California Bar Journal
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


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Front Page - August 2001
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News / News Briefs
MCLE deadline for Group 3 (last names N-Z) is Feb. 1
Judicial Council launches online self-help center
California lawyers honored for work for homeless, minorities and children
Coy about her future, Reno focuses on women's issues
No bias found against solos
Governor signs two-year fee bill
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Ethics update...
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Trials Digest
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From the President - Bar targets unauthorized practice
Microsoft ruling: Foundation to settle
MJP is more than alphabet soup
Letters to the Editor
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Legal Tech - A look back at six years of technology news
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You Need to Know
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MCLE Self-Study
A word from our sponsors
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Ethics Byte - Let's go surfin' now, everybody's learnin' how
Recovering alcoholic may get to recover his license
Attorney Discipline
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Public Comment
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Bert suddenly regrets ignoring the warnings of shark sightings...

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In defense of insurers

In his letter in your July 2001 issue, Phillip Sheldon laments the fact that insurance companies "tender nothing resembling fair and adequate compensation in personal injury cases." He finds it sinister that the insurance companies rely on data that predicts how a jury will evaluate a certain case.

Isn't that the whole point of this exercise we call personal injury litigation? I always thought, and I guess I now must be mistaken, that cases are evaluated based on what a jury would award.

I also thought that if one doesn't like a settlement offer, one has a right to go to court to seek compensation (and to hire a lawyer who will take 40 percent off the top).

What, exactly, is your proposed remedy, Mr. Sheldon? A law that mandates that insurance companies roll over and accept the initial settlement demand? That they not be allowed to protect their insureds to keep insurance premiums low? That they cannot evaluate a case based on what a jury might award? Ridiculous.

Craig L. Dunkin
Los Angeles

Back to the old days

The State Bar has returned to its old ways.

With the impending passage of SB 479 (a $10 increase in dues to establish a rehabilitation program for law-yers), the State Bar will impose fees that go beyond the scope of its core functions, which are to administer the bar exam, prosecute unscrupulous lawyers and sponsor worthy MCLE programs.

That's it. Lawyers paying for a drug rehabilitation program should do so on a voluntary, not mandatory basis. We already are required to take MCLE courses on the dangers of substance abuse. Now we must pay for attorneys who failed to heed that warning.

The State Bar should've allowed its members to make a comment or conduct a poll on whether SB 479 should be part of a mandatory fee provision. I suspect the reason why it didn't is because it knew what our response would be - No.

As you know, former Gov. Pete Wilson refused to sign legislation to appropriate money for the bar in 1997. He felt the organization had deviated from its statutory purpose and the only way to steer it through its proper legislative course was to shut it down. Unfortunately, we no longer have a governor who'll shut this practice down.

I guess that's why Sen. Burton created the bill in the first place.

Stuart O'Melveny

If SB 479 becomes law, it will be a statutory requirement.

Jury nullification means legal anarchy

Alan Scheflin (June Bar Journal) overreaches when he says that when jurors take their oath in California, they must swear to obey the judge, but violate their constitutional duty after the Williams and Cleveland decisions. What poppycock! The judge doesn't demand fealty from a jury. In most cases, the judge issues a set of standard jury instructions or jury instructions negotiated between the parties which describe the law.

Thus, the judge simply is providing a statement of the law to the jury. Perhaps Mr. Scheflin would prefer that jurors ignore the law and do any darn thing that they want, including the alleged "19th century enormous law making powers" that he des-cribes in his article.

He appears to be suggesting that the entire legal and legislative process should be at the mercy of 12 people.

Terrific. Twenty-first century legal anarchy.

Fortunately, this is a nation of laws and the lawyers are sworn to uphold them. We are officers of the court. The last thing that any of us needs to do is encourage a jury to act outside the law if it suits our purposes.

James W. Paul
Los Angeles