Look to Illinois for an admirable bar model
I've been an Illinois and a California lawyer for 29 years. The comparison between bar associations is almost monumental.
The Illinois lawyers waste no money on trying to "spin" public opinion on issues favored by State Bar officials.
They stick to lawyer representation on legal issues. If you don't like their representation, you simply leave the State Bar. But you remain a lawyer under registration rolls of the Illinois Supreme Court.
At age 70, you no longer pay dues to remain in the bar. Also, you re-ceive five free sections to keep you up with the law.
At the time I made the comparison, the voluntary bar was charging about $227 annually. California was charging $450.
How about some comparisons with other voluntary bar associations?
Christopher J. Zajic
(See the April 1998 California Bar Journal for a story on four jurisdictions with both voluntary and mandatory bars.)
Not our first mistake, and, unfortunately, not our last
While only two people out of 160,000-plus have pointed this out, the editor is taking the prerogative to write a letter to himself, apologizing to the state of Maryland for confusing it with the District of Columbia. (Not an easy feat, since the editor's hometown in Pennsylvania is about a mile or two from the Maryland border, 70 miles from D.C.)
As journalists, we pride ourselves on words, but sometimes we get a tad confused with those geos, like geometry, geography, geology, geopolitics . . . If you have any idea what I'm talking about, you get the picture. If not, forget it.
By the way, this letter, as are all letters, was subject to editing.
MCLE is unnecessary burden for lawyers
I am curious about the cost of MCLE.
At present a court has ruled it is unconstitutional. Yet, I am required at a cost of $400-$500 per year to continue to qualify by taking the required courses.
This case is being fought by the bar - at the expense of dues paying members, many of whom feel MCLE is a rip-off.
If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court and it is declared unconstitutional, are provisions being made to refund the unlawful enforcement of MCLE?
I feel I should be reimbursed if the bar continues to require me to attend MCLE. If many members of the bar sue for the reimbursement, the bar will really have a debt to pay.
Are you going to increase the dues to pay for the reimbursement? I suggest you suspend MCLE till the courts of appeal rule. I am also opposed to the bar spending money to appeal this case.
I have been licensed 45 years and am over 73 years of age. MCLE is a burden in that my practice is pretty much limited to real estate. I take other courses based on who is the most entertaining speaker.
Richard L. Tretheway
A voluntary bar is the only fair way to go
Making a mandatory, unified State Bar ignores the fact that our lawyers come from different backgrounds, have different interests and strongly agree to disagree about politics.
Accordingly, funds for a State Bar should (the word "should" has a moral implication) only come from those who want to pay for the things which the members of it can collectively agree upon.
If I don't like the bulk of what my State Bar does, I should be able to opt out. This isn't an idea of democracy, but one of fairness.
Of course, the power in our State Bar doesn't want to be fair. Those people want their way. And everyone's money to do with as they please. Period.
Timothy Lee Davis
Punished for protecting a client's rights
Some rules of professional conduct need to be changed.
Several months ago, I decided to get out of a case, but felt that ethically I was bound to protect my client's rights in accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct, Section 3.700 (an attorney should not withdraw from employment until steps have been taken to avoid reasonably foreseeable prejudice to the rights of the client). The filing would buy the client time to seek other counsel.
However, a few months later, I had to appear on the order to show cause hearing to explain why I did not serve the summons and complaint. Explaining my position did not save me from a $250 sanction.
This is a ridiculous way to treat an attorney under these circumstances, and contacting the State Bar and the local head of judges on the issue did me no good as to effecting a change in rules which appear to mandate and certainly not discourage, sanctions in the situation I found myself in.
There needs to be a rules change so that attorneys who file solely to protect client rights, without intending to serve a lawsuit, are not punished for sincere attempts to protect these rights.
Jeffrey P. Lustman
Bar would be wise to learn about vagaries
There could not be a better scenario to illustrate the average attorney's lack of faith in the alleged superior intelligence, or insight, or ability of those persons having the power to "govern" the basic affairs of the attorneys of this state than the story of how former State Bar president Thomas Stolpman, former executive director Herbert Rosenthal and former general counsel Diane Yu couldn't even negotiate a legal contract regarding lobbyist Mel Assagai.
To say nothing of the haughtiness of assuming that attorneys would want a contract on the subject, and then having Stolpman comment on the legal slip-up by saying that he was "not familiar with the vagaries of political reform things."
Those who have been responsible for operations certainly had a lot of opinions about other things. How did the "vagaries of political reform things" slip by them?
Leonard W. Gibson
Filing fees slowly driving up litigation costs
As of Jan. 1, the legislature and governor have raised the county clerk's fees for a certified copy of a document from $1.75 to $6. They have raised the filing fees for motions more than 50 percent and have added new fees for amending pleadings and cross-complaints.
The legislature and governor are trying to balance the state's budget on the backs of lawyers and litigants inasmuch as filing fees do not go into a fund to finance the courts. They go into the state's general fund.
The increase in court filing fees is a general tax increase by Gov. Wilson and the legislature.
They will then campaign that they didn't raise taxes.
The way they're going, the middle class will be unable to afford court fees. Litigants now have to pay the court reporter as well as the jury.
Pretty soon, if the trend continues, litigants will have to pay the judge, court clerks and bailiff.
Remember, we can't have a civilized society without a peaceful, affordable means of resolving disputes.
Edwin B. Stegman
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