The State Bar of California is an agency of the California Supreme Court and also a public corporation charged with overseeing the state’s lawyers. That includes administering the bar examinations that are requisite for ALL attorneys to acquire their license to practice law in California in the first place.
The organization’s web site’s motto goes,
Protecting the Public and Enhancing the Administration of Justice.
Not so says a report issued by California State Auditor Elaine Howle. Her administration’s scornful assessment shows convincingly that the victims of attorney theft really do have good reasons for howling, over sixteen million of them.
That’s the amount estimated in dollars that the State Bar is reported to be short of. The report has shed a glaring spotlight over The Bar. Even as it continues to fail to satisfy a backlog of settlements for attorney misconduct that are well overdue according to the accounting.
Furthermore, the State Bar, in trying to meet another related shortfall –that of inadequately bringing to speedy conclusion scores of attorney disciplinary actions– has apparently settled for issuing a mere slap on the wrist in many of the cases.
That action plan, it was observed, was taken in order to ease the wait list and simultaneously take the heat off of The State Bar from Ms. Howle’s office. In so doing, the State Auditor claims that the resulting easing of such punishments as proscribed for attorney offenses has created a lax environment. An environment that condones insufficient levels of discipline rather than one that takes action to enforce the law.
The CPA’s annual study lambastes the prestigious legal organization for obfuscating their financial disclosures and for padding its administrators’ salaries compared to other high State Government officials such as Governor Jerry Brown.
The California State Auditor is basically the state’s roving efficiency expert. In this instance State Auditor Howle, through her report, is providing apparently much needed oversight to The State Bar. Exemplifying the growing influence of her findings are the constant attentions of the media to the political fallout there from.
Think about what the ramifications of these charges by Elaine Howle does if you were accused of a crime and looking for legal representation. If you’re undertaking a criminal defense strategy, something like this report, from the highest echelons of state government on itself to the public, can only serve to undermine your confidence in your own legal system.
One positive sign in all of this legal upheaval is that the whole tawdry affair has taken place in public rather than hidden behind closed doors. What to look for if you should ever need (God forbid) a criminal defense attorney? Look for a lawyer that is established in a long and successful practice. Another indication of a good choice in that legal field would be a firm endorsed by a locally respected publication, such as the San Diego Business Journal.