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California State Bar too lax? Legions of attorneys might disagree.

A recently concluded audit of the State Bar of California heaped an ample amount of criticism on the state’s regulatory legal arm.

Bar-leveled complaints were reportedly many and varied. Most damning was perhaps this, states one recent in-depth media account: “The total number of cases from 2015 through 2019 that led to discipline – ranging from a slap on the wrist admonishment up to disbarment – declined 54%.”

What does that signify?

Bar officials offer several explanations that seek to mitigate arguments underscoring regulatory laxity and inefficiency. Here are two:

  • The bar is still working through material changes spawned by a massive overhauling of its disciplinary system
  • The bar (according to its own assessment) has improved markedly in taking action against especially problematic attorneys

Critics flatly disagree with all the bar’s exculpatory offerings, essentially rejecting them out of hand. Among other things, audit findings centrally included these takeaways:

  • The hyped disciplinary-focused reorganization has stalled
  • Inefficiency has led to a progressively larger – not reduced – backlog of cases
  • Problem attorneys are actually able to continue practicing for a longer period following alleged reforms than was the case in prior years

Here’s a bottom-line summation of those bullet points as espoused in this negative comment delivered by Auditor Elaine Howle: “The State Bar’s reorganization has not improved its efficiency or effectiveness.”

That may be borne out by raw numbers, but a high number of California attorneys under close bar scrutiny can unquestionably bear witness to the heavy hammer the agency continues to wield in disciplinary investigations and formal hearings. Attorney punishment often features manifestly punitive sanctions, including license suspension/revocation and even disbarment.

Questions or concerns regarding an attorney discipline matter before the California bar can be directed to a proven license-defense legal team that provides diligent advocacy to clients spanning the state.

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