California, Land of the Fees - Voice of San Diego

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California, Land of the Fees

The State Bar recently sent out fee statements to California lawyers for 2020, which prompted Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to tweet that she was “not amused to be paying over $500 this year for the privilege of retaining my license to practice law.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez holds a press conference at Waterfront Park with supporters of AB 5. / Photo by Megan Wood

This post originally appeared in the Dec. 13 Sacramento Report. Get the Sacramento Report delivered to your inbox.

The State Bar recently sent out fee statements to California lawyers for 2020, which prompted Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to tweet that she was “not amused to be paying over $500 this year for the privilege of retaining my license to practice law.”

The Legislature approved legislation earlier this year allowing the bar to raise its fees from a combined $430 to $544, a 27 percent increase and the first fee hike the agency has received in roughly two decades. Attorneys are permitted to deduct up to $47 if they opt out of paying for certain items such as legal aid.

Though the union representing State Bar employees supported the fee increase, Gonzalez said she did not. The San Diego Democrat was listed as “no vote recorded” when the legislation came before the full Assembly in September after having backed the bill in policy committees during the summer.

Gonzalez said one reason for her frustration with the fee hike was that lawyers “who use their law degrees for the public good: to represent the poor, immigrants, incarcerated” must pay the same amount as “corporate attorneys who represent big business. And, if you work for a big firm, they pay your dues for you.”

“This regressive fee structure is a disincentive to do public interest law and should be corrected,” Gonzalez tweeted.

Her tweets sparked responses from those working in other professions, such as nursing, about the state licensing fees they face.

Gonzalez noted that State Bar fees are unique because they come before lawmakers annually, but said she is now interested in examining other fees due to responses her initial comments prompted.

Gonzalez’s spokeswoman said the lawmaker was not available for an interview to discuss licensing fees.

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