Law News

Deadbeat Dads Hit By the Bar

By Mike Mckee
The Recorder/Cal Law
June 29, 1999

There's something about the threat of losing a license to practice that gets deadbeat lawyer dads -- and lawyer moms -- to cough up that money they owe for child support.

As it does once a year, the State Bar is preparing its list, and checking it twice, of lawyers whose licenses will be recommended to the California Supreme Court for suspension -- absent last-minute checks in the mail.

As of last week, said Elyse Cotant, the Bar's manager of membership, 58 lawyers were on the list. They had been given notice twice -- once in February and again in May -- and will be suspended from practice on Aug. 23, unless they've obtained a release from a local district attorney saying they've made their payments.

If all goes as usual, Cotant said, only about 20 will be placed on suspension. "As our members contact the district attorneys' offices and clear matters up, the DAs will drop them from the list," she said.

The Bar suspended 14 lawyers in 1993, the year the Child and Family Support Program was adopted by the Legislature, Cotant said. That went up to 21 in 1994, she said, 29 in 1995, 22 in 1996, 29 in 1997 and about 20 last year (exact 1998 figures aren't available because of last year's Bar shutdown).

Names are kept confidential until suspensions are official. Licenses can be restored once payments are made and confirmed by DAs.

Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, sponsored the program in 1993 while in the state Assembly. It holds up the license of not just lawyers, but any state-licensed professional who fails to meet child support obligations.