A member of the California State Legislature announced that he will ask for “…a financial and operational audit…” of the State Bar. In his press statement, the Assemblyman said he wants the State Auditor “…to investigate, study, analyze, and assess the financial practices and the performance” of the bar. The politician said “… “(m)andatory bar dues should be spent on regulating our profession and improving legal services to the public,”

This utterance is not the only one arising from the recent turmoil resulting from the dismissal of the Bar’s Executive Director. The seriousness of the charges and counter-charges cannot be underestimated. But, the seriousness is heightened by the fact that the State Bar must get permission from the State Legislature to assess and collect annual fees from its lawyers. One might question whether this is a true separation of powers required by the Constitution, but it’s been the standard in California since 1927.

Perhaps the California Bar should be segmented, as is the New York Bar, into a regulatory/licensing function and a member benefit function. California lawyers had their opportunity during Gov. Pete Wilson’s reign and let it pass. Perhaps the issue should be revisited.