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Over the last several years, the State Bar has implemented dozens of initiatives, policies, and procedures to improve access to and efficiency and effectiveness of the attorney discipline system and to enhance protection of the public. The Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) has taken steps to focus resources on protecting the most vulnerable victims. As the prosecuting arm of the discipline system, OCTC bears special responsibility for identifying attorney misconduct and fraud by those who hold themselves out to be attorneys and prey on those seeking justice. In addition to the State Bar’s work to improve organizational capacity and effectiveness, the Board of Trustees has taken a proactive approach to identify disproportionate discipline and has directed staff to develop, implement, and evaluate several reforms that address findings related to the disproportionate discipline imposed in particular on Black male attorneys. Another key component of the attorney discipline system is the State Bar Court, the only professional court of its kind in the nation. The State Bar Court has also implemented changes to improve access, effectiveness, and efficiency.
Given these myriad efforts, the Board determined that the attorney discipline system could benefit from a comprehensive examination of its policies and procedures. This review will examine and evaluate completed efforts as well as work currently in progress. The review will build upon existing initiatives and integrate them into a coherent whole to develop additional insight into ways the discipline system could be further improved. To ensure a keen focus on the State Bar’s public protection mission, the review will evaluate fairness and equity in an ongoing effort to understand and address disparities that may exist based on race or gender.
The Ad Hoc Commission on the Discipline System will take inventory of the changes that have been proposed and implemented in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel since 2016 and evaluate their impact on public protection. The evaluation will focus on the impact of these reforms on a number of key aspects of the discipline system, including:
In particular, this commission will:
In so doing, the commission will review research studies that have been completed and determine whether additional research is needed. It will also review research studies in progress and generate policy recommendations as results become available. Another key element of the State Bar’s discipline system is the State Bar Court, which on its own initiative also continually evaluates its processes to improve the adjudication of cases. With the participation of the State Bar Court, the commission may examine the structure of the court, principally issues involving its independence and autonomy. As a guiding principle, the commission will focus on the dual goals of ensuring public protection and fairness in the discipline system.
The commission consists of 23 members appointed by the Board of Trustees. Members represent key institutional entities that focus on public protection and reflect the state’s diversity, both demographic and geographic.
The commission held its first meeting on April 30, 2021. The group is scheduled to make a final report to the Board of Trustees on its findings and recommendations no later than June 30, 2022, with periodic status updates to be provided to the Board of Trustees.
Justin Ewert, 415-538-2235, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ad Hoc Commission on the Discipline System Fact Sheet
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