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Schwarzenegger bashes California bar, blocks it from collecting dues

Arnie Accusing the State Bar of California of being "overly political, unresponsive … and inefficient," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation Sunday that allows the legal association to collect its annual dues.

In his veto message, Schwarzenegger cited a recent audit critical of the bar and questioned the group's "impartiality in considering judicial appointments." The July audit found rising costs at the bar and poor internal controls, which allowed a former employee to embezzle nearly $676,000.

"The conduct of the State Bar itself must be above reproach," Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto. "Regrettably, it is not."

Bar President Howard Miller called the veto "regrettable," but also signaled a willingness to work with Schwarzenegger, calling his concerns "legitimate."

"Sometimes organizations suffering from inertia need an external jolt to renew themselves," Miller said. "We regret that it has come in this particular manner."

Part of the dust-up dates to Schwarzenegger's August appointment of conservative former state Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno) to the state Court of Appeal. News leaked that that the bar's Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation had rated Poochigian as "not qualified," the lowest of four possible rankings, before the governor had even made the appointment. The ranking was supposed to be confidential at the time.

While not citing the Poochigian incident explicitly, Schwarzenegger wrote in the veto message of SB 641 by Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) that "questions about the State Bar's role in the evaluation of judicial nominees suggest that the State Bar's political agenda continues."

Without the legislation, the bar can't collect its $410 dues from the active portion of its 223,000 members. In 1997, then-Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed the bar's ability to collect dues, which resulted in mass layoffs for the bar association. The bar licenses and disciplines California lawyers.

Miller said the dues, which pay for "the core functions of the State Bar," amount to about $69 million annually. "Our first goal is to attempt to craft a possible compromise," he said.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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Comments () | Archives (14)

Sounds like Arnold is being too political. And, as usual when he doesn't get his way, a bit of a bully in this matter.

The Bar is run by a bunch of idiot morons.

Arnold is just mad of the Poochigian situation. He is a friend of Arnold's. I guess its cheaper to put hundreds of people on unemployment for a year plus than sign this fee bill? Makes no sense.

The Bar Association seems more like the SEIU, if dues are voluntary the Association (union) doesn't seem to exist.

About time somebody did something about the State Bar. Go ARNOLD!!!

"overly political, unresponsive … and inefficient" - a perfect description of Ahnold, if not the Bar Association.

Governor Schwarznegger by vetoing the state bar fee bill, has potentially placed the public at risk. Currently the state bar is wrestling with a surge of complaints against attorney's involved with loan modifications. If it comes to the layoff of state bar investigators and prosecutors the processing of these matters will come to a halt. As well as thousands of other complaints against California attorneys for alleged acts of wrongdoing. He cited 3 reasons for the vetoe. One: The audit report, Laura Chick former LA city councilwoman and city controller now inspector general for the state of Ca, currently is a public member of the state bar board of governors and has been tasked to chair an audit committee to address the issues raised by both the audit report and the employee theft. As for the judicial appointment of the former republican state senator and subsequent vote by the judicial nominee committee as not qualified. Insiders will probably agree, that this is the real reason for the vetoe. Does anyone think for one second that the governor had the state bar on his radar. Here he was able to appease his republican colleagues in the state legislature by punishing the state bar because of some perceived political slight. Unfortunately the public will ultimately suffer because of political gamemanship.

It's about time somebody called the State Bar to account.

Throwing them lawyers another bone, Arnold? They should be charged double for charging fees no ordinary mortal can afford. They make millions nowadays and pay their staff a pittance. Charge them, charge them!

As a wife of a State Bar Investigator, I'd like to tell you that he pays MORE in yearly union dues than attorneys pay in their Bar member fee. (And he makes about 1/8 of a what an attorney makes.) The State Bar works to keep (a LOT) BAD attorneys from STEALING from anyone else. If the State Bar shuts down, a lot of attorneys will be getting away with stealing and more! Imagine no regulation for auto mechanics or doctors. They need enforcement.... I may not be all that articulate right now, but this is just infuriating! I'm mad, especially considering we went through this 12 years ago!! Come on Arnold! Give us and all Californians a much deserved break!

Bar Dues are too high. Not all attorneys are the high fee earners that are mythical and legendary. The cost of providing legal services is high and the risk is high.
There should be more discounted bar dues or exemptions for lawyers of limited means and those in public service. The bar does very little for the practicing lawyers and almost nothing for those who simply want to maintain an active license. CLE compliance is also an expense. But once licensed why would anyone want to let the license lapse? So you just pay and pay and pay.

The bar fee's are 34 dollars a month. If an attorney cannot afford that, there is a major problem.

Too bad the Bar Nazi's to the north can't be held accountable in a similar fashion.

To the lady who is married to the State Bar investigator, I've got this to say. If your husband is making 1/8th of what I, and most California Attorneys are making, your husband would be making around $1,200 per year. Anyone who thinks that California Attorneys are making big bucks are truly out of their minds. The average California Attorney these days is either unemployed or underemployed. I do not personally know one California Attorney who is financially doing well these days. And to have a ruthless, corrupt bureaucracy like the State Bar of California defies logic.
Also, the lady forgot to mention that her husband has had a steadily increasing salary over the past 6 years as the average salary of State Bar employees has outstripped the rate of inflation and COLA.
The lady also refers to regulation of auto mechanics. Really? What regulation? Do mechanics have a mechanic-client trust account? Do mechanics face a disbarment for lying on a resume or for jay-walking across the street? Are you kidding me, enforcement?
And she also mentions that her husband belongs to a union. I did not even know that the State Bar employees have a union. Let me tell you something, if I could join a union that could protect me from malicious prosecution, and protect my rights I would gladly pay $10,000 (if I could afford it). And I do not know of any attorney that would be in favor of an Attorney's union. Lady, count your blessings. At least your family has food on its plate. Mine doesn't.


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