SANTA ANA — The county lawyer who represented two surrogate mothers in their quest for custody or visitation rights is suing the State Bar of California to be allowed to practice without being a Bar member.
In a lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court here Wednesday, Richard C. Gilbert of Orange contends that he should not be required to belong to an organization that advocates "the flesh-peddling of human babies for profit."
At its September convention in Anaheim, the Bar approved a proposal to regulate surrogacy. Drafted by the Orange County Bar Assn., the surrogacy policy resolution is intended to anticipate legal problems from surrogacy cases and to offer guidelines to lawyers.
In 1990, Gilbert represented Anna L. Johnson in her unsuccessful bid to gain custody of a son she bore for an infertile couple. Johnson has appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Last year, in another case, Gilbert represented Elvira Jordan, who was ordered to share custody with the child's biological father.
Gilbert, whose co-plaintiff in the suit is Sacramento lawyer Sharon M. Huddle, said the case will "bring down the State Bar" or effectively disband it because lawyers practicing in California must, under the state Constitution, belong to the Bar.
The suit also seeks an injunction restraining the Bar from further lobbying the Legislature for passage of two bills similar to the resolution.
The Bar supports those bills, said the association's president, John M. Seitman, because "they offer lawyers guidance to give to their clients in this rapidly growing area."
However, the Bar has no written policy concerning the explosive surrogacy issue, he added.
As to Gilbert wanting to dissolve the Bar, Seitman said: "Mr. Gilbert can wish what he wants. . . . That issue has been debated for years, and members (of the Bar) have consistently demanded that there be a unified Bar."