Paul L. Caron

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Black Male Lawyers In California Are Four Times More Likely To Be Disbarred Than White Male Lawyers

George Farkas (UC-Irvine), Discrepancies By Race and Gender in Attorney Discipline By the State Bar of California: An Empirical Analysis:

California State Bar (2019)Male attorneys have higher probation and disbarment/resignation rates than females, and that racial discrepancies are higher among males than females. The largest racial differences were between Black and White male attorneys. The probation rate for Black male attorneys was 3.2% while that for White male attorneys was 0.9%. The disbarment/resignation rate for Black male attorneys was 3.9% while that for White male attorneys was 1.0%. For Hispanic males the probation rate was 1.9% and the disbarment/resignation rate was 1.7%.

These discipline differences between White male attorneys and male attorneys of color have two components. One is the distribution of the number of complaints that a gender/race group was subject to, and the other is the rate at which attorneys in a particular gender/race group and with a given number of complaints were disciplined. Complaints come to the Bar prior to their investigation, so that only the discipline rates applied to these complaints are attributable to actions of Bar staff. Further, Black and Hispanic attorneys averaged greater numbers of complaints than White attorneys. Accordingly, we undertook simulations to estimate the probation and disbarment/resignation rates that would have been experienced by Black and Hispanic attorneys if their distribution of complaints had been the same as those of White attorneys.

The result of these simulations was to greatly reduce the size of the gender/race group disparities in discipline. For Black males, the group with the largest differences from Whites, the probation rate declined from 3.2% to 1.4% and the disbarment/resignation rate declined from 3.9% to 1.6%. These simulated rates for Black males were only about ½ of a percentage point higher than the rates for White males. Similar results were found for Black females and for Hispanics.

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San Francisco Chronicle, California Bar Study Finds Black Male Lawyers More Likely to be Disciplined:

Black male lawyers in California are more likely than other attorneys to be subjected to discipline by the State Bar, and far more likely to be the targets of complaints to the bar by their clients, according to a study commissioned by the bar.

The study by George Farkas, a professor of education at UC Irvine, said one likely reason for the disparities in discipline is that African American attorneys are more likely to represent themselves in proceedings before the bar. Black attorneys also face more disciplinary investigations, and are impacted by a system that increases punishment for repeated offenses, the report said. ...

During the study period, the report said, 46% of black male lawyers were the subject of one or more complaints from clients, compared to 44% of Latinos and 32% of whites. Ten or more complaints were filed against 12% of the black males, 8% of Latinos and 4% of whites. Similar differences were reported for women — 4% of black women received 10 or more complaints from clients, compared to 2% for Latinas and 1% for whites.

Taking the differences in complaints into account, Farkas reported, the bar disbarred black male attorneys about 1.6 times as often as white males in the cases it reviewed during the period, and about 1.8 times as often as Latinos. Disbarment rates for black women were only slightly higher than they were for white women and Latinas. ...

In response to the study, the bar said it would hire a consultant on “bias-free decision-making” to review its practice of considering a lawyer’s past disciplinary record when imposing punishment, and to recommend measures “to address any unintended bias in the discipline system.”

Sacramento Bee, California’s Black Attorneys Are 3 Times More Likely to be Disciplined Than White Lawyers:

Black male attorneys are more likely to be disciplined than their white male counterparts, according to a new report released by the State Bar of California.

The study examined “probations, disbarments, and discipline-related resignations for the last 28 years for approximately 116,000 attorneys admitted between 1990 and 2009,” according to a statement from the State Bar.

During that period, black male attorneys had a probation rate of 3.2 percent, compared to 0.9 percent of white male attorneys.

Similarly, black male attorneys had a disbarment/resignation rate of 3.9 percent, compared to 1 percent for white male attorneys. ...

Black male attorneys were more likely to be sanctioned by the State Bar in part because they were disproportionately more likely to be the subject of a complaint to the bar, the study found.

This presented a quandary for the study, because most of those complaints came from members of the public.

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The results almost certainly aren’t as pronounced outside of litigation and outside of criminal defense work.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 21, 2019 5:21:20 AM

Maybe break this down by areas of practice? Since we know some areas of law are more likely to generate client complaints than others. And those might lead to disciplinary action?

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Nov 18, 2019 7:23:36 AM

Curious that they control for the number of complaints as a mechanism for identifying bias attributable to the Bar overseers, but they don't appear to control for the nature of the violations that are alleged. Could it be that more severe violations are giving rise to more severe consequences? That might explain the very minimal difference that remains once accounting for frequency of allegations.

Posted by: JM | Nov 18, 2019 6:56:21 AM

Nothing to do with IQ (Charles A. Murray).
Nothing to do with hiring better lawyers to fight off the complaints.
Nothing to do with financial resources.

Posted by: Manchie | Nov 18, 2019 6:32:05 AM

I don't understand how this could be racism. Racists wouldn't hire a black attorney in the first place.

Posted by: Anonymous | Nov 17, 2019 4:53:53 PM

Let’s all continue pretending we didn’t know about this, that we can’t explain it, and that it must be due to racism. I like playing this game. It’s lots of fun and doesn’t affect me. So whatever.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 17, 2019 12:44:51 PM

I don’t suppose the disparity could come from actual (not merely perceived or reported) differences in attorney behaviour? Like actual differences in behaviour in school disciplinary reports. Nah - must be bias up and down the line.

Posted by: Annie | Nov 17, 2019 7:43:20 AM