Friday, June 5, 2009
Interlude 10. California State Bar Decapitated
The State Bar board of governors fired Chief Trial Counsel Scott J. Drexel yesterday. The discharge is effective next Wednesday; Drexel's contract won't be renewed. State Bar opponents can celebrate Drexel's fall as partly due to their efforts, but they shouldn't expect fundamental change in State Bar practices, which are rooted in its structure, its rules, the provisions of the State Bar Act, and the outlook of the national state-bar establishment.
Scott Drexel fell in a rift between the California State Bar establishment's prosecutorial and defense wings. The various grades of bar trial counsel support Drexel because he allowed the junior prosecutors to run rampant over attorneys' rights, but Drexel's retributionism hurt business for the State Bar's defense wing. Attorneys specializing in State Bar defense are predominantly former state-bar trial counsel. They remain genial with their erstwhile colleagues, who favor these tainted defense counsel in plea bargaining. The State Bar trades lesser discipline — truly an irrelevant consideration for most respondents, whose careers are destroyed by any public discipline — for respondents coached against contention. Under Drexel the deals have been fewer, disadvantaging the State Bar defense establishment and propelling it into a separate professional organization.
Likely the breaking point for the board of governors — which decided in an undemocratic closed meeting — was Drexel's attack on some lawyers as mortgage scammers. Drexel without clear authority required dozens of attorneys to answer inquiries, although he charged few.
Drexel prosecuted more often, seldom settled significant cases, and investigated extravagantly to justify the State Bar's budget during this economic depression. Unfortunately, more than expressing concessions to opponents of State Bar oppression, the rift between Drexel and the State Bar staff, on the one side, and the state-bar defense establishment and other attorneys whose income Drexel crimps, on the other, expresses interests competing for California's diminished fortunes.