At its July 16 meeting, the State Bar Board of Trustees approved a plan aimed at improving equity in the attorney discipline system, following up on the bar’s first-ever study on racial disparities in the disciplinary system. The first group of reforms aim to expand representation by counsel when an attorney faces a disciplinary investigation.
“The State Bar is moving forward with concrete, specific actions that we believe will not only target the disparities noted in Professor Farkas’s research, but also make the discipline system work better for everyone.” said Donna S. Hershkowitz, Interim Executive Director.
The study found that lack of representation by counsel during an investigation into an attorney by the State Bar was a statistically significant predictor of later discipline, the report also revealed that African American respondents were represented by counsel about half as frequently as other groups in the study.
The State Bar has said that they will:
- Measure and report data on representation for attorneys in the discipline system;
- Pilot-test messages informing respondent attorneys of the value of representation by counsel in disciplinary proceedings to evaluate the most effective method of encouraging representation; and
- Work with the Association of Discipline Defense Counsel to develop and distribute a roster of attorneys who could provide low-cost and pro bono case evaluations to respondent attorneys.