Cal. Litig. 2016, VOLUME 29, NUMBER 3

From the Section Chair The State Bar’s Public Protection Mission—Protecting the Public from What?

By Kathleen Brewer

Greetings, Section members! I am pleased and honored to serve as Chair of the Section’s Executive Committee for the 2016-2017 term. Your Executive Committee is planning a robust slate of new programs for 2017, including a full day Litigation Summit in the fall, appellate practice programming (for specialization credit), federal practice seminars and webinars, ethics education, and core litigation skills training. We are particularly excited about the fall Litigation Summit, which we hope will bring hundreds of you together to interact with and learn from true courtroom greats, including our own Trial Lawyer Hall of Famers. Stay tuned to your quarterly E-news, monthly Litigation Update, and print publications for information on these events.And check your section website periodically at

As most of you know, 2016 has been a year of intense public discussion about the direction and focus of the California State Bar. Conflict and disagreement led to a legislative standstill and the failure to pass a fee bill. The debate has engendered plenty of ideas for reform and restructure, along with some nice additions to our everyday vocabulary. "De-unification." "Dis-integration." "Associational activities." And, of course, the ubiquitous "public protection."

Public protection—the concept lies at the heart of the impassioned debate about the proper role and structure of the State Bar. As we all know by now, public protection is the Bar’s statutorily mandated "highest priority"—its core mission. "Protection of the public shall be the highest priority for the State Bar of California… Whenever the protection of the public is inconsistent with other interests to be promoted, the protection of the public shall be paramount." (Bus & Prof. Code, § 6001.1.) The Bar’s functions, structure, governance and funding allocations must revolve around public protection as the "paramount" star in its universe. But, from what is the Bar protecting the public? Yes, it must protect consumers from errant lawyers. But should the Bar also protect against professional incompetence? A biased judiciary? An inaccessible system? Incivility? Despite its position as the Bar’s top priority, neither the State Bar Act nor the State Bar rules offer a definition of "public protection." The definitional lapse has spawned assumptions about the meaning of "public protection." That divergence continues to fuel disagreement about the Bar’s raison d’etre.

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