California Bar Journal
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An open mind

James Kalomaris took me to task (March letters) for a comment I made at a recent board of governors meeting to the effect that a lot of lawyers who took and passed the three-day bar exam would look at the two-day exam proposal and say, "Why shouldn't they suffer as I did?" The comment was made facetiously, but reflects the views of a good many lawyers. My own view is that if we're going to move to a two-day exam, we'd better have strong evidence that the new exam is equal to, even better than, our present exam in assessing the capabilities of our would-be lawyers. I have an open mind on that issue and urge the two-day exam proponents to address the issue with that burden in mind.

John K. Van de Kamp
Board of Governors, District 7, Los Angeles

3 strikes: A moral atrocity

Your coverage of potential changes to California's most obscene sentencing law, the so-called "Three Strikes Law," (March issue) was fascinating. The argument that the Three Strikes law reflects the will of the electorate is absurd. Every time I have talked with a non-lawyer, they respond that they thought the third strike was supposed to be a violent felony too.

Injustice has become rampant in the negotiation process between prosecution and defense whenever a defendant has a "strike" prior. Juvenile priors - often for residential burglary - inflict 25 years to life exposure on the adult for minor felonies that would be charged as a misdemeanor if there were no "strike" priors. Although the criminal defense bar expects the 9th Circuit to eventually find juvenile strikes as unconstitutional because many due process rights are denied in juvenile adjudications, it has not yet occurred.

The "serious" felonies, which now include criminal threats, are a whole other issue in the widespread injustice category.

When this initiative was approved, it was clear that it would ultimately have to be changed due to the tremendous costs. The good news: the state of California will be bankrupted as a result of this moral atrocity. The bad news: we practice law in California.

Janice L. Mackey