Secrecy of the ballot should remain sacred
When I received my State Bar plebiscite ballot, it seemed the State Bar had forgotten one of the most fundamental ideas in our legal and democratic history -- the sacredness of the secret ballot. I have never before participated in any ballot election, from grade school class president to national office, in which my name and other personal identifying information was included on the ballot itself.
Regardless of Price Waterhouse's assurance that it will maintain ballots and votes in strict confidence, there nevertheless will exist a permanent record in black and white of exactly who voted which way.
There are simple ways of making sure the member, and only the member, has voted (e.g., enclose the secret ballot in a ballot envelope, then enclose in a mailing envelope signed, dated and identified by the member). Governmental entities manage to do it all the time for absentee voters; voters by mail in government elections are not required to give up their anonymity.
The State Bar's chosen method of conducting this election was so outrageous it made me want to vote "yes" on the plebiscite question. But I refused to participate in such a sham election.
Jo E. Larick
On June 10, I learned for the first time that I am a disenfranchised lawyer, deprived of the right to vote on an issue of importance to all attorneys and to the people of this state.
When I did not receive a ballot in the recent plebiscite, I telephoned the State Bar and was shocked to find out that no ballot would be mailed to me.
For more than four decades, I have been a member of the State Bar in good standing. Now 74 years of age, I retired three years ago and requested that I be put on inactive status.
When I asked why I would not receive a ballot, I was told that the wording of SB 60 allows only active members of the bar to vote.
In view of my longtime membership in the State Bar, and because of my extensive experience as a lawyer, it seems to me that my viewpoint would be as important as the vote of any other member of the bar. My inactive status, and the inactive status of thousands of other California lawyers in good standing, should not bar me or the others from voting.
Incidentally, if I were not barred by the restrictive language in Sen. Kopp's proposal, I would have cast a "no" vote on the question of whether the bar should be abolished. While there is, of course, room for improvement, the State Bar has served me, the other members of our legal profession and the public in a competent and responsible manner.
Orlan S. Friedman
The opinion article of Colin W. Weid in May brings to mind the saying: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." If I am not mistaken, the State Bar Act clearly provides for the State Bar to be self-regulatory and under the auspices of the judicial branch of government. That the legislature has chosen to usurp this prerogative cannot be blamed on anyone other than lawyers, as most of the legislators then as now belong to this noble profession.
It is incorrect to characterize state bar dues as a form of taxation. Rather, it is an act of legislative infringement on the independent judiciary. So too are the legislative attempts to impose discriminatory continuing education requirements, the legislative and executive appointments of public members to the Board of Governors and the Committee of Bar Examiners, and the legislative attempts to block judicial appointments through a state bar committee by rating nominees as unqualified.
If lawyers don't wake up and take back our rights as bar members, we will be voted out of existence and become the media stereotype which the bar has tried so diligently to erase -- that is, a bunch of wimps manipulated by special interest groups.
Michael J. O'Hearn
Peter J. Riga's letter in May eloquently and accurately described the harm that is done to the legal system and society when lawyers -- officers of the courts -- are exposed as having obscured the truth or engaged in other dishonest practices. This problem is getting worse as more lawyers seem to be adopting a win-at-all-costs mentality in which tactics such as duplicity and obfuscation are viewed as acceptable. In the process, justice often falls by the wayside.
Perhaps the profession needs to move more toward the type of attitude that a great 19th century lawyer, Robert Ingersoll, displayed when he said, "I never had the slightest fear in bringing an honest man on the stand. Never. I want facts, and I hope as long as I live that I shall never win a case that I ought not to win on the facts. No man should wish or endeavor to win a case that he knows is wrong."
It seems to me that such a desire for justice would be more beneficial for society than the "winning is the only thing" attitude being displayed by some lawyers.
Joseph C. Sommer
I began to read the article in the June issue by Hindi Greenberg, "Many lawyers are seeking jobs in the public sector," but didn't get past the first paragraph. Ms. Greenberg states, without attribution or support, "the time commitment and legal focus demanded in government practice often are less extreme than demanded in private firms."
Public sector attorneys like myself work nights and weekends, just like our private bar cousins -- but without the benefit of double billing; we try cases on limited budgets and struggle with outdated equipment, poor legal resources and not enough support staff. We deal with members of the public who are outraged, hurt, consumed with fear and anger. And we deal with a judicial system often hostile toward government attorneys.
We do it because we make a difference. I did my time in private practice between government jobs. The work I do as a public sector attorney is, frankly, more intellectually challenging, professionally satisfying and personally enjoyable. Please do not even think of trying to work in the public sector unless you want to work long and hard; the perception we have it easy is, simply put, wrong.
Marc P. Cardinalli
The name assigned by the attorney general to the securities lawyers' initiative on the November ballot is "Attorney-Client Fee Arrangements," not the "Retirement Savings and Consumer Protection Act," as was incorrectly reported. The securities lawyers who have bankrolled this self-serving measure are using this name as an attempt to hide behind consumer and senior citizens organizations. The only people who will benefit from this initiative are the securities lawyers themselves.
John H. Sullivan, President
Association for California Tort Reform
California Bar Journal invites its readers to send letters on any topic. All letters must be signed with a daytime telephone number and complete address (only the city or town will be used in print). All letters are subject to editing, and no anonymous letters will be printed. Send letters to Editor, California Bar Journal, 555 Franklin St., San Francisco, CA 94102-4498; fax to 415/561-8247; or e-mail: email@example.com.