California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA — JULY 2001
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - July 2001
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News / News Briefs
Two-year fee bill goes to governor
Janet Reno, low-cost MCLE highlight Annual Meeting
Stanley Mosk dies at 88
State Bar wins ABA's Harrison Tweed Award for pro bono, legal access, IOLTA efforts
Foundation will accept grant applications beginning July 16
Winnebago of justice serves those on the road less traveled
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Trials Digest
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Legal Tech - Matter management is not just for litigators
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Opinion
From the President - Public members bring fresh views
Holding judges accountable
Letters to the Editor
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MCLE Self-Study
Alcohol and the workplace
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Ethics update...
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You Need to Know
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Public Comment
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - Level field or a judicial practical joke?
Former DA disbarred for drunken-driving coverup
Attorney Discipline
Litigants without lawyers flood courts
Pro pers get help as their numbers grow
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By SHARON LERMAN
Staff Writer
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Tina Rasnow, director of Ventrua County's Self-Help Legal Access Center, stands by the center's 35-foot mobile home, which travels the county four days a week, bringing free legal information to those who need it. The bus is an innovative approach to providing pro pers access to the courts.Though former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun tweaked the language of an axiom he used to color a 1975 dissenting opinion, the sentiment was unmistakable.

"If there's any truth to the old proverb that 'one who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,' the Court . . . now bestows a constitutional right on one to make a fool of himself,'' Blackmun wrote in Faretta v. California, the 6-3 decision that codified the right to refuse counsel.

More than a quarter-century later, a task force appointed by California Chief Justice Ronald George is challenging the derision the courts have historically dumped on the people who proceed in pro per.

The thrust of a 19-member Judicial Council Task Force on Self-Represented Litigants, empanelled at the end of May, is to spend the next 18 months creating a statewide plan to assist the ever-expanding number of citizens who are unable - or simply unwilling - to hire an attorney.

But members of the bench and bar say that ensuring equal justice for the lawyerless also requires an institutional change of identity: The court-house can no longer be just a repository for documents and dispenser of rulings. And the phrase being thrown around in connection with this shift is one borrowed from the business world: customer service.

After Arthur Sims took over as executive officer of Alameda County Superior Court, he removed signs at the clerks' counters that noted they cannot give legal advice to citizens.

"If we truly want unrepresented litigants to feel the court is open to them, not just the affluent and attorneys, then we shouldn't start out by

See LITIGANTS


Insurance carriers, defense counsel spar over conflicts
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By NANCY McCARTHY
Staff Writer
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Consider the following scenario: An attorney is hired by an insurance company to defend one of its customers in a personal injury case. At the same time, the attorney represents a client in a totally unrelated matter who may wish to sue the same insurance company.

As a result of a 1999 California appellate court ruling, the attorney is precluded from filing suit in the second matter.

Insurance defense attorneys complain they routinely find themselves in this situation, which brings with it potential for violating the Rules of Professional Conduct governing the duty of loyalty and client confidentiality. "We face an ethical dilemma on a daily basis," says Karl Keener, a Santa Monica attorney who is past president of the Southern California Association of Insurance Defense Counsel.

Keener and other insurance defense lawyers want the State Bar to eliminate so-called tripartite rep-

See INSURERS


State Bar will open nation's only drug court for lawyers
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By NANCY McCARTHY
Staff Writer
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In an unprecedented move, the State Bar will open a drug court early next year as part of its increasing efforts to rehabilitate alcoholic and drug-addicted attorneys. It will be the only court of its kind at any professional regulatory agency in the country.

Executives of the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel and the State Bar Court are developing proposed guidelines to govern who will be eligible for referral to the court, how lawyers before the court will be monitored and how successful completion of the program might affect possible discipline.

The new court will operate hand-in-hand with a diversion and assistance program currently making its way through the legislature.

That program, however, is primarily designed to assist attorneys who voluntarily seek help and may or may not face discipline. The drug court would handle attorneys suspected or accused of misconduct.

"We are not departing from our primary goal of public protection," said Scott Drexel, the bar court's chief executive. "But if we can rehabilitate some of these lawyers, we

See DRUG COURT


Nine vie for five bar board seats
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Three unopposed candidates will begin three-year terms on the State Bar Board of Governors in September, while six others battle it out to represent two other seats on the 23-member board.

Candidates from Districts Two (Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Napa, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma, Tuolumne and Yolo counties), Four (San Francisco and Marin counties) and Seven (Los Angeles, office two) ran without opposition and were elected automatically.

See ELECTION