A Mid-Term Report
by Gus Chin
The beginning of the new year marks the midpoint of the 2006-2007 Bar Commission year. I am pleased to report that the Bar is financially sound. The purpose of this mid-term report is to make you aware of some of the issues addressed to date.
Last year the Supreme Court requested that the Bar undergo an operational review and audit by an independent organization to evaluate the policies, structure, and staffing of the Bar, governance of the Bar, and the core areas of admissions, discipline, member benefits and continuing legal education. Grant Thornton started the process last year and will present its findings and recommendations at our January 26, 2007 commission meeting.
Quarterly, the President, President-Elect and Executive Director meet with the Chief Justice to report and discuss issues of concern. On November 9, 2006, Lowry Snow, John Baldwin and I met for the second time with Chief Justice Christine Durham. Among the matters discussed were judicial salaries, judicial independence, malpractice insurance disclosure, mentoring, and the Office of Professional Conduct’s diversion program.
As a Bar, we are fortunate to have a quality judiciary. We especially benefit from the members of the judiciary who serve on committees and panels, and participate at our conventions and various CLE events. Recently, fifteen judges from the federal, state appellate, and state district court benches participated in our Fall Forum, a one-day conference held on November 3, 2006. Their participation was well received by the approximately 530 attendees.
Of special note, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Utah Court of Appeals. Four of the original seven judges appointed in 1987 still serve on the Utah Court of Appeals.
Relationship with the Legislature
We consider our relationship with the Legislature to be an important part of our mission. The 2007 Legislature will have twelve members of our Bar serving in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Accordingly, this month, the Bar Commission will sponsor a constitutional law class for new legislators, and will meet both with our lawyer legislators and with our House and Senate leaders. Our Governmental Relations Committee, co-chaired by Lori Nelson (a member of the Executive Committee) and Scott Sabey (who also serves on the Judicial Council) will actively review upcoming legislation. With input from our Governmental Relations Committee, the Bar Commission will meet via telephone conference several times during the session to adopt positions on legislation that impacts practice areas and our profession.
The Law Student Division
The newly-formed Law Student Division is now fully operational. Our first two Bar Commission meetings were held at the S.J. Quinney College of Law and the J. Reuben Clark Law School to introduce the newly-created division and to interact with the students. We are hopeful that this will give the law students who make up the majority of our annual new admittees an opportunity for networking and mentoring, as well as an introduction to the practice of law. We encourage our members, especially sections, committees, and regional and local bar associations, to include interested law students in their activities.
Malpractice Insurance – Mandatory Disclosure
Last year, given the response by our members, the Commission tabled action on the subject of mandatory insurance disclosure. However, this subject continues to be an item of concern. An increasing number of states are advocating mandatory disclosure in the interests of client protection as well as professional obligation, subject to appropriate exemptions for particular types of practice.
California is the most recent state to draft a mandatory disclosure proposal. If adopted, the California State Bar will be among 21 states, including Idaho, that have some type of mandatory disclosure. The Bar Commission will be discussing mandatory disclosure at its January meeting at the Law and Justice Center.
With 9000 members, communication is important. The Bar Journal, conventions, CLE events, and regular e-bulletins are the primary means of communication with our members. Additionally, in an effort to keep you well informed, a copy of the agenda for each Bar Commission meeting will be posted on the Bar’s web page for your perusal. The Bar Commission is mindful of the concerns and expectations of our members. We rely on you, however, to inform us about your concerns and expectations so that we can adequately and appropriately address them.
At our January meeting, the Bar Commission will further discuss a proposed Diversion Rule that will enhance the Office of Professional Conduct’s current diversion program. In select cases, the diversion program will provide for educational, remedial, and rehabilitative opportunities for Bar members facing possible discipline.
Ethics Advisory Opinion
At our December meeting, we discussed the current rule whereby a published opinion of the Ethics Advisory Committee (“EAC”) is considered to be binding on Bar members and the Office of Professional Conduct (“OPC”). The Supreme Court is concerned about judicial review of EAC opinions consistent with its constitutional authority over Bar discipline. Craig Mariger, EAC Chair, Gary Sackett, an EAC member, and Billy Walker, Senior Counsel for OPC, addressed the Commission. The Commission also discussed the principle of safe harbor when a member relies on a published opinion. The Commission will reply to the Supreme Court and await its response.
Access to Justice
Access to justice is an ongoing concern, especially when we are reminded about unmet legal needs, including the needs of self-represented parties. Our legal service providers and others need our assistance in meeting the legal needs and demands of our community.
During the recent renewal cycle, our members voluntarily reported a total of 150,844.9 pro bono hours. We applaud those who contribute their time and means, and who encourage others to do likewise. In the near future, we anticipate a report from a Pro Bono Review Committee, chaired by Herm Olsen, with an assessment of pro bono activity by our members as well as a proposal of how the Bar can improve pro bono efforts.
In September, members of the Committee on Resources for Self-Represented Parties, a Judicial Council standing committee, reported their findings and discussed their recommendations. Some of their recommendations include resources for self-represented parties, making forms available, court-sponsored clinics and workshops, and low-fee and no-fee representation opportunities. A Bar Commission committee chaired by Nate Alder will present its analysis of the recommendations.
Several Years ago, the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Fairness made a series of recommendations to the Bar as well as other organizations. Yvette Diaz, a member of the Executive Committee, and a Third Division Commissioner will report on the Bar’s performance and related matters.
A presentation by Alan Sullivan at the Commission’s December meeting reinforced interest in mentoring. Several Commissioners have agreed to participate on a committee co-chaired by Rod Snow and Margaret Plane to examine mentoring and practical training as a means of improving the preparation and practice skills of new lawyers.
In closing, I wish to express appreciation to the Bar staff, the members of the Board of Bar Commissioners, and the leaders of the many sections, committees, and regional, local, and specialty bars who diligently serve our profession. Their voluntary, timeless dedication makes it a privilege to serve as your Bar President.