Updated: March 15, 2019

Board Opposes Legislation to Repeal State Bar Act

WSBA members,

Hopefully you are aware of Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1788; we have sent out information in Take Note newsletters and have been closely tracking the bill through the Board Legislative Committee. The bill repeals the majority of the Bar Act and recognizes the Washington Supreme Court’s plenary authority to regulate the practice of law (codifying what has already been established through decades of case law). It has passed out of the House (on a 96-1-1 vote) and will be heard in the Senate next Tuesday, March 19. The bill contemplates an implementation date of January 2020, in recognition of the Court’s Bar Structure Work Group.

Although the bill does not get rid of the bar per se, the board is concerned that the bill does not explicitly ensure the continued existence of the WSBA with all that entails. As such, the board has decided to oppose the bill. The full resolution reads: “Be it resolved that the WSBA Board of Governors is opposed to ESHB 1788 and any other attempt to amend or repeal the Bar Act until the Supreme Court Bar Structure Work Group has completed its work.” Board representatives will present this position to the Senate Law & Justice Committee at its hearing next week. The board also voted to revisit their stance depending on new amendment language being introduced in the Senate—hopefully constructed with input from the board—which may alleviate their concerns. Read the amendment language, the Senate bill report, the House fiscal note, the House bill digest, and the House bill report.

The board’s concerns about the bill include the long-standing history of the bar existing under its legislative charter, the necessity for such a bill at this time with uncertainty about the Bar Structures Work Group ahead, and the unknown ramifications of eliminating the bar as a legal entity.

We will keep you informed as the board continues to track and take action on ESHB 1788. Monitor the bill’s progress and to comment directly to law makers.

Thank you for your attention to this bill, which will shape your bar’s future.

March 15 Update: Board members Kyle Sciuchetti, Paul Swegle, Alec Stephens and Rajeev Majumdar will be the official representatives of the WSBA before the Senate Law & Justice Committee and to other legislators with regard to presentation of the resolution adopted March 12, 2019, opposing ESHB 1788 and with regard to the talking points for the WSBA’s position. The group shall develop the talking points for their presentation to the Senate Law & Justice Committee and to other legislators.

The Legislative Program

WSBA's Legislative Program is a year-round effort to share the expertise of the WSBA's more than 38,000 members with the state Legislature and its many stakeholders, subject to guidelines established by the Board of Governors and by state Supreme Court rule.

The WSBA's Outreach and Legislative Affairs (OLA) staff are responsible for advancing and maintaining positive and effective relations between the Bar, the Legislature, legislative stakeholders, and the executive branch of government. The OLA staff also spearhead and coordinate the Bar's efforts to protect the public and serve our members in legislative matters relating to the practice of law and the administration of justice. Our participation in the legislative arena includes both seeking passage of Bar-request legislation and also providing input on legislation introduced by others.

The OLA staff are guided by the Board of Governors' Legislation and Court Rule Comment Policy and General Rule 12.2, and serve as the internal and external point of contact on all legislative matters.

WSBA's Outreach and Legislative Affairs staff work closely with the following WSBA entities to further the Bar’s mission:

Board of Governors Legislative Committee

WSBA Legislative Review Committee

Other committees, boards, and councils

WSBA sections