Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 120

02/04/2009 01:00 PM JUDICIARY


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01:18:32 PM Start
01:18:53 PM Select Committee on Legislative Ethics
01:52:21 PM HB88
02:31:52 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Confirmation on Select Committee on TELECONFERENCED
Legislative Ethics
*+ HB 88 EXTEND BAR ASS'N BOARD OF GOVERNORS TELECONFERENCED
Moved Out of Committee
HB 88 - EXTEND BAR ASS'N BOARD OF GOVERNORS                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:52:21 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR DAHLSTROM  announced that the final  order of business                                                               
would be  HOUSE BILL  NO. 88, "An  Act extending  the termination                                                               
date of  the Board  of Governors of  the Alaska  Bar Association;                                                               
and providing for an effective date."                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:52:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JANE W.  PIERSON, Staff, Representative Jay  Ramras, Alaska State                                                               
Legislature,  explained  on   behalf  of  Representative  Ramras,                                                               
sponsor, that  HB 88  would extend the  termination date  for the                                                               
Board  of Governors  of  the Alaska  Bar  Association (ABA),  and                                                               
noted  that the  Division  of Legislative  Audit has  recommended                                                               
that the termination date for  the Board of Governors be extended                                                               
to June 30, 2017, which is the date proposed by the bill.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:54:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MITCHELL  A. SEAVER,  President, Board  of Governors,  Alaska Bar                                                               
Association (ABA),  opined that the  sponsor statement for  HB 88                                                               
succinctly  sets forth  the  duties  of the  ABA,  that being  to                                                               
screen applicants  for admission  to the  ABA, and  to discipline                                                               
members of  the ABA  to ensure that  they adhere  to professional                                                               
standards.  Both  of those activities are  subject to supervision                                                               
by the  Alaska Supreme Court.   The ABA is also  responsible for,                                                               
or  involved  in, a  wide  number  of activities,  including  fee                                                               
arbitration,   handling  disputes   between  clients   and  their                                                               
lawyers,  lawyer referral  services,  continuing legal  education                                                               
(CLE), promoting pro bono legal  services to low-income Alaskans,                                                               
and maintaining a  fund that reimburses those  clients damaged by                                                               
an the dishonest acts of an attorney.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. SEAVER noted that through the  efforts of the ABA's staff and                                                               
countless volunteers, the  aforementioned functions are performed                                                               
without any cost  to the State of Alaska.   He observed that this                                                               
is  the third  time in  the  past four  years that  the Board  of                                                               
Governors  has been  before the  legislature  regarding a  sunset                                                               
extension; each of  the prior times, an  eight-year extension was                                                               
recommended,  but  only shorter  extensions  were  approved.   He                                                               
concluded by indicating that the  Board of Governors would prefer                                                               
to be granted the eight-year extension.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:58:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
STEPHEN J. VAN  GOOR, Bar Counsel, Alaska  Bar Association (ABA),                                                               
mentioned  that he  has been  impressed with  the dedication  and                                                               
willingness  of  the Board  of  Governors  to  take on  the  very                                                               
difficult  issues that  it's confronted  with, not  the least  of                                                               
which  involves disciplining  members of  the ABA;  the Board  of                                                               
Governors is  dedicated to the timely  and complete investigation                                                               
and   prosecution  of   complaints  against   ABA  members,   and                                                               
ultimately such cases  are reviewed by the  Alaska Supreme Court.                                                               
He remarked  that the ABA  is small compared to  bar associations                                                               
in other  states, and  that although Alaska  has a  difficult bar                                                               
exam, it's  one that's designed to  illustrate minimal competence                                                               
to  practice law,  knowledge of  Alaska law,  an ability  to spot                                                               
issues, and an  ability to thoroughly explain a  legal problem in                                                               
a manner expected of a lawyer.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. VAN GOOR encouraged the  committee to recommend the extension                                                               
of  the  Board  of  Governors'   sunset  date.    The  [Board  of                                                               
Governors] is  functioning according  to statute, he  opined, and                                                               
noted that  it is accountable  to the  Alaska Supreme Court.   In                                                               
response  to a  question,  he explained  that every  disciplinary                                                               
case that comes before the  Board of Governors is considered both                                                               
by the  lawyers elected to  serve on it  and by the  three public                                                               
members  appointed to  serve on  it;  furthermore, under  current                                                               
rules,  at least  one  of  the three  members  chosen  to hear  a                                                               
particular  disciplinary  case  must  be a  public  member.    He                                                               
characterized the  participation of  the public members,  both in                                                               
such hearings  and on  the Board  of Governors  in general,  as a                                                               
tremendous asset  in that  it brings  a different  perspective to                                                               
the Board of  Governors.  He assured the committee  that there is                                                               
oversight   sufficient   to    ensure   that   the   professional                                                               
responsibilities of  the Board  of Governors  are being  met, and                                                               
surmised that  it is the lawyers  themselves who are in  the best                                                               
position to  assess whether another lawyer's  actions violate the                                                               
rules  of  professional  conduct,   since  a  certain  degree  of                                                               
expertise  is   required  in  order  to   understand  the  issues                                                               
involved.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. VAN GOOR, in response  to comments, explained that cases come                                                               
before the disciplinary board of  the Alaska Supreme court in one                                                               
of  two ways:   the  cases are  either prosecuted  in front  of a                                                               
hearing committee,  or "we" present  a stipulated  disposition to                                                               
the  disciplinary board  and then  to the  Alaska Supreme  Court.                                                               
Either  way, there  is  public input,  which  has been  extremely                                                               
valuable.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  referred to  Recommendation No. 3  in the                                                               
Division of  Legislative Audit's  report regarding  Audit Control                                                               
Number 41-20057-08:  "The board  should adhere to existing public                                                               
notice  requirements for  all meetings  or modify  the bylaws  to                                                               
clearly  address conference  call  board  meeting procedures  and                                                               
public   notice   requirements."      He   asked   whether   that                                                               
recommendation has been discussed by the Board of Governors yet.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:07:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  VAN  GOOR  said  he'd  drafted  some  bylaw  amendments  for                                                               
consideration by the  Board of Governors at  its January meeting;                                                               
the  Board   of  Governors  voted   to  publish   those  proposed                                                               
amendments for  member comment,  and so  he is  anticipating that                                                               
the amendments will be back before  the Board of Governors at its                                                               
May meeting.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  referred to  Recommendation No. 2  in the                                                               
Division of  Legislative Audit's  report regarding  Audit Control                                                               
Number  41-20057-08:   "The board  should  consider developing  a                                                               
database of disciplined lawyers in the Bar's website."                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  VAN GOOR  relayed  that the  Board of  Governors  is in  the                                                               
process of revising its database  so that such information can be                                                               
displayed on its web site.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL, referring  to language on page  19 of the                                                               
aforementioned report, asked how  the Board of Governors promotes                                                               
reform in the law and in judicial procedure.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
2:09:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DEBORAH  O'REGAN,  Executive  Director,  Alaska  Bar  Association                                                               
(ABA), indicated  that such reform  is mostly promoted  via court                                                               
rules  and  amendments  to  them.   In  response  to  a  question                                                               
regarding language  on pages 13-14 of  the aforementioned report,                                                               
she said that  the Lawyers' Fund for Client  Protection (LFCP) is                                                               
not something  that would be  administered by a  state regulatory                                                               
agency,  nor is  the  fee arbitration  process  or the  mediation                                                               
process  or  the  Interest  on   Lawyer  Trust  Accounts  ("IOLTA                                                               
funds").   Sometimes,  she noted,  lawyer  referral services  are                                                               
provided by  private organizations,  but the ABA  isn't competing                                                               
with such organizations because there are  so many ways to find a                                                               
lawyer, particularly  with the advent  of the Internet.   Most of                                                               
the aforementioned  services wouldn't  be provided by  anybody if                                                               
the weren't provided  by the ABA.  In response  to a comment, she                                                               
clarified that  although the  ABA doesn't  require lawyers  to do                                                               
pro bono work, it  does have a pro bono director  whose job it is                                                               
to convince lawyers to do more pro bono work.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG referred to  Recommendation No. 1 in the                                                               
Division of  Legislative Audit's  report regarding  Audit Control                                                               
Number 41-20057-08:   "The board  should recommend to  the Alaska                                                               
Supreme  Court  that  mandatory  minimum  CLE  for  attorneys  be                                                               
adopted."  He asked Ms. O'Regan to comment.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  O'REGAN  explained  that  because of  a  recent  court  rule                                                               
change, lawyers  will now have  to have completed three  hours of                                                               
Mandatory Ethics CLE (MECLE) by  December 31, and must now report                                                               
the hours they've  completed.  The ABA anticipates  being able to                                                               
provide the Alaska Supreme Court  with some statistics around mid                                                               
April.   In response  to questions, she  said she  envisions that                                                               
the Board of  Governors will continue recommending  to the Alaska                                                               
Supreme Court that  it mandate 12 hours of CLE,  but noted that a                                                               
current  Board  of  Governors  cannot  bind  a  future  Board  of                                                               
Governors.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  mentioned that  some states'  bars have                                                               
started to provide programs in specialized fields of law.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. O'REGAN  relayed that  the Board  of Governors  had discussed                                                               
this issue  in the past, but  decided that the ABA  was too small                                                               
of an association to be  able to provide effective specialization                                                               
certification  and  so  chose instead  to  simply  recognize  the                                                               
specialization granted at the national  level by the American Bar                                                               
Association.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  VAN GOOR,  in response  to  a question,  relayed that  [Rule                                                               
7.4(b)] of the Alaska Rules of Professional Conduct says:                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     (b) a lawyer  may communicate the fact  that the lawyer                                                                    
     has been  certified as a  specialist in a field  of law                                                                    
     by a named organization or  authority, but only if that                                                                    
     certification   is  granted   by  an   organization  or                                                                    
     authority  whose  specialty  certification  program  is                                                                    
     accredited by the American Bar Association.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:24:57 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. PIERSON, in  response to a question about  the effective date                                                               
clause,  explained that  the Board  of Governors  has a  one-year                                                               
wind  down period  and so  could continue  to operate  until 2010                                                               
should HB 88 not be enacted.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  questioned whether the title  should be                                                               
altered such  that it too would  stipulate a sunset date  of June                                                               
30, 2017.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
VICE  CHAIR DAHLSTROM  expressed a  preference for  moving HB  88                                                               
from  committee  as  it's currently  written,  and  suggested  to                                                               
Representative Gruenberg that he  discuss any possible amendments                                                               
with the sponsor  before the bill is heard in  its next committee                                                               
of referral.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL, expressing  an  interest in  maintaining                                                               
legislative  oversight, said  he is  not yet  convinced that  the                                                               
sunset date should be 2017.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES  pointed out  that the [Board  of Governors                                                               
of  the] ABA  has  offered  to provide  the  legislature with  an                                                               
update every  year, but  the chairs  of the  judiciary committees                                                               
chose not  to take advantage of  that offer last year  because of                                                               
scheduling conflicts.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:31:26 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  moved to  report HB  88 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.   There being no  objection, HB  88 was reported  from the                                                               
House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Dennis Skip Cook.pdf HJUD 2/4/2009 1:00:00 PM
Constiuent info ltrs - Obermeyer .pdf HJUD 2/4/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB88 Sponsor Statement.pdf HJUD 2/4/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB 88
HB88 2007 AK Bar Annual Report.pdf HJUD 2/4/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB 88
LB&A ABA 2008 Review p1-16.pdf HJUD 2/4/2009 1:00:00 PM
LB&A ABA 2008 Review p17-34.pdf HJUD 2/4/2009 1:00:00 PM
LB&A ABA 2008 Review p.35-46.pdf HJUD 2/4/2009 1:00:00 PM
Herman G Walker.pdf HJUD 2/4/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB88 version A.pdf HJUD 2/4/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB 88