California Bar Journal
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Don't meddle with discipline standards

Board member Clara Slifkin writes (November California Bar Journal) that "lawyers who are disciplined should have some fundamental rights, including reasonable notice of the charges against them and the right to receive all exculpatory evidence from the State Bar, and examine and cross-examine witnesses."

In fact, lawyers who are involved in discipline already have those rights guaranteed by the State Bar Rules of Procedure and innumerable California Supreme Court and State Bar Court opinions.

Just as disturbing is her advocacy that lawyers before the discipline system have "any rights guaranteed by the state or U.S. constitutions, incuding the right against self-incrimination." She would elevate the disciplinary process to the same due process plateau as criminal prosecution, again, completely ignoring the well-established Supreme Court precedent in this area (see Emslie v. State Bar).

It is clear that some members of the board of governors think the way to curry favor with the membership is to lower bar dues by gutting the discipline system. By this means, they hope to maintain control of the system in their hands. Beguiled by the relative lack of attention paid to the current crisis by the public, forgetting the lessons of the 1980s, they are acting to betray the very values that make this a profession. The inevitable result will be a public backlash and the loss of the unique privilege of self-regulation.

David Cameron Carr
Marina Del Rey

Carr is a former prosecutor in the State Bar's Office of the Chief Trial Counsel.

Free lawyers from the bar

I've been following the State Bar Board of Governor's desperate attempts to retain their hold on the political voice of California lawyers for several years. It is obvious to one viewing the contest from afar that their desperation comes from loss of clout, not from loss of disciplinary authority or opportunity to be of service to their "taxpayers" (the lawyers who are forced to fund the behemoth).

I wrote the following comments to Gov. Wilson in June: I am a member of the State Bar of California. I have had the opportunity to practice in two states. One, California, with a "coerced" professional association and one, Minnesota, with a "voluntary" professional association. There is no difference in bar services to the public.

Coercion is unnecessary to the public good; it is only essential to those who want to use others' dollars to foster their own (often leftist) view of "public" concerns. That is exactly why so many California lawyers want to be free to choose who purports to speak for them on important matters.

Let a State Bar Association compete in the marketplace of ideas for the support of every California lawyer. If they are as good as they claim, they will raise even more "voluntary" dollars. If they can't get that support, probably they don't deserve it.

Certainly they don't deserve to have it coerced from everyone who wishes to practice their trade as a lawyer.

Joseph Olson
Hamline University School of Law
St. Paul, Minn.

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