Gov. Arnold Rips the California Bar a New One: Refuses to Sign SB 641


The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, refused to sign a bill that would have allowed the California State Bar to charge its members dues for the year.  Yes, you read that right.  The Governator basically just called the California State Bar… worthless.  Not deserving of a plugged nickel.

Ooooh… snap!

Apparently, the State Bar can just start brown bagging it, from this point forward, as far as the Governor’s concerned anyway.  According to the Governor, the State Bar issues include:

  • Salaries for staffers have risen significantly over the past five years.
  • Disciplinary costs up by $12 million, 2004 to 2008, while disciplinary inquiries have declined.
  • By failing to follow law, JNE Commission damaged its and State Bar’s reputation for impartiality.
  • Bar has become overly political, unresponsive to its membership, and inefficient.
  • State Bar’s role in evaluation of judicial nominees suggest Bar’s political agenda continues.

Wait… there was one more thing… I can’t remember… what was it… oh yeah, that’s right:

  • Lack of internal controls led to embezzlement of $676k by former employee.

I always forget the petty stuff.

I don’t know about you, but I could have skipped over the other infractions and gone straight for the whole “embezzlement of $676,000” thing, if I were the Governor.  I don’t think you even need to bring the other points up.  The embezzlement thing would have held up as a good enough reason to leave the bill unsigned, in my estimation.

So, what the hell is up at the California State Bar?  Have the legal eagles over there gone awry?  They’ve got a lot of guts calling every attorney who helps someone with a loan modification a “scammer” for charging a retainer in advance, when as an organization, their wheels are completely coming off.

Like, is the Bar going to come to some lawyer’s offices and say:

“We don’t like the fact that you’re helping homeowners and being mean to the banks.”

And the lawyer will go:

“Oh yeah, well give me back all of the money I’ve paid you that you squandered away on nothing.”

And the Bar says: “Scammer!”

And the lawyer responds: “Embezzler!”

Too funny.

According to the Gov’s statement to the California Assembly, “The State Bar cannot continue with business as usual.”  He sounded pissed.  I’d hate to have Arnold Schwarzenegger mad at me.  (Too late.)

There’s no question now, but that the Bar is going to have to fix up their own glass house before their going to be allowed to collect dues from their members, and since they’ve been spending so much of their time throwing stones, it’s a real mess.

I think I’m going to start calling the Bar a bunch of crooks, or something like that.  Wait… I’ve got it…

I think it’s very clear that based on what the Governor and Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court has said about the State Bar that the Bar should NOT be allowed to collect member dues of fees  UP FRONT!

Therefore, I’d like to propose a bill stating that the California State Bar: “Can NOT claim, demand, charge, collect, or receive any membership dues or compensation until after the Bar has fully performed each and every service it contracted to perform or represented that it would perform.”

What goes around, comes around, baby…


Here’s the letter from the Governor to the State Assembly:

To the Members of the California State Senate:

I am returning Senate Bill 641 without my signature.

This bill would, among other provisions, authorize the State Bar to collect annual bar dues from its members for 2010.

In 1997, Governor Pete Wilson vetoed the annual State Bar dues bill, citing numerous concerns that the State Bar had become overly political, unresponsive to its membership, and inefficient. Unfortunately, twelve years later, inefficiencies remain unaddressed and questions about the State Bar’s role in the evaluation of judicial nominees suggest that the State Bar’s political agenda continues.

In July, the State Auditor released a report critical of the State Bar. Among the problems noted by the report: salaries for staff have risen significantly over the past five years; the costs of its disciplinary system have escalated by $12 million from 2004 to 2008 while the number of disciplinary inquiries opened has declined; and a lack of internal controls allowed the embezzlement of nearly $676,000 by a former employee. As the organization charged with regulating the professional conduct of its members, the conduct of the State Bar itself must be above reproach. Regrettably, it is not.

In addition, recent actions by the State Bar’s Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission (JNE) also call into question the State Bar’s impartiality in considering judicial appointments. All JNE Commission proceedings are required by law to be confidential and qualification ratings are not to be released to the public prior to the Governor considering an appointment. Unfortunately, recent events have required the State Bar to launch an official inquiry into the confidentiality of such proceedings. Moreover, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has recently questioned the reliability of the Commission’s recommendations by noting its failure to follow statutory guidelines when considering judicial nominees. By failing to follow the law, the JNE Commission has damaged its reputation for impartiality and, in turn, the State Bar’s.

There is no question the State Bar has an essential role in the state’s justice system and must continue to oversee the licensing, education, and discipline of California’s lawyers. However, I am returning this bill without my signature because the State Bar cannot continue with business as usual. It must take the time to reexamine the problems noted by the State Auditor and continue its investigation into the JNE Commission. I urge the State Bar to resolve these issues as soon as possible so the Legislature can reintroduce this measure early next year.


Arnold Schwarzenegger


San Francisco, Oct. 12, 2009 — State Bar President Howard Miller today issued the following statement in response to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto of SB641, the State Bar fee bill:

“The Governor’s veto of the State Bar dues bill is regrettable, but we must take the Governor’s concerns seriously. Many of them are justified. There have been serious management and financial issues at the State Bar, starting with the embezzlement by a single employee over an eight-year period of $675,000. The State Auditor, and others, have also criticized with precision the management of the Office of Chief Trial Counsel. We will look closely at these and all other issues raised by the Governor. Events such as his veto message can challenge the State Bar to renew itself as an institution and its service to the public and the legal profession. I am confident the Board of Governors is up to that challenge.”

Founded in 1927 by the state legislature, the State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By October 2009, membership reached more than 223,000.

Page Rank