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.
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,
Alfred G. Rava
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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