The largest state bar in the country now requires its members to speak up if they know a lawyer who is involved in treason, rebellion, or insurrection.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 40 into law Tuesday, which amends existing law to add a requirement that lawyers inform the state bar if they know of attorneys in the state who engaged or conspired to engage in seditious conspiracy, treason, rebellion or insurrection, as defined by federal law.
“This bill would require a licensee to inform the State Bar if the licensee knows that another licensee has conspired to engage in, or has engaged in, in seditious conspiracy, treason, rebellion, or insurrection,” the law states.
Information protected by attorney-client privilege is exempted from the law, which also specifies that it would be considered professional misconduct for a lawyer to use its mandate to harass others.
It passed in September along party lines, with Democrats supporting the bill and Republicans opposing.
Senate Bill 40 also places the California State Bar under more oversight. Specifically, the California Senate must now approve the appointment of the organization’s executive director and general counsel.
The bill’s summary states that greater access to the legal system “is the highest priority for the State Bar,” and that should any conflicting interests arise, “the protection of the public is to be paramount.”
The law, which amends the State Bar Act, also governs routine matters, such as the collection of yearly license fees for California attorneys.
Sen. Thomas J. Umberg, D-Santa Ana, authored the bill. In the legislative summary, Umberg explained that some of the changes in the bill were precipitated by a recent audit of the State Bar’s handling of the Thomas Girardi scandal.
Girardi is the former mega-lawyer and ex-husband of a Real Houseives of Bevererly Hills star who was jailed for stealing millions from his clients and bribing other attorneys for over a decade. He was disbarred in 2022 for embezzling funds from families of the victims who died in the Lion Air Flight 610 crash in Indonesia.
The California State Bar is currently facing a class action lawsuit brought by former Girardi clients who blame it for allowing them to be defrauded.
Umberg slammed the Bar last March for its failure to protect California consumers.
“It’s mindboggling that the Bar as a whole not only utterly failed this task, but also conspired to conceal obvious misconduct on the part of at least this one lawyer — Tom Girardi,” said Umberg in reaction to the results of an audit of the bar’s involvement.
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