Public Law

Public Law Journal: Spring 2016, Vol. 39, No. 2

Message from the Chair

By Elizabeth G. Pianca*

The move to de-unify the California State Bar’s regulatory work and professional development work has been covered in the media and has been a topic of discussion among attorneys. The idea, at this time, is to create a regulatory oversight board to focus on lawyer admissions and discipline and a separate non-profit association that would advocate for the profession on behalf of voluntary members. The structure after the deunification could be similar to how physicians are organized and regulated in California – physicians have their own advocacy association, the California Medical Association, while an independent government agency, the Medical Board of California, licenses doctors and investigates complaints.

Deunification is part of a larger discussion currently underway by the State Bar’s Task Force on Governance in the Public Interest ("Governance Task Force"), which is a statutory body comprised by the State Bar President and six other trustees of the State Bar. The Governance Task Force is directed to issue a report to the Supreme Court, the Legislature and the governor addressing these and other structural issues regarding the operation and leadership of the State Bar this year. Additional information about the Governance Task Force is available on the State Bar’s website.

On May 20, 2016, the Executive Committee of the Public Law Section voted unanimously against deunification as currently proposed. The deunification discussion by attorneys and non-attorneys will, in my opinion, be most effective if it remains thoughtful, civil, and focused on the legislative mandate vested in the State Bar – protection of the public. Protection of the public by the State Bar unequivocally means an effective method of licensing, regulating, and disciplining attorneys. But for the public protection mandate to be transcended into the day-to-day practice of attorneys, there must also be ongoing education and collaboration among attorneys; and while this is partially accomplished by the mandatory continuing legal education program, it is also supported by the work of the State Bar Sections.

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