SUMMARY OF: A Sunset Review of the Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association, November 4, 2008.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with the intent of Title 24 and Title 44 of the Alaska Statutes (sunset legislation), we have performed a review of the activities of the Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association (board). The purpose of this audit was to determine if there is a demonstrated public need for the continued existence of the board.

There are four objectives of our report. They are:

  1. To determine if the termination date for the board should be extended.
  2. To determine if the board is operating in the public’s interest.
  3. To determine if the board has exercised appropriate oversight of licensed members of the Alaska Bar Association.
  4. To provide a current status on the recommendations made in the prior report.

Report Conclusions

In our opinion, the termination date of the Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association should be extended. The regulation and licensing of qualified attorneys contributes to the protection of the public’s welfare.

The board, through the Alaska 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 disciplinary process designed to promote licensed individuals to act in a competent and professional manner. Chapter 58, SLA 2005 amended AS 08.03.020(c) to increase from four to eight years the period for which a board scheduled for termination may be continued or reestablished by the legislature. As such, we recommend that the legislature extend the termination date of the board to June 30, 2017.

We have also made recommendations that, if implemented, will improve the effectiveness of the board’s goals and operations. See the Findings and Recommendations section of this report.

Findings and Recommendations

The board’s prior sunset audit reported several administrative weaknesses. One of those recommendations has been resolved. The unresolved issues are reiterated in this report.

  1. The board should recommend to the Alaska Supreme Court that mandatory minimum continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys be adopted..The board voted at their September 7, 2006 meeting to send the mandatory CLE rule, as published, to the Alaska Supreme Court. Based on this rule, the Alaska Supreme Court amended Alaska Bar Rule 65 through Supreme Court Order No. 1640, to require all members to complete three credit hours of mandatory ethics continuing legal education (MECLE) per year.

    The mandatory ethics requirement does not fully achieve the goal of promoting competency and professionalism in members of the Alaska Bar Association (Bar). Although ethics education is part of the goal, requiring CLE as opposed to encouraging voluntary legal education will strengthen the public’s confidence that attorneys are professional and competent.

  2. The board should consider developing a database of disciplined lawyers in the Bar’s website.Although some steps have been taken in response to this recommendation, attorney discipline information is not yet available via link from the Bar’s website. We continue to believe the board should develop a database of disciplined lawyers to which the public is provided access via the Bar’s website.
  3. The board should adhere to existing public notice requirements for all meetings or modify the bylaws to clearly address conference call board meeting procedures and public notice requirements.