Coming to grips with reality
What a breath of fresh air! Both Palmer Madden
and George Kraw, on March's op-ed page, hit the nail right on the
head. The legal reform community, of which I have been a supporter for
many years, has long maintained that the bar was fighting a losing
battle and working against the interests of legal consumers in
attempting to preserve attorneys' monopoly on the provision of legal
advice and services.
The effort has been futile, and for good reason:
the demand for legal information exceeds the constricted supply, which
is why alternative providers have had such a field day for the past
few years. We've all known that realtors and accountants, et al.,
have long doled out legal advice, with a wink and a nod that they
weren't performing "legal work" - but certainly they know what
they are talking about, which is why the public has supported them.
Mr. Madden is absolutely right that the Guild
model must give way to the Trademark model. After all, no one else can
claim to be an attorney, and the organized bar must pour all its coal
into heightening the esteem and respect due to that appellation.
This can be done by ensuring that malpractice and
malfeasance are sternly policed. Were this to be accomplished, bar
membership could become discretionary, as Mr. Kraw advocates, but the
bar would still be sustained because attorneys might once again be
proud to claim membership in the organization.
'Trademark' is wrong term
I was a bit disheartened to read "Time to
improve our Trademark" (March) by our president with no apparent
clue that service providers have "service marks" and product
providers have trade marks. Lawyers are service providers.
Hope for conscripts
Thank you, George M. Kraw! He speaks for me and
thousands of other conscripted members of our State Bar. The State Bar
is anachronistic and totally non-responsive to its members. Kraw has
hit the nail firmly on the head, though I seriously doubt that anyone
on the staff is listening. To quote Mr. Kraw: "Sooner or later, bar
supporters will be forced to recognize that a closed guild legal
profession - overseen by a mandatory State Bar - is neither
sustainable nor in the public interest." While it will no doubt be
later than sooner, it is inevitable and that, at least, gives me some
measure of hope.
Walter H. Porr Jr.
Fee break for the young
I am glad that the bar provides an opportunity
for retired attorneys to provide pro bono services and waives their
fees. But why is this option only available to retired lawyers? Many
of my classmates and I no longer practice. We have opted for other
careers, but we would like to help out and use our skills in
meaningful ways. Unfortunately, we are of the age where trying to make
a living and raise a family prohibits us from paying $345 just to give
away our time. How about a fee break for those of us who would like to
do pro bono exclusively without regard to our age?
Disciplined lawyer should be
praised, not sanctioned
If there was ever a question about the dangers of
a fully funded State Bar, California attorneys need look no further
than the September 29, 2000, suspension of Franklin Delano Moen
(February Bar Journal). In my opinion, Mr. Moen's conduct warrants
public praise, not bar sanctions.
disciplined for actions relating to his representation of a client who
never formally hired him.
No, the bar doesn't listen
My personal experience causes me to respectfully
dissent from bar President Palmer Madden's comment that the bar
listens to its members. From
time to time over the past several years, I have sent various
inquiries asking why members of the California bar who happen to
reside outside of California are barred from voting for the board of
governors. I have had no
response at all. I ask
again: How does the bar justify its taxation without representation
Louis J. Hoffman
Doo-doo heads all
The last two months' worth of letters regarding
Professor Chemerin-sky's column (January) on the Supreme Court's
opinion in the Florida election cases simply proves - if there were
any room for doubt - that political discourse in the United States
has all the depth and substance of a second grade shouting match.
Neither the good professor's original column,
nor any of the letters castigating or supporting it, had anything to
say beyond, "You guys are a bunch of doo-doo heads" and "Hurrah
for our side."
The political process in the United States is a
cesspool in which only the really big chunks float to the top; and
those who choose to go swimming in it, be they Democrat or Republican,
liberal or conservative, should not complain
about what sticks to them. My only consolation is that the two
major parties are so much alike that we are not much worse off in the
hands of Tweedledee than we would be in the hands of Tweedledum.
Patrick G. Cherry
Differences of opinion should
not be stifled
I re-read Professor Chemerinsky's article,
looking for signs of arrogance, recklessness, bias and left-wingedness.
I found his comments fair, cogent, well-reasoned and professorial, no
doubt because I agreed with him.
Letter writers are entitled, of course, to
disagree with what Chemerinsky says, but the insistence of several of
them that his opinions don't belong in the California Bar Journal
What do lawyers do professionally besides
exercise differences of opinion? Surely there is room for differences
of opinion, without petty partisan invective, in a professional
journal for lawyers.
Chemerinsky was right . . .
My goodness. It took me a month to read the
February issue, and I'm not sure I should have! All of the letters
to the editor spitting outrage at Chemerinsky? What gives? Is this an
organization of right-wing angry white men, as I have long suspected?
My view? Chemerinsky's article is the absolute
best piece of writing, and legal analysis (as opposed to mere opinion)
that I have ever read in this publication. Maybe his nay-sayers should
go back and read Article II of the Constitution.
Clearly they missed the point. Or maybe they just
don't like being confronted with the awful truth. Facts have a funny
way of creeping up on people. Thanks, Mr. C., for being brave and wise
enough to raise their ire.
. . . Barnett was wrong
I am dismayed at the views ex-pressed by the
president of the American Bar Association in her article, "Let the
courts do their job" (January). Martha Barnett wants us to "watch
and patiently wait" for the courts to do their job and to shut up
In particular, in her view, we should not comment
on how the political beliefs of judges impact on their decisions.
Ms. Barnett is wrong. The credibility of our
judicial system depends on its openness, not on an immunity from
criticism. We cannot have meaningfully open courts without the
scrutiny provided by the news media.
The demonstrable fact that judges' political
beliefs influence their decisions on matters of political import is
not a failure of the judicial system, but simply a reality that ought
to be exposed to the light of public debate.
Let us not shrink from such a debate or try to
foster the illusion that judges selected by political leaders or who
themselves appear on the ballot are a political tabula rasa in the
courtroom. They are not.
With respect to the politicians and pundits whose
courtroom commentary Ms. Barnett disdains, I make this plea to her:
Let them do their job.
Frederick J. Kaplan