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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Ex-bar prosecutor Jayne Kim
named interim chief trial counsel

Jayne Kim, a former State Bar prosecutor and current assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, was named interim chief trial counsel last month. She replaces James Towery, who resigned in June after less than a year in the job.

Jayne Kim

Jayne Kim was named
interim chief trial counsel

James Fox, retired San Mateo County District Attorney and the longest sitting district attorney in California prior to his retirement in January, has been retained as a consultant to help Kim bring change to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel.

“Jayne is very impressive and totally committed to public protection,” said State Bar President Bill Hebert. “She also understands that we are looking for a change agent in OCTC and is more than up to that task.”

In accepting the appointment, Kim said, “I am honored to take on this assignment. My career has been devoted to public protection. Returning to the State Bar in this capacity gives me the opportunity to establish a zero/zero goal — that is getting the State Bar’s backlog down to zero and assuring that there is zero tolerance for attorney misconduct in California.”

The chief trial counsel heads the bar’s disciplinary unit, which prosecutes California lawyers for professional misconduct. The office has been under pressure to reduce its backlog of pending cases; Executive Director Joe Dunn has set a goal of zero by the end of the year. Four high-ranking prosecutors were ousted in July, further shaking up the discipline unit.

The backlog consists of cases pending longer than six months after receipt, without dismissal, admonition or formal disciplinary charges. According to the 2010 discipline report, the backlog stood at 1,908, exactly 100 more than the previous year. The number does not include cases held or abated.

Changes in how the backlog is calculated and reported were made in response to a 2009 state audit that found inefficiencies in the discipline operation. When Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed the bar’s 2010 fee bill, he specifically cited the audit.

Jayne Kim

Kim pledges a zero backlog and zero tolerance for lawyer misconduct
                                                                                Darryl Bush photos

“I think the real test and goal of the office is not to meet a certain number at the end of the year, but to have substantial efficiency,” Kim said. “I don’t want the State Bar chasing backlog numbers. I want them eliminated and to keep it that way throughout the year.” She was emphatic, however, that a zero backlog can be achieved. “It’s a pivotal time for the bar and a time to make some great changes.”

Although not specific about changes in the department, Kim said she “will take a hard look at what we’re doing” and wants to develop a better training program and consider some structural changes. “It is clear to me that I am expected to serve as a change agent in OCTC,” she said. “To fully accomplish this, I welcome the assistance of Jim Fox — he will help me develop structural changes and training programs, bringing his wealth of experience as a successful prosecutor to complement mine as we address the issues confronting OCTC.”

In addition to the backlog issue, the discipline unit has received complaints in the past two years from thousands of distressed homeowners who accuse their lawyers of mishandling their clients’ loan modification efforts. A special task force was created in 2009 to prosecute those complaints. Another group was appointed to handle major misappropriation cases.

Kim, 42, grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School. Visiting California as a law student, she was drawn by “the weather, the diversity, the people, the food, everything. I knew this was the place for me.”

She started her career as a public defender for Los Angeles County before joining the bar for almost eight years. As an assistant U.S. Attorney, Kim handled cybercrimes and intellectual property, and worked on organized crime cases and with a drug task force.

Kim is married to Rudy Camarena, a sergeant with the Santa Monica police department.

She will take the bar’s top prosecutorial job by mid-September and will be headquartered in the Los Angeles office.