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The Conference of Delegates must separate

Having read of the legal separation between the bar and the Conference of Delegates in June's issue, I was unsurprised to learn of Ms. Copeland's professed hatred (June Bar Journal) towards whatever judges who decided Keller (a unanimous United States Supreme Court) and Brosterhous (a unanimous California Supreme Court). Both courts ruled in favor of the idea that compelled speech is a very bad thing.

Copeland's opposing view that the bar should weigh in on general societal and political issues irrespective of the views of its members is the very reason why the separation must take place. Separation would not be necessary if the conference was willing to forsake political advocacy. I support separation for the simple reason that Ms. Copeland does not speak for me. The thought that she can take my money and spend it to speak in my name on all issues is frightening, even on those occasions when her thoughts coincide with mine. The bar is an association, not a democracy, nor an advocacy group. There are nearly 180,000 attorneys in California, each with different social and political views. Ms. Copeland wants the tyranny of the majority to speak for us all, regardless of our own opinions.

It makes sense for the bar to advocate a collective opinion concerning issues related to the practice of law, because the bar is an organization of professional attorneys. However, the issue advocacy supported by Ms. Copeland goes too far.

If the bar can voice an opinion against the death penalty or in favor of gun control it will someday voice an opinion either in favor of or against abortion, which is either a cherished civil right or murder, depending on who you talk to.

Either way, there will be many attorneys with differing opinions who will be presumed to support the decision of the conference because of their membership in the bar. Issue advocacy is also only half a step away from supporting political candidates.

Despite this, I support the notion of voluntary contributions on our annual dues billing statement, with three caveats. First, the bar should not assume that members actually want to contribute - the box should not be checked for us by default.

Second, the bar should not play favorites. If members may contribute to one advocacy group while paying their bar dues, why not have the opportunity to contribute to them all? There are a number of worthy advocacy organizations such as the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform that would surely benefit from voluntary contributions from bar members.

Third, the conference should change its name to fully disassociate itself from the bar. Non-attorneys who learn of the future political proclamations of the "Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations" will still believe that this organization speaks for the profession as a whole.

It will not speak for me.

  • David A. Brown, Sonoma
  • Shameful separation

    I see our bar leaders are now opting for "form over substance" in their separation scheme for the Conference of Delegates from the State Bar - but in reality giving them all the advantages of being part of the State Bar but simply, by sleight of hand, getting them off the Keller hook.

    How shameful. And these are our leaders.

  • Ronald T. Golan, Palm Desert
  • Hate speech is protected

    After 20 years of litigation beginning with Keller and concluding with Brosterhous, the State Bar is finally divorcing the Conference of Delegates. The relationship remains far too amicable, however, as bar members will still find the conference on their dues bill. Will the bar be instituting a procedure for other organizations to engage in such high-profile fundraising?

    Bowing to the inevitable, San Diego Governor Judy Copeland emits one last unlawyerly blast: She "hates" the judges who decided those constitutional cases. Just to refresh your memory, Gov. Copeland, Keller was decided by a unanimous Supreme Court, including liberal icons Justices Marshall, Brennan, Blackmun and Stevens. While Gov. Copeland should be embarrassed by her "hate"ful speech, she will suffer no retribution for it - thanks to that First Amendment she finds so inconvenient.

  • Deborah J. La Fertra, Pacific Legal Foundation, Sacramento
  • No reciprocity necessary

    Like Amy Brownstein (June), I moved from California to Pennsylvania after several years of practice in Los Angeles. Like Ms. Brownstein, I took the Pennsylvania bar exam upon arriving in my new home state. Several years after passing the Pennsylvania exam, I also took the New Jersey bar exam. Why? Because New Jersey and Pennsylvania do not have reciprocity with one another, just as California does not have reciprocity with other jurisdictions.

    I do not begrudge any state that insists that attorneys take their own bar exam in order to be admitted to practice law in that state. Each state is entitled to, and should, make its own determination as to the level of knowledge and skill demanded of the attorneys who appear in their courts.

    I, for one, am proud of all three of my bar admissions.

  • Suzanne Ilene Schiller, Philadelphia
  • Measuring up

    I am somewhat dismayed over the recent (June) article by Nancy McCarthy regarding the upcoming State Bar presidential election. The fact that a woman wrote this article is even more distressing, because by virtue of its content, there appears to be a bias.

    In high school, I worked on the school newspaper and realized that column inches were very important in determining the importance of issues for the relative stories. In Ms. McCarthy's story, James Herman received seven column inches, Scott Wylie received 7-3/4 column inches, while Maria Villa, the only non-white and woman, received 5-1/2 column inches. Although this may not seem very much, an inch and a half to over two inches of column length in a story is significant.

  • Bradley G. Booth, Sacramento
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