MEDIA CONTACT:  Diane Curtis   415-538-2028

San Francisco, June 04, 2009 — The State Bar of California announced today that the Board of Governors will seek a new chief trial counsel to head the bar's prosecution unit. The term of the current chief trial counsel, Scott Drexel, expires June 10.

"I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to serve as chief trial counsel and, especially, to have had the opportunity of working with such a dedicated and exceptional staff," Drexel wrote in a memo to his staff. "Our public protection mission has always been of paramount importance to me and I couldn't be more pleased with the results that we have achieved over the last four years."

During Drexel's tenure, said Robert Hawley, deputy executive director of the State Bar, the Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) "has achieved much. The public protection mission of the office has been enhanced over the last four years, and the board is committed to continuing the focus of the office on public protection." Richard Frankel, chair of the Regulation, Admissions and Discipline Committee, and the board, Hawley said, "have expressed a firm commitment to continuing the vigorous public protection policies of OCTC that have been put in place by Scott."

Drexel, 60, was appointed to the post in 2005 by the Board of Governors and confirmed by the California Senate. He came to the job after 16 years as chief court counsel and administrative officer for the State Bar Court. As chief trial counsel, he oversees more than 200 employees and a $40 million budget in the State Bar's disciplinary enforcement office, which includes the investigation and prosecution of attorneys for professional misconduct before the State Bar Court.

"Scott has served the State Bar well in many capacities over his long career here," said Hawley. "The State Bar is fortunate to have benefitted from his service and is grateful to him for his extraordinary commitment to the organization and to public protection."

Drexel noted that during his tenure as chief trial counsel, the case backlog has been lower than at any time since 1997, there has been a significant increase in the level of discipline in both stipulations and decisions and State Bar Court trials have been decided in the bar's favor more than 84 percent of the time. In addition, he said, the office has "made significant public improvements" in giving the public more information about disciplinary charges and State Bar Court decisions, in reforming the Alternative Discipline Program and in toughening the resignation process.

The current chief trial counsel position was created by statute in 1986. Since then, there have been five incumbents. The only one to be reappointed to a second term was Judy Johnson, who is now the State Bar's executive director. Johnson was reappointed in 1998, when the State Bar was in a fiscal crisis due to Governor Wilson's veto of the State Bar's fee bill. The State Bar had laid off most of its staff and had no budget. "Based on this history, it appears that reappointment is the exception rather than the rule," said Hawley.

Deputy Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner will serve as interim chief trial counsel until a successor to Drexel is named.

Founded in 1927 by the state legislature, the State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By June 2009, membership reached more than 222,000.