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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cf/A_Wilde_time_3.jpg/320px-A_Wilde_time_3.jpgOscar Wilde said he loved “talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.”

This week I shook my head reading that the Hon. Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of New York’s highest court and who spent 43 years as a state court employee but never a year in private practice as a lawyer had taken a job with worldwide law firm behemoth Latham & Watkins LLP — in their New York office, of course. Judge Lippman is best remembered for his 2012 mandate that lawyers work 50 hours for free before being licensed to practice in New York.

http://images.nypl.org/index.php?id=834254&t=w New York became the first to compel pro bono work from lawyers. And it still fries my Arizona bacon. Last time I checked physicians, dentists, architects, pharmacists, engineers, accountants and other professionals have yet to acquire the special snowflake status of lawyers requiring them to provide free services as a precondition to practice their chosen professions. When altruism is coerced — not only is it no longer selfless — it is a tax.

Naturally, for proponents it’s nothing of the sort. It’s not compulsory charity but professional responsibility. Moreover, court cases dating back decades seem to back them up. Those decisions have held that lawyers as officers of the court aren’t protected by the 5th Amendment’s Takings Clause and are instead duty-bound to render service when ordered by court appointment.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a1/Guercino_God_the_Father.jpg/275px-Guercino_God_the_Father.jpgIn the Empire State, then, as the former chief judge proclaimed at the time from his seat on high, “If you want the privilege and honor of practicing law in New York, you’re going to have to demonstrate that you’re committed to our values.” 

One more burden on the uninitiated.

There are no limits apparently to the belief that ‘To whom much was given, much will be required’ even when the much that’s been given includes staggering law school debt. And never mind that law school graduates in New York and elsewhere at a time of dismal job prospects for lawyers still can’t find good paying jobs as lawyers much less pay down hellacious debts.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b8/Jan_Steen_school_class_with_a_sleeping_schoolmaster%2C_1672.jpg/640px-Jan_Steen_school_class_with_a_sleeping_schoolmaster%2C_1672.jpg

While New York’s 2012 pro bono requirement has been roundly criticized by some, other jurisdictions enviously yearn to copy it, including most recently, California.

Mississippi looked at it several years ago as reported by the Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog at “Forced Pro Bono: But is it Legal?” And take particular note of the trenchant opinions of commentator “Paco”: Law professors and judges who have guaranteed salaries, employer sponsored health insurance, and government retirement benefits are the perennial promoters of mandatory pro bono. Insulated from the economic vagaries of private practice, they nevertheless feel entitled to make pronouncements regarding the “moral” and related financial obligations the rest of us should bear. From my perspective as a private practitioner, the only moral imperative regarding this issue is for legal academicians and jurists to shut up.”

As for New York’s requirement, no one has deconstructed and decried it better than law school professor Paul Campos who entitled his contemporaneous acerbic takedown, “Clueless baby boomer judge orders poor lawyers to subsidize rich ones.” Or in other words, there’s nothing like vicarious noblesse oblige. Campos listed four objections, foremost being that in the hierarchy of indigent needs, legal services do not make the list of necessities.

Of Judge Lippman, Campos opined, “He has spent his entire professional career as a functionary within New York’s court system. I’m betting a Megamillions ticket that he doesn’t have the faintest idea how preposterous it is, under current circumstances, to expect aspiring lawyers to work for free as a precondition for bar admittance in New York of all places.”

broken and untied moccasins | by TracyKoPhoto“Walk a mile in my moccasins to learn where they pinch” is an old proverb. But even its variant, “Until you walk a mile in another man’s moccasins — you can’t imagine the smell,” is disregarded. Whether pinching or malodorous or pristine, legal elites would rather go moccasin-less preferring instead to impose destinations on others without having traipsed there themselves.

Prospecting for clients? Paying business expenses like rent, payroll, utilities, marketing, legal research and insurance? Worrying about paying back six-figure law school tuition debts? Such concerns will never trouble the moccasin discalced. Paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, those who talk about nothing they know anything about — always know everything.

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Credits: Oscar Wilde, by Napoleon Sarony at Wikimedia commons, public domain;God the Father, by Guercino, Wikimedia Commons, public domain; Judiciary Scene : Judge Listening To Witness. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-0ca4-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99; A school class with a sleeping schoolmaster, oil on panel painting by Jan Steen, 1672, at Wikimedia Commons, public domain; broken and untied moccasins, by Tracy Ko at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

(As a lawyer assistance program volunteer first in Texas and now in Arizona, attorney Karyl Krug has years of demonstrated commitment to providing peer assistance, intervention, and rehabilitation support for colleagues whose professional performance is impaired because of substance abuse, dependency or mental health disorders. Krug says the Texas Lawyer Assistance Program is “nationally acclaimed” but the Arizona Bar’s program where she currently volunteers —  not so much. The Texas program was created in 1989 as the Bar’s approved peer assistance program under the authority of Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 467. But in Arizona, confronted again with proposed voluntary state bar legislation, instead of structural improvement Krug detects a budding Arizona Bar public relations campaign as the Bar gins up surveys and marketing to belatedly put a better face on a “Member Assistance Program” Krug finds wanting. Here is her commentary).

The Arizona Bar has no Member Assistance Program.

They just want you to think they do.

Guest Blogger Opinion by Karyl Krug

During his truthiness tour to save his six-figure salary, State Bar of Arizona CEO/Executive Director John Phelps has repeatedly told lawyers and elected officials that the Bar performs two major services for lawyer members:

(1) vigorously prosecutes the unauthorized practice of law (it does so rarely and selectively); and

(2) helps lawyers in need with its Lawyer Assistance Program or Member Assistance Program, or whatever they are calling it this year.

The latter statement is so misleading I hardly know where to begin. For simplicity’s sake, I will henceforth refer to it as ALAP.

I’ve been a member of the State Bar of Arizona since 2011 but a member of the Texas State Bar for 23 years, as well as a long-time volunteer for the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP). I am also currently an ALAP volunteer.

I testified at the Arizona House subcommittee hearings on the Bar that contrary to representations made by Mr. Phelps and elsewhere by State Bar of Arizona President Geoff Trachtenberg, ALAP is a shell of a program that is much worse than what the Arizona Bar had in 1999.

The woman running the ALAP, Regina Tepper, runs a total of five different programs for the Arizona Bar, including ALAP. She is stretched a little thin. She recently sent out the following by e-mail:

“Anecdotally it appears that we had increased success with the Peer Support network . . . some of you have shared with me that you have received calls for the first time ever and it is very encouraging that the word is getting out. If you have been to the State Bar offices in Phoenix recently you may have noticed that our ad for the Peer Support Network is now a regular slide on our lobby marquises. I hope you’ve noticed the great ad in the Arizona Attorney as well.

“As part of our year-end review of 2015, I am asking that each of you share with me the following information, if you have received calls from members, judges or their families during 2015:
• The number of individuals who contacted you. Please do not share names with me; as always, that is confidential.
• Whether those individuals contacted you for themselves or about another person
• How many contacts (total) you received, if different from the total number of individuals from whom you had contact
• A general categorization of the reason for their contact
o Mental health
o Alcohol or substance abuse
o Work-life balance, stress or burn-out
o Issue with non-lawyer family member”

Suddenly, there is a push, through screen images and advertising, to make bar members believe that there is a real Member Assistance Program in Arizona, although it is only “anecdotally” successful and the Bar has no idea how many lawyers in trouble have contacted volunteers. Mr. Phelps has been testifying that ALAP is an important and successful program for helping lawyers when the truth is he has no idea, except “anecdotally,” whether this relatively new alleged program is helping anyone or not.

As had been the case throughout the fight for a non-mandatory Bar, reality has been incrementally tweaked to bolster Mr. Phelps’s flights of fancy.

Sometime after the Bar quietly sent its former member assistance program director out of the building, it decided to start a shell ALAP. Today, ALAP is a list of volunteers with phone numbers.

One day of training, and you can volunteer to help — even if you have no experience whatsoever with alcohol and drug abuse, mental health issues, burnout, and other issues common to the legal profession that even many psychologists and psychiatrists are not fully competent to deal with.

Yet participation in ALAP is often compulsory. At the same time, ALAP’s budget for 2013-2014 is listed on the published two page AZ Bar budget as $50.

TLAP, by contrast, is run by several full-time employees and has a national network of resources; funds for lawyers in need of treatment; the annual Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Convention; nationally known speakers; and a statewide network of volunteers ready to spring into action from Texarkana to Brownsville.

Lawyers in trouble are often referred to TLAP by the disciplinary arm of the bar, as well as by concerned individuals, before the disciplinary arm of the Texas Bar swings into action.

TLAP volunteers in recovery have to have at least a year of continuous sobriety. TLAP volunteers go out in pairs, after making an appointment, to talk to a possibly impaired lawyer or judge, to offer the lawyer help and safe harbor if they are willing to address their issues.

Participation is not compulsory. It is a third degree felony to blow anonymity of a lawyer who is referred to or seeks the help of TLAP. Their budget for the same biennium was in excess of $300,000. The Texas Bar’s published budget is 261 pages long.

I have tried to help out at ALAP but to my horror, after I received a couple of calls, I realized that ALAP has no program to send a lawyer to. One lawyer asked me if he should call the Arizona Bar for help. I said something like, “Oh, God, no!” There is no program to help them. And by that time I had seen disbarment orders citing the disbarred lawyer’s failure to complete ALAP or AMAP.

While ALAP says it is confidential, if your failure to complete ALAP shows up on a published disbarment order, it is not confidential.

Woman s face uid 14The good thing about networking is that you get to know people and, coincidentally, a speaker at the 1999 Arizona State Bar/Arizona Concerned for Lawyers CLE is an old friend. At one point, Arizona had a real ALAP and an ALCL and all the rest. I saw the copious materials for the 1999 course.

So at one point ALAP was a real deal. What happened? Who decided impaired lawyers were no longer worthy of real assistance from the Bar?

 

 

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Photos: morguefile.com, no attribution

Home Improvement 26Hat’s off — I think — to State Bar of Arizona President Geoff Trachtenberg for exercising his free speech rights and speaking his own mind. Last month, Trachtenberg emailed the General Counsel to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to express his “candid thoughts” about why Clint Bolick, one of the nominees to the state’s highest court, was “clearly not the best candidate for the job.” And because Trachtenberg wasn’t expressly wearing his state bar presidential mantle when doing so, I guess folks can’t say he was speaking for the state’s compulsory membership bar.

But the point is hardly incidental. It goes to the heart of First Amendment compelled-speech jurisprudence under Keller v. State Bar of California.  A mandatory bar requires lawyers to join and pay dues as a condition of practicing law in the state. So when a mandatory bar spends member dues on speech that the member opposes such as lobbying against a judicial candidate, the state action that compels payment of dues infringes on that member’s First Amendment rights.

Keller came about when at its 1982 convention, State Bar of California President Anthony Murray derided U.S. Senate Candidate Pete Wilson for urging the recall of Chief Justice Rose Bird if the California Supreme Court overturned the “Victims’ Bill of Rights.” Murray’s speech and resulting bar resolution prompted 21 California lawyers to sue their state bar. Unfortunately for Murray and the state bar, Wilson went on to become a U.S. Senator and eventually Governor of California.

Incongruously, parsing a distinction between private speech and organizational speech doesn’t necessarily provide a safe harbor. See what happened last year to Nevada State Bar President Alan J. Lefebvre who thought he was expressing only his opinion not the Nevada Bar’s when he editorialized on same-sex marriage in the bar’s magazine.

Trachtenberg’s communication was one of a number of letters, emails, and phone calls from Arizonans and from out-of-staters weighing in on Bolick’s candidacy and that of other nominees. As reported by The Yellow Sheet Report (paywall) over 600 critics’ and supporters’ letters and emails sent to the governor and the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments about the state supreme court nominees were just released by the governor’s staff. Having seen Trachtenberg’s email, give the man props for candor — if not for circumspection inasmuch as Bolick was widely regarded as the front-runner.

Speaking for himself and not from the State Bar of Arizona Presidential dais, Trachtenberg opined that state supreme court candidate Bolick was “interested in bringing his brand of justice to the Court — not merely “applying the law.””

Trachtenberg also went on to add that Bolick appears to be more interested in shaping law rather than applying it and “would be better suited to being in the legislature.”

He wrote, “While I’ve not reviewed the applications of existing and former Supreme Court justices, one has to wonder if there has ever been a nominee for Arizona’s highest court who similarly lacks meaningful judicial or practical experience, let alone an actual justice.”

Oops! On January 6th, Governor Ducey announced his appointment of Clint Bolick to the Arizona Supreme Court. In making his first gubernatorial state supreme court appointment, Governor Ducey explained in a press release that “Clint is nationally renowned and respected as a constitutional law scholar and as a champion of liberty.

“He brings extensive experience and expertise, an unwavering regard for the rule of law and a firm commitment to the state and citizens of Arizona. I’m confident Clint will serve impartially and honorably in this important role.”

Prior to his elevation as Arizona’s newest high court justice, Phoenix lawyer Bolick worked as Vice President of Litigation for the Goldwater Institute.

Home Improvement 88Based on past practice, the high court’s newest justice gets assigned as the supreme court’s liaison to the Arizona Bar’s Board of Governors.

Wondering aloud — that first board meeting presided by bar president Trachtenberg with the new justice in attendance might be awkward. But no doubt there’s fence-mending in the offing.

 

 

On Monday morning, January 11, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case with potentially positive impact on the First Amendment rights of lawyers.

The case is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Except it’s not a case about lawyers. It’s a union case that’s widely described as “devastating to public-sector unions.

The questions presented in Friedrichs are:

(1) Do public-sector agency shop arrangements violate the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech and assembly?

(2) Does the First Amendment prohibit the practice of requiring public employees to affirmatively opt-out of subsidizing nonchargeable speech rather than to affirmatively consent?

But depending on who you ask, a decision for the petitioners would either vindicate workers’ First Amendment rights or in the view of elite lawyer doomsayers “would have a profoundly destabilizing impact on bars all over the country.”  The latter declaration is what 21 former Presidents of the District of Columbia Bar claimed in their amicus brief asking that Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977) be left “undisturbed.”

Petitioners Rebecca Friedrichs and her co-plaintiff teachers want the Court to overrule Abood. But it’s not because of concerns over the constitutional rights of lawyers even though like the petitioners, they, too, are forced to fund speech they oppose in order to earn a living in their chosen profession. Instead, the petitioners want the Court to rule that the free speech rights of non-union members ought to trump any obligation to contribute to the costs of representation.

In typical exaggerated bull and bunkum, mandatory bar stakeholders contend that a ruling against the California teachers union “would very likely spawn additional time-consuming and expensive lawsuits by bar members who do not want to pay their mandatory bar dues. Such lawsuits would severely distract this country’s thirty-two integrated bars from their critical work “serv[ing] the‘State’s interest in regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal services.’”

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/29/High_rider_CicLAvia_2010.jpg/486px-High_rider_CicLAvia_2010.jpg If the petitioners prevail, alarmed union leaders believe more workers would become so-called “free riders.” The result could lead to a drop in union membership and revenue that could not only harm existing collective bargaining contracts but change election year dynamics.

Amy Howe at Scotus Blog has a plain English explanation of the case at “Justices return to dispute over union fees for non-members: In Plain English.” Also see “Public Unions Face High-Court Hurdle.”

Why mandatory bars should be worried.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f2/Captain_of_the_nine_%281912%29_%2814566361667%29.jpg/402px-Captain_of_the_nine_%281912%29_%2814566361667%29.jpg Abood is a case that the nation’s 32-mandatory membership state bar associations rely on to continually impinge on the free speech and free association rights of their members. Abood supports an overly broad interpretation of ‘permissible’ mandatory bar First Amendment encroachments under Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1, 12 (1990). But contrary to what the self-interested past bar presidents said in their brief, Keller allows mandatory bar associations to compel dues only for the narrow purpose of improving the practice of law through the regulation of attorneys.

I won’t dive further into the weeds to analyze Friedrichs beyond recommending you read the arguments of the D.C. Bar and the Goldwater Institute, which also filed its own amicus brief. In part, the Goldwater Institute summarizes its position as follows,

“This Court has always required that chargeable
expenditures related to improving the quality of legal
services also be connected to regulating the legal
profession. Lathrop v. Donohue, 367 U.S. 820, 843
(1961); Keller, 496 U.S. at 14; United States v. United
Foods, Inc., 533 U.S. 405, 414 (2001); Harris v.
Quinn, 134 S. Ct. 2618, 2643 (2014). Mandatory bar
associations and lower courts have mistakenly concluded
that Keller identified two purposes that allow
bar associations to compel membership: “improving
the quality of legal services” and “regulation of lawyers.”
See, e.g., Kingstad v. State Bar of Wisconsin,
622 F.3d 708 (7th Cir. 2010). Misconstruing Keller as
permitting mandatory bars to compel dues for two
broad and distinct purposes harms members’ First
Amendment rights and places Keller in the same
dangerous territory as Abood by leading mandatory
bars to routinely spend coerced dues on a broad range
of political and ideological activities.”

Hubris

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1e/Punch_%281841%29_%2814802616693%29.jpg/472px-Punch_%281841%29_%2814802616693%29.jpgWhat I will opine about is the irony of the District of Columbia Bar taking the lead. Talk about monumental hubris and unmitigated gall.

For one, the D.C. Bar rivals the State Bar of Arizona in its self-congratulatory capacity and unabashed resistance to reform. But what’s especially rich is the poetic justice that could result if the Court also revisits Keller and rules that mandatory bar associations can only compel dues for lawyer regulation and not for non-regulatory purposes like building monuments to itself.

The D.C. Bar is buying an expensive new office monument for itself (just like the Arizona Bar did several years ago). On its website, it maintains that, “ownership of the building allows the Bar to save more than $25 million over 30 years versus renting—money that can be used to find more ways to provide member value while maintaining the Bar’s position in the lowest quartile of dues rates in the country. Doing more. Managing costs. Driving direct member value. That’s what the new home affords the Bar.”

The D.C. Bar is one of the largest in the United States. A preponderance of its members live outside the District of Columbia. As longtime D.C. Bar critic Mike Frisch editorializes at D. C. Bar Wants To Raise Dues Ceiling” about the D.C. Bar’s “lowest dues for a bar its size,” he says it’s “a disingenuous dodge that ignores a fact obvious to anyone who understands the true composition of the D.C. Bar.  D.C. has more out-of-state lawyers than anywhere else. They pay full dues for no service. They are the Bar’s hidden endowment and they fund the profligacy.”

And now thanks to a court order signed last month, as of July 1, 2016, the dues ceiling will be raised from $285 to $380 for D.C. Bar members. At “Happy New Year D. C. Bar: Pay Up!,” Frisch complains, “Now the best-paid bar employees in America can increase their salaries, travel to every domestic and international bar-related party and buy themselves a fancy building with primo views, all at the expense of a membership that had no say in the process.”

No wonder the entitled legal elites at the D.C. Bar got so worked up about Friedrichs. But so should the nation’s 31 other mandatory bars.

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Credits: Morguefile.com, no attribution, High Rider, by Downtowngal at Wikimedia Commons; Captain of the Nine, at Wikimedia Commons, via Flickr Creative Commons; Punch, at Wikimedia Commons via Flickr Creative Commons.

 

“What’s black and tan and looks good on a lawyer?

A Doberman,” was the answer to an unfunny lawyer joke.

Anna

       Anna

But it was no joke for me. Our beloved Doberman, Anna, spent her last day on earth on December 26th. She was just days shy of her 13th birthday. What a sad way to punctuate Christmas.

As for looking good on a lawyer, that she did whenever she leaned on me. She was a beautiful girl. And leaning is what Dobermans do. Called the “Dobie lean,” it’s a breed trait.

Dobermans don’t give kisses to show affection. They lean on you instead. Often misunderstood and unfairly dismissed as ‘scary,’ in truth Dobermans are just as a friend once described, “They’re Golden Retrievers in Doberman skin.”  And Anna was among the gentlest souls — ever. Although watchful, there wasn’t a mean bone in her.

The past few years, Anna ailed from chronic arthritis. We’d managed it for her. But the past two months, it increased in severity. Frailer and ever more unsteady, her quality of life took a nosedive.

When that happens, those of us who bring these treasured creatures into their forever homes must at the end, honor the pact we make at the beginning.

It’s best summed up by “A Dog’s Plea,” author unknown. For years I kept a framed copy on my office wall.

“Treat me kindly, my beloved friend, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

“Do not break my spirit with a stick, for although I should lick your hand between blows, your patience and understanding will quickly teach me the things you would have me learn.

“Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footsteps falls upon my waiting ear.

“Please take me inside when it is cold and wet, for I am a domesticated animal, no longer accustomed to bitter elements. I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth. Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst.

“Feed me clean food that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.

“And, my friend, when I am very old, and I no longer enjoy good health, hearing and sight, do not make heroic efforts to keep me going. I am not having any fun. Please see that my trusting life is taken gently. I shall leave this earth knowing with the last breath I draw that my fate was always safest in your hands.”

On Anna’s death, a nephew said he admired the courage we have to love our dogs because we are willing to endure the pain of their loss. The reality is that losing these cherished family pets gets harder not easier. But you do it because of love as my favorite modern poet, Mary Oliver, wrote of her late dog, Percy:

———————————————————————————————————————————–

I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life
Mary Oliver

“Love, love, love, says Percy.
And hurry as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.

“Then, go to sleep.
Give up your body heat, your beating heart.
Then, trust.”

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https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/d0eb53e35fd7ff80bc2268a515adb7e2

She remains my profile avatar and muse for this blog.

I will miss Anna’s companionable presence and her soft nudges on my left elbow while I worked at my desk. I will miss her soft murmurings as she’d run in place asleep on her side, dreaming of chasing jack rabbits. I will miss her turning upside down four paws up and scratching at the air. I will miss her loud powerful barks at the start of every walk. Like a bygone town crier, she’d announce to the neighborhood “here I am” and all’s right with the world.

Next to persistently asking for never-ending pats on her head and hanging out with those she loved, there wasn’t anything better than a walk.

Years ago on our walks in No. Nevada, she’d remind me of another favorite Mary Oliver poem, “Spring” and especially the lines, “Meanwhile, my dog runs off, noses down packed leaves into damp, mysterious tunnels. He says the smells are rising now stiff and lively;

“. . . My dog returns and barks fiercely, he says each secret body is the richest advisor, deep in the black earth such fuming nuggets of joy!”

I’ll always think of Anna as our own fuming nugget of joy.

photoMandatory state bars long ago lost their ability to surprise. Just when you think tin-eared insularity reaches its limits — wait two beats — there’s always more.

Last month, for example, in his President’s Message: Task Force to Tackle Unauthorized Practice of Law, the Nevada State Bar President after first announcing a new bar task force to study the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision against state-sponsored protectionism in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, then surprisingly segued into a clarion call for more ways “to protect the public interest” from the unauthorized practice of law. Methinks he reached the wrong conclusion.

As a matter of fact, the North Carolina Dental Board case runs counter to self-regulated active market participants fostering anti-competitive regulations and actions for their own — not the public’s benefit. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained “Active market participants cannot be allowed to regulate their own markets free from antitrust accountability. When a state empowers a group of active market participants to decide who can participate in its market, and on what terms, the need for supervision is manifest. If a state wants to rely on active market participants as regulators, it must provide active supervision.”

No wonder those who aren’t state bar presidents are reading the case as “a blow for consumers and economic freedom.” Others even opine it may “drill down into bar associations’ [anti-trust] immunity.”

But no worries apparently in Nevada. In fact, some mandatory bars are acting as though the ruling has no impact since mandatory bar governing boards are either under the “active supervision” of state supreme courts or because lawyer regulation comes under the state supreme court or because bars don’t define what constitutes the practice of law (UPL).

In Arizona, where what constitutes the practice of law has been progressively diluted first, by court-certified legal document preparers exempted from UPL by supreme court rule and soon by the rumored introduction of Washington State-styled Limited License Legal Technicians, I predict the besainted Arizona Bar will declare itself anti-competitively pure.

But at least one mandatory state bar association has decided to pay half attention to what happened to North Carolina’s dentists. The State Bar of Washington announced last week it was suspending some ethics opinions because of antitrust concerns.

Bright line test.

Outside the insular world of bar associations, public interest and consumer groups are also weighing in. In a letter to California’s Attorney General earlier this year, consumer interest representatives asked for an inquiry of all state regulatory bodies in California.

Calling the North Carolina decision a “bright-line minimum test,” the public interest groups wrote, “Those controlling the decisions that might restrain trade may not be “active market participants” in the trade regulated. For every agency so afflicted, the legal status of those making such decisions is clear – they are, in the words of the Court, “nonsovereign actors” who lack any state sovereign immunity whatever. Their decisions are no different than a decision undertaken by a cartel or private combination of competitors. You are invited to review the decision en toto and draw your own conclusions, or to refer it and this letter to the leading antitrust prosecutors and experts in your jurisdiction.”

Concerning lawyers and state bar associations, in a footnote the correspondents declared, “By way of illustration: State bars controlled by attorneys rarely discipline for excessive billing or intellectual dishonesty. Few require any demonstration whatever of competence in the actual practice area of law relied upon by clients. Few require malpractice insurance, or in any way ameliorate the harm from attorney incompetence.

“The point is, each of the many agencies within your state is empowered to carve out momentous exceptions from federal antitrust law, and those decisions in particular require a level of independence from the implicit focus of current practitioners.”

The woes of the amici.

Before the decision, some mandatory state bars had signed onto the North Carolina Bar’s amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Fourth Circuit. They’d claimed that upholding the Fourth Circuit would interfere with the state sovereign’s ability to regulate state-licensed professionals and state public protection laws. See “SCOTUS’ Upcoming Decision Could Leave State Bar Associations Toothless.”

They cited 4 likely gloom and doom impairments:

“(1) The limited resources available to prosecute lawyer misconduct and to prevent the unauthorized practice of law will be diverted to litigating whether the state bar’s action has been actively supervised in a manner sufficient to provide state action immunity.
(2) State bars will have to defend expensive antitrust actions even though states explicitly authorize the state bars to regulate the conduct being challenged.
(3) Lawyers will be reluctant to serve as bar councilors for fear of being sued—and of being held individually liable—in treble damage antitrust actions.
(4) Councilors who do agree to serve may be deterred from fulfilling their state authorized enforcement duties against defendants who threaten antitrust claims.”

Ironically, given the subsequent underwhelmed attitudes of some state bars in the case’s aftermath, the woes of the amici may have been overwrought pretense or much ado about nada. Perhaps the Justices were right to pay no mind.

Such little reaction despite all those supposed impairments. It appears the sky was never going to fall.

Or I’m wrong after all. No clue may be better than half-a-clue.

 

 

 

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Photo Credits: “No Tolerance” by Jimmy Changa, Icky Pic, via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution and share alike distribution at Flickr; Other photos via Morguefile.com, no attribution required.

 

 

 

How about a raise?

By a 4-0 vote the members of Arizona’s Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers recommended that Arizona’s state supreme court justices, intermediate appellate court and county superior court judges get a $15,000 raise. I read the news item while knocking back my third cup of coffee at half past 5 Tuesday morning. Parenthetically, no surprise, the Commission included two former state bar presidents.

According to Arizona Republic Reporter Mary Jo Pitzl’s report, the proposal will cost state and Maricopa County taxpayers an estimated $1.4M. Insofar as a raise is ‘the gift that keeps on giving,’ I’m not sure what’s rolled up in that number. It strikes me on the low side. But whatever the final number, it should still be a lot less than the cost-of-living raises the state supreme court ordered restored to retired judges and elected officials last year.

As for the aforementioned commission’s pay hike recommendation and whether the jurists get it will be up to Arizona’s Governor and its Legislature.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/23/Comic_History_of_Rome_Table_10_Cicero_denouncing_Catiline.jpg/640px-Comic_History_of_Rome_Table_10_Cicero_denouncing_Catiline.jpg

To be clear, let me not be the one to begrudge anyone making a few more ducats for their work. In the words of lawyer and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, Justice is the set and constant purpose which gives every man his due.” And demonstrating he really did think like a lawyer, Cicero also unabashedly declared, No one can give you better advice than yourself.”

Face value acceptance.

I do, however, take issue with the all too common sloppy reporting from the local press. “The commissioners decided that after years of stagnant pay, an increase would make the judiciary an attractive option for attorneys who otherwise could make far more in private practice.”  [Emphasis added] This oft-invoked bromide has seen more use than understanding and more acceptance than analysis. Do local journalists ever push back when they hear this stuff? Or do they just take what they’re told at face value?

When compared to its neighbors, the salary commission also claimed Arizona lagged behind in pay with superior court judges coming in“29th in the nation.” I don’t know where the commission got its data or why comparisons to neighboring states are even relevant. Colorado’s judicial salaries virtually match Arizona’s. And the neighboring states of Utah and New Mexico pay their judges less than Arizona. Meantime, Nevada and California pay their judges considerably more. So what?

According to the National Center for State Courts and its most recent Survey of Judicial Salaries, Arizona’s superior court jurists rank 27th. And when adjusted for the state’s lower cost-of-living, the adjusted rank is 22nd. I don’t know where Arizona ought to rank but it should at least be noted that the state is currently right at the national median judicial salary average.

“Far more in private practice.”

Per the State Bar of Arizona’s last lawyer economics survey, the median salary for all attorneys in the state is $100,000. The median for solo attorneys was $75,000. Along with small firm attorneys, solo practitioners are the greatest percentage of all Arizona attorneys. This is true across the country where by some estimates, nearly 2 out of 5 practicing lawyers are solos.

But an even more reliable data source comes courtesy of the IRS. Since the 1960s, the IRS has collected and published income levels for all American lawyers filing as solo practitioners. According to a CNN story, “In 1988, solo practitioners earned an inflation-adjusted $70,747. By 2012, earnings had fallen to $49,130, a 30% decrease in real income. And note, $49,130 is not the starting salary for these lawyers. It is the average earnings of all 354,000 lawyers who filed as solo practitioners that year.”

According to Professor Benjamin Bratton’s Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession, “The hits keep coming for the American legal profession. Law schools are churning out too many graduates, depressing wages, and constricting the hiring market.” Writing at “The collapsing economics of solo legal practice,” law professor Paul Campos suggests even worse data numbers, “The median solo practitioner is making less than $35,000 per year.”  

So notwithstanding what one solo lawyer told me awhile ago about not having any interest in applying for a county judicial vacancy because “it would be a cut in pay,” there are a lot more lawyers, especially these days, who would consider the current judicial pay scale coupled with better-than-average pension benefits and good medical, dental and vision coverage an excellent gig. Not to mention the extraordinary job security. In more than 50 years of merit selection and judicial retention elections, only 3 judges have ever failed to receive the simple majority needed to keep their seats. It’s tantamount to lifetime tenure. And with a possible $15,000 raise in the offing — even better. Any wonder, then, that there’s never a lack of applicants — including by the way that one lawyer who said it’d be “a cut in pay.”

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Credits: Photos except the Cicero Cartoon are via Morguefile.com, no attribution required.Cicero denouncing Cataline (from The Comic History of Rome, c. 1850), Wikimedia Commons, by John Leech, public domain.

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