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‘When will it ever end?’

The Bar Journal carried a front page article (June) about four lawyers who were being disbarred for the second time. I hope this is the second and last time for these four. According to the Journal, Chief Trial Counsel Scott Drexel believes the bar’s reinstatement policy is not too lenient. This may be true, because the standard for reinstatement appears to be very high. But are the standards of the State Bar Court in run-of-the mill recidivist disciplinary actions that do not result in disbarment high enough? It would appear not.

I turned to the attorney discipline section and found Thomas George Key, an Orange County practitioner, who has again been disciplined, this time for one year, suspension stayed, with two years probation. Why do I find this slap on the wrist so incredible? I was the arbitrator in the 1997 attorney/client fee arbitration that appears to have served as the genesis of Key’s several brushes with the State Bar Court. My award in that matter was that Mr. Key repay $6,000 in fees that had been paid him by his client.

Reviewing Key’s record on the bar Web site, I find that he was disciplined for his conduct regarding this client in 1998, but that he received probation, with no actual suspension. He was again disciplined in 2002, this time with actual suspension — of one month. Now I find in June, Key has once again been disciplined for “misconduct in three matters,” including acts of moral turpitude, and — drumroll — “failing to reimburse the Client Security Fund for more than $6,000 in restitution it paid to a client, as he was required to do in a 1998 disciplinary stipulation.”

I wonder, eight years after I rendered the arbitrator’s award, is this the same $6,000 that I ordered Mr. Key to pay? I sure hope the Client Security Fund can collect interest. Like Peter, Paul and Mary sang in the ’60s, “When will it ever end, when will it ever end?”

David D. Murray
Newport Beach

Imperial judiciary

The op-ed by Judge James Mize (June) is a good example of the attitude of the increasingly imperial judiciary, an attitude which is all too prevalent on both the federal and state benches. He is quite exercised as a result of citizens exercising their right to seek recall of a judge. How outrageous it is for the citizens of California to exercise their rights under California law. I find it remarkable that Mize cannot tolerate adverse opinion regarding the actions of judges.

When he mentions the threat of “tyranny of the most vocal or the most thoughtlessly reckless,” one might be forgiven for accusing him of resorting to hyperbole. His reference to “our adult citizens (who) need a refresher course in basic civics” and his reference to “a na├»ve electorate” being manipulated by “civics challenged demagogues” is demeaning to the electorate and to “demagogues” as well. 

Mize leaves the impression that voters lack his intellectual capacity and therefore are disqualified from commenting upon matters above their analytical capability. Only Mize and his “learned and distinguished judicial colleagues” have this right, in his opinion it would seem.

Protected political speech is one of our most precious rights; it allows us to be critical of the Mizes of the world who would limit this right. This kind of arrogance does nothing either to further the rule of law or to enhance the prestige of the judiciary.

William D. Wright
Grants Pass, Ore.

A welcome pressure

I must say that if Judge Mize is asking me to suspend my disbelief and go along with the premise that the majority of judges are not already blown around by every slight political breeze, he is asking for too much.

Along with the rest of the criminal defense bar, I have had to learn to live with the fact that the overwhelming majority of judges that rule on my motions and make decisions regarding the punishment of my clients do everything in their power to construe the law against my clients. I am not the person who coined the term “2nd DA” after all. For Judge Mize to argue that judges should not be threatened with recall because we don’t want our judiciary to make decisions “upon the political beliefs of [a] particular group” ignores reality because that is the typical modus operandi of judges all over California.

The reason that the current judiciary is threatened is not because voter recall threatens the system but, rather, it is because voter recall threatens their system. Perhaps I welcome the additional voter pressure on our judiciary because, in my area of practice, I just can’t see how it could get any worse.

Marc McBride
Santa Ana

Playing with numbers

Bar President John Van de Kamp seems to think that an increase of 34 percent in disciplinary filings is “good” rather than reflecting an increasing problem among the active practitioners of the law (June). The same applies to “stipulated disciplinary recommendations” being up 41 percent over 2003. Wouldn’t it more impressive to see a reduction in those numbers, similar to seeing a reduction in a community’s crime rate rather than seeing that law enforcement is arresting more people?

Mr. Van de Kamp ends his column by stating, “That’s all the numbers for now. Enough!” On that point he and I can certainly agree — we have seen enough of his numbers.

Robert E. Kuhn
Surprise, Ariz.

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