90th Installment. Behind the James Towery Ouster: California State Bar Gets Even Worse
Nobody quite knows why James Towery—the replacement for ousted extremist Scott Drexel—resigned on July 1, one year into his term as chief trial counsel for the California State Bar. Publicly, Towery blamed the resignation on the logistics of his commute from his San Jose residence, but the subsequent firing of four managers by the State Bar’s executive director, Joseph Dunn, convinced even David Cameron Carr, leader of the State Bar defense establishment, that the so-called resignation—precipitated by the California Senate’s failure to confirm after eleven months—was the beginning of a purge.
Yes, but who comprise the factions? Immediately following Drexel’s ouster, kanBARoo court surmised that the State Bar defense establishment spearheaded it. But the Towery purge wasn’t the prosecutory bar’s revenge. At issue—what to do about the huge backlog created by Drexel’s excesses (as well as some of Towery’s in the foreclosure arena).
Towery’s contention with the State Bar’s political leadership centered on the new rules, effectuated in January 2011. In his public comment on the proposals, Towery—while pretending a general sympathy with the rules—opposed all the major proposed changes:
- Eliminate most discovery from State Bar court proceedings
- Remove the Evidence Code in disciplinary proceedings, replacing it with the rules prevailing in administrative courts
- Automatically disbar defaulting respondents
Towery submitted (verbatim) the following criticisms in August 2010 after the Board of Governors allowed extra time for public comment to allow the new chief trial counsel to submit a response:
- As for discovery, each party should continue to be allowed at least one deposition of a nonexpert witness and without court approval;
- Unlimited depositions of expert witnesses;
- Parties should be allowed to take depositions of out-of-state witnesses;
- Parties should have the right to unlimited depositions in reinstatement and moral character cases;
- As for the evidence standard, reliability and predictability of evidence is best served employing the high standards and safeguards of the Evidence Code;
- The relaxed standard of evidence would permit parties to offer large quantities of hearsay testimony and documents
- APA hearsay objections can be lodged but not ruled upon until just prior to submission;
- Outside training for judges and OCTC counsel may help with the undue consumption of time pertaining to evidentiary objections.
But these comments don't address the backlog. Towery's alternative for cleaning it up might have been the "fire sale on settlements" disavowed by Executive Director Dunn, an alternative bound to be unpopular with the State Bar's prosecutory wing—and wildly popular with the State Bar defense establishment (the "respondent bar," who participate in deliberations.)