By Ona Alston Dosunmu
One of the California Lawyers Association’s greatest opportunities lies in its ability to advocate for causes that advance our mission: promoting excellence, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law. It’s the season to advance legislative priorities in Sacramento and CLA is at the center of the action on a number of items of interest to our members and to the legal profession in general.
Our leadership and the CLA Governmental Affairs Committee have been actively monitoring and will be engaging in ongoing discussions with the State Bar, Legislature and other stakeholders about the State Bar’s request for a license fee increase. Towards that end, CLA has developed and widely shared a “Fact Sheet” on the issue. Our board spent considerable time on its April call discussing the most effective ways to further advocate on this issue and the board will likely spend a fair amount of time on the same topic in May. CLA’s position will be informed by two highly anticipated reports – one of the two was just published on April 30, 2019. (The California State Auditor released its report on the State Bar.)
CLA is also continuing to advocate in opposition to legislation that would impose a sales tax on legal and other professional services. Last year, CLA opposed SB 993 given the adverse impact that imposition of such a sales tax would have on California consumers, access to justice and affordable legal services. That legislation did not advance. This year, SB 522 has been introduced. If enacted, it would impose a sales tax on a broad range of services in California. While the details of the bill are still being developed, CLA is working in opposition to this legislation, which would have significant implications for consumers, businesses and the California economy as a whole.
In April, the board approved support for a bill (AB 330) which would further California’s Civil Gideon right and increase access to representation in family law matters. This is vitally important because most family law litigants do not have counsel and represent themselves – even in custody cases where their rights as a parent are at stake. AB 330 would add funding in support of increased representation in family law matters and allow donations to be made to the Judicial Council to further increase funding under the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act (California’s Civil Gideon provision).
In May, the CLA Board will consider whether to advocate in favor of adding an “attorney exemption” to pending legislation dealing with independent contractors. That legislation, AB 5 (Gonzalez), can be found online. The intent of AB 5 is to codify the decision of the California Supreme Court in the Dynamex case and to clarify the decision’s application. The test articulated in Dynamex to determine whether an individual is appropriately classified as an employee or an independent contractor would apply, absent an exemption. The legislation provides that Dynamex would not apply to certain occupations, as specified. Instead, for the specified occupations only, the employment relationship would be governed by the test adopted by the California Supreme Court in the Borello case.
From increasing access to justice to “bread and butter” business issues, CLA’s advocacy is moving the profession forward.