California Bar Journal
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


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Front Page - April 2001
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News / News Briefs
Bar foundation gives $50,000 grant to fund Conference of Delegates
Bar hit with $2.35 million fee demand in lawyer dues case
Bush administration ends ABA review of judicial candidates
Special publication in May Bar Journal
Davis appoints two public members to board of governors
George lauds five years of reform
2001 Annual Meeting will be held in Anaheim
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Trials Digest
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Legal Tech - FindLaw: Lawyers' home on the web
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From the President - Butter a slice, not a full loaf
Is it wrong to copy a song?
Letters to the Editor
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Update on ethics
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MCLE Self-Study
Kids and the Law
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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You Need to Know
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Public Comment
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Ethics Byte - 2 new rulings send litigators back to basics
Forgery, grand theft, fraud convictions lead to resignation
Attorney Discipline


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California Bumming...

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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.

John Covell
San Francisco

'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.

Robert Burns
Ocean Beach

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?

Robert Oakes
San Francisco

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.

Gary Lindsay
Durango, Colo.

Moen was 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 position?

Louis J. Hoffman
Scottsdale, Ariz.

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 are troubling.

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.

Linda Ackerman
San Francisco

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.

Lauryne Wright
Arlington, Va.

. . . 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 about it.

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
Washington, D.C.