California Bar Journal
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Interpreter scam

Incompetent and corrupt interpreters increasingly undermine the integrity of the legal system. This is a growing problem in California and I was pleased to see you give it some attention in your April issue.

In San Francisco, where I practice, there is a growing cottage industry of interpreters who take certain immigration cases on a partial contingency basis. It is widely known in immigrant communities that these folks will ensure that their customers answer questions "correctly." All the more frightening is that nobody ever notices. These corrupt interpreters know how to play the system and they produce many a happy client.

Each time interpreters pull such stealth scams, the legal system takes another body blow.

Steve Baughman
San Francisco

Kudos on the interpreters

I thought your article entitled "Dearth of Qualified Interpreters Raises Courtroom Language Barrier" was terrific. You nailed it!

Geoff Robinson
Walnut Creek

Unfair play

California's "three strikes" law offends my sensibilities because its terms are unfaithful to the rules of baseball.

With both the law and the game rules, the basic concept is "three strikes and you're out." But in baseball, only the most serious of strikes can count as third strikes. Less serious strikes, such as foul balls out of play, can only count as first or second strikes. Despite having been sold to voters and constituents as akin to baseball, our state's criminal law gets this backwards.

Voter and legislative intent was probably inconsistent with the deceptively labeled, now codified, law. I do not know if this point has been argued in a sentencing appeal. At any rate, it's a pitch that ought to connect with the legislature.

David A. Holtzman
Los Angeles

The gift of golf

Something is seriously wrong with our legal system when a former deputy district attorney convicted of grand theft is "ordered" to play golf with underprivileged children for 350 hours in lieu of jail time (case of James Longanbach, March issue). That's not "creative" sentencing, it's a gift. No wonder lawyers and the law are in such disrepute.

Bruce Klafter
Santa Clara

It's the cost, stupid

The debate over whether to change the bar exam to a two-day format is mired in typical obfuscation of the true issues. The so-called "dumbing down" argument against simplifying the exam format is misleading and intellectually dishonest.

One rarely hears, and certainly no one has ever proved, that passing a bar exam correlates very well with intelligence in the first instance.

Passing a bar exam, any bar exam, costs money, and provided all takers are possessed of at least rudimentary intellect, the ones that spend the most are the most likely to pass. Law school admission, preparation, tuition, books, fees, bar review and not working while preparing for and taking the bar exam add up.

A two-day format does not threaten to make the bar exam easier - it could not be much more monotonous than it already is. A shorter format threatens to make the exam cheaper.  Why would anyone be against that?

Richard J. Crema
San Francisco

Practice what you preach

Bill Lockyer's editorial (February 2002) chastising Bill Gates for unfair competition and monopoly is ironic coming from a representative of a government that insists on monopolies in education, postal service, legal delivery, energy, and union and labor laws that financially destroyed this state and strangled Constitutional freedoms. 

His vague and arrogant editorial did not allege one instance of specific illegal wrongdoing, but perhaps that is because antitrust and antimonopoly laws are written in such a vague, non-specific way that any politician wanting to attack a business may freely do so. Nor has he indicated even one instance of coercion. Can the government make the same claim for itself when enforcing its policies?

If, as Lockyer says in his article, free markets should decide the fate of emerging technologies, he may consider enforcing that philosophy in California to remove the government monopoly of rules, regulations and taxation that drive out businesses and destroy free competition.

As Onkar Ghate recently wrote in a column sponsored by The Ayn Rand Institute, "The only monopolies that can in fact exist are government-created ones. Only a government can prevent someone from entering a market and thus eliminate competition."

I look forward to the day when the government applies antitrust and antimonopoly laws to itself.

Caroline Miranda
North Hollywood