The State Bar seeks public comment on an Amendment to Rules of Procedure Governing Fee Arbitration Award Enforcement Proceedings
Deadline: November 30, 2020
Comments should be submitted using the online Public Comment Form. The online form allows you to input your comments directly and can also be used to upload your comment letter and/or other attachments.
The Mandatory Fee Arbitration Act (MFAA), Business and Professions Code sections 6200-6206, establishes a system for arbitration before local bar associations in attorney fee disputes. The State Bar implements the requirements of the MFAA through the MFA Program, pursuant to the Rules of the State Bar, title 3, division 4, chapter 2, and the Guidelines and Minimum Standards for the Operation of Mandatory Fee Arbitration Programs. The Presiding Arbitrator of the MFA Program is appointed by the Board of Trustees “to supervise the arbitrators in the [MFA Program] and to decide the matters indicated by these rules.” (Rules of the State Bar, rule 3.500(B)(8).) Among the Presiding Arbitrator’s duties is the enforcement of fee arbitration awards against attorneys who have failed to timely comply, including by seeking such an attorney’s involuntary inactive enrollment in proceedings before the State Bar Court. (Id., rules 3.560 and 3.565.)
MFA Program enforcement proceedings are conducted in the State Bar Court pursuant to Rules of Procedure, rules 5.360-5.371. After an attorney award debtor is ordered involuntarily inactively enrolled under these rules, it is up to the attorney to file a motion to terminate inactive enrollment. (Rules of Procedure, rule 5.370.) The attorney is only eligible to return to active status “[w]hen the award debtor has paid in full the arbitration award plus any costs and penalties assessed because of the award debtor’s failure to comply.” (Id., subd. (A).)
Staff proposes a number of new and amended rules to ensure consistent and prompt compliance with the automatic stay and antidiscrimination provisions of U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The full language can be found here.
This proposal has the potential to increase the caseload burden for the MFA Program. However, this proposal will also reduce the State Bar’s exposure to potential liability in bankruptcy proceedings.
Regulation and Discipline Committee
November 30, 2020