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Home Page Official Publication of the State Bar of California March2003
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Letters to the Editor

Not enough plaintiff risk

The article "Alleged abuses prompt review of consumer law" in the February Bar Journal illustrates just one of the forms of lawsuit abuse that threaten the livelihood of small businesses. However, the underlying motivation behind virtually all forms of frivolous or malicious legal action is the fact that plaintiffs have too little at risk in filing these actions.

While the measures cited in the article may be helpful in curtailing limited instances of such abuse, lawsuit abuse will remain widespread until federal legislation is enacted forcing any losing plaintiff to pay a portion of the defendant's legal fees. If the plaintiff fails to prevail, some plaintiff-supplied compensation should be available to the exonerated defendant, who had no choice in the matter of being involved in the suit.

Weakly justified lawsuits, extortion or revenge-based lawsuits and lawsuits by litigious parties such as habitually "disgruntled" former employees threaten the finances of most businesses. Suitably structured legislation, in which the percentage of an exonerated defendant's legal restitution by the unsuccessful plaintiff increases the further the unsuccessful case progresses, would allow for adequate early discovery while discouraging plaintiffs from filing and continuing to pursue substantially baseless claims.

Joel M. Libove
Orinda

Biased terminolog

In reading the article about Eric Brooks ("A year as ‘the only one' at Boalt," February Bar Journal), I was struck by the use of the phrase "underrepresented minority" to describe minority students at Boalt. What exactly makes any minority group "underrepresented?" The article implies that all minorities are automatically underrepresented simply because they are minorities.

What is the relevant pool upon which this classification of "underrepresented" is based? If 12 percent of the population is black and 10 percent of blacks seek admission to law school, then totally disregarding qualifications, the "correct" percentage of blacks in law school should be 0.12 percent; meaning that one out of every 1,000 law students should be black. Would one black student in a class of 270 then constitute an overrepresentation of that minority?

Simply put, the inclusion of "underrepresented" before "minority" is gratuitous editorializing of the author's political view in what purports to be an objective news article.

I wonder if the author would consider whites to be underrepresented in the NBA, NFL or MLB, considering that the percentage of blacks and other minorities in these professions far exceeds their percentage in the general population.

I must have missed the memo from the State Bar advising me of the "fact" that blacks and other minorities are underrepresented in the legal profession.

Ron Berestka
San Francisco

Plea for competent counsel

As one who fervently wishes that the U.S. had a real death penalty — 100 within five years instead of the present five-in-a-hundred — I strongly support John A. Brock's position (January Bar Journal) on the rule requiring competent counsel in capital cases. At present, the favorite ploy of death penalty opponents — whose stalling tactics make Saddam look like an amateur — is the claim that any defendant with a trial counsel less brilliant than Johnnie C. has not been adequately represented. Occasionally they are right, of course, so any rule that weeds out the obvious incompetents is devoutly to be wished.

Paul N. Wenger Jr.
West Hartford, Conn.

Praise for Kuehl

My article entitled "California Law Gets Even Friendlier to Families" (January Bar Journal) did not mention that Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, was the author of the Paid Family Care Leave Act landmark legislation.

Congratulations to Sen. Kuehl on the passage of this ground-breaking law.

Patricia A. Shiu
San Francisco

Disbar for life

Anybody who is guilty of a felony or moral turpitude needs to be disbarred and be civilly and criminally prosecuted. End of story. When is the State Bar going to stop making excuses for their lawyers? Anybody who is disbarred is disbarred for life. Otherwise, why bother?

Richard B. Silbert
Inglewood

Silverton responds

One of the many misstatements in the January article ("Bar seeks Silverton's second disbarment") mentions that I had a felony charge relating to facilitation of adoptions, and that the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. That felony charge went to a jury and I was acquitted.

The misappropriation of trust fund accusation arose because the State Bar in October of 2001, more than eight months after I sold my practice and the building that housed it, decided to subpoena my trust account checks for the period July 1999 through January 2000 because of a complaint by a client who was not sure his medical provider had been paid. The client tried to withdraw the complaint, stating he was completely satisfied with my services.

During the period that the trust account checks were subpoenaed, there was a transfer of trust account funds from one bank to another because the first bank was closing down.

It is clear that the State Bar was looking for retribution against me when it proceded to retry me on withdrawn complaints even after the first State Bar judge to hear the evidence presented by the State Bar dismissed the case. The cases filed against me were brought more than two years after the complaints.

The bar was unhappy with my attempts to eliminate the disciplinary system and have the $57 million spent by the bar for it go to the court system.

Ronald R. Silverton
Pacific Palisades

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