Ms. Howle’s cover letter to Governor Brown and the Legislature states,
“This report concludes that the State Bar has not consistently fulfilled its mission to protect the public from errant attorneys and lacks accountability related to its expenditures. The State Bar has struggled historically to promptly resolve all the complaints it receives, potentially delaying the timely discipline of attorneys who engage in misconduct. A primary measurement of the effectiveness of the State Bar’s discipline system is the number of complaints it fails to resolve within six months of receipt, which it refers to as its backlog. In 2010 the backlog reached 5,174 cases, prompting the State Bar to take steps to quickly reduce it.
Although the State Bar succeeded in decreasing the backlog by 66 percent within a year, it may have compromised the severity of the discipline imposed on attorneys in favor of speedier types of resolutions….Thus, to reduce its backlog, the State Bar allowed some attorneys whom it otherwise might have disciplined more severely—or even disbarred— to continue practicing law, placing the public at risk.
Moreover, instead of focusing its resources on improving its discipline system—such as engaging in workforce planning to ensure it had sufficient staffing—it instead spent $76.6 million to purchase and renovate a building in Los Angeles in 2012.”
KEY FINDINGS of the Bureau of State Auditor (BSA) audit:
“During our audit of the State Bar’s discipline system and its finances, we noted the following:
To reduce its 2010 excessive complaint backlog of over 5,000 cases to just over 1,700 cases in 2011, the State Bar frequently settled cases and may have been too lenient and allowed some attorneys whom it otherwise might have disciplined more severely—or even disbarred—to continue practicing law.
The years the State Bar focused its efforts on decreasing its backlog, the State Bar settled over 1,500 cases—more than in any of the other four years in our audit period.
The level of discipline the State Bar recommended as part of some of these settlements was inadequate—of the 27 cases the California Supreme Court returned to it for further examination, the State Bar increased the level of discipline it recommended in 21 cases, including five disbarments.
The information the State Bar submits to the Legislature in its Annual Discipline Report is problematic—the State Bar continues to report fewer cases than the law permits despite the similar concern we raised in our 2009 audit.
The State Bar should adhere to its quality control processes to ensure that the discipline it imposes on attorneys is consistent, regardless of the size of the case‑processing backlog, and it should take steps to prevent its management or staff from circumventing those processes.
The BSA report may be read in its entirety HERE Nowhere in the report is any directive of what the State Bar needs to do to mitigate the damage to the public from its prior unethical conduct.
FORMER STATE BAR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BLOWS WHISTLE
Joe Dunn is a former CA Senator from Orange County. He is also the former Executive Director of the State Bar who was fired last year. In late 2014, Mr. Dunn filed a whistle blower lawsuit against the Bar and its Board of Trustees.
With regard to Mr. Dunn’s complaint and consistent with the BSA audit, the LA Times reports,
“Shortly before Dunn was fired, he filed an anonymous ‘whistle-blower’ complaint alleging, among other things, that a bar official was manipulating records to hide a huge backlog in untended complaints against lawyers. Dunn later identified himself as the whistle-blower and said he was fired in retaliation for the complaint.
‘The bar is just further descending into a banana republic,’ said Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane, who tried unsuccessfully decades ago to overhaul the association. ‘It is totally dysfunctional and should be unraveled.”
“While bar officials have said little, Dunn’s complaint said that employees under State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim’s direction unlawfully altered case backlog reports released to the board of trustees and the public.
‘This was done to benefit Ms. Kim in her upcoming evaluation and to fraudulently inflate the productivity of her office,’ Dunn’s complaint contends, calling her conduct ‘shockingly rampant.’..
Once Kim learned that Dunn and other bar employees had discovered the alleged improprieties, she filed a complaint against them with the board of trustees, according to the lawsuit. In the suit, Dunn said he has never seen a summary of the complaint.”
What does this have to do with thirteen years of the defrauding of the American public, worker and taxpayer over the Toxic Mold issue — by use of unbridled criminal means in the California courts, you ask?
More to follow in two weeks. In the meantime, listen to this INTERVIEW I gave for IAQ Radio last week for a behind the scenes understanding.
Sharon Noonan Kramer
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