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Lawyers Who Work on State Bar’s Staff Plan to Strike

Times Legal Affairs Writer

The 30 lawyers who prosecute attorney discipline cases for the embattled State Bar of California plan to stage the first strike ever against the Bar today, seeking higher pay and a “career path” salary schedule.

“Because I am an attorney I really don’t know how people go about striking, to tell the truth,” said Marilyn Alper, spokeswoman for the lawyers.

“This is a very awkward position for attorneys to put themselves into,” she said. “But we are doing it because we feel we have not got a fair deal. We would prefer to be here doing our jobs.”

She said the 18 attorneys in Los Angeles, joined by State Bar Board of Governors non-attorney member Richard Annotico, will divide their time between picket lines at the Bar’s office at 1230 W. 3rd St. and the State Bar Court, where discipline cases are processed, at 818 W. 7th St. The dozen attorneys in San Francisco plan to picket State Bar headquarters.

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Because of the limited number of strikers, Alper said, picketing will be conducted only during regular office hours.

Could Impair Pledge

A strike could jeopardize State Bar pledges to cut its backlog of attorney discipline cases at a critical time when the Legislature is considering removing disciplinary duties from the Bar and handing them over to an independent state agency.

Alper said that, although the Bar has promised to hire more attorneys and provide other resources to deal with the backlog, the Los Angeles office alone still has 400 cases that have not even been assigned to a lawyer.

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Don W. Martens, a Newport Beach attorney who is chairman of the State Bar Board of Governors Committee on Labor Relations, said the Bar will not slow its disciplinary system even if the attorneys do strike. He said officials are studying alternate ways of processing discipline cases but refused to say whether non-union attorneys would be hired.

The Bar’s lawyer employees, members of Service Employees International Union Local 250, have worked without a contract since last Dec. 31. Alper said the lawyers planned the strike after management refused to discuss salaries at a negotiating session last Monday night in San Francisco.

No further negotiating sessions have been scheduled.

Bar officials have proposed a 3 1/2-year contract with a 5% pay raise retroactive to Jan. 1, another 2% on July 1, and 4% raises on Jan. 1, 1987, Jan. 1, 1988, and Oct. 1, 1988. Beginning in 1988, they also would change the current four-grade and four-step salary system to a scaled system including merit raises.

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Alper said the attorneys want comparable pay with other government lawyers, an enhancement of the current step pay system to encourage prosecutors to remain in their jobs, a clear definition of qualifications for merit raises and a shorter-term contract.

Currently, pay for Bar attorneys ranges from $2,016 to $4,341 monthly.

The proposed system calls for a pay scale between $2,234 and $5,274 monthly.

Figure Called Illusion

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But Alper insisted that the upper figure is merely an illusion. For example, she said, the proposed scale for the most experienced employee would be $3,516 to $5,274. But she said the currently top paid attorney would actually get only his current $4,341 plus the 5% raise for a total of $4,558.

“It’s like saying an Avon lady can make $200,000 a year when in reality no individual door-to-door saleswoman does that,” she said. “This is an elusive concept because nobody will earn those top figures.”

Martens said the new pay system was devised after a careful survey of salaries paid to other government lawyers, does provide comparable pay for Bar attorneys and that they could reach the top listed figures through a combination of scheduled and merit raises. He said the attorneys’ major complaint appears to be not the general pay scale but that some individual lawyers in other government offices are paid higher salaries than some individual Bar attorneys.

Not Permanent

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Martens said the step system had been set up under a 1984 contract and would be maintained partially through 1987, but that it was never intended to become permanent.

He said management is willing to discuss definitions for merit raises that would provide 3% increases for someone rated “commendable” and more than 3% for someone rated “exceptional.”

But Martens said he had never even heard that the lawyers objected to the duration of the proposed contract.

“That,” said the lawyer in the role of management, “has been the big problem--getting 30 lawyers to agree among themselves as to what their problems are.”

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