The Modesto Bee's article on how bad the California State Bar has become:
Geragos has practiced law 32 years and represents “seven different whistleblowers at the upper echelons of the bar,” he said, including its executive director, who was fired in November.
Geragos’ top client, Joseph Dunn, is suing to get back his job, saying he was sacked after exposing a cover-up of the State Bar’s ethical problems.
If that weren’t enough, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a North Carolina anti-trust case prompted a San Diego law school and two consumer organizations to question whether lawyers should police their own.
State Bar reform is just what a former attorney in Modesto has sought since he was disbarred three years ago.
“It’s a dysfunctional system running roughshod over a lot of different people,” said Tore Dahlin. He has established a website, produced documentaries running longer than five hours and is shopping to legislators a proposed bill – all aimed at changing the structure of the State Bar Court.
Most of the 28 attorneys recently disciplined in Stanislaus, Merced, San Joaquin, Tuolumne and Calaveras counties declined to talk about allegations that landed them in hot water. A few did, though – some charging that the State Bar ignores large firms with money and influence, preferring to bully small law offices with few resources to defend themselves.
“The kind of prevalent opinion is that the State Bar Court is a kangaroo court and pretty draconian in what they do,” said Stockton attorney Roger Moore, who was suspended for 30 days last year for lax representation in a slip-and-fall case. “Some lawyers call it a witch hunt.
Dahlin’s legislation would move State Bar judges to superior courts; currently, their paychecks come from the same place as those of State Bar prosecutors, creating an inherent conflict, he said.
The University of San Diego School of Law, the Consumers Union and the Citizen Advocacy Center sent a May 4 letter to attorneys general of all states warning that state bars are “theoretically vulnerable to federal felony prosecution” unless their enforcement system is overseen by others. Occupational licensing boards that regulate accountants, doctors, brokers, barbers and other trades don’t serve the public interest if regulated by themselves, the consumer advocates say.
“The State Bar is not long for this world,” Geragos predicted, “as presently constituted.”