The State Bar’s Governance in the Public Interest Task Force (GITPITF, according to State Bar President Holden) is meeting now and an interesting dialog is occuring between Ed Howard, an attoney with the Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) and the Task Force members, chiefly public member Dennis Mangers. Mr. Howard’s comments are unequivocal that it is the structure of the unified bar that consumer advocates consider offensive, not any slackness in the disciplinary system. Indeed, Mr. Howard could point to no specific evidence that the current discipline system is slack because it is operated by an unified bar. In response to Deputy Executive Director Roberg Hawley’s direct question as to the whether the unified bar was a fatally flawed structure, Mr. Howard argued that we must start the “state of nature” which simply can’t abide the mixing of the regulated and the regulators, something as apparently unnatural as a the lamb lying down with the lion. His metaphor is the Public Utilities Commission; we wouldn’t allow the executives of the largest utility companies to sit on that board, would we? Disconnection between the trade association side and the government regulation side is absolutely necessary. Then we can talk about what bridges (or “tunnels” as Mr. Howard to them, an interesting metaphor) for cooperation between the two sides.
Mr. Howard’s comments support this Big Truth: the lawyer regulation system bar is never going to be trusted as as long as it is perceived as a system where the regulated regulate the regulated, a point seemingly echoed in new Executive Director Elizabeth Parker’s comment about public perception. This is very difficult for lawyers to understand, because, in fact, as noted by public board member Dennis Mangers, some of the most ardent public protection zealots are the lawyers on the Board of Trustees! The irony is that the unified bar tilts the scale toward overzealous prosecution of lawyers, not toward leniency, a fact that might be ideologically difficult for the consumer advocacy side to accept, historically invested as they are in the “fox guarding the henhouse theory.”