About a month ago I read a short article about two things happening in California related to the appearance of bias in the state's disciplinary system. I meant to write about it, but for one reason or another I didn't... So now I am.
Back in 2019, the California State Bar discussed a study that concluded that there is evidence of disparities in the disciplinary process based on race and law firm size. The study found significant differences between discipline rates of Black male and white male attorneys and between those of sole practitioners and attorneys in large firms. You can read a summary of the study here. A second study, commissioned to review the first one, confirmed the findings and made some recommendations.
In response, the Board of Trustees of the State of California created an Ad Hoc Commission on Lawyer Discipline to review the disciplinary system and to make recommendations for changes. Presumably, that commission is active. That's the first thing that is happening.
Meanwhile, the other thing that is happening, is that a disciplinary case has made its way through the courts and was recently remanded to the State Bar Hearing Department for further evidentiary hearings to determine whether the State Bar’s disciplinary practices had the effect of discriminating against the lawyer on the basis of race.
I am really interested to see what happens next in this case. The debate on whether there is some type of bias based on race, gender and/or firm size is not new, and I am happy to see that something is being done about it.