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Paid jurors: no problem

Kudos to Joseph Cavallo for his gutsy and innovative defense tactic: hiring former jurors as consultants for the retrial of a criminal case (January). Despite the criticism, the tactic is neither unethical nor “slimy.” If they were overpaid PhDs, no one would bat an eye. And who better to advise which trial tactics were effective and which were not?

Some years ago, I shared office space with a criminal defense lawyer who didn’t believe in “breaking a sweat” in service of his clients because, in his words, “most of ’em are guilty anyway.” Now that’s slimy.

Michael P. Vaio
Raleigh, N.C.

Jurors deserve fair wage

Your stories and letters about paying jurors fail to address the overriding problem with juries today: they are not representative of the community. The entire point of a jury deciding matters of fact in a case is to allow representative members of the community to make those decisions.

In today’s society, people are asked to give up their pay to serve on juries. Thus, the only people who end up serving are the small minority who have jobs that pay them while on jury duty, those who are wealthy enough to afford taking time off work without pay, retired people who would not lose pay by serving, and those unable to avoid jury duty. This situation creates juries that are not representative of the community.

While it has become an unfortunate mantra in modern America that the government should not provide social services, it is essential to a fair and unbiased legal system that governments begin paying jurors for their time off work. This would allow average people to serve on juries without fear of financial hardship, or financial ruin in some cases. Jurors should be compensated at their normal daily rate of pay of their jobs with a specified maximum, say $200-400/day, which could be determined by the local cost of living.

With this needed change to our jury system, people could once again receive a trial by juries of their peers. Without it, the court system will continue to fail to represent average people.

Jeff Hoffman
San Francisco

Enough, already

Enough of this nonsense about Prof. Sander’s proposals — whether affirmative action helps or hurts, increasing numbers of one identifiable group is irrelevant. We should be trying to insure that the brightest and most creative become doctors, lawyers and scientists, not the most politically correct and not by quotas. Racial preferences; affirmative action; coloring the news; dumbing down tests; political correctness instead of truth — all of it is just plain wrong and most of it is unconstitutional.

States are prohibited from “deny[ing] to any person . . . equal protection of the laws.” Giving favors to one group of people has the equal and opposite reaction of denying them to others. Not only is this unfair but it makes every person of that favored group suspect. Dumbing down tests alone is harmful — if all the questions are easy, you can’t sort out the brightest. Our whole nation suffers from this trend.

Think about it the next time you need surgery or the nation needs a new method of countering terrorism.

Linda Barr Mok
Los Angeles

Unthinking responses

Professor Sander’s article raised very interesting issues that deserve both consideration and open discussion. Instead, it was met with reflexive (a) assurances by admissions officers that at their schools all applicants are so exceptionally well qualified that use of affirmative action has no effect on standards, (b) assurances by political types that surely affirmative action is productive and effective, and (c) racist diatribes such as that authored by Aundre Herron (February). What a shame.

If affirmative action programs have no effect at some schools because all of their students are so well qualified, why do those schools have such programs? Has it been productive and effective? There is substantial evidence that it increases minority enrollment at some schools, but after decades has it really made a difference in the professions? A careful examination of the facts certainly is warranted, and examination to be followed by rational discourse.

What the discussion does not need is a rambling “all white folks are racists” essay by one who obviously did not read Professor Sander’s article carefully or take the few minutes necessary to consider and understand the observations he made and thoughts he expressed.

Neil L. Shapiro

A faded promise

I must compliment the Bar Journal for continuing the open and honest exchange of ideas on affirmative action. It is part of our responsibility as attorneys to help shape the focus of the discussion, even if we cannot bring it to a resolution. The Bar Journal is an excellent forum for this.

One of the first fallacies we learned in law school was the notion that for every wrong there was a remedy. The current exponential rate at which victim classifications are being generated within the legal system will undoubtedly soon result in a backlash and a reaffirmation that not every harm is actionable. While the documented racial discrimination of blacks and other minorities is undeniable, the fallacy of addressing this wrong through affirmative action is also undeniable. Two wrongs do not make a right: the time for affirmative action has passed.

Mark Algazy

No career breaker

I very much enjoyed Diane Karpman’s article about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ position on torturing U.S. government captives (February). Ms. Karpman’s own position seems somewhat unclear to me. She says that it is myopic to consider involvement in a memo condoning torture as a “career breaker.” If she is suggesting that one might advance in the government regardless of proposing torture as a policy, then I think that she is certainly correct. If she is suggesting that that is not a very sorry pass for a society to end up in, then I think she is very much wrong.

One of the advances that a legal scholar made hundreds of years ago was to argue that the punishments of tearing people limb from limb and the like was, perhaps, just a tad bit barbaric. That comment would, hopefully, be considered quaint by those with at least a minimum of human feeling, but, apparently, for a lawyer to counsel methods by which his government can get around prohibitions against torture is no longer a “career breaker.”

What an amazing regression. Once again, such a position shows that progress certainly doesn’t proceed in a straight line.

Alex Easterbrook
Redwood City

What torture memo?

Diane Karpman attempted to deceive us. She stated that Gonzales was a “central figure” in creating an alleged torture memo. She also wrote of his “involvement” in the torture memo. Karpman’s implication was that Gonzales had participated in the writing of the memo. In fact, Gonzales, who was not then in the Department of Justice, merely received the memo after it was written by the DOJ.

Before she writes another column about ethics, Ms. Karpman should take a remedial course in ethics.

Alan R. Herson
Jacksonville, Ore.

Domestic partners and property taxes

In 2003, the State Board of Equalization approved amendments to two Property Tax Rules that allow registered domestic partners to avoid property tax reassessment when one partner dies or the couple chooses to terminate their registered domestic partnership. These rules broaden the exclusion from reassessment for transfers between registered domestic partners in a way that is similar to the exclusion for married couples.

The first, Property Tax Rule 462.240, became effective in 2003 and provides that no reassessment occurs when a surviving domestic partner inherits property from a partner who dies as long as they are registered with the Secretary of State. This exclusion applies only to transfers between registered domestic partners that result from the death of one of the partners who owns property that is not community property from a prior marriage. 

The second rule, Property Tax Rule 462.040, also became effective in 2003 and provides that no reassessment occurs even though both registered domestic partners are still living at the time of the property transfer if (1) each tenant in common transfers their property interests to themselves as joint tenants without adding other persons to the title and (2) each joint tenant who would have been subject to reassessment transfers his or her revocable trust for the benefit of the other joint tenants.  Property Tax Rule 462.040 allows co-owners to hold title in joint tenancy without registering with the Secretary of State as registered domestic partners. However, in most cases, the parties have some type of close relationship.       

If you have further questions regarding the above referenced rule changes, please contact my office at 213-239-8506 or see my Web site: 

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