California’s Supreme Court has told the state bar, for the second time, to consider whether discrimination played a role in its decision to disbar a Black lawyer. In Harper on Discipline, six justices this week granted former El Cerrito solo practitioner Gregory Harper’s petition to review “whether the state bar’s facially neutral disciplinary practices … had the effect of discriminating against Harper on the issue of race.”
A California attorney who was disbarred two years ago when a state bar judge believed he practiced while suffering from bipolar disorder has been given an evidentiary hearing to determine whether his disbarment was discriminatory, the court concluded Friday. The California Supreme Court pointed to a 2019 study commissioned by the state bar that found Black men have historically been placed on probation and disbarred at rates three to four times higher than white men. Justices Allison H. Eid, Leondra R. Kruger, Ming W. Chin and Mariano-Florentine Cuéllar issued the unanimous opinion in State Bar v. Harper on Discipline.
According to the State Bar’s website, our organization is “the largest voluntary professional association in the world.” With more than half a million members, the state bar is headquartered in San Francisco with 70 district offices located state-wide. We also have 24 satellite offices in California and 70+ offices abroad as well. The state bar provides a wide range of legal services for members and the public, offers continuing legal education for attorneys, promotes understanding of the law among Californians, and supports other professional organizations.
I, Jon Divans,’ll admit, as a Black male attorney I was eager to read the opinion. California’s Supreme Court has told the state bar, for the second time, to consider whether discrimination played a role in its decision to disbar a Black lawyer. In Harper on Discipline, six justices this week granted former El Cerrito solo practitioner Gregory Harper’s petition to review “whether the state bar’s facially neutral disciplinary practices … had the effect of discriminating against Harper on the issue of race.” Disbarment, suspension, and public reprove are the most common outcomes listed in State Bar discipline statistics but include lesser sanctions, depending on the facts of each matter. State Bar Court
In February, Harper asked the court to review whether his disbarment was discriminatory. The court agreed and in August sent the case back to the state bar. But in its latest decision, issued Wednesday, the court said it is “not convinced that there is no reasonable possibility that discrimination was a factor” in Harper’s case.
The report found smaller differences for black female attorneys, compared to white female attorneys, as well as between male and female Hispanic attorneys and white male and female attorneys. Men were more likely to be disciplined than women, according to the report. “Statistics show that a higher percentage of men were disciplined
“The data suggest a potential problem with respect to discrimination on this issue,” according to research by Annette B. Ramirez-Valadez, an assistant professor at Stanford Law School, and Megan L. Hayman, professor of law at UC Hastings College of Law.
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