What are We Solving?

The Arizona Bar is an efficient, effective, and swift association. It avoids political stands, polices its own, and improves legal processes. What problem are we solving by changing it?

Unified Bars

Unified Bars, originally proposed to identify and better regulate lawyers within a particular jurisdiction, have been in place since 1921.

What is a Unified Bar?

The State Bar of Arizona is one of our nation’s 32 integrated state bars, or unified bars, meaning that membership is mandatory in order to practice law in Arizona.

Save the State Bar

Friends,

Many of us were surprised to learn that the Arizona State Bar was almost disbanded last year. In 2015, a bill in the Arizona House of Representatives that would have eliminated the Arizona State Bar came within one vote of passing. And we were equally surprised to learn of a proposed amendment to the State Constitution that would have subjected Supreme Court rule-making “to amendment by the legislature….” (SCR 1002 2015) (Although this did not make it out of committee, if it had passed it would have been submitted to voters as a proposition to change the State Constitution).

Now there are several bills proposed in the legislature that erode the independence of the judicial branch. One of the bills is a reintroduction of the bill that would have eliminated the State Bar and essentially forced the Arizona Supreme Court to assume some of the duties now performed by the Arizona State Bar. (HR 2219). Another bifurcates the State Bar into mandatory and voluntary functions. (HB 2221). Another bill would reduce judicial salaries to match those of state legislators. (HB 2039). This bill would also eliminate merit selection of trial and appellate judges, force them to campaign for election, and reduce judicial terms from six to four years. (HB 2039).

Reasonable minds may disagree about how lawyers should be regulated, how the Arizona State Bar should operate, how judges should be selected and compensated, and so on. But fundamentally, these questions belong to the judiciary and not to any other branch of government. As lawyers, it is our duty to remain vigilant and resist these legislative intrusions.

Some quick history. The Arizona State Bar was created in 1933. In 1973 the Arizona Supreme Court took over jurisdiction. In 1985 the Legislature “sunsetted” the original State Bar Act of 1933 leaving the Bar and lawyers under the control of the Arizona Supreme Court. 

Our position is simple. We believe that attorney licensing and regulation is the exclusive province of the independent Judicial Branch in Arizona. The Arizona Supreme Court controls the attorneys that appear before all Arizona Courts and practice law in Arizona. Therefore, the Arizona Legislature does not have the authority to abolish or change the Arizona State Bar. Only the Arizona Supreme Court has that authority. 

By the way, this is not a cheerleading page for the Arizona State Bar. You don’t have to love (or even like) the Arizona State Bar to support this message. Some of the people who have listed their names as supporters on this website like the bar. Some don’t. We recognize that some of our colleagues are critical of the State Bar. But we would caution them about the long term repercussions of inviting the legislature to override the Supreme Court. There are avenues available to change and improve the State Bar that are not as drastic and risky as allowing the legislature to institute those changes.

The question is not whether you like or dislike the bar. The question is whether or not you believe in an independent Judicial Branch — one that is imbued with the authority to license and regulate attorneys, to select judges, to promulgate court rules, and so on. 
 
Put another way, we do not view this issue as a pro-bar or anti-bar issue. Rather, the issue is which branch of government has the authority to make these decisions.

Presumably the Supreme Court wants to keep the status quo. After all, they have the authority to disband or change the bar any time it sees fit. The Legislature should not be allowed to dictate to the independent Judicial Branch.


Please take a look at the rest of this site and then take a minute to email your representatives and let them know what you think.

We hope you will join us and support the authority of the Arizona Supreme Court on this critical issue.

Thanks!

Alex Lane


Please see our page of arguments for maintaining an integrated State Bar

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