A few weeks ago I was struck by a certain irony as we celebrated Law Week in California. At a time when we salute the value of the rule of the law in our country, we are witnessing the possibility of dismantling the structure of the legal profession in our state — based on the political mood of the day.
The independence of the profession and the premise of separation of powers are threatened.
Separation of powers of government is fundamental to the very existence of constitutional government in the United States. The division of governmental powers into executive, legislative and judicial branches represents probably the most important principles of government, with the system of checks and balances.
I feel strongly that the lawyers of California should continue to have the privilege of self-governance — politics should play no role in justice.
When we examine the issues that have faced us in the past months and compare them to the issues that confronted previous generations of our profession — the Depression, World War II, the civil rights movement — we should be thankful that none of the freedoms Thomas Jefferson presented to the Continental Congress are being threatened.
Today, the State Bar’s very existence is being threatened by a standoff in the legislature — the effects of which can impact every member of our profession and every member of the public.
The governor’s veto of our annual fee bill has resulted in a shortage of funds and the people of our state can no longer turn to the State Bar for help.
Now they must call their district attorneys, city attorneys, consumer protection offices and even the courts — none of which is set up to absorb the enormous workload of the bar.
Without a fee bill, the bar will run out of money by next month. No longer will the discipline arm of the State Bar be able to investigate, prosecute or handle incidents of attorney misconduct such as: