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Critics: In California, many problem lawyers inadequately punished

In seeking to better protect the public against bad attorneys, it seems that the California State Bar of California has ended up doing precisely the opposite.

In fact, and notwithstanding the bar’s attempt to weed out and punish attorneys who have ripped clients off, there might well be more attorneys of that ilk now practicing in the state than ever before.

How worrisome is that to the general public?

Very worrisome, charge myriad and diverse critics.

“The state bar does not do in any shape or form, the kind of job [in disciplining lawyers] … that Californians deserve,” says a legal representative working with a watchdog group focused upon its performance.

And the comment, “We need to get our house in order” comes from no less than the bar’s chief operating officer, Leah Wilson.

In a nutshell, the problem is this, say many people who find the bar lacking in its promulgated strategy and oversight concerning attorney discipline: the bar acted too quickly in dealing with thousands of backlogged cases against problem lawyers over the past several years.

And it did so without committing the requisite resources required to do an adequate job.

The result has been widely termed as being both disappointing and obvious, to wit: Many truly bad lawyers who engaged in acts of legal malpractice against their clients ended up being only lightly punished, or sometimes not punished at all.

The bottom line in some instances has been that, instead of being disbarred for misconduct, some attorneys continue to practice, with adverse information relating to them being buried in their files and beyond public scrutiny.

Wilson vows improvement, saying that the bar will now focus “on fixing the underlying structural problems” that have fundamentally contributed to the lax discipline of high numbers of California attorneys.