State’s black at­tor­neys 3 times more likely to be dis­ci­plined

Lodi News-Sentinel - - PAGE TWO - By An­drew Sheeler

Black male at­tor­neys are more likely to be dis­ci­plined than their white male coun­ter­parts, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port re­leased by the State Bar of Cal­i­for­nia.

The study ex­am­ined “pro­ba­tions, dis­bar­ments, and dis­ci­pline-re­lated res­ig­na­tions for the last 28 years for ap­prox­i­mately 116,000 at­tor­neys ad­mit­ted be­tween 1990 and 2009,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the State Bar.

Dur­ing that pe­riod, black male at­tor­neys had a pro­ba­tion rate of 3.2 per­cent, com­pared to 0.9 per­cent of white male at­tor­neys.

Sim­i­larly, black male at­tor­neys had a dis­bar­ment/res­ig­na­tion rate of 3.9 per­cent, com­pared to 1 per­cent for white male at­tor­neys.

The re­port found smaller dif­fer­ences for black fe­male at­tor­neys, com­pared to white fe­male at­tor­neys, as well as be­tween male and fe­male His­panic at­tor­neys and white male and fe­male at­tor­neys. Men were more likely to be dis­ci­plined than women, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The re­port also found a dis­crep­ancy in how banks re­ported non-suf­fi­cient fund ac­tiv­ity on client trust ac­counts. Banks were nearly twice as likely to re­port de­pleted ac­counts to the State Bar for black male at­tor­neys than for white male at­tor­neys, the study found.

Black male at­tor­neys were more likely to be sanc­tioned by the State Bar in part be­cause they were dis­pro­por­tion­ately more likely to be the sub­ject of a com­plaint to the bar, the study found.

This pre­sented a quandary for the study, be­cause most of those com­plaints came from mem­bers of the pub­lic.

“They are not a func­tion of the at­tor­ney dis­ci­pline sys­tem, per se,” ac­cord­ing to the sum­mary.

How­ever, even ad­just­ing for that, the re­port found that black male at­tor­neys were still more likely to be put on pro­ba­tion or dis­barred.

For every white male at­tor­ney to be dis­barred or re­sign, there were 1.6 black male at­tor­neys who also were dis­barred or re­signed.

That re­main­ing dis­crep­ancy can be ex­plained by sev­eral fac­tors, such as black male at­tor­neys be­ing less likely to have coun­sel present dur­ing in­ves­tiga­tive pro­ceed­ings, said State Bar Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Leah Wil­son.

“How can we build some struc­tural in­ter­ven­tion into our process so that even if you can’t af­ford coun­sel, you still ben­e­fit from the pro­tec­tions?” Wil­son said.

Black male at­tor­neys also were more likely to have a high vol­ume of com­plaints, which also fac­tors into the disciplina­ry process, she said.

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