On judges, Lockyer's remarks are . . .
. . . patently absurd
In the January Bar Journal, Sen. Bill Lockyer was quoted as saying, "This governor is overly political in his judicial selections," and that "many lawyers are told they have to re-register as Republicans in order to win a judicial appointment."
The false charge that Gov. Wilson's judicial selection process includes telling lawyers or judges that they have to re-register as Republicans is patently absurd. If the senator has any credible evidence to the contrary, I would welcome it so corrective action could be taken.
Having served as Gov. Wilson's judicial appointments secretary since 1995 and as chairman of then-Sen. Wilson's judicial qualification committee from 1983 to 1990, I can attest that Gov. Wilson's judicial selection process is one that evaluates candidates based on their records and qualifications. If Sen. Lockyer would take the trouble to investigate the facts, he would find that the reactions to Gov. Wilson's judicial appointments have been overwhelmingly favorable.
It is also important to note that the governor has a strong record of appointing judges from both political parties and in Alameda County -- the senator's own district -- Gov. Wilson has appointed nine Democrats compared to 24 Republicans. And you have to keep in mind that it isn't easy to find qualified Democrats.
To me, it is irresponsible for a public official holding an office of the importance of Sen. Lockyer's to make such statements without having any basis for them.
John G. Davies
Judicial Appointments Secretary
. . . poorly grounded
It has been said that an expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy. How apt to apply this aphorism to Sen. Lockyer's reported comments concerning the role of the Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE) Commission; i.e., JNE "should continue to serve as a check on Wilson's appointees and maintain its independence."
The JNE Commission was created in 1979 for the express purpose "to assist the governor in the evaluation of appoint-ees or nominees to judicial office by providing the governor with as much information and valued judgment regarding the judicial qualifications of a candidate as is possible prior to the time such appointment or nomination takes place."
That limited purpose was supported by then-Assemblyman Lockyer's vote in favor of the legislation.
In point of fact, the only legitimate "check" on the governor's judicial appointment power is the Commission on Judicial Appointments, established by §7, article VI of the California Constitution, relative to appellate and Supreme Court appointments. (Cal. Const., art. VI, §16.)
Sen. Lockyer's belief that JNE's purpose is to "check" the governor's appointment power, while common among some JNE members, is contrary to statute and our Constitution. One wonders why the California Bar Journal did not present the legal and factual balance to the senator's poorly grounded assumptions.
Daniel E. Lungren
California Attorney General
Lobbyist contract raises members' concerns
In the February Bar Journal you reported that the State Bar signed a two-year, $900,000 contract with a former State Bar official to serve as a lobbyist for two years. I am outraged.
First, you report that the contract was signed in January, the same month this would-be lobbyist resigned as a senior executive with the bar. Does the appearance of impropriety mean anything to the people at the State Bar?
Second, President Stolpman says this will save the bar money as three employees will be laid off. That means that the average yearly pay for these eminently unnecessary functionaries was over $150,000 a year!
Third, there are only 120 legislators in California. If our new lobbyist visits each one for two hours per year (highly unlikely), he's making a cool $1,875 an hour. On the other hand, if he works 2,000 hours each year and is paid what death penalty lawyers are paid (a somewhat more noble pursuit than winning passage of a multi-year dues bill), he would make considerably less than half of what he'll earn under this contract.
The people at the State Bar should be ashamed of themselves.
Daniel J. Broderick
Assistant Federal Defender, Sacramento
I write to register my shock at the nerve of the State Bar administration to commit almost $1 million of our dues in the next two years to a lobbyist whose "key duties will be winning passage of a multi-year dues bill in the legislature."
There has been no debate on such a bill in your pages. The only beneficiaries of such legislation would be the bar's nameless and faceless overpaid administrators, who would further escape accountability for their inept and wasteful ways.
Annual budget, spending and revenue consideration are essential parts of our democratic system at every level of government. I urge my fellow dues-paying bar members to rise up and quash this further attack on our rights as California citizens and working lawyers. This lobbyist should be reined in, with both his budget and his assignments cut back. The State Bar leaders who hired him should themselves be exposed, sanctioned and removed from policy-making positions.
Jerome M. Garchik
Making a sales pitch
for the foundation
It does not require a law degree to notice how deftly President Stolpman dodged the question of what the State Bar does for the legal profession ("Ask the President," January 1997). Except for a brief introductory paragraph, his entire response was a sales pitch for the State Bar Foundation. But as Mr. Stolpman carefully points out, the foundation is a separate entity from the State Bar; not one cent of bar dues funds their cornucopia of beneficial activities. Perhaps some day Mr. Stolpman might find the time to answer the real question and explain how the State Bar itself uses its members' dues (still the highest in the country) to benefit the legal profession.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Biased against prejudice
While I agree with W.C. Melcher's elegantly expressed wish that attorneys "should learn to write more gooder" (Letters, February), I do not agree with his claimed misuse of the English language that the word "bias" connotes a sentiment "in favor of," while "prejudice" implies a negative leaning. Neither Webster's Third, Webster's Seventh, nor Roget's suggests anything of the sort, bias apparently coming from the old French referring to the cutting of fabric on a diagonal, hence a slant or inclination.
All sources give as a synonym for bias the word "prejudice." While it is true that we tend to hurl the word "prejudice" as an epithet, that usage is neither compulsory nor universal, as can be seen in the common response to a child's observation that his or her mommy is the "bestest mommy in the world," the response commonly being, "Oh, honey, I think you're prejudiced." There is certainly nothing negative in that.
I have nothing against taking those to task who misuse the language, but in so doing, one needs to be mindful of the necessity of being correct.
Gordon J. Louttit
Consult your dictionary
Your February letter writer who was so exercised about a supposed misuse of the word "bias" must not have consulted a dictionary.
In my office are four dictionaries and a Roget's thesaurus. In all of them, "bias" can be for or against (as in the electrical sense bias can be positive or negative). Nowhere is there a definition of "bias" that says it is always positive or "in favor of."
In all but one reference, "prejudice" is a synonym for "bias;" in the Random House College Edition, "bias" is given a sense of being weaker than "prejudice:" "A bias may be favorable or unfavorable . . . Prejudice implies a pre-formed judgment even more unreasoning than bias, and usually implies an unfavorable opinion . . . ."
Paul R. Cooley
Mandatory malpractice insurance an unfair burden
I strongly oppose the proposal to require all members of the bar to carry malpractice insurance and urge others to do likewise.
Such a rule would pose an unreasonable burden on many members of the bar, especially new attorneys like myself who are sole practitioners and simply cannot afford the steep premiums early in their careers.
A rule requiring mandatory malpractice insurance could also adversely impact those who have insurance with their firm or employer, but wish to undertake pro bono or other work that is outside their scope of employment and therefore not covered by the firm's/employer's insurance. The potential implications of a mandatory malpractice insurance rule are enormous.
Besides being an unreasonable burden on an attorney, a requirement to carry insurance in order to safeguard the public is unnecessary. Written disclosure of the fact that the attorney does not carry malpractice insurance, such as is contained in the bar's sample written fee agreement form, is sufficient to safeguard the public while providing access to legal services that otherwise would not be available if insurance was mandatory. The consumer is also safeguarded by the ability to activate bar disciplinary action as well as the ability to file suit against the lawyer personally.
I urge members of the bar to contact the board of governors to register their opposition to the proposed rule.
Mark J. Koslicki
So is mandatory pro bono
I was dismayed to read that Chief Justice Ronald M. George is calling on California lawyers to "offer legal services to the indigent on a pro bono basis." He makes this plea to resolve a so-called "legal services crisis." While the chief justice's concern for the poor is laudable, pressuring lawyers to work for free is not.
Most attorneys have a higher-than-average income because they worked for it. While their friends were taking it easy, lawyers put in the extra effort to go to law school and improve themselves. Many also had to work full time just to stay afloat during law school.
After the bar, most lawyers face a career of late evenings and/or weekends in the office just to service paying clients. Is it right to ask them to work even more hours, without pay, to help non-paying clients? What would that lawyer's spouse or children say? One also wonders what the indigent were doing with their spare time while future lawyers were studying into the early morning for law school exams.
But there are also other problems. Unless the indigent are precluded from suing for malpractice, who pays for the errors and omissions coverage? Who pays for the overhead of running the law offices? Is it fair to pass along these costs to paying clients?
And how about student loans? Is it right to require attorneys to work for free, but then to insist they continue to make full payments on their student loans? Pro bono would sure be a lot easier to swallow if there was a commensurate reduction in the balance due on student loans!
Also, why pick on lawyers? Why not ask plumbers, gasoline retailers, utilities and the like to offer pro bono services? How about food and clothing retailers or insurance companies? How about judges working for free? Now that I want to see.
Steven A. Silver
Give me liberty,
or take my license
After reading the proposal to require 50 hours pro bono (mandatory conscription) services or the penalty sum of 50 times my hourly fee, it is clear that the left wing social engineers will never give up their goal of mandating how others should spend their time and money. Surely putting our children through college and saving for retirement should take a back seat to providing free legal services.
With attorneys, especially sole practitioners like myself, facing ever increasing competition, higher costs of operation, increased tax burdens, exorbitant State Bar fees and falling profit margins, the arrogance of the advocates of such programs is astonishing. Of course, such mandatory contributions of time and money would be in addition to those matters that I already handle at a reduced fee or no fee. The advocates of such programs, in their wisdom, are surely better able to determine who actually deserves such benefits than those of us who provide such services.
Legal aid advocates, are, by their own definition, more compassionate and knowledgeable than the rest of us. I am sure that when they explain the social benefit of their experiment, my creditors will readily discount or even eliminate my debts for books, mandatory legal education, malpractice insurance, office liability insurance, rent, utilities, equipment purchase, maintenance and supplies. Soon all others who are licensed by the state, including but not limited to physicians, dentists, chiropractors, contractors, auto repairmen and plumbers are sure to heed the calling and give away their time and money as well.
I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or take my license.
Paul T. Klobas
Forget pro bono; reform the judicial system
I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed by Allan W. Wallace urging judges and court personnel to do pro bono work (Letters, January). It's just awfully easy for someone to tell someone else what they ought to do for free. The solution to this problem lies not in more pro bono work, but in massive reform of the entire judicial system and in the economic and tax system (which is too heavily skewed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer).
There are so many poor people with so many legal problems that all of the lawyers could spend all of their time on pro bono and still not serve every needy individual. One could ask, why should some get the benefit and not others?
Martin F. Bloom
Letters to the Editor
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: calbarj@ix. netcom.com.