California Bar Journal
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The most important class in law school

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Thanks for nothing

After reading “A New Day for State’s Paralegals” (February Bar Journal), I feel compelled to say to the State Bar, “Thanks for nothing.” Prior to the institution of the laws, the unauthorized practice of law was a misdemeanor punishable by fine and incarceration. During my last seven years as an attorney, I have seen many so-called paralegals openly advertise their services for matters such as living trusts, estate planning or wills. I have seen them handle divorces, give advice on what exemptions to elect in bankruptcy cases and generally practice law with open impunity. The State Bar did nothing. The district attorney’s office did nothing, and no other policing agency did anything.

Now, a new set of laws have been imposed on paralegals. They will violate these laws as well.  No one, including the State Bar, will do anything about it. The laws’ only effect is to lend legitimacy to paralegals practicing law without a license. They do nothing to curtail the onslaught of impermissible activities by paralegals.

Barry Sabahat
Los Angeles

Role model for all lawyers

Thank you very much for running your recent article on Walter Gordon (January). As a Los Angeles prosecutor, it has been my pleasure to work with that fine gentleman from time to time for the last 20 years. His company is always a reminder of gentility, courtliness, and the finer things towards which we may aspire.

Now that Mrs. Gordon has joined him on his rounds, she adds her own grace and charm to their appearances together.

Live long, Mr. and Mrs. Gordon! We would sorely miss you if you ever left us.

Patricia “Molly” Redifer

Multi-year dues: good idea

I can appreciate President Palmer Madden’s defense of the State Bar (January Bar Journal). But I am disappointed that he would fail to check his facts. President Madden attempts to compare bar dues to those of engineers. My last professional engineer dues, paid in 1999, were $160 and permit me to practice engineering for four years. I realize that some attorneys appear to have trouble maintaining good standing for this long a period, but surely this represents too small a number to provide any justification for not considering this practice.

James B. Forrest

The bar is attempting to secure a multi-year funding bill from the legislature, which authorizes its dues.

No way to spend dues

Your article (State Bar drops Brosterhous appeal, February) states the legal fight may be nearing an end. The State Bar president says he can’t justify spending any more money pursuing the case.

My question: What has the State Bar paid in attorneys fees and litigation expenses for “10 years of aggressively fighting a challenge to the way the State Bar spends lawyer dues”?

Thomas Keiser

The bar wasn’t the winner

Bar Journal readers were undoubtedly left with the impression that the bar had “won the majority of issues” in Brosterhous v. the State Bar. The rest of the world, however, knows that, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of members’ dues fighting an untenable rear guard action against Pacific Legal Foundation, the State Bar actually lost on all matters of significance which were litigated.

Moreover, the fact that prior to trial, the bar, under pressure of the lawsuit, partially abandoned its patently unconstitutional practice of spending objecting members’ mandatory dues on politically grounded programs, and the fact that the legislature prohibited other challenged activities, doesn’t make the bar the “winner” on those issues either.

Now the State Bar is faced with the prospect of paying huge costs and fees to PLF, a liability that never would have been incurred had the board of governors respected the First Amendment rights of the membership.

Edward R. Jagels
District Attorney, Kern County

The respect is gone

In your report of the disbarment of Robert Franklin Dodenbier (February) you quote Judge Nancy Roberts Lonsdale as writing, “he has clearly lost . . . any respect for the disciplinary system whatsoever.”

Haven’t we all?

Henry M. Bissell
Los Angeles

Bar didn’t get the message

Bar President Palmer Madden asserts that the State Bar listens to its members. I, and a whole lot of other conscripts, dissent.

Where was Mr. Madden three years ago when California attorneys, given the chance, spoke as loudly as possible? It was the year the State Bar gave a voluntary dues party and nobody came. It was the year the State Bar resembled Southern California Edison and PG&E. It was the only plebiscite that matters.

Douglas Buchanan

A bunch of lousy letters

I have read with dismay the letters published in the February edition which respond to Professor Chemerinsky’s cogent discussion of Bush v. Gore. Not one of the letters even addresses his arguments concerning Bush’s lack of standing to bring the suit or the court’s abandonment of irreparable injury as the predicate for injunctive relief.

The plain truth is that the Supreme Court grabbed the opportunity to stop Florida’s statutory election process before a recount could demonstrate that Gore had prevailed in the state’s popular vote. The entire sorry episode was nothing but a naked Republican power play, and the Supreme Court played a starring role.

May Professor Chemerinsky keep preaching the hard truth.

Chris Bennington

Useless personal attacks

What I found interesting about the six letters criticizing Professor Chemerinsky’s critique of Bush v. Gore was that while all six made personal attacks on his politics (five explicitly and one implicitly), none countered his criticisms of the quality of the majority’s legal reasoning regarding ripeness and standing, the legal basis for the stay order, the basis for finding a equal protection violation on the facts presented. What I’m waiting to hear or read is just that — a thoughtful, well-reasoned defense of the Bush v. Gore opinion that harmonizes it with the court’s previous decisions. Any takers?

Tim Iglesias

Chemerinsky was right

Lest your readership believe that Chemerinsky’s piece on the Supreme Court’s self-inflicted wound found a wholly hostile audience, let me assure you that it met with strong approval in other quarters. Read Stevens’ and Ginsberg’s opinions and you will see that Chemerinsky is not alone in expressing concerns about the basis and consequences of such an opinion. I distributed Chemer-insky’s article to many lay people I know as I believe it to be the best written piece available describing what was shocking about what occurred. Little about the questionable legal reasoning of the majority opinions made it to the general press, which is the real reason why the public was not as offended as members of the bench and bar.

I have no doubt the institution of the Supreme Court will survive, but there is also no doubt in my mind that it has been tarnished by the majority’s blatant power grab.

Abby Cohen

An outraged Republican

Several letters intimated that only liberal Democrats were outraged at the decisions in Bush v. Gore. I am an outraged registered Republican. The decision to grant the stay was based on the holding that truthful (although complex and likely counted in contravention to the Equal Protection clause) election result information would “irreparably” harm a candidate. This holding was unAmerican. I had thought that, in the United States, the public is entitled to the complete truth about elections. Only in Cuba or the former Soviet Union would election results be suppressed on the ground that they would embarass a candidate.

Frank Rosenberg

Self-righteous babble

It’s not enough that we citizens have to put up with the fraud perpetrated by the Supreme Court in handing the election to Bush in an opinion that was based purely on political favoritism. We additionally have to endure the whining of the Supreme Court-Bush apologists who cannot bear to read an accurate assessment of the Supreme Court’s disastrous opinion in the form of Professor Chemerinsky’s article.

Please spare us any more self-righteous babble.

Raymond E. McKown
Los Angeles

Political hacks at the top

Martha Barnett writes: “Even though we recognize that judges often come to the bench with a political past, we expect and demand that they set their politics aside and rule based only on the law.”

What a laugh! From the past election, the whole world has learned what we attorneys have always known — that our judges are political hacks, even at the highest level. Now that our dirty little secret is out, surely the public would reject Ms. Barnett’s absurd assertion that our corrupt legal system is the best in the world.

Terry D. Oehler