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Home Page Official Publication of the State Bar of California May2007
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Letters to the Editor

Expanding the pool

I commend you on your latest attempt to change “the color of the California bench” (April). Such attempts strike at the heart of the problem, and I’d like to see them carried further. The Bar Journal is just the publication to do it, too.

Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion, I’d like to see figures on the religious makeup of California’s bar and bench. Perhaps you could compile and show charts similar to the ones in the April issue on race and gender.

For example, what percentage of California attorneys and judges are Roman Catholic? What percentage are Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Methodist, Atheist, Buddhist, Mormon, Confucian, None or Hindu, etc.?

The pie charts could be interesting. What would happen, for example, if some group is underrepresented? Should the bar try to increase that religion’s representation? Suppose a group is overrepresented. Do we need another affirmative action program to limit representation by members of that group?

One big problem, of course, is the honesty factor. How many people would declare what they really believe themselves to be in spite of possible unequal and unfavorable treatment. However, I would give most bar members the benefit of the doubt when it comes to honesty.

Go for it, Bar Journal. Lead the way to justice!

Thomas Hatcher
Roseville

Solutions to the problem

The April issue devoted much space to a perceived lack of minority jurists in the courts of California. Actually, there is a short-term and a long-term answer to a problem that, as with beauty, exists primarily in the eye of the beholder.

For the short term, get the legislature to amend C.C.P. §170.2, entitled “Circumstances not constituting grounds for disqualification” to include, under subparagraph (a), that a judge who is not a member of a racial, ethnic, religious, sexual or similar group can be peremptorily disqualified by a member of such a “protected class.”

For the long term, as those agitating for change in the composition of the bench of California are adept politicians, certainly as we have judicial elections every two years, said groups should be able to target Caucasian judges believed to be hostile to the causes of members of that particular minority group.

Here in Los Angeles County, it is common knowledge that many Caucasian lawyers would just love to see a fair number of Caucasian judges challenged, and defeated.

Nathaniel J. Friedman
Beverly Hills

What problem?

How can the lack of diversity on the bench be characterized as a “huge problem” worthy of great angst when the minority proportion of judges exceeds the minority proportion of the State Bar? If it is, then it should be addressed at the State Bar level (or below) rather than the judicial appointment level.

James T. Sherren
Ventura

Affirmative action gone wild

The article on “changing the color of the bench” would have been more meaningful if you had included among those statistics the percentage of minority members of the state and county bars. To say that there are no judges of color in some counties does not mean much if there are not many lawyers of color either.

I also did not see any serious consideration to the quality factor. Many white lawyers apply for the bench and are rejected and not just for political reasons. I want quality judges and I couldn’t care less what color they are. Finally, there is no indication that minority litigants are unjustly treated by white judges. This is affirmative action gone wild. 

I’m white and also a Torchbearer of long-standing for the United Negro College Fund.

Matthew M. Kremer
San Diego

Wrong standard

I could care less about the racial or ethnic make-up of the bench as long as it dispenses justice. I am sick and tired of whining people complaining about issues that have nothing to do with the real objective. For me, forget about any efforts to decide on justice based on racial and/or ethnic discrimination.

Charles L. Stanley
La Jolla

What about competence?

It warms the heart. Diversity uber alles! Likely not a new idea, perhaps, even suggested by another thinker who doesn’t care one whit about diversity/percentages. How about integrity and competence? After all, judges are societal functionaries, not elected (usually) representatives. We need them skilled at the task. It’s a tough job. 

Does anyone think a successful corporation’s CEO is selected based upon diversity? Or, racial balance relative to the general population? How about a center on an NBA team?  But, hey! What’s that got to do with getting good judges? In the case of judges, we just need to get the colors and percentages right. Right? 

Robert J. Fulton
San Jose

Why not disbarment?

For almost 30 years I have been gnashing my teeth over the monthly reports of lenient discipline imposed on attorneys who are clearly in the wrong profession and, in my opinion, should be disbarred.

“Betty Doe” is a perfect example. (I do not know Ms. Doe. All the facts in my letter come from the discipline summary in the April issue and from information posted on the bar’s Web site. I have changed only her name.) Only 32, Ms. Doe was admitted to the bar in 2000, after getting her J.D. from Hastings. It is impossible for any reasonable person to believe that she did not know that the following conduct was unethical, dishonest and impermissible for bar members:

In just a few years, Ms. Doe commingled her funds with client money in a trust account and wrote NSF checks on that account. She then (for another client) pursued an unjust  case and committed several dishonest acts during the course of the matter. When sanctioned more than $77,000, she did not report the sanction to the bar, nor did she pay any of it. (Her client satisfied the entire judgment.) In a criminal matter for a third party, she entered into a plea bargain on behalf of her client without his knowledge. 

These were not mistakes, nor acts of negligence. Why was her actual suspension only four months?         

Law school doesn’t make people honest. The students who study law are supposed to be honest already, and the vast majority are. In 12 years as a litigator and 14 years as a court commissioner, I met only a handful of attorneys whom I had reason to suspect of any dishonest statement.  

Does anyone believe that Betty Doe is going to become an honest person? Am I the only one who thinks she should have been disbarred? She does not deserve to be an attorney.

Loretta M. Norris
Los Angeles

Something to be proud of

Recently, I became aware through the State Bar Web site of the complimentary career counseling offered by the bar (calbar.ca.gov/lap). I inquired and was referred to a counselor at California Career Services in Los Angeles, who met with me for two hours and provided additional advice via e-mail after the meeting. The advice was directed to my specific concerns, not generic, and helped me greatly in formulating a job-seeking strategy.

I commend the bar for making this resource available, and urge other members to take advantage of it.

Donn Dimichele
Redlands

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