The continuing soap opera (or “telenovela” in the words of one discipline defense counsel of long experience) that is the State Bar of California delivered a surprising sequel this last Monday with filing of a 40 page whistleblower complaint by a veteran State Bar investigator and acting manager of investigations against Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim. It was leaked by to the Los Angeles Daily Journal just a few days after a plurality of employees in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel voted “no confidence” in Ms. Kim. The complaint alleges that State Bar complaints against new State Bar President David Pasternak were improperly closed by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel instead of being assigned to outside counsel. The whistleblower promises further revelations.-
Poor labor-management relations are not new at the State Bar; the attorney unit in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel went on strike in 1986. But nothing has ever occurred like this outright insurrection. To paraphrase another State Bar discipline defense counsel of long experience, just when you think it can’t get any weirder, it gets weirder.
There are parallels with the State Bar’s situation in 1986. The labor dispute that year was resolved after SEIU appealed to its allies in Sacramento. At the same time, the State Bar was fighting in Sacramento to maintain its existence and keep the disciipline function. The State Bar survived with massive reform of the discipline system under the guidance of Prof. Fellmeth.
At this point speculation about what the next shoe to drop will be is a waste of energy. We can only be sure that there will be a next shoe. After a few decades of close observation, State Bar fatigue starts to set in. Marx said history repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce. This telenovela reached the second phase some time ago. But the real world tragedy continues.: the important mission of the professional discipline prosecutors is continually impeded by the politics and mismanagement of the State Bar.
So we wait for the next episode with an appropriate sense of dread on the eve of dia de muertos. Manténganse al tanto!