California Bar Journal
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Bert updates the Bill of Rights...

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Lower the price of the loaf

Palmer Madden's article, "Butter a slice, not a full loaf," (April) argues that since "most people who need attorneys cannot afford them," attorneys should provide less complete, less expensive "discrete legal services." Mr. Madden's proposals underestimate the changes that could be made by a more effective bar association.

When manufacturing industries feel that pricing creates barriers to American consumer acceptance, they use their trade associations to work with insurance companies and banks to provide financing. When older Americans need changes in prescription drug pricing, they lobby via their action organizations to create group discount plans. When employees want to pay less for needed services, or provide services to family members, they act collectively to convince their employer to provide the service as a benefit.

The California State Bar should be working to make it easier for people to afford California attorneys and still have full-scale, full-fare representation, for example by creating financing plans, or group discounts or employee benefit plans. Rather than telling attorneys to slice their bread thinner, the State Bar should be making it easier for the public to afford the full loaf.

John Stern

Labels are passe

The philosopher Keirkegard once said, "If you label me, you negate me." And so has the Bar Journal invalidated the State Bar's new president, Karen S. Nobumoto, with its headline, "State Bar elects its first woman minority president."

I am sure it was qualities like determination, intelligence and ability to be a team player that elevated Ms. Nobumoto to the bar's top spot, not her inborn traits like gender and race which you chose to selectively highlight.

The time has come for the State Bar to stop classifying members, applicants and law students by race, ethnicity, gender, etc.

Alfred G. Rava
San Diego

Mysteries of mitigation

Once more, the last several pages of your journal are dedicated to discipline meted out to our fellow lawyers. Several recurring patterns seem pretty clear.

However, the bar's choice of mitigating factors raises troubling questions. While many of the disciplined lawyers claim financial problems, have they informed their clients of this fact and that the bar may view it as mitigating in the event that they steal from them? Others claim family problems. So, how many told their clients that tidbit and that the bar thinks it isn't quite as bad as if they abandon their clients because of it? Emotional distress? Don't all of us have some of that, so we can commit malpractice with the prospect of leniency if we're ever called to account? Others claim drug or alcohol dependency.

Until we take a hard look at what we allow our fellow lawyers to get away with and remain in practice, we will continue to see lawyers hurt their clients and our profession will continue to suffer.

And one final thing: the bar's view that service as a judge pro tem is a mitigating factor should be viewed as topsy-turvy. I view the disgrace of the robe as an aggravating factor.

Howard M. Freedland

Shame on Maino

The (April) article entitled "Forgery, grand theft, fraud convictions lead to resignation" tells a particularly nauseating story of a lawyer gone bad. (Roger) Maino was caught red-handed and has apparently admitted to his crimes, but why are they not being punished commensurate with their severity.

I do not practice criminal law, but my sense of outrage has been energized by the apparent soft treatment Mr. Maino has been given.

My rant is perhaps rhetorical, but don't you think that good and decent lawyers, public servants and prosecutors should work toward making the appropriate example out of the Mr. Mainos of this world?

The fact of the matter is that no one, Maino included, got any justice in this case because the system wasn't allowed to consider all of the charges and determine his punishment after a jury trial. What a shame for all of us.

Lance Burrow
San Jose

Bush was right on the ABA

I used to belong to the ABA until it took controversial stands on abortion and euthanasia. No matter how isolated the select committee on recommendations for federal judges may be, they cannot help but be influenced by the political-moral positions taken by the members of that organization. Moreover, most of them hold those positions or they wouldn't remain in the ABA in the first place.

Any recommendation from the ABA on the selection of federal judges is bound to be prejudiced or at least appear to be prejudiced and that, all by itself, is enough to question its objectivity. It may well be that there is no prejudice on the part of the ABA on the selection process. But the appearance of such prejudice is enough to disqualify it as an objective arbiter in the selection of the federal judiciary.

Peter J. Riga

The ABA hangs tough

Federal judges are the ultimate guardians of the rights of all Americans. To ensure that they are independent from partisan politics, the Constitution guarantees them lifetime tenure. No one should be appointed to such a position who is not fully competent to undertake it, or simply because they are friends or supporters of a politician.

The ABA assessment of judicial candidates worked. For nearly 50 years, this process has helped to produce a federal judiciary that is the envy of the world. At the same time, it has insulated presidents and senators from political patronage pressures.

Because the American Bar Association believes the public wants judges who are professionally qualified, we will continue with our volunteer efforts. We will continue to conduct a thorough and independent peer review of the professional qualifications of judicial nominees, and we will continue to provide our evaluations to the Administration and to individual members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We will not let the profession down.

Martha W. Barnett
President, American Bar Association

Bar democracy in peril

State Bar members will breathe something new in this year's election for the board of governors: a whiff of democracy. Past bar elections have successfuly stifled democracy, with most board members "elected" in one-candidate races. This year could be different, thanks to an agreement reached by the bar in February to head off a free-speech lawsuit.

Already, though, forces are moving to shield the bar from the new democratic winds. In District 3, the bar associations of Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties have quietly made a deal, good for at least seven years, to join in supporting a hand-picked candidate from a designated county each year. (This year it's San Mateo.) And lest this process choose a bar critic, "qualified" candidates are described primarily as having "demonstrated leadership in a State Bar activity."

In these county bar associations have their way, State Bar elections under the new rules will be as non-competitive as ever. To save the bar's new democracy from being throttled in its crib, members should refuse to take orders from this electoral cartel.

Stephen R. Barnett

Fee break for the young

It is not true that only "old retired" lawyers may enjoy the State Bar's emeritus attorney status, which allows a waiver of bar dues if the lawyer agrees to practice law on a pro bono basis through a qualified legal services program or a certified lawyer referral service. This status provides training, access to free MCLE programs, malpractice insurance coverage and supervision through their local pro bono program.

Any lawyer, of any age, who is not practicing law for profit, may apply for this status by contacting the Emeritus Attorney Program, Office of Program and Development, 180 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105-1639, fax 415/538-2552, or e-mail

 Maybe the 37,338 "inactive" lawyers are unaware of this wonderful opportunity to remain an "active" member of the bar, while contributing their skills to help the poor.

Mary Pat Toups
Laguna Woods