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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

State Bar plans to ask court to assess fees

As a result of the Legislature not passing a fee bill, the executive director of the State Bar of California announced that a request to the California Supreme Court asking for the court’s interim authority to assess fees for 2017 will be submitted. A 1998 California Supreme Court ruling established that the court can grant interim authority for the agency to assess fees to attorneys licensed in California in the absence of legislative action.

The bar’s executive director anticipates that the Board of Trustees will approve the request, at its special Sept. 12 board meeting, to make the submission to the court. It will ask for a court decision by early December in order to allow fees to be collected on the usual schedule.

The submission will seek the ability to fund the state bar discipline functions as well as other critical public protection programs, and is expected to be more comprehensive than the State Bar’s 1998 request to the court for fees. The full request will be available after it is submitted to the court.

The following is a statement by Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, executive director of the State Bar of California:

"The State Bar’s mission is public protection and we will continue to prioritize that work with as little disruption as possible. We’re going to get through this.

While I am disappointed that it was not possible for the legislature to come to an agreement on a fee bill, I am grateful for the important discussions that have taken place. We look forward to working with both houses of the legislature and the Chief Justice as we continue making important improvements to the State Bar’s governance and public protection activities.

It’s important to understand that 2016 is a very different time than previous years when the State Bar faced no fee bill. We should not assume that the outcome will resemble what happened in 1998.  I’m encouraged by the strong leadership of the Chief Justice regarding the State Bar.

I'd like to thank the hardworking staff throughout the State Bar for their dedication during these challenging times.

I believe that we can and will continue the important business of reforms and systemic changes."

Incoming State Bar President James Fox plans to build on the reforms already underway to bring an increased focus on the core public protection functions.

Parker and Chief Operating Officer Leah Wilson held an all-hands meeting Sept. 1 to answer questions from staff. Key information provided included:

  • Although the State Bar is preparing for all scenarios to be prudent, the agency does not anticipate and does not want major downsizing.
  • In order to address understandable staff uncertainty, the bar may provide voluntary separation options.
  • In the event that the Supreme Court does not grant fees for the bar, the agency has $21 million in general fund reserves that could fund operations for up to four months. The bar has indicated it is doing the diligent work to prevent this scenario.