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Hallmarks of change

William Vickrey says (September) that “the only thing” that could have significantly boosted the public’s view of the courts since a 1992 survey “is how the courts conduct their business.” I disagree, though the innovations he cites hearten me. But there’s been another change, too.

In 1992, ambitious politicians still advanced themselves by attacking courts for “coddling criminals.” (Hallmarks of the times: 1991 — Supreme Court reverses itself: unforeseen effects on victims’ survivors are now relevant to whether murderers should die; 1992 — candidate Bill Clinton publicly signs death warrant for prisoner who is so incompetent that he doesn’t get that he’s about to die; 1994 — California legislature and electorate pass Three Strikes laws; 1996 — Effective Death Penalty Act inhibits federal courts’ ability to nullify unconstitutional state criminal judgments.)

For various reasons, those whose ambitions exceed their concern for how their actions impact the lives of real people have moved on to other targets. The courts are off the hook, and the polls reflect that fact as well.

Michael Goldstein
Alameda

Men are victims, too

As an attorney who works with male victims of domestic violence, I was very offended by your article, “Safety and services under one roof” (August). Every example of domestic violence in the article was male-on-female, and the article was prefaced with a drawing of “the difference between the family’s old life and their new life after Dad is gone.” Male victims are stigmatized and ignored enough as it is without having to read articles like yours.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, “approximately 1.5 million women and 834,732 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States” (i.e., at least 36 percent of the victims are men), which is at ncjrs.org/ txtfiles1/nij/181867.txt. California State University maintains an online bibliography of over 174 studies showing “women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners” at csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm. One of the studies is the most comprehensive analysis of existing research on the topic ever published (Archer, Psych. Bulletin, 11/00), which found that 38 percent of injured victims are men and that self-defense does not explain the female violence.

A report by the California Research Bureau shows that thousands of men seek shelter-based services every year. But Health & Safety Code ยง124250 excludes them from the services, including motel vouchers and court advocacy, because of their gender. So they have to travel hundreds of miles to the Valley Oasis shelter in Lancaster, the only one that will help males, in order to escape the violence. They have faced over 30 years of exclusion, neglect and outright sexism from the domestic violence industry because they do not fit the feminist man/bad woman/good model.

 I hope you will be more fair and honest next time in how you depict this issue.

Marc E. Angelucci, President
National Coalition of Free Men
Los Angeles chapter

A closed shop

In response to Wendy Borcherdt’s article in favor of permanent disbarment (August): The article reflects what is truly wrong with the State Bar. Like it or not, the bar is my union. I am a member of an agency shop — I pay my dues or I do not get to play in the sandbox. Alas, my union is out of touch with reality.

Today, the practice of law is a business. According to the Bar Journal, there are 149,818 active members of the bar, each competing against each other, the paralegal industry and the self-help centers that are being provided by many courthouses with public funding. Rather than protect me and my fellow union members, my union promotes these bit players who take the cookie and leave the crumbs for the rest of us to fight over.

The loss of respect for this business/profession is not due to “sleazy” attorneys because there really are exceedingly few such lawyers out there. If Ms. Borcherdt and the State Bar are really serious about “respect” for this profession, I suggest that you engage in an advertising campaign to educate the public about the function and role of an attorney in the justice system. You should also promote the use of attorneys as opposed to paralegals and “self-help centers.” Such action would truly promote respect for the profession.

If a member can establish that he has been rehabilitated — no easy task — I have no problem with reinstatement. Murderers, rapists, child molesters and thieves are paroled out of prison — surely an errant lawyer is entitled to at least that much consideration.

If these observations make me a “sleazy” lawyer in Ms. Borcherdt’s eyes, I wear the title proudly.

Rodney J. Espinoza
Covina

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