State Bar achieves “Zero”

Agency clears backlog of investigations

 Media Contact: William Chiang                           415-538-2283                          william.chiang@calbar.ca.gov

San Francisco, Jan. 3, 2012 – After more than four months of concentrated effort under the guidance of Acting Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim, the State Bar of California has eliminated its backlog of investigations into California lawyers accused of professional misconduct. This fulfills a pledge made by the bar’s executive leadership last summer to permanently eradicate an issue that has existed since at least the 1980s.

Governed by state law, bar investigations are generally considered in “backlog” if an investigation is more than six months old and has not been completed or otherwise resolved. As of July 1, 2011, the bar had more than 1,500 investigations with backlog status with approximately 1,500 additional cases scheduled to roll into backlog had the Bar not completed or resolved those investigations.

“While we mark this success with pride, we also understand that the long-term challenge remains ahead of us,” said Joseph Carlucci, assistant chief trial counsel, who headed the LA backlog team. “We are committed to maintaining this success by making sure that all future disciplinary cases are addressed promptly and appropriately.”

Kim, a former bar prosecutor and assistant US attorney in Southern California, returned September 2011 as the bar’s chief enforcer. While acknowledging the bar’s historic inability to control its backlog inventory, Kim declared an end to the days of a chronic investigations backlog at the State Bar.

“It’s a new day at the State Bar,” she said. “It’s exciting to be back and to see the high level of commitment by staff. This success is a result of their ability to step up and shine during challenging times.”

Jon Streeter, president of the bar’s 23-member Board of Trustees, underscored the board’s efforts to create management parameters meant to help ensure a timely disciplinary process from initial complaint through final resolution.

“That work to create the necessary policies is underway,” said Streeter, who took office as president in September 2011. “And this board fully understands the critical, long-term importance of this work, not just in terms of disciplinary efficiencies, but on behalf of all Californians.”

The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court. All lawyers practicing law in
California must be members of the State Bar. The mission of the State Bar is to “Preserve and improve our justice system
in order to ensure a free and just society under the law.”

Kim added that her office has already initiated significant improvements to its organizational structure and to training development. She also credited State Bar executives – led by Executive Director Joe Dunn, a former state senator from Orange County – for spearheading the right level of philosophical and operational changes needed to permanently end the backlog issue. “The bar’s primary focus is public protection,” Kim explained. “And we cannot be an effective consumer protection agency if we are constantly battling backlogs.”

Once an investigation is complete, Kim added, the case is generally considered ready for filing of charges in State Bar Court or other forms of resolution, including dismissal.

During this post-investigation phase of the case, the bar and the accused lawyer may also engage in various settlement discussions that could require additional time and generate a post-investigations backlog. Since her return to the bar last fall, Kim and her office have reduced this post-investigations backlog inventory from approximately 600 to less than 190.

“Jayne and her team truly deserve tremendous credit,” said Dunn, who made the so-called ‘Zero’ pledge in July 2011. “She saw what needed to be done and she redirected her resources and got it done. She’s the bar’s ‘new sheriff’ and I have absolute confidence in her.”