A welcome change in
Sharon Lerman's "Litigants Without Lawyers
Flood Courts" piece (July) is right on.
Some members of our profession were called to
practice "the law" and these pro per litigants have been
congesting the system. It is time for the bar to make the public
welcome in their own legal system. The described help to the public in
attending to their legal affairs is an outstanding first step. We need
to go further by simplifying the law and court rules so that the
public can understand their rights and how to enforce those rights.
Rather than frightening court clerks with
"unauthorized practice of law," the bar should be encouraging a
"service" attitude even though our monopoly of the process will be
reduced. The bar should be helping to ensure "fairness" in
arbitration (all ADR) rather than resisting based on the right to a
jury trial, especially on modest claims.
H. "Bud" Hill Jr.
Pro per litigants victims of
their own stupidity
Pro per litigants flood courtrooms because it's
free. Pro per litigants, with few exceptions, are uneducated,
unsophisticated human beings suffering the consequences of their own
stupidity. Ventura County's Self-Help Legal Access Center would make
the courts yet another government agency doling out free services at
tremendous cost to taxpayers. This is not "access to justice";
this is unjustified access to the legal system.
Only lawyers could convince themselves that the
law needs to be "demystified" for the benefit of the wilfully
ignorant. Neither doctors nor accountants, barbers nor mechanics, have
ever advanced such a preposterous proposition against their own guild,
nor should lawyers. It is not our job to lower the standards so that
pro pers can have what they would not earn. Pro per litigants must
meet the procedural and substantive requirements of their case without
the court's assistance - just like lawyers.
I will continue providing services to the needy
for a reduced fee, but it is not the court clerk's, the judge's
nor the bar administration's place to provide legal advice and
counsel. There is no point in requiring a bar exam and MCLE if
non-lawyers, court clerks, judges, bailiffs and court staff can dole
out legal advice and services to pro pers, while receiving paychecks
and pensions provided by taxpayers.
Ronald E. Doty Jr.
More publicity would help
I did not know each county is required to have a
family law facilitator. Recent experience suggests that this law is
not being observed in spirit.
After reading your article, I checked the Kern
County website. There is no reference anywhere to the family law
facilitator. What good is it to require a county to have such a
resource if the county hides its existence from the people most
needing the assistance?
The letter from Nancy Lee Wolfen published in
July pointed out that personal injury attorneys are pricing themselves
out of the market for ordinary people. This is true of many areas of
practice, and courts - and the government in general - are going
to have to address the issue of accommodating pro pers in non-criminal
matters. Even experienced litigators are occasionally confused as to
how to comply with local rules and procedures.
I am often amazed that pro pers are able to
navigate the maze of forms and procedures as well as they do.
Michael L. Kadish
User-friendly courts are better
late than never
I was very heartened to see your article (July)
on the new attitude of the courts toward pro per litigants. Better
late than never.
I have been practicing self-help law for nearly
five years and was originally motivated to go to law school because of
my own difficulties finding my way through the court system when I was
sued by a represented party and did not have the funds to hire an
attorney myself. I did not, to say the least, find the courts
UPL action too little too late
Regarding President Madden's opinion in the
August California Bar Journal on the unauthorized practice of law:
Again the State Bar is doing too little and far too late. The
unauthorized practice of law by paralegals setting up independent shop
has gone on unchecked for years and has become an institution. The
position of the bar 20 years ago was that it was not the organization
to bring injunctive/civil actions to halt this illegal activity. If
the State Bar does not have standing, then who does?
In other states, most notably Oregon, the state
bar took affirmative legal action to halt the unauthorized practice of
law. The Oregon bar action was successful.
Just now, Mr. Madden contends the bar is moving
toward developing a policy to take care of the problem. So typical of
the California bar - do nothing but spend a lot of money doing it.
UPL action is welcome
I read, with pleasure, Mr. Madden's article. I
think it is time that something is done. From my personal experience I
know of one egregious group of people practicing law without a license
under the supposed authority of a license issued by the Department of
Insurance to public insurance adjusters. The public insurance adjuster
is only authorized to deal with claims of a person insured to that
There is a glut of unauthorized practice of law
by licensed public insurance adjusters who are adjusting third party
property damage and even bodily injury claims. Neither the district
attorney nor the State Bar will prosecute these cases nor will the
licensing agency, the Department of Insurance.
Unqualified attack in a
valuable space . . .
It's fairly safe to say that cartoonist Wiley
Miller has never in his life written a legal brief, passed tedious
hours collating exhibits for trial, spent numerous hours on the phone
or pacing the hallway trying to negotiate a settlement, or performed
any of the numerous functions that attorneys necessarily perform in
order to do their jobs.
Indeed, as a professional cartoonist, "Wiley"
is scarcely able to say that he works for a living.
But from the cloistered comfort of his ivory
easel, he poses as someone qualified to attack the legal profession,
and thereby produces cartoons of juvenile finger-painting quality that
do not even have the saving grace of humor or originality. Oh boy;
another shark joke. It's been at least 24 hours since I last heard
one of those.
Wiley Miller's "non sequiturs" might belong
on an outhouse wall or on the inside of a fumigation tent, but they
hardly belong in a prominent slot in the official publication of the
California State Bar, taking up valuable space that might otherwise be
used for the placement of another badly needed legal software ad.
. . . from moronic editors
Don't run cartoons that depict lawyers as
sharks, vultures or other evil beasts. We get plenty of bad publicity
without the State Bar purposely generating more.
That cartoon exhibits moronic editorial judgment.
Marcia A. Pollioni
No benefits for inactives
When I first became a lawyer 10 years ago, I
expected that I would need to take some sort of continuing education
courses. I had no idea, however, that I would be forced to take
classes on substance abuse - not just once, but for every single
MCLE compliance period. I soon realized that these mandatory courses
were more lucrative to the providers than they were helpful to me. Now
the legislature wants to increase dues by $10 so that those of us who
stay clean and sober will have to pay to rehabilitate the drug and
Now that I'm inactive, I've been told that
I'll still need to pay bar dues for the rest of my life. I
understand that $50 a year for the next 40 or so years may not amount
to much, but why do I need to pay anything at all? What benefits am I
deriving from the bar such that I need to pay them each year? All I
get is a newspaper featuring commentary from left-wing professors like
Erwin Chemerinsky, who claims that the U.S. Supreme Court is made up
of conservatives and moderates but not liberals. Right. Of course, it
is also educational to read about people who have been disbarred, but
I've never seen the names of the attorneys I dealt with who fell
asleep during depositions, showed up drunk in court, padded their
bills and used MRI facilities to manufacture insurance claims. Even
so, this entertaining newspaper is not worth $50 or more per year.
The DMV used to require owners to pay a non-op
fee year after year, even when they had no intention of ever taking
their automobile back on the road. The legislature finally ended this
practice, which did nothing but fill the DMV coffers. It is time to do
the same with regard to inactive dues. An inactive attorney who has no
desire to ever return to the practice of law should not be forced to
pay money to support the bar every year. In fact, the state should pay
us for voluntarily reducing the lawyer population.
Don't call them moderates
Erwin Chemerinsky characterizes Supreme Court
Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer as "a moderate
block," such that "there are no liberal justices in the mold of a
William Douglas or William Brennan or Thurgood Marshall (August)."
This is so objectively wrong, and so
fundamentally different from the perception of anyone who reads the
opinions of the court or follows other analysis of them, as to destroy
forever any remaining semblance of credibility that Mr. Chemerinsky
may possibly have had as an objective court commentator.
Let's be intellectually honest, please. This is
the liberal wing of the court, everyone knows it, and no amount of
saying otherwise, even perpetuated by card-carrying liberals like Mr.
Chemerinsky, will make it otherwise.
Christopher J. Palermo
A common liberal canard
Erwin Chemerinsky's article begins with the
staple liberal canard about Bush v. Gore: "For the first time in
American history, the Supreme Court decided the outcome of a
presidential election." I believe even Chemerinsky would agree that
George W. Bush is currently the president. To say that the Supreme
Court "decided" the outcome is to imply that, except for the
court's action, Al Gore would now be president.
Pray tell, under what scenario is that accurate?
The Florida secretary of state certified Bush as the winner, and even
had Gore been granted the requested recounts in the three counties he
very selectively chose, subsequent recounts clearly indicate Bush won
anyway. An honest statement would have been that for the first time in
American history a nominee tried to steal a presidential election by
cynically manipulating the justice system. That nominee was Al Gore.
Leonard R. Lamensdorf
Maybe the editorial staff took it as a given that
lawyers know Erwin Chemerinsky's political proclivities, but it
seems that responsible editorial policy would warn us Mr. Chemerinsky
was going to offer an opinion column disguised as a news column.
Todd M. Thacker