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Home Page Official Publication of the State Bar of California January2003
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Letters to the Editor

Fear gets the better of us

There seems to be no end to the disregard of law and morality on the part of this administration. We will now use land mines in Iraq contrary to our promise not to do so and the banned use of these infernal weapons all over the world. We care little that they kill almost 30,000 civilians a year from these unexploded devices.

We will use nuclear weapons if necessary on nations possessing WMD in spite of the fact that the fallout will kill thousands of innocent civilians.

Our policy now is to use pre-emptive war any time in our estimation that we feel we are about to be attacked.

The use of torture is now seriously under consideration on potential or real terrorists to obtain information on future attacks.

The right to privacy has all but disappeared as FBI, CIA and other agencies look through all our records, bills, receipts in their search for terrorists even when there is no reasonable belief of a crime.

Fear dominates. Law disappears. We willingly give in to this massive assault because we are afraid. 1984 has arrived even if it is 18 years late. The ultimate irony here is that Mr. Bush proposes to be pro life.

Peter J. Riga

Where were the men?

Since only seven of the 41 Foundation scholarship recipients were men (December), is it time to bring back affirmative action for men law students? Or are men less conducive to volunteer for programs valued by the foundation?

Fazle-Rab G.D. Quadri

Pro bono deserves mention

The December issue did not name the author of the front page article, "Few who need legal help get it." I would say to the author that he or she is correct to some extent, citing instances where legal help is unavailable to certain segments of our population and bemoaning the fact that California lags behind states like Minnesota, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts in providing legal aid to the poor.

That still leaves 45 other states and it makes me suspect that there may be a bias here and wonder how credible the rest of your lengthy statistics really are.

But what amazes me most is that this article followed last month's two-page feature lauding the pro bono programs and the work of the emeritus attorneys and others who, at the annual convention in Monterey two months earlier, were given the President's Pro Bono service award for distinguished service.

True, it is only a small contribution to the greater problem, but to the attorneys giving their time, expertise and talents, free of charge, it is a big thing.

Al Yablon
Mr. Yablon received a pro bono award in October.

Plaintiff's lawyer disagrees

I could not contain myself when I read "Indigestion From Outrageous Verdicts" in November by Daniel L. Hess. Mr. Hess' basic platform is that juries are fueled by avaricious plaintiffs' lawyers who can dupe and mystify them as easily as an audience that has ever been taken in by David Copperfield.

As an attorney who usually represents injured plaintiffs and has tried his share of jury trials, I, too, am often disappointed by jury awards, and not because they are giving my clients undeserved bonanzas, but because they more often shortchange deserving plaintiffs or give them nothing at all.

When I have an opportunity to question them after the verdict, I am never at a loss for amazement at some of the things that they discuss during deliberations: insurance, attorney's fees, some other juror's cousin who had a similar case, you name it.

Notwithstanding my not infrequent disappointment, I believe that some of the things that make this country special are the jury system, the ability of individuals to take the government to task when it does wrong, and the contingency fee system.

They are three of the great accomplishments of the most liberated country in the world. Mr. Hess, who apparently was unimpressed by his constitutional law course in law school, would like to scuttle that system because he believes jurors are too easily manipulated by attorneys who make mountains of money no matter what total lack of merit may accompany their particular case. This sure hasn't been my experience.

It is not perfect, but I would take the existing system over the draconian system of justice that Mr. Hess would visit on us if given half a chance. He can always live in a third world country, most of which have even more conservative models of justice than what he envisions, if this is his true idea of freedom and liberty.

Lawrence A. Strid
Laguna Hills

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