California State Bar Adopts New Meeting Rules to Improve Public Access and Accountability
At its meeting in late July, the California State Bar Board of Trustees adopted a streamlined set of parliamentary rules and discussed changes to expand and standardize public comment procedures as ways to improve both public access to meetings and overall accountability.
The Board is adopting Rosenberg’s Rules of Order to replace Robert’s Rules of Order as its governing parliamentary procedures. Adopting a simpler set of rules that are easy for all policy body members and the public to understand and use will assist in the smooth, effective conduct of Board business. Guidelines for expanding and standardizing opportunities for public comment were discussed and will be voted on at a later meeting.
“These actions are examples of the numerous ways in which this Board and staff leadership are demonstrating a commitment to expanding public involvement in meaningful ways, in alignment with our new five-year strategic plan,” said Board Chair Ruben Duran. “From adopting parliamentary rules that are clear and accessible to all to expanding recruitment for State Bar committees - particularly for public members - to innovating new ways to broaden how we gather written public comment, to thinking carefully about how we invite and agendize public comment before and during meetings, we are making proactive changes to elevate the public’s voice in our work.”
Progress on State Auditor Recommendations
The Board also heard a progress report from Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona on the State Bar’s implementation of recommendations from the State Auditor in their report focusing on the discipline system, issued in mid-April.
Of the State Auditor’s 14 recommendations to the State Bar, seven have been fully implemented, and steps to implement many of the other recommendations are expected to be completed by the end of July. Steps taken in response to the State Auditor’s recommendations have included:
• Implementing policies and procedures requiring conflict checks by investigators and attorneys at case assignment and closing
• Better integrating a conflicts of interest database with the State Bar’s case management system to improve monitoring of conflicts
• Revising closing letters for complaints related to client trust accounts (CTAs) and bank reportable actions (overdrafts) to include resource information for attorneys
• Updating policy so that cases resulting from small amount bank reportable actions are not closed without investigation if the attorney has a pending or prior (within the last two years) bank reportable action or client trust account-related complaint
• Updating policy related to the current semiannual random audits of closed cases to ensure the independence and objectivity of the external auditor and establish formal oversight by the Board to ensure that the external auditor’s findings are addressed, as recommended by the State Auditor
• Creating a consumer alert that will notify the public on the State Bar’s website when other jurisdictions have determined that an attorney licensed in California presents a substantial threat of harm to the public
Started on August 1, 2022, the State Bar launched a pilot program addressing the State Auditor’s recommendations on investigations of bank reportable actions and CTA violations, such as requiring staff to obtain bank statements and the attorney’s reconciliations of the CTA to determine if relevant transactions are appropriate.
Meanwhile, steps to fully implement three of the State Auditor’s other recommendations are expected to be completed between October 2022 and April 2023.