State Bar Associations – Are They Biased Against America’s Poor and Powerless?

State Bar Associations – Are They Biased Against America’s Poor and Powerless?

For decades, America’s 50 state bar associations have boasted of their lofty goals which purport to serve and protect America’s poor and powerless. Recent statistics and case studies from the State Bar of California, the nation’s largest lawyer group, indicates this not to always be the case.

Within a few short years of its creation in 1927, members began complaining the organization they were required to join to be able to practice their profession was “un-American”, a “lawyer’s soviet” and secretly run by a “royal family.” Seventy years later Governor Pete Wilson shut the organization down for nearly a year, calling it the “ultimate political animal.” At the same time, the California State Legislature found evidence of “institutional bias” in the way the group disciplined its members.

Flip by a few back issues of The California Lawyer magazine and see how many members who work for the state or federal government, large prestigious law firms or are politically connected are disciplined each year.

State Bar disciplinary bias has reached such heights that aggrieved lawyers and members of the public have put up blogs in an attempt to acquire the justice and dignity they feel they deserve.

In addition to the obvious politicalization of bar association policies and procedures, other factors contribute to this national crisis. The governance of these bar groups is often times divided up between a state’s Governor, Attorney General and state legislative committees, in addition as each group’s own president, officers and board of governors. Since bar association disciplinary procedures are secret, none of these people can access bar records to make a fair assessment as to whether the cards are stacked against lawyers who represent those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

The arrival of blogs and other online sites, however, are beginning to discarded light on the devastating effects state bar bias has on the lives, health and careers of lawyers, in addition as members of the general public. They also provide examples of longstanding fraud and failures which state bar officials continue to be oblivious to.

In one California case, an attorney for U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights practiced for a large part of her career without paying her “active” bar dues. State Bar membership records listed her as “idle” and ineligible to practice law. Although the California State Bar Association was the only custodian of her membership records, they dismissed a complaint filed against the attorney for “without of evidence.”

As America’s economy continues to decline and grow uncertain, it is imperative that state bar associations begin to open their doors and books so government leaders, the media and general public can gain a complete and fair insight into disciplinary procedures and practices.

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