A new California law that will force lawyers to register with the state as a tax-exempt nonprofit could be the biggest change in the state’s criminal justice system in decades, according to an attorney who specializes in civil liberties.
“It’s the most sweeping changes I’ve ever seen,” said attorney Alexis Johnson, a partner at the law firm DLA Piper.
“This is a very large and very bold step forward in addressing the criminal justice problem.”
The law, AB 1186, is being introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray and Assemblyman Mike Gatto of the California State Assembly and could have broad implications for the state of California, where the legal profession is the largest employer in the nation.
It will create an independent nonprofit entity to handle criminal defense, including the hiring and firing of attorneys and how to hire and fire people.
The nonprofit group would not have the authority to take on or fire any employees or provide legal services, the new law says.
It also will be prohibited from engaging in any activity that directly or indirectly benefits or facilitates criminal activity.
It’s unclear whether it will have authority to perform civil judgments and other legal tasks, or even enforce the law in any way.
The law also would prohibit state agencies, including courts, from issuing any orders, issuing fines, or imposing civil penalties for violations of the law.
It could be used as a weapon against the profession, said Johnson, who has represented many defendants who have faced charges under the law and is a frequent critic of the justice system.
“There’s an overwhelming public sentiment that they’re getting screwed, and that this is really an attack on our profession,” Johnson said.
But the law is also likely to be seen by some as a major boon to the state-run California State Bar Association, which represents lawyers in the profession.
The association has faced a growing backlash from critics who say that the association is not doing enough to protect its members from wrongful convictions.
The association has been the target of multiple lawsuits, including one filed last year by a former California Supreme Court justice who claimed the association retaliated against him by firing him.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for governor in 2018, said the law will “make sure that every California resident has access to a fair, impartial and independent system of justice.”
“This is an important milestone in the fight to protect and protect the profession in California,” Harris said in a statement.
“It also underscores the importance of creating an independent, nonprofit entity that can provide legal assistance to all Californians.
The new nonprofit entity will be empowered to investigate and prosecute cases that could be devastating to innocent Californians.”
In an emailed statement, the association said it welcomes the new legislation and has no objection to the law’s general language, but said it has concerns about the law requiring registration with the State Bar of California and its use of a special public benefit.
“In its current form, the bill imposes a burdensome registration requirement on many lawyers who are already struggling to make ends meet,” said the association.
“Our lawyers may not be able to afford to keep up with the increased costs, but the costs of defending their clients in court are borne by taxpayers.
The Legislature should not force Californians to pay more than the statutory minimum for lawyers.”
The association’s statement said the organization has supported the California Bar Association’s legislative efforts to ensure that state law is fair and consistent.
The legislation also has broad implications.
It would give prosecutors the authority “to issue civil judgments or otherwise enforce the civil law in the State,” the association’s website says.
The law would also require that civil cases be settled within 90 days, according a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.
The California Attorney General’s Office declined to comment.
“This new legislation is a significant step forward to ensure the state provides the highest level of accountability for the actions of its lawyers,” said Gatto, who chairs the Assembly Criminal Justice Committee.
“In a state that has already moved to reform the criminal court system, this new law is a step in the right direction.”
The California State Attorney General said it would “provide clarity and certainty” to people and businesses about the criminal-justice system, which is “fundamentally broken.”
The new law “will ensure that the California state bar, the attorney-client privilege, and the criminal code are designed to be clear and consistent,” Gatto said.