physician. The couple has two children.