Last year, the California legislature passed an atrocious UPL bill, Assembly Bill 888. You can read the details here and here, but the gist of it is that AB 888 would have greatly increased the autonomy and power of the State Bar in initiating UPL proceedings. It would have fed the Bar attorneys’ fees and fines, and was a blatant attempt to smother the nascent non-lawyer legal services industry with the threat of a barrage of UPL suits.
Fortunately, Governor Brown vetoed the bill, noting that existing consumer protection mechanisms in California are adequate to address the ills caused by UPL. We would have added that AB 888 was cynically waving the flag of consumer interest to support a bar-centric power and cash grab, but it’s hard to fault the governor for being diplomatic about his opposition.
Now AB 888 is back. Assembly Bill 852, from the makers of AB 888, is the same bill with a new paint job. The bill’s supporters have repeatedly misrepresented the contents and implications of AB 852. Supporters have falsely claimed that AB 852 has removed the provision awarding attorneys’ fees to the bar; it has not. Supporters claim that the governor’s objections have been taken into account; they have been sidestepped and ignored. Supporters of AB 852 claim that the bill is intended to protect the most vulnerable consumers in California’s legal services marketplace; in reality, AB 852 would stifle less expensive alternative sources of legal services, giving the bar increased power and financial incentive to enforce their stranglehold on the industry.
AB 852 is still in California’s legislature, but given the passage of AB 888, Responsive Law was not about to stand idly by. We wrote to California Governor Jerry Brown, urging him to veto AB 852 should it cross his desk. The California Bar and its allies in the legislature have attempted to pull a fast one on the Governor and on the people of California, apparently under the mistaken impression that no one will check their statements against the actual contents of the bill. We hope that the Governor, who was so astute in vetoing AB 888, will take a close look at AB 852 and veto it as well. Perhaps this time, the bill will stay dead.
You can read our letter to Governor Jerry Brown here.
Danny Foster is a Responsive Law intern.