SACRAMENTO—Steven Moawad, a long time Bay Area prosecutor, has been named chief trial counsel for the California State Bar.
Moawad, a senior deputy district attorney for Contra Costa County, will lead the unit that prosecutes lawyers for misconduct, a position that has been held by an interim director since the departure of Jayne Kim nearly one year ago.
“Everyone should be confident that when they need help with a legal issue, the attorney in whom they place their trust is competent and ethical,” Moawad said in a prepared statement. “I am both humbled and honored to join the Office of Chief Trial Counsel in carrying out its mission to protect the public and enhance the administration of justice.”
The job of the bar’s chief disciplinarian has been a perilous one in recent years, as the agency has struggled with a chronic backlog of attorney complaints and legislative criticism that it doesn’t do enough to punish bad lawyers or those practicing law without a license. James Towery resigned less than a year into the job amid talk of a power struggle with then-executive director Joe Dunn. Kim was hired as the bar’s new “sheriff.” But she, too, left after employees gave her a vote of “no confidence” in October 2015.
Moawad did not return a message Wednesday. Bar leaders praised his prosecutorial experience and his work overseeing the completion of a case management system in the Contra Costa DA’s office. The state bar is in the midst of a year-long installation of a case management system for its discipline work.
Moawad “joins the bar at a pivotal time and will help the agency implement crucial reforms,” bar executive director Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker said in a prepared statement. “He will also serve a key role in enforcing the new proposed California attorney ethics rules after they are approved by the Supreme Court.”
The Office of Chief Trial Counsel reviews about 16,000 complaints against attorneys each year.
Moawad joined the DA’s office in 1997 and has handled consumer protection, environmental protection, insurance fraud and general criminal cases. He became a manager of the office’s special operations division in 2012 and a senior deputy DA in 2014.
Moawad will start work within six weeks, according to the bar, and his salary will be $245,000 annually. His hiring is subject to a confirmation vote by the state Senate Rules Committee, which has not been scheduled yet.