Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Upheaval In California

The July 2011 California Bar Journal reported that Chief Trial Counsel James Towery has resigned after less than a year in the position:

Under Towery’s leadership, the office also initiated a number of high profile investigations advancing public protection. “I am honored to have served as the leader of trial counsel’s employees and I thank them all for their dedication to the cause of public protection, Towery added.

The State Bar faces “daunting challenges” in its future, including a significantly increased workload created by lawyer misconduct related to the mortgage crisis, Towery said. He said he would return to the San Jose legal community, “where I have been actively involved for over 30 years.”

Since 1986, when the chief trial counsel job was defined by statute, six people, including Towery, have held the job. Plans to identify a successor are underway.

Kafkaesq has this commentary on the Towery resignation.

Mr. Towery's appointment last year had been hailed as a positive step in California bar regulation.

Towery had been selected after his predecessor Scott Drexel had been denied a second four-year term in 2009. Commentary on the Drexel situation may be found here and here. Kafkaesq in the above link refers to the "madness" of the Drexel administration.

Crime & Federalism thought that the problem was that Mr. Drexel did his job too well:

The State Bar of California has sent out a memo: If you want to be the chief lawyer responsible for policing lawyer misconduct, do not actually police misconduct.  This is a wink-nod position.  Scott Drexel got the memo. 

The most essential element of every disciplinary regime is a competent and independent bar prosecutor. Whatever the reasons for the Drexel departure, the Towery resignation does not bode well for the future of the regulation of the legal profession in California.

We will be watching this situation. Those who are open to the idea that the status quo of self-regulation needs close scrutiny should monitor the California story as it unfolds.

If there are knowledgable observers of the situation who wish to post comments, we welcome your views. (Mike Frisch)


Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Upheaval In California:


The upheaval continues. Executive Director Joseph Dunn today fired four managers in the State Bar of California's Office of Chief Trial Counsel. Over a hundred years of collective institutional knowledge and experience gone. All four of these individuals had dedicated their professional lives to the mission of the discipline system. Now there should be no pretense that Towery's departure had anything to do with personal considerations but was merely the beginning of the purge. It's hard to see how this is going to make things better in the short run and in the long run, its hard to see why anyone with any talent would choose to be a manager in California's discipline system. It is hard to see this as anything but a ritual sacrifice to appease the Legislature. Things must truly be desperate behind the facade.

Posted by: David Cameron Carr | Jul 6, 2011 6:59:39 PM

I've just posted an analysis of the Towery purge:


The Senate had failed to confirm him after eleven months; disconfirmation would have become automatic after a year. Towery was critical of the new rules, which took effect in January.

Posted by: Stephen R. Diamond | Aug 6, 2011 11:26:27 AM

Still, they were providing much assistance to the total California Bar system. What do you think will happen next?

Posted by: California Bar | Aug 18, 2011 7:05:21 AM

Here's an analysis of the new California Rules of Procedure (which I think led to Towery's departure as Chief Trial Counsel):


The posting includes a reference to a 2009 New York State Bar study of the procedural rules in all U.S. jurisdictions.

Stephen R. Diamond

Posted by: Stephen R. Diamond | Aug 18, 2011 12:51:03 PM

Post a comment