Dave Rice 8 a.m., March 29
Bar Closes Shames Investigation
The State Bar of California has closed an investigation of Michael Shames, head of Utility Consumers' Action Network. A whistleblower had filed a complaint with both the California Public Utilities Commission and the bar, noting that Shames calls himself an attorney, and in seeking intervenor fees from the commission, lists himself as an attorney, and often uses Esq., a designation of a lawyer in the U.S., after his name.
But Shames gave up membership in the bar in 1988. The commission dismissed the complaint, noting that someone participating in commission hearings does not have to be a lawyer. However, Shames' group hired an expert in non-profit law, Paul Dostart, to do a study of this and several other matters.
Dostart concluded that the commission may not have accurately stated California law in turning down the complaint. Dostart recommended that Shames call himself an "advocate" or "representative" rather than attorney in papers filed with the commission. Shames still calls himself an attorney.