Amended in Assembly April 18, 2016

California Legislature—2015–16 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 2878

Introduced by Committee on Judiciary (Assembly Members Mark Stone (Chair), Alejo, Chau, Chiu, Cristina Garcia, and Holden)

February 25, 2016

An act to amend Section 6140begin delete ofend deletebegin insert of, and to repeal Section 6008.5 of,end insert the Business and Professions Code, relating to attorneys.


AB 2878, as amended, Committee on Judiciary. Attorneys: annual membership fees.

The State Bar Act provides for the licensure and regulation of attorneys by the State Bar of California, a public corporation governed by a board of trustees. Existing law, until January 1, 2017, requires the board to charge an annual membership fee for active members of up to $315 for 2016.begin insert Existing law prohibits the Legislature, when the board of trustees places a charge upon or otherwise makes available all or any portion of the income or revenue from membership fees for the payment of security of an obligation of the State Bar and so long as any obligation remains unpaid, from reducing the maximum membership fee below the maximum in effect at the time the obligation is created or incurred and provides that this provision constitutes a covenant to the holder of such an obligation.end insert

This bill would, until January 1, 2018, require the board to charge an annual membership fee in the same amount for 2017.begin insert The bill would repeal the above provision prohibiting the Legislature from reducing the maximum membership fee and would state various findings and declarations of the Legislature.end insert

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

P2    1begin insert

begin insertSECTION 1.end insert  

end insert

begin insertThe Legislature finds and declares all of the
2following:end insert

begin insert

(a) The protection of the public is required, by statute, to be the
4highest priority of the State Bar of California and must be the
5paramount focus of the State Bar, its employees, and, most
6importantly, its board of trustees. All other duties and activities
7of the State Bar are ancillary to its regulatory oversight of the
8state’s more than 250,000 attorneys, over 185,000 of whom are
9 active members.

end insert
begin insert

(b) Throughout its history, the State Bar has been the subject
11of substantial controversies, including allegations of serious fiscal
12and management improprieties, and most recently failure to
13properly protect the public against the unauthorized practice of
14law, including allowing hundreds of complaints to languish in a

end insert
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(c) In May 2015, the California State Auditor released its
17biannual performance audit of the State Bar, reviewing the State
18Bar’s backlog of discipline cases and its recent $75,000,000
19purchase and renovation of a building in Los Angeles at three
20times the cost originally estimated and requiring a loan against
21the Public Protection Fund, which is designed to be an emergency
22fund to protect the public in the event of a financial emergency.
23The audit uncovered significant, questionable decisions made by
24the State Bar in the handling of both matters, including that the
25State Bar had not fully or consistently reported its backlog of
26discipline cases and that, in order to reduce its backlog of
27discipline cases, the State Bar made questionable choices,
28potentially causing “significant risk to the public.”

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(d) Most recently and without consultation with the Legislature,
30the State Bar chose to replace the loan on the Los Angeles building,
31along with a brand new loan for updating its San Francisco
32building, with a securitization on future members dues, potentially
33tying the hands of the Legislature in setting future dues amounts.

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P3    1
(e) As a result of the troubling findings of the audit, the
2Legislature, as part of the 2015 State Bar dues legislation, imposed
3important new preliminary reforms on the State Bar. First, the
4Legislature mandated that the State Bar be subject to both the
5California Public Records Act and the Bagley-Keene Open
6Meetings Act. These good government reforms help ensure the
7integrity, transparency, and accountability of the State Bar. Second,
8the Legislature directed the California State Auditor to conduct a
9full financial audit of the State Bar, which is due on May 15, 2016.
10Finally, the State Bar must develop a workforce plan for its
11attorney discipline system and a spending plan to determine the
12level for dues to recommend to the Legislature, which are both
13due on May 15, 2016. These reports should help inform the
14Legislature regarding the appropriate actions to take in its
15oversight responsibility of the State Bar and its own determination
16of the proper dues amount.

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(f) In 2011, the Legislature directed the State Bar to establish
18a Governance in the Public Interest Task Force to make
19recommendations to the Governor, the Supreme Court, and the
20Legislature every three years, beginning May 15, 2014, for, among
21other things, enhancing the protection of the public and ensuring
22that protection of the public is the highest priority in the licensing,
23regulation, and discipline of attorneys, to be reviewed by the
24Assembly and Senate Committees on Judiciary in their regular
25consideration of the annual State Bar dues measure. That first
26report is now two years overdue and, although the Governance in
27the Public Interest Task Force finally began holding meetings this
28year, it appears that this already long overdue report will not be
29completed during this legislative session.

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(g) It is the intent of the Legislature, in fulfilling its important
31oversight responsibility over the State Bar and the proper amount
32State Bar members must pay in annual dues, that this bill serve as
33the vehicle to implement possible recommendations for
34substantially improving the operations, effectiveness, and efficiency
35of the State Bar based on the 2016 California State Auditor’s audit
36of the State Bar, along with the State Bar’s discipline workforce
37and spending plans and any draft Governance Task Force report
38or other information, in order to ensure that the dues are the
39appropriate amount, that the State Bar becomes more accountable
P4    1to the public, and that public protection is, and remains, the State
2Bar’s top priority.

end insert
3begin insert

begin insertSEC. 2.end insert  

end insert

begin insertSection 6008.5 of the end insertbegin insertBusiness and Professions Codeend insert
begin insert is repealed.end insert

begin delete


Whenever the board has pledged, placed a charge upon,
6or otherwise made available all or any portion of the income or
7revenue from membership fees for the payment of security of an
8obligation of the State Bar or any interest thereon, and so long as
9any such obligation or any interest thereon remains unpaid, the
10Legislature shall not reduce the maximum membership fee below
11the maximum in effect at the time such obligation is created or
12incurred, and the provisions of this section shall constitute a
13covenant to the holder or holders of any such obligation.

end delete

begin deleteSECTION 1.end delete
begin insertSEC. 3.end insert  

Section 6140 of the Business and Professions Code is
16amended to read:



(a) The board shall fix the annual membership fee for
18active members for 2017 at a sum not exceeding three hundred
19fifteen dollars ($315).

20(b) The annual membership fee for active members is payable
21on or before the first day of February of each year. If the board
22finds it appropriate and feasible, it may provide by rule for payment
23of fees on an installment basis with interest, by credit card, or other
24means, and may charge members choosing any alternative method
25of payment an additional fee to defray costs incurred by that

27(c) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2018,
28and, as of that date, is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that
29is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends that date.