Deal or No Deal

Paraphrasing the popular NBC television show, defense counsel are increasingly coming to believe that the California State Bar (and its prosecutorial trial counsel) is less willing to bargain plea settlements with lawyers today than in the recent past, according to Amy Yarborough, Los Angeles Daily Journal Staff Writer (May 9, 2007).

Scott Drexel, State Bar Chief Trial Counsel said that his office still negotiates settlements. Some defense counsel, however, are suggesting that the disciplinary system, supported by 80% of the State Bar dues of $400 per year per active attorney, is now back to full force after being crippled by the Governor’s veto of the State Bar dues bill a number of years ago and less likely to “deal.”

Jim Scharf, head of the State Bar Board Committee on Regulation, Admissions and Discipline Oversight has asked the Chief Trial Counsel to meet with defense counsel periodically to air their concerns.

It is curious to me that this current issue comes on the heels of a recent quote from Mr. Scarf to the effect that the Bar’s goal is to protect the public. This is one more instance where lawyers  get the impression that the Bar does not have their interests at heart. Suggesting that Trial Counsel meet with defense lawyers periodically does not address the private bar’s issues. I have worked with Mr. Drexel previously and have the highest regard for him and for his work. What, however, is Mr. Scharf and the Board doing to effectively help lawyers stay away from the grasp of the “long arm of the law?”

Certainly, requiring lawyers to disclose that they do not have malpractice insurance (without also providing affordable malpractice insurance to these very same lawyers who will be forced to make such disclosures) does not help Bar members.  In a recent article in USA Today, there was a discussion about expanding health care coverage. Thirty-six major companies now support the expansion along with expanding affordable health care insurance. Governor Schwartzenegger’s efforts in California were cited as examples of a rational approach to expanding affordable insurance coverage and health care at the same time! Why hasn’t our State Bar learned the simple lesson: Protecting the public is not contrary to the equally important goal of protecting members (lawyers) of the State Bar!


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