A 16-member task force mandated by the Utah Supreme Court to streamline the Utah State Bar will begin holding public meetings this week to decide what changes should be made in the bar's functions.

The Supreme Court called for the task force in an August minute entry at the same time it approved the increase of bar fees from $225 to $350 a year for most members. The court also ordered the bar to cut costs by $215,000 a year and get out of debt. All non-regulatory programs that are not self-supporting must be discontinued after April 15, the court ruled.Peter Billings Sr. chairs the task force, which will meet Friday at noon in the Law and Justice Center, 645 S. Second East. "We're going to conduct all of these meetings as public meetings. We want to get the public's input on this," Billings said.

The task force plans to study the bar associations in Hawaii, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Colorado in search of better ways to do things in Utah, Billings said. It will evaluate which bar functions are necessary and then determine which functions should be continued and how those functions will be financed, Billings said.

The Supreme Court specifically asked the task force to determine whether membership in the Utah bar should be mandatory, as it now is. The task force will also re-evaluate the disciplinary role the Supreme Court delegated to the bar to determine whether the bar is the appropriate disciplinary body, Billings said.

John Baldwin, executive director of the bar, and Ray Westergard, an accountant, will discuss the bar's present functions with the task force Friday. Westergard's firm, Grant Thornton, concluded an extensive audit of the bar in July.