California Bar Journal
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ABA is biased an out of touch

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Blatant, obvious tripe

ABA President Martha Barnett's recent letter (May Bar Journal) was not only outrageous for its arrogance, but was also outrageous for its assumption upon our incredulity. Since when have federal judges been anointed as "the ultimate guardians of the rights of all Americans?" 

Since when has any judge, state or federal, ever been "independent from partisan politics?"  To continue to chant the mantra that judges are (a) not political, in the first place and (b) independent, in the second, is sheer nonsense. And Ms. Barnett's grandiose statement that the ABA "has insulated presidents and senators from political patronage pressures" is so blatantly nearsighted as to be laughable.

As for the ABA's "thorough and independent peer review of the professional qualifications of judicial nominees," spare me the propaganda. The ABA is a political organization, with a very distinct and questionable, in the eyes of many, agenda of its own. Its reviews are neither "independent" nor objective. While the ABA may indeed "continue with [its] volunteer efforts" in this regard, it should at least spare the insult to my intelligence and the intelligence of my brethren and refrain from advancing such blatant and obvious tripe as was written by its president.

Walter H. Porr, Jr.

ABA is a shill for the left

Bert Z. Tigerman wrote in the May issue that the ABA has "the confidence and trust of all segments of the bar." I find it astonishing that any lawyer could be so oblivious to the massive dissatisfaction with the ABA among America's lawyers. Surely prosecutors and victims' rights advocates are a "segment of the bar." Does Mr. Tigerman really mean to say the ABA has our confidence?

In matters of criminal law, the ABA has degenerated into a shill for the defense side. In amicus briefs in the Supreme Court, it has filed on the defense side every time, without a single brief on the prosecution side, for over 10 years. In its lobbying efforts, it predictably sides with the defense against the prosecution on nearly all significant issues.

Mr. Tigerman states that the ABA has "a profound commitment to the continued improvement of the administration of justice." In my experience, the ABA's efforts are regularly contrary to the cause of justice.

The ABA needs to purge itself of its bias and return to being a broad umbrella organization representing the whole bar. There are plenty of other organizations around to advocate the pet causes of the political left.

Kent Scheidegger

Bork defeated by lefty attack

I had to read this sentence twice because I could not believe I had read it correctly the first time: "It (ABA judicial evaluation committee) never considers ideology or philosophy in any evaluation." Incredibly, the piece cites Judge Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court as purported proof there is no ideological factor in the ABA commitee's evaluations.

The ABA previously had unanimously given Judge Bork its highest rating twice. Only after the left had mounted a then-unprecedented attack on ideological grounds did four members of the committee declare him "not qualified." The ABA dissent then was used as "evidence" against Judge Bork, playing an important part in the defeat of one of the best-qualified people ever nominated for the court.

The ABA's liberal bias is no secret.

Richard M. Coleman

Second-tier seizure

Increasingly in the past 30 years, bar associations have become infected with the systematic disease of ideological control by those who seize the second-tier elements of associations to further their own social and political policies. They perpetuate their interests by soliciting and supporting candidates who agree with them, most often on issues outside the stated purpose of the parent organization.

This is not to say that many recommendations of the evaluation committee are not qualified to be on the bench, but can any lawyer conscientiously say that the appointees to the bench by Jimmy Carter, like those of Jerry Brown, had not passed an ideological test in the minds of the evaluating committees? Presidents and governors cannot make investigations personally. They must rely on people whose judgments they trust. That is what makes positions on the second-tier levels so important.

Samuel L. Holmes

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Reciprocity does not dilute competency

I want to commend President Madden (March) for his willingness to lead the State Bar into a closer relationship with the realities of legal practice in the 21st century. As legal information, both raw and processed, becomes more easily accessed at lower costs, our clients will certainly ask themselves, "What value does my attorney add to the product?"

We must concentrate on securing that value rather than relying on government enforcement to maintain a monopoly for us. We must also recognize that the other aspect of monopoly law practice - exclusion of attorneys licensed in other states - is simply not being followed by anyone with national clients because a strict application of state-by-state monopoly control is incompatible with the national and international marketplace in which our clients operate. It is one thing to ensure that every attorney is responsible to a disciplinary system to which clients may appeal if injured. It is quite another thing to burden those same clients with having to employ additional lawyers when there is often little difference between the laws governing business transactions in various states, because of pervasive federal regulation and uniform state statutes.

The federal government does not feel any need to ensure that the thousands of lawyers who advise it and represent it are members of the bar in every state where they work. Having worked 15 years as a federal attorney representing my client in 25 states, and having later earned admission in three states that do not have reciprocity with each other, I have noticed no actual increase in my competency as I have passed successive bar exams. The state bar associations must admit the fact that attorneys cannot wall themselves off from being part of America's free market economy, and must adapt the form of bar membership to the substance of legal practice in the real world.

Raymond Takashi Swenson
Idaho Falls, Idaho

Great Kids

I am a full-time teacher of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students, and I am an active member of the California bar. I received my Kids & the Law within the May issue of the Bar Journal. It is an outstanding publication. Thank you very much for the effort that went into it.

Gary J. Rubin
San Miguel

'Discrete' services won't improve access

I fear that legitimizing "discrete task legal services" as proposed by Palmer Madden (April Bar Journal) would institutionalize the disparity in the quality of representation afforded the affluent and the poor, subvert our most fundamental ethic of undivided loyalty to our clients and in other respects render us no more accountable for our actions than the legion of ghost-writing "paralegals" to be found in our every strip mall.

I agree with Mr. Madden's implicit premises that the cost of legal representation intolerably impairs access to the courts for too large a segment of our population (and, I would add, not just the indigent) and that the unrepresented population is so large in comparison to our population of attorneys that the gap cannot be closed by full representation on a pro bono basis even if all we attorneys ourselves go on the dole.

And unless our legislature and judicial council devote themselves to reduction and simplification rather than expansion and elaboration, the disparity will only worsen as the bar increasingly becomes the citizen's exclusive portal to the courtroom. However, I don't think the answer is to create a shorter day in court for the poor, but to put up the money to provide the unrepresented with real lawyers.

John M. Maraldo

A question of fairness

The April issue provided me with a surprise. Two practitioners were summarily disbarred, both for acts of moral turpitude. I question neither the convictions nor the disbarments. I trust the California court and the bar association acted with due diligence. However, I ponder the wisdom of proceeding summarily.

For example, the practitioner who was found guilty of an attempted lewd act upon a child, even though there was neither a child present nor a lewd act performed.

The interesting part would be the court's handling of the attempt issue. I care not a whit for the prurient nature of the crime. Had the practitioner contemplated suicide while driving to the ocean, planning to throw himself in, but then mistakenly parked by a shallow lake, realized it wasn't deep enough, and then abandoned the idea, would he then be charged with attempted suicide? 

We'll never know without the case being argued in full, rather than disposed of summarily. It would be instructive indeed to observe the court struggle with the condition of attempt.

I would suggest the bar could reconsider the summary aspect of these proceedings. Those of us who rely upon these findings to guide our own lives would welcome examples from which to understand the decision process.

Michael D. Hoy
Excelsior, Minn.

In praise of Google

Dana Schultz's excellent article regarding the Google search engine will hopefully bring the word about this truly exceptional internet tool to the legal community. However, he did overlook two aspects of the Google that I use frequently.

First, Google "caches" or saves the original version of the indexed page so that if the website has changed, you can still retrieve the page. This is very useful for searching news sites, which are constantly changing.

Second, Google allows you to access a pdf website in the text format. For those using dial-up connections, this is very useful because pdf websites are notoriously slow to download and difficult to access. More important, the text format of the page highlights in color your search terms - much like a Lexis search.

In sum, Google is great.

Harvey Saferstein
Santa Monica