Joe Dunn will be State Bar’s executive director

Former state Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, will be the new executive director of the State Bar of California, State Bar President Howard Miller announced today.

Joe DunnDunn, 52, served in the state Senate from 1998 to 2006, including a stint as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chair; he led the Legislature’s investigation into Enron’s involvement in the 2000-2001 energy crisis. Scared out of the 2006 Democratic primary for state attorney general by Jerry Brown, Dunn instead ran in the 2006 Democratic primary for state Controller, but lost to John Chiang. The Secretary of State’s campaign finance database shows Dunn still has one political committee open, with $105,333.97 at the end of last year.

From 2006 to 2009, he was CEO/executive director of the California Medical Association, a position from which he resigned because he said the demands of traveling between Orange County and Sacramento were too heavy on his family life. Earlier this year, he formed a law/lobbying practice with former state Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier, and veteran Democratic strategist Richie Ross; The Senators (Ret.) Firm LLP‘s lobbying clients have included the California Coalition of Option Schools and McGraw-Hill Education.

“I am honored to have been offered this position. My life commitment has been to the legal profession, and there is no better way I can think of to show that commitment than to assist the Board of Governors with its work at the State Bar,” Dunn said in a State Bar news release.

Judy Johnson, the State Bar’s executive director for more than a decade, resigned in January but has stayed on as a consultant through February 2011; Dunn will take over sometime after the State Bar’s annual convention later this week in Monterey.

State Bar President-elect Bill Hebert said he was “extremely pleased that after a thorough search that Senator Dunn, with his extensive background and experience, has been named to the position. He will be a major aid to the Board of Governors as we advance the mission of the Bar and seek to meet the challenges facing the legal profession.”

The State Bar, created by the state legislature in 1927, is a public corporation within the judicial branch of government, serving as an arm of the California Supreme Court. Membership is mandatory for all attorneys licensed to practice law in the state; with more than 226,000 members, it’s by far the nation’s largest state bar.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.