California Bar set for major reforms

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The State Bar of California is set for a slew of “historic reforms,” after Governor Jerry Brown signed a major bill last week that will see it become a solely regulatory and disciplinary body.

Under Senate Bill 36, the organisation will be governed by a board of trustees appointed by the State Bar's oversight bodies – the California Supreme Court, the legislature and the governor.

The reconstituted board will consist of seven attorneys and six non-attorneys to be appointed for four year terms. The practice of allowing attorneys to elect some trustees will end, the State Bar said in a statement.

Likewise, the board’s chair and vice chair will be appointed by the Supreme Court, instead of officers elected by trustees.

“While transition and change can present challenges, I am confident that we are on the right track to best serve the people of California,” said State Bar executive director Leah Wilson.

The bar’s voluntary sections will also be separated into a private non-profit corporation, defined as the “Association.” The separate entity is prohibited from being funded by membership fees, and is not considered a state, local, or other public body for any purpose.

"These reforms will allow the State Bar to focus on protecting Californians who need access to ethical and competent attorneys by regulating the practice of law, pursuing diversity in the profession and our justice system and promoting access to justice for Californians of every income level," said State Bar president Michael Colantuono.

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