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Bar Board Missing Public Members

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 09, 2014

SACRAMENTO — Personnel and legal drama may be plentiful at California's State Bar these days. But the number of nonlawyers overseeing those travails by serving on the bar's board of trustees is not.

The board, comprised of up to 20 members, currently has four vacancies. All four are so-called public-member slots that must be filled by the governor. And he appears to be in no rush. The last two gubernatorial appointees left when their terms expired in 2012, according to a bar spokeswoman.

That leaves the governing body dominated by attorneys, a situation that, based on sentiments expressed by lawmakers in 2011 legislation overhauling the board's leadership, is not ideal.

"We're aware of the vacancies and have interviewed a number of candidates," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown. "As is the case with every appointment we make, our focus is selecting the best possible candidate—or candidates—from a deep and diverse pool of applicants."

That pool may not run very deep. Public service sentiments aside, it's hard to imagine many nonlawyers eager to serve on a board, flush with attorneys, that seems to be smacked with turmoil and scandals on a regular basis.

And from the governor's point of view, there are hundreds of appointments to make annually—judges, commissioners, fair board members and agency executives, just to name a few. Occasionally, some of those agencies lack operating quorums. Filling those vacancies, and those on more prominent governing boards, are surely higher priorities.

And no one's saying that having an additional four public members on the bar's board would have prevented the current Joe Dunn saga. But their absence seems to fly in the face of 2011 legislation that shrunk the size of the board, giving more weight to appointed members, and stated adamantly that "protection of the public shall be the highest priority for the State Bar."

Westrup offered no timeline for the governor filling those vacancies.

"As soon as these appointments are made," he said, "we'll let you know."

Read the whole story at The Recorder

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