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Call it what it is

The Bar Journal reports (November) that Daniel N. Busby was summarily disbarred for a crime of moral turpitude because he was found guilty of scamming a woman he offered to help recoup a large amount of money she lost in the stock market. On the other hand, Ward Douglas Smith was merely suspended when in March 2005, he was convicted of two counts of felony domestic battery with corporal injury and misdemeanor violation of a protective order. The convictions involved two incidents of battering his wife. In September 2005, Smith pleaded guilty to a year in Orange County jail.

Summary disbarment follows many crimes including harboring a fugitive, perjury and subornation of perjury, solicitation of great bodily harm, exhibiting a replica of a firearm in a threatening manner to cause fear or bodily harm to another, and multiple instances of driving with a suspended or revoked license, where circumstances revealed lawyer also was intoxicated.

If Ward Douglas Smith had threatened his wife with something that looked like a gun, or hired someone else to batter her, his license would have been permanently lifted. Apparently, moral turpitude does not extend to beating up your wife or contempt short of court when the court told you not to beat up your wife. There is a problem here. California women are far more likely to be the victims of spouse abuse than stock market scams. The spouses of California lawyers deserve the same respect that the State Bar extends to clients in disbarring offending attorneys. Criminal conviction of felony domestic battery should be recognized as a crime of moral turpitude and grounds for summary disbarment.

Margaret A. Gannon

Disclose your vices

Since the original rule to do so, I have always listed my lack of malpractice insurance on my representation agreement. I charge low fees and cannot afford the insurance. I also believe such a disclosure may discourage lawsuits — or the threat of same in order to get some sort of settlement. Auto insurance requirements, resulting in people’s constant expectation of payments and “injury” compensation for every little fender bender make this belief seem quite valid.

However, requiring attorneys to make this disclosure is odious. Supposedly, this requirement is meant to help clients pick a good attorney. Personally, if I were a client, I’d rather know if my potential attorney had an alcohol or drug or emotional problem, which the bar admits often causes attorneys to harm their clients, and, in fact, is even deemed a “mitigating” factor in attorney discipline. How about requiring attorneys to disclose their drug, alcohol and emotional problems to potential clients?

The way to attempt to give clients honest, competent attorneys is to disbar attorneys who harm clients. The bar discipline system is a joke. I cannot read the summaries of disciplined attorneys each month without my blood pressure rising.

I read summaries of disciplined attorneys who often harm clients over and over again, often over many years, while the discipline system, which I am forced to fund, gives these “rehabilitated” transgressors second and third and more opportunities to continue harming clients.

Lore K. Spangler
Los Angeles

Try being honest

It is obvious to even this white male that the changes in domestic violence law occurred after women gained political equality with men, not before. By placing people from different backgrounds in positions of power, different decisions are going to be made. Those arguing for diversity have a responsibility to drop the “diversity for diversity sake” argument and be honest about why they want diversity — to promote social change. A lack of boldness and honesty in argument is never healthy (or productive).

William Briggs

Amusing or insulting?

I was amused to open the most recent statement from the bar for annual dues and to discover that the toll for inactive membership has gone from $50 a year for nothing, to $125 a year for nothing. Now that is inflation! More amusing is the language used by the bar which permits members to opt out to the tune of $5 a year under the Keller case (for those who do not wish to “address bias in the legal profession”). 

The use of such language on the dues statement is not only an insult to the membership, but a misstatement of the facts in Keller wherein the bar’s board of governors were precluded from using mandatory dues for what was and continues to be naked partisan political activities.

Steve Martini
Bellingham, Wash.

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