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Apology demanded

While it may be an editorial objective to print letters that provoke debate, the CBJ editorial staff used poor judgment in publishing the letter from Alan Herson (March) criticizing Diane Karpman’s February column on Alberto Gonzales.

Mr. Herson’s letter displays either complete ignorance or deluded denial of the relevant and well-documented evidence of Gonzales’ pivotal role in the torture issue. Mr. Herson’s insulting and derogatory statements were unworthy of publication. He and the CBJ owe Ms. Karpman an apology.

Eleanor Musick

Recasting the unspeakable

Diane Karpman offers a belabored apologia (February) for the infamous torture memorandum that Alberto Gonzales facilitated and offered to the administration. The memorandum endorsed torture, belittled the Geneva Convention, and set in motion the machinery that has subjected our nation to international shame. Is she suggesting, as she implies, that his primitive and abhorrent legal analysis was ethically justified because he was representing the White House and not the nation? Or is she suggesting that his analysis was proper and appropriately provided the legal cover his client wanted? Either defense could be dismissed out of hand if the implications were not so dire.

Has she forgotten that the memorandum stated for torture to be committed, it must lead to “injury such as death, organ failure, or serious im-pairment of body functions . . .” Rape, pulling out fingernails, electric shock, psychological torture and numerous other horrors would not be torture in that dangerous judgment. Is this what she means when she states that opponents are “delicately defining torture,” and that Gonzales was only “spinning” the Geneva Convention? Equating this memorandum, with all the misery it represents, with “semantic games” is indecent.  

You have published a column that recasts the unspeakable. 

Brenda J.M. Walsh

The real train wreck

Re: the article entitled “Public protection takes center stage in disaster.” You might want to consider that the tragedy — to which the bar responded by passing out business cards — might have been averted in the first place had some effort instead been applied to remedying the egregious family laws that likely drove the suicidal man to park his car on the railroad tracks. Efforts in that realm will probably have a far greater effect in protecting the public.

Michael Newdow, MD, JD

MCLE credit for jury duty?

After nearly 26 years in practice, I recently completed my call for first jury duty. The experience was invaluable. Observing the machinations as a civilian and overhearing the poignant comments of others was clearly worth the day away from the office.

The bar could help sole practitioners like me, and we, in turn, could assist the courts by being more easily available if, say, the first day’s hours would count toward our annual MCLE requirements.

Jeffrey Sklan
Beverly Hills

Test for ethics

The January article on the MPRE and the issue of student test scores raises an issue too often ignored by a California bar forced to focus on after-the-fact discipline rather than prevention and education. The only way to ensure that students treat ethics as a serious subject is to include it on the California bar exam.

As the author pointed out, law schools often treat ethics classes apologetically, as something they are forced to teach but understand no one wants to learn, reinforced by statements such as “you won’t be tested on this on the bar exam” and “you only need to know this to pass the MPRE.” 

This sentiment is reinforced by the fact that law schools must teach a subject where much of it is inapplicable in California. Students and practicing attorneys cannot be expected to take a subject seriously where there is no requirement that they master the subject with any proficiency.

 The answer is not a higher test score on a mostly irrelevant exam but rather requiring a passing test score on an exam that tests the rules of ethics currently in force and applied in the state of California.

Bernadette M. Chala
Costa Mesa

Get out the Lysol

I have found it strange that in all of the articles written about the tobacco free workplace choice of Weyco Inc., including yours, (“Smokers need not apply,” March) nowhere have I seen a discussion of what I consider the most valid and supportable reason to support a firm-wide 24/7 non-smoking policy.

Smokers, and even those who live with smokers, actually carry the tobacco smoke with them wherever they go. It is not necessary to have actual second-hand smoke, but merely the residue of long-past smoking will suffice. The odor and stench smokers carry into our workplace is offensive and harmful to those of us that do our best to avoid cigarette smoke. It provokes allergies, causes headaches and generally creates an unnecessary impediment to productivity and health in any working environment. 

We will not even allow our clients who smoke to come into our office, since the stench they bring with them literally lasts for days after even the shortest visit. It is retained in our drapes and curtains, the upholstery in our chairs and couches, even in the various papers they sign or review. Over the years, we have tried room deodorizers, more powerful air conditioning systems and a myriad of other things, yet nothing seems to speed up the stench removal process. Only by complete elimination of the underlying cause could we keep our working environment smoke stench free.

Therefore, after-hours smoking has a clear, direct and detrimental impact on the working environment that even the most ardent smokers’ lobby cannot deny.

Robert F. Egenolf
Santa Barbara

Wisdom within (without hortatory)

I was admitted to practice almost 30 years ago and one thing I had never done was to read a bar president’s column to the end. I don’t know President Van de Kamp, but I found his opinion piece “In the midst of style, some advice” (March) delightful and wise.

A more cynical reader might ask, “How did such a marvelous fellow ever get chosen for such an office?” Having known several delightful and wise bar presidents, I ask instead, “Why didn’t any of those other presidents suspend the hortatory and pompous just long enough to let us get to know them a bit?” Praise God for John Van de Kamp, and may his term in office bring more manifestations of his wisdom and humor.

 Now I must log on at to track down this fellow Arturo Perez-Reverte before I resume my pro bono work and other good things.

Dick Greenwood
San Diego

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