May 20-21, 2021
The WSBA Board of Governors determines the Bar’s general policies and approves its annual budget.
Note: Because of public directives to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the April 2021 meeting was held in a virtual-only format.
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TOP MEETING TAKEAWAYS
New WSBA leadership. Congratulations to these newly elected WSBA leaders who will begin their terms in October: Daniel D. Clark, current WSBA treasurer and District 4 Governor, will serve as president-elect; and Jordan L. Couch will serve as the at-large young lawyer Board member.
Proposed Rules for Discipline and Incapacity: Comment now! Upon request from the Board of Governors, the Washington Supreme Court has extended the comment period for proposed amendments to the rules governing the discipline and incapacity systems for all license types. These amendments, known as the Rules for Discipline and Incapacity (RDI), would replace the existing disciplinary procedural rules with a single rule set for all licenses. The stated goals of the amendments are to streamline the disciplinary process by eliminating and/or modifying certain rules to make the process more efficient, and to obtain more consistent decisions on discipline matters that were not purportedly achieved through the use of volunteer hearing officers. Some of the criticisms of the proposed amendments are about the use of paid adjudicators, the selection of paid adjudicators by the WSBA, and the inability of parties to remove an assigned adjudicator without cause. Others are concerned that the proposed amendments do away with the option to issue an advisory letter or an admonition in lieu of authorizing the filing of formal charges, provide a respondent only 15 days to respond to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s request for authorization to file formal charges, and increase the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s discretion in the way grievances are processed in a number of respects. These are some of the highlights of the proposed changes; there are others as well. Members are encouraged to read the proposed changes and to submit comments to the Supreme Court via email@example.com. For more information, visit http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/.
Equity, diversity, and inclusion training. With acknowledgment of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and recent conviction of Derek Chauvin, President Sciuchetti recognized the continued need for systemic equity work. The Board discussed its ongoing training with social equity consultant ChrisTiana ObeySumner.
And the envelope, please … The Board approved the full slate of 2021 APEX (Acknowledging Professional Excellence) Award winners! We will reveal the names of the award winners soon, as well as full details of the APEX Awards celebration in September.
Legal Regulatory Sandbox. The Practice of Law Board (POLB) presented information about its initiative to request that the court create a Legal Regulatory Sandbox in Washington to evaluate and gather data about online legal service providers and other innovative business structures. By the time of its meeting with the Washington Supreme Court in July, the POLB will have a draft plan focused on how to admit to the sandbox—and then closely monitor—innovative legal service providers that close the access-to-justice gap with relatively low risk to consumers. Look for more information in the summer as the court and Practice of Law Board continue the discussion.
Budget and Audit updates. The Board selected audit firm Clark Nuber to perform the next five cycles of annual audits and approved the Budget and Audit Committee’s recommendation to increase the WSBA restricted facilities fund by $500,000.
Council on Public Defense Matters. The Council successfully presented for approval its guidance in response to greatly increased public-defense caseloads due to the pandemic; that guidance includes recommendations for cities and counties to consider using newly available federal funds to increase defender resources. The Board noted that its support of public-defense work does not preclude other entities from coming forward with similar requests. The Board also approved for submission to the Supreme Court several changes and amendments including: a new General Rule and amendments to Standards for Indigent Defense Services, CrR 3.1, and JuCR 9.2, concerning the independence of public defense.
The Board also:
- Heard a report from the Board of Bar Examiners.
- Heard a first reading of a suggested revision to Admission and Practice Rule (APR) 9, proposed by Washington’s law schools, to expand eligibility to become licensed legal interns to second-year J.D. students enrolled in clinical law courses; the Board will work with the law schools on potential edits before coming back for a vote (to send the proposal to the Supreme Court for approval) in July.
- Supported a request from the Committee on Professional Ethics to withdraw a proposed amendment to RPC 7.2 and 5.4 (to clarify that not-for-profit qualified lawyer referral service organizations may receive a portion of the lawyer’s fee) so the Committee can revise the proposed amendments consistent with recent RPC changes.
- Heard about the future of work at the WSBA, including plans to shift to a more remote workforce and potentially sublet portions of its downtown office space.
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The agenda, materials, and video recording from this Board of Governors meeting, as well as past meetings, are online here: www.wsba.org/about-wsba/who-we-are/board-of-governors.
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