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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

State Bar dues bill will be reintroduced this month

In view of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s October veto of its fee authorization bill, the bar has delayed sending a 2010 dues bill to its members and postponed the deadline for payment.

However, members of MCLE compliance group 1, whose last names begin with A – G, are required to meet their continuing education requirement by Feb. 1. Non-compliance will result in a $75 penalty.

The bar last month sent a courtesy e-mail to every lawyer for whom it has an e-mail address — about 177,000 attorneys — informing them of the status of member dues, as well as e-mailed notifications to almost 50,000 lawyers whose MCLE compliance is due.

“Although the governor vetoed the State Bar’s initial fee bill in October, he invited the bar to reintroduce this measure in early January, and State Bar President Howard Miller, the board members, along with staff, are diligently working to address the governor’s concerns,” the e-mail said.

The legislature will reconvene Jan. 4, and the exact language of the dues bill, approved by the legislature last year, will be reintroduced. As before, the bill authorizes dues for active members at $410 and at $125 for inactive lawyers. It postpones the deadline for payment to March 1.

If the bill is passed by the Assembly and Senate and signed by the governor at the beginning of January, members will be billed this month for the payments due March 1.

If a different scenario happens — either the legislature does not pass a bill or the governor does not sign it — the bar will bill active members $95 and charge inactive members $125. Those amounts, also due March 1, are statutorily authorized.

The $95 fee includes $40 for the Client Security Fund, $25 for discipline, $10 for the Lawyer Assistance Program, $10 for the building fund and a $10 assessment for technology. The inactive fee includes $75 for the general fund, $10 for both the Client Security Fund and the building fund, $25 for discipline and $5 for the LAP.

Failure to pay dues by the deadline will trigger a $100 late payment penalty for active lawyers and a $35 penalty for inactive attorneys.

Lawyers also will have the opportunity to donate to the Justice Gap Fund (recommended donation $100), the California Bar Foundation ($50 recommended donation), the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA — $35 recommended donation) and the California Supreme Court Historical Society (CSCHS — a $25 donation is recommended).

Active lawyers with qualifying income levels are eligible for a 25 percent reduction in the membership fee. To qualify, a lawyer must declare a total gross annual individual income from all sources of less than $40,000 in 2009.

Dues can be paid online at by signing in to My State Bar Profile. MCLE compliance can be completed online now, but fees cannot be paid until the bill is mailed.

Lawyers also must provide an e-mail address to the State Bar as of Feb. 1.

Although SB641 won passage in both houses of the legislature by wide margins, Schwarzenegger said he would not sign it “because the State Bar cannot continue with business as usual.” In particular, he criticized the agency for a state audit that found inefficiencies in the discipline operation, the embezzlement of $676,000 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 this year.

In response to the veto, Miller said the governor’s concerns were legitimate and appointed a committee of board members to investigate a leak of the “not qualified” rating by the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE) of former Sen. Charles “Chuck” Poochigian, whom Schwarzenegger nominated to the Fifth District Court of Appeal. Poochigian was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. All JNE deliberations are to be confidential.

In addition, in the wake of the embezzlement and other issues of State Bar internal controls, the board of governors hired a Sacramento auditing firm, Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting Inc. The firm will function as an internal auditor and report directly to the board’s audit committee and its chair, public board member Laura Chick, who is also Inspector General of the state of California.

Information about bar dues and MCLE compliance is available by calling the Member Services Center at 1-888-800-3400.