Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/30/1998 01:25 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSSB 234(FIN) - BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF AK BAR ASSN                              
Number 0025                                                                    
CHAIRMAN GREEN announced the first order of business would be CSSB
234(FIN), "An Act extending the termination date of the Board of               
Governors of the Alaska Bar Association," sponsored by the Senate              
Labor and Commerce Committee.  He noted the board would be extended            
to the year 2000.                                                              
Number 0039                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER made a motion to amend page 1, line 6,             
delete "2000" and insert "2002".                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ETHAN BERKOWITZ objected.                                       
CHAIRMAN GREEN stated the amendment would extend the board from                
2000 to 2002.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ removed his objection.                                
CHAIRMAN GREEN announced Amendment 1 was adopted.                              
Number 0145                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES made a motion to move                           
HCS CSSB 234(JUD) out of committee with individual recommendations             
and with the attached zero fiscal note.                                        
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ objected for the purpose of discussion.               
He indicated he was going to offer some amendments.  He informed               
the committee he is a member of the Alaska Bar Association and it              
is very expensive.  He said, "The last survey that I know that the             
[Alaska] Bar [Association] made regarding its membership was                   
'90/'91.  It is time to survey the membership again.  The [Alaska]             
Bar [Association's] dues are among the most expensive in the state.            
The Bar examination is among the most expensive in the country and             
I don't - as a sole practitioner, I don't know exactly what I'm                
getting for my money.  I also take a little bit of offense to the              
fact that as a sole practitioner, my income stream is not as                   
guaranteed as say someone working for a large firm or working for              
the government.  And so if I opt to pay my [Alaska] Bar                        
[Association] dues in two increments, I have to pay a penalty for              
that.  Now that seems to be unfair.  People who need to pay in two             
increments probably are doing so out of reasons of poverty or cash             
flow and to penalize them for that condition is really unjust.  And            
I've spoken with the [Alaska] Bar Association on this and they have            
rationalizations for it, but it would seem appropriate for the                 
[Alaska] Bar [Association] to develop some kind of way of allowing             
graduated fees for its members.  It has more than $1 million in                
back trusts which seems to me should be used in some way to offset             
these or at least offset the cost of the [Alaska] Bar [Association]            
examination.  And I would just encourage the [Alaska] Bar                      
[Association] to use this opportunity to put out a survey so we are            
clear here in the legislature what it is the [Alaska] Bar                      
[Association] membership thinks the [Alaska] Bar [Association]                 
ought to be doing and ensure that the [Alaska] Bar [Association] is            
not overcharging.                                                              
Number 0294                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE said he thinks there should be a                      
resolution that indicates that the Alaska Bar Association is                   
definitely overcharging Mr. Obermeyer and they should stop stealing            
his money if they can't provide any service for him.                           
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated she understands the concern of                     
Representative Berkowitz and said she believes he should take it up            
with the Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association.                     
CHAIRMAN GREEN stated he thinks there is probably significant                  
support for Representative Berkowitz's position.                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ responded, "There is and occasionally, Mr.            
Chair, you get to use a 'bully pulpit,' so the Board of Governor               
pays more attention and I think they'd probably pay more  attention            
with my title wrap than they would with the little 'J.D.' after my             
name.  So I'm going to use this 'bully pulpit' to make that point."            
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said since she has been in the state, she has             
observed the number of attorneys and she doesn't believe there is              
a shortage.  She said she thinks they also seem to be doing pretty             
well.  Representative James said she doesn't know that she is so               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ informed the committee there is a wide                
range in remuneration for attorneys.  He said the last statistics              
he saw showed the average salary that an attorney makes is                     
somewhere in the $40,000 range.  Not all lawyers strike it rich and            
it is not the business to go into if you want to make money.                   
That's particularly true of lawyers in the public service and                  
lawyers who are doing public interest law.  He indicated he has to             
pay $450 a year regardless if he practices law or not.  The                    
alternative is go on inactive status which means if he wants to                
become active again, he has to retake the Alaska Bar examination               
which is not an experience he ever wants to repeat again.                      
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES pointed out that $450 is less than she has to             
pay to be a member of her rotary club.                                         
VICE CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if there were objections to moving                   
HCS CSSB 234.  There being none, HCS CSSB 234(JUD) moved out of the            
House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                            

Document Name Date/Time Subjects