Praise for the bar from down under
A short note to say:
1. I think we have a great State Bar.
2. Maybe there's room for improvement, but so is there in my law office and probably that of most of our colleagues who oppose the bar.
3. I've found the bar officials extremely helpful, especially when I was living in Europe and my MCLE records were in New Zealand and I had trouble getting my compliance certificate in on time.
4. The energy of the disparate groups within the bar (some of whom I personally find laughable) is part of the ferment of democracy.
5. It's a shame to be tearing down such an institution when nobody knows what will replace it.
6. People like Marc Adelman spend a huge amount of time for the benefit of people like me without much in the way of recognition.
Although I practice more as a New Zealand lawyer than as a California lawyer, I was proud to send off my check for the full amount requested by the bar.
Gregory J. Thwaite
Auckland, New Zealand
Bar could use advice from the little guy
During my 33-plus years as a member of the bar, I have found that I was neither connected to nor a part of the inner circle that appears to control the State Bar.
But maybe that's because I don't have an attraction to power. As a solo practitioner, I am out there dealing with the public, who, more often than not, are frustrated at what goes on in the current system of law that we promulgate. They do not understand what's going on with us sophists.
Frankly, the problem with the State Bar is that it doesn't deal with the reality of the majority of people who are just trying to survive. Ergo, when there's a move to dismantle the bar bureaucracy, the public could not care less. In fact, they root for us to fall on our swords.
If the legislature is really interested in reform and not just trying to flex its muscle, seek out the little people who might have some valid suggestions for making the State Bar realistic. That reform should include how we pick our judges and overcoming our lobbyist control of the legislature.
Thomas M. Whaling
Unified bar represents only those in control
Let's hope Assemblyman Hertzberg's bill fails and that Sen. Kopps' bill passes. The demise of the coercive bar as we know it today, will free up funds for the many voluntary bar associations that now exist.
The legal profession is compromised of many different interest groups. A "unified bar" can only represent that tiny interest group that has control of the bar association.
Compare, to give but one example, the Consumer Attorneys' Association, which clearly represents its membership, and no one pretends otherwise. Those who support its positions willingly pay its dues.
The State Bar scarcely even pretends to represent its membership. Its proudest boast is that it protects the public against us, its members.
Annually, at a cost of about $40 million, it disciplines 520 attorneys, but any attorney in real trouble simply resigns, which immediately deprives the State Bar of jurisdiction. The malpractice bar can, and does, do a much better job of compensating the public.
Charles B. Parselle
Newspaper top-heavy with errant lawyers
In scanning the February issue, I noted that it consisted of 36 pages. Of the 36 pages, all or a portion of 10 pages related to attorneys being disbarred, suspended, resigning with charges pending, etc.
I am writing this letter to indicate that it's distressing that approximately 28 percent of the pages of this informative publication for State Bar members is reporting about lawyers who lie, cheat and steal.
John G. Phillips
Lower dues would make Hertzberg bill attractive
President Marc Adelman's article "Rebuilding the State Bar" (February issue) persuaded me to support the principles behind the Hertzberg bill, but not its costs.
The message the members bring in letters to the editor and the relatively few who voluntarily paid the $450 fee tells me that many in the State Bar still cannot hear the thunder.
Adelman would have my support if he also endorsed a bar dues amount more affordable to all.
If the District of Columbia can do it on $110 a year, so can California.
True plebiscite results determined by payments
Proponents of a mandatory bar claim support from the 1996 plebiscite.
The plebiscite proved nothing except the intimidating effect of a ballot which was not secret. Secrecy was defeated by the requirement that members' signatures accompany their votes.
The plebiscite outcome might have been dramatically different if opponents of a mandatory bar could have cast their ballots anonymously, without fear (even ill-founded) that a surviving bar bureaucracy might blackball them for voting against compulsory membership if they later sought any appointive office as to which the bar had selection input.
The February issue reports that, as of mid-January, only 8.5 percent of active members who were billed had responded to President Adelman's plea for the full voluntary amount. That minuscule 8.5 percent is the only significant "plebiscite."
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: California Bar Journal