California bar spins off its sections amid concerns over liquor spending, resort functions

Bar Associations

State Bar of California

The State Bar of California has spun off its 16 voluntary sections into a nonprofit entity, making the state bar strictly a disciplinary and regulatory agency that is mandatory for state lawyers.

The changes are authorized in a bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday, report Courthouse News Service, the Metropolitan News-Enterprise and a state bar press release.

The sections began to consider a split from the state bar last year, partly because of new restrictions that included a ban on spending on alcohol at events and on contracting with resort-style venues, Courthouse News Service reported in May. Sections had argued the restrictions would hurt membership.

The bill maintains annual state bar dues of $315 for practicing attorneys with active status, which comes to $430 with additional fees. The cost of a voluntary section membership is about $95 a year, according to Courthouse News Service.

The bill signed by Brown also transitions the state bar’s board of trustees to a group appointed entirely by the California Supreme Court, the legislature and the governor. Lawyers will no longer elect some trustees. The board will consist of seven lawyers and six nonlawyers.

The board reforms follow a February 2015 Supreme Court decision that found a North Carolina dental regulatory board made up mostly of dentists didn’t have state-action antitrust immunity in its efforts to to block nondentists from providing teeth-whitening services. The court said there is no immunity unless the challenged restraint of trade is clearly articulated state policy and it is actively supervised by the state.

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