Public Law

Public Law Journal: Winter 2016, Vol. 39, No. 1

Message from the Chair

By Elizabeth G. Pianca*

The annual State Bar Dues bill (SB 387) makes the State Bar, and all meetings of the State Bar, including meetings of the Section Executive committees and their subcommittees, subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. The requirement becomes operative April 1, 2016.

Although the application of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act will not have significant implications on the Public Law Section’s Executive Committee because the committee convenes four times per year in person and the meetings and agendas are scheduled months in advance, it will have significant impacts on the numerous subcommittees of the Public Law Section that are also subject to the requirements. This is because the Act requires the subcommittees to provide notice of meetings and agenda identifying all items of business to be transacted or discussed at least 10 days before the meeting. Unlike the Brown Act, there are very limited circumstances (none of which likely apply to subcommittees) allowing special meetings requiring 48-hours’ notice. The problem with these noticing and agenda requirements is that the work of the subcommittees is done after hours, on weekends, by email and on a real time basis since the subcommittee members are very busy attorneys who are volunteering their time.

When I learned about this new requirement I had the same reaction that some clients I advise on open meeting laws have – I resisted and then declared that applying such a requirement to a volunteer-run effort targeted to a specific cohort of attorneys licensed to practice law in California is completely misguided.

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