State of Alaska Division of Legislative Audit

41-20040-06

June 06, 2013
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SUMMARY OF: A Sunset Review of the Alaska Court System, Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association, November 28, 2005.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 and Title 44 of the Alaska Statutes, we have reviewed the activities of the Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association (Board). As required by AS 44.66.050(a), the legislative committees of reference are to consider this report during the legislative oversight process involved in determining if the Board should be reestablished. Currently, AS 08.03.010(c)(2) states that the Board will terminate on June 30, 2006. If the legislature does not extend the termination date, the Board will have one year to conclude its administrative operations.

Report Conclusions

In our opinion, the termination date for the Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association should be extended. The Board, through the Supreme Court, protects the public by ensuring that persons licensed to practice law are qualified. It also provides for the investigation of complaints and has established a discipline process designed to ensure that those licensed act in a competent and professional manner.

Alaska Statute 08.03.010(c)(2) requires that the Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association be terminated on June 30, 2006. Under AS 08.03.020, the board has a one-year period to administratively conclude its affairs. We recommend the legislature extend the Board’s termination date to June 30, 2014.

Findings and Recommendations

The Council’s prior sunset audit reported several administrative weaknesses. Two of those recommendations have been resolved. Those issues that have not been resolved are reiterated in this report.

Recommendation No. 1.

The Board should recommend to the Alaska Supreme Court that mandatory minimum continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys be adopted.

Continuing legal education for attorneys is only voluntary rather than required. The Supreme Court adopted a voluntary CLE under Bar Rule 65 in 1999. It encouraged all active members of the Alaska Bar Association (Bar) to complete at least 12 credit hours of approved CLE, including one credit hour of ethics.

Many professions require continuing education to maintain licensure in Alaska. For example, Alaska licensed dentists, doctors, pharmacists, and psychologists are all required to meet minimum continuing education standards.

Overall, we believe a mandatory minimum continuing legal education requirement will enhance the membership’s continued professional competence and raise the public’s confidence in attorneys. The Board should encourage the Supreme Court to adopt an Alaska Bar Rule requiring mandatory minimum continuing legal education.

Recommendation No. 2.

The Board should consider developing a database of disciplined lawyers in the association’s website.

While current procedures are adequate, the Board could increase efficient and effective communication of lawyer discipline to the public by publishing their discipline list on their website.

The Board should consider developing a database for the Bar’s website of the discipline imposed against lawyers. It will enhance public notification and client protection through increased accessibility of discipline information.

Recommendation No. 3.

The Board should adopt a due date for the annual report to ensure it is made available to the Supreme Court, the Legislature and the public on a timely basis.

The Board’s annual reports for the three years 2002 through 2004 were not prepared timely1. The adoption of a specific due date by the Board in its bylaws or standing policies should ensure the timely preparation of the Board’s annual report.

Auditor’s Comment

The attorney discipline system of the Bar is a self-regulatory function. Self-regulation has always been viewed skeptically by the citizenry. A majority of the board members is elected by the membership. The following options should be considered in a move away from attorney self-regulation:

  • Disciplinary investigation performed by Alaska Court System employees.
  • Place disciplinary function under the Supreme Court with a Disciplinary Board appointed by the court.

Footnotes

    1 – We considered completion of the annual report to be untimely if it was not completed within four months after the end of the calendar year.
ACS Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association
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