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Letters to the Editor

Second-class citizens?

I trust that the president of the Bar Association of San Francisco (Jeff Bleich) had not read Nat Hentoff's opinion column in the March 2003 edition prior to promulgating his screed of condemning judges who associate themselves with the Boy Scouts of America. Otherwise, one can conclude BASF needs leaders who understand the First Amendment right to associate freely with groups which may not meet their personal notions of political thought.

I suspect that adoption of the rule stridently espoused by the present association leadership will inspire litigation of a nature already decided by the United States Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, with the usual array of profound amici curiae and a result vindicating the same First Amendment right reiterated so palpably in Dale - unless, that is, judges are deemed second-class citizens undeserving of freedom to associate with lawful, respected entities.

I am not a member of the Boy Scouts of America. Judges who are members are impartial, objective and as scrupulously conscientious as judges of the sole court which has barred membership in the Boy Scouts of America. It is disparaging for a local bar president to allege otherwise.

Hon. Quentin L. Kopp
San Mateo County Superior Court

Freedom of belief

What if a judge belongs to a church that is against the death penalty, or against abortion, or says homosexuality is a sin, or only allows women ministers, or men ministers, or opposes divorce, or requires its members to wear certain identifying apparel, or doesn't admit blacks or whites or orientals to membership, or believes saluting the flag is wrong? And the list can go on and on.

According to Mr. Bleich's view, judges would have to be prohibited from belonging to such churches, even though that church may represent the ethical, moral and religious views of the judge.

It's about time we got back to our roots. Because we are a free country and the First Amendment is very important, anyone can believe and speak and live as that person wishes, so long as it is not outside the law. But let's please stop trying to force that lack of belief or a belief in nothing, if you will, on other people.

Let's concentrate on getting and keeping good, fair and capable judges and quit worrying about what they believe or what charitable groups they belong to or assist.

Sylvia L. Paoli
La Mirada

Hentoff missed the point

I am surprised and disappointed that Nat Hentoff has so entirely missed the point about judges belonging to the Boy Scouts of America.

The issue is not that this organization must accept gay boys or men in its membership. The point is, however, that a person who is a California judge must choose between membership in the BSA or serving as a judge.

The questionable and probably unconstitutional "exception" for "youth organizations" should not be permitted to hide the fact that for a judge to participate in the BSA is clearly inconsistent with the requirement that judges be free from the appearance of bias.

There is no First Amendment right for a judge to belong to an organization that discriminates against gays any more than there is a right for a judge to belong to the Ku Klux Klan.

Mr. Hentoff, with whom I often disagree but respect his powers of discernment, has gone way off track with this one.

Philip J. Hoskins
Los Angeles

What authority?

It is amusing to see that you qualify Nat Hentoff as an "authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights" when his style of argument is the simpleton's upside-down serving up of false analogy (NAACP, gay groups) seasoned with a dash of abuse ("to force judges publicly to scorn . . ."), just the sort of fast food constitutional expertise Hentoff's fellow media operator Rush Limbaugh serves up to a giant audience hungry for such fare.

Unless in your book Limbaugh, too, is an "authority."

Channing Bates
Santa Barbara

Ahead of our time?

As I read of the travails of Eric Brooks in your February article (A year as 'the only one' at Boalt), I am reminded of a law school classmate of mine some 50 years ago. He was 6'6" tall, at that time the tallest person in the law school. He attracted a lot of attention and possibly felt that, with or without the dean's guidance, he would be the last person of that height to attend our law school.

However, he bore up under the situation, studied hard and seemed to carry no chip on his shoulder, and, as luck would have it, others of his height followed him into our law school - even without a special program to promote diversity in the height of its students.

I really can't figure it out. Was he, and our law school, ahead of or behind their time?

Jack D. Scott
San Marino

Raspberry for Kuehl

Patricia A. Shiu writes (March) that she failed to credit State Sen. Sheila Kuehl for authoring the Paid Family Care Leave Act.

Socialistic legislation such as this simply demonstrates how hostile the California legislature and governor are to businesses in this state - especially small businesses. These legislators do not, of course, have to live with the mindless laws they enact - except to the extent that they inevitably result in diminished tax revenues.

Can we send Ms. Kuehl and her minions to France?

Robert C. Wood
Escondido

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