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Letters to the Editor

Students' rights didn't lose

In his assessment of the Supreme Court's decisions during the past term (August 2002), Erwin Chemerinsky writes that "students lost" and that "it was a bad year for students' rights." This suggests that all of the court's decisions in this realm endorsed restrictions on students' rights. Of the three cases he discusses relating to students, one allows random drug testing as a prerequisite to participating in interscholastic activities, and a second precludes private enforcement of an educational privacy act.

The third, however, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris , upholds the right of parents to use vouchers in parochial schools. Although the right here accrues to the parents due to the age of the children involved, this case would appear to expand, not contract, student rights. Professor Chemerinsky's ideology may have lost 3-0, but for students' rights, the score, at worst, was only 2-1.

Shoel Silver
Toronto, Ontario

More liberal rhetoric

Professor Chemerinsky states in his analysis of U.S. Supreme Court decisions during the past year that "it was a bad year for students' rights in the Supreme Court" and cites Zelman v. Simmons-Harris , the school voucher case. He should talk to the students and parents taking advantage of that program. For them it was a very good year for students' rights.

His statement is another example of liberal rhetoric unsupported by fact. Professor Chemerinsky is not concerned with students' rights but in promoting the views of the NEA and similar teacher union groups whose sole concern is preserving jobs regardless of results in the classroom.

Terence C. McGaughey

Opinion, not news

Some consider it a good year, believing that students' rights were upheld by this decision. Perhaps as a law professor, Mr. Chemerinsky teaches spin, not objectivity in reporting. I expect a front page article to be news, not opinion.

Thomas M. Holliday
Sparks, Nev.

Tortured logic

I recognize that Professor Chemerinsky's views are what normally are called "liberal," but in his review of the U.S. Supreme Court's most recent term he has taken amazing liberty with the English language. By what tortured reasoning does he conclude that it was "a bad year for students' rights" because the court upheld the prerogative of parents to opt out of the public school system in Cleveland if they feel the public schools are doing a poor job of educating their children? Presumably it would have been a "good year" for students if they had been obliged to remain in bad schools. Say what?

Or does Prof. Chemerinsky prefer that the government continue to entangle itself in the messy process of determining which schools are parochial and which are not? I call that a violation of the First Amendment, but perhaps the professor's mental gymnastics on that score, too, will amaze me.

John Covell
Washington, D.C.

No second chances

I am appalled at the amount of money paid by the bar every year because of lawyers misappropriating client funds. I believe a portion of the problem is tht the bar does not implement discipline appropriately. There are too many "in mitigation" excuses. As far as I am concerned, the first time you misappropriate client funds should be your last time.

The discipline section of the California Bar Journal is filled with articles about lawyers who consistently lie, cheat and steal. Why do we tolerate this type of behavior? I can understand someone slipping up with a trust account occasionally, but not the sort of behavior I see outlined month after month.

I am currently in litigation with an attorney and a bank, because the attorney forged my name, another lawyer's name and a client's name to two checks which totaled a considerable sum of money.

This attorney has a prior record of discipline and if the bar continues to let him practice, I will have lost whatever remaining faith I have in our bar.

However, I did notice that the bar is suspending 2,600 lawyers over MCLE issues. So that message is clear: Lie, cheat and steal, but do take your MCLE courses.

Ronald J. Richard
Newport Beach

Disbarment is appropriate

I applaud our State Bar for assisting in the protection of California lawyers' reputation through the Client Security Fund program (August). But I was shocked to discover the paradoxical fact that some of those "bad apple" attorneys (perhaps 15 percent) whose theft gives rise to payments from the CSF continue to hold a license and the privilege to practice law.

If we, the bar, do not police ourselves and remove such people from our profession, why should we expect the public to have any faith in us? I suggest that all valid claims to the CSF involve an automatic referral of the matter to proceedings for the licensee's disbarment, not just discipline.

James L. Walker
San Rafael

Disbar the thieves

Quite frankly, I think (the Client Security Fund) is a fraud. If you really want to do the people of California a service, disbar stealing, thieving lawyers, no matter what excuse they attempt to use, whether it is severe emotional problems, excessive bills, work pressure, burnout, drug use, alcoholism, or their mothers didn't love them.

Don’t ever let them back in. Make stealing from the client an offense subject to permanent disbarment, without any possibility of ripping off clients again.

Tony L. Cogliandro

Name the bad apples

There was one glaring omission in the article about the Client Security Fund: none of the attorneys whose misconduct necessitated recourse to the fund was identified by name. Assumedly, if the fund made payment to the victim, the attorneys' misconduct had been established. Why would the State Bar go out of its way to preserve the anonymity of these bad actors? Similarly, why aren't the names of attorneys whose misconduct gives rise to payment from the Client Security Fund reported, just like the names of attorneys who are disbarred, suspended or resign with charges pending?

Perry D. Mocciaro
Los Angeles

Speakers list should be more balanced

It is discouraging to learn that once again, the Annual Meeting will have as its major speakers persons whose views are clearly to the left. This year the speakers will be Andrew Cuomo and Molly Ivins, two of our nation's most outspoken speakers to the left. Year after year, this is the unmistakable trend. Although it is fine to have speakers who hail from the left, all too rarely do moderate or conservative political points of view get their say in these speeches. A greater sense of balance is only fair.

Paul L. Alpern

Thanks for the mental help

The new Lawyer Assistance Program is to be congratulated for extending its assistance from helping not only lawyers with substance abuse and alcohol problems, but also attorneys who suffer from mental disorders. Until now, lawyers suffering from a mental disorder have had no place to turn and therefore have had to suffer in silence until they were unfit to practice law and closed their practice or ended up in the disciplinary system.

The community of lawyers suffering from mental disorders is not small; I would even go to far as to say that their numbers most probably exceed the number of lawyers who have substance abuse problems. It is high time the State Bar acknowledged the existence of lawyers who suffer from mental disorders and provide a safe harbor where they can get confidential assistance.

Allen P. Wilkinson

Conspiracy and/or unfair business practice

Nancy McCarthy's lead article on malpractice premiums (July) can be distilled to the following: 1) patent attorneys have had their rates increase up to 200 percent; and, 2) unwise investment decisions in the stock market have led insurance companies to increase rates.

Then the quote from O'Regan: "...the fact they've gone bare could show questionable management and could cause the rate (to lawyers) to go up even higher."

This statement is laughable. I'm an attorney. I've done nothing wrong. My insurance carrier has lost money in the stock market and increases my premium 200 percent. And I show questionable management if I don't pay the extortion?

Everyone knows malpractice litigation is predominately a contingency fee-driven enterprise. A plaintiff's attorney, who has to spend many thousands for a patent expert in addition to other substantial costs, will think twice about filing a lawsuit if he believes there is no pot of gold to collect from.

While I'm not an advocate of "going bare," I believe ethical attorneys need to draw a line in the sand. So long as attorneys are willing to pay the extortion, market-driven principles will apply and malpractice rates will remain high.

The fact that insurance companies have elected to increase rates on patent lawyers smells fishy. I think the attorney general should look into the matter. Isn't it an unfair business practice and possibly a conspiracy for insurance companies, admitted to do business in California, to reduce their stock market losses by raising insurance rates?

Ralph D. Chabot

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