The State Bar seeks public comment on proposed amendments to Rule 9.23 of the California Rules of Court (rule 9.23) to: (1) implement the recent statutory changes to California Business and Professions Code 6140.5; (2) implement Rule 5.137 of the Rules of Procedure of the State Bar; and (3) provide a process for the State Bar and debtor to amend, vacate, or stay the enforcement of a money judgment.
Deadline: June 28, 2021
Comments should be submitted using the online Public Comment Form. [Link removed; this comment process is archived.] The online form allows you to input your comments directly and can also be used to upload your comment letter and/or other attachments.
On January 1, 1988, Business and Professions Code section 6140.5 was amended to allow the State Bar to enter money judgments on Client Security Fund (CSF) reimbursements that were part of a final order imposing discipline or an order accepting a resignation with a disciplinary matter pending. Most CSF reimbursements, however, are not part of a discipline order. As such, the State Bar was unable to enforce most CSF final reimbursement determinations as money judgments, impairing its collection abilities with respect to such reimbursements. In Assembly Bill 3362 (2020), the California State Legislature amended Business and Professions Code section 6140.5 to allow the State Bar to enter CSF reimbursements that are not part of a discipline order as money judgments.
The recent amendments also remove the State Bar Court’s authority to compromise money judgments for CSF reimbursements to be consistent with the California Supreme Court’s determination that CSF is distinct from the attorney discipline system. (Saleeby v. State Bar (1985) 702 P.2d 525.) As the California Supreme Court lacks original jurisdiction over challenges to CSF reimbursements, it does not have the authority to compromise amounts owed to CSF in the first instance. Any challenges to the final reimbursement determinations must be made in the superior court pursuant to Rule 3.450 of the Rules of the State Bar of California.
Additionally, on March 23, 2020, the California Supreme Court approved rule 5.137, “Imposition and Payment of Monetary Sanctions.” Rule 5.137 provides guidelines for the State Bar Courts’ recommendation of monetary sanctions pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 6086.13. It also provides that monetary sanctions are “enforceable as a money judgment and may be collected through any means provided by law.” (See rule 5.137(G).)
The current version of rule 9.23 only authorizes the State Bar to enforce disciplinary costs and CSF reimbursements that are part of a disciplinary order as money judgments. It also provides a process for requesting entries, as well as compromises, of such money judgments. The proposed amendments to rule 9.23 implement the State Bar’s new authority to enter money judgments on all CSF reimbursements as well as monetary sanctions. This will enhance the State Bar’s collection efforts.
Staff also recommends amending rule 9.23 to add a process for the State Bar and debtor to amend, vacate, or stay the enforcement of a money judgment within 180 days of the entry or service of the money judgment. This is necessary because there is no rule or statute that provides a process for such relief, so the State Bar has to rely on civil rules applicable to default and small claims court judgments when defending a motion to amend, vacate, or stay the enforcement of a money judgment. Staff also recommends adding a process to allow the State Bar to file this type of motion for the benefit of a debtor at any time to correct an error that is discovered after 180 days or to halt collection efforts after 180 days.
Staff proposes amending rule 9.23 as follows:
If adopted, this rule will allow the State Bar to collect several hundred thousand dollars through enforcing as a money judgment any final determination by CSF and any monetary sanction order.
Adoption of this rule could also necessitate additional resources in the Office of General Counsel to request entries of money judgments and manage these money judgments.
Regulation and Discipline Committee
June 28, 2021