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