California Bar Journal
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Just look contrite and let me do all the talking. And this is probably a good time to tell you my legal fees have tripled...

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A welcome change in 'service' attitude

Sharon Lerman's "Litigants Without Lawyers Flood Courts" piece (July) is right on.

Some members of our profession were called to practice "the law" and these pro per litigants have been congesting the system. It is time for the bar to make the public welcome in their own legal system. The described help to the public in attending to their legal affairs is an outstanding first step. We need to go further by simplifying the law and court rules so that the public can understand their rights and how to enforce those rights.

Rather than frightening court clerks with "unauthorized practice of law," the bar should be encouraging a "service" attitude even though our monopoly of the process will be reduced. The bar should be helping to ensure "fairness" in arbitration (all ADR) rather than resisting based on the right to a jury trial, especially on modest claims.

H. "Bud" Hill Jr.

Pro per litigants victims of their own stupidity

Pro per litigants flood courtrooms because it's free. Pro per litigants, with few exceptions, are uneducated, unsophisticated human beings suffering the consequences of their own stupidity. Ventura County's Self-Help Legal Access Center would make the courts yet another government agency doling out free services at tremendous cost to taxpayers. This is not "access to justice"; this is unjustified access to the legal system.

Only lawyers could convince themselves that the law needs to be "demystified" for the benefit of the wilfully ignorant. Neither doctors nor accountants, barbers nor mechanics, have ever advanced such a preposterous proposition against their own guild, nor should lawyers. It is not our job to lower the standards so that pro pers can have what they would not earn. Pro per litigants must meet the procedural and substantive requirements of their case without the court's assistance - just like lawyers.

I will continue providing services to the needy for a reduced fee, but it is not the court clerk's, the judge's nor the bar administration's place to provide legal advice and counsel. There is no point in requiring a bar exam and MCLE if non-lawyers, court clerks, judges, bailiffs and court staff can dole out legal advice and services to pro pers, while receiving paychecks and pensions provided by taxpayers.

Ronald E. Doty Jr.

More publicity would help

I did not know each county is required to have a family law facilitator. Recent experience suggests that this law is not being observed in spirit.

After reading your article, I checked the Kern County website. There is no reference anywhere to the family law facilitator. What good is it to require a county to have such a resource if the county hides its existence from the people most needing the assistance?

The letter from Nancy Lee Wolfen published in July pointed out that personal injury attorneys are pricing themselves out of the market for ordinary people. This is true of many areas of practice, and courts - and the government in general - are going to have to address the issue of accommodating pro pers in non-criminal matters. Even experienced litigators are occasionally confused as to how to comply with local rules and procedures.

I am often amazed that pro pers are able to navigate the maze of forms and procedures as well as they do.

Michael L. Kadish
San Jose

User-friendly courts are better late than never

I was very heartened to see your article (July) on the new attitude of the courts toward pro per litigants. Better late than never.

I have been practicing self-help law for nearly five years and was originally motivated to go to law school because of my own difficulties finding my way through the court system when I was sued by a represented party and did not have the funds to hire an attorney myself. I did not, to say the least, find the courts user-friendly.

S.C. Beal

UPL action too little too late

Regarding President Madden's opinion in the August California Bar Journal on the unauthorized practice of law: Again the State Bar is doing too little and far too late. The unauthorized practice of law by paralegals setting up independent shop has gone on unchecked for years and has become an institution. The position of the bar 20 years ago was that it was not the organization to bring injunctive/civil actions to halt this illegal activity. If the State Bar does not have standing, then who does?

In other states, most notably Oregon, the state bar took affirmative legal action to halt the unauthorized practice of law. The Oregon bar action was successful.

Just now, Mr. Madden contends the bar is moving toward developing a policy to take care of the problem. So typical of the California bar - do nothing but spend a lot of money doing it.

Lawrence Allen

UPL action is welcome

I read, with pleasure, Mr. Madden's article. I think it is time that something is done. From my personal experience I know of one egregious group of people practicing law without a license under the supposed authority of a license issued by the Department of Insurance to public insurance adjusters. The public insurance adjuster is only authorized to deal with claims of a person insured to that person's insurer.

There is a glut of unauthorized practice of law by licensed public insurance adjusters who are adjusting third party property damage and even bodily injury claims. Neither the district attorney nor the State Bar will prosecute these cases nor will the licensing agency, the Department of Insurance.

Barry Zalma
Culver City

Unqualified attack in a valuable space . . .

It's fairly safe to say that cartoonist Wiley Miller has never in his life written a legal brief, passed tedious hours collating exhibits for trial, spent numerous hours on the phone or pacing the hallway trying to negotiate a settlement, or performed any of the numerous functions that attorneys necessarily perform in order to do their jobs.

Indeed, as a professional cartoonist, "Wiley" is scarcely able to say that he works for a living.

But from the cloistered comfort of his ivory easel, he poses as someone qualified to attack the legal profession, and thereby produces cartoons of juvenile finger-painting quality that do not even have the saving grace of humor or originality. Oh boy; another shark joke. It's been at least 24 hours since I last heard one of those.

Wiley Miller's "non sequiturs" might belong on an outhouse wall or on the inside of a fumigation tent, but they hardly belong in a prominent slot in the official publication of the California State Bar, taking up valuable space that might otherwise be used for the placement of another badly needed legal software ad.

Mark Siegel

. . . from moronic editors

Don't run cartoons that depict lawyers as sharks, vultures or other evil beasts. We get plenty of bad publicity without the State Bar purposely generating more.

That cartoon exhibits moronic editorial judgment.

Marcia A. Pollioni
San Francisco

No benefits for inactives

When I first became a lawyer 10 years ago, I expected that I would need to take some sort of continuing education courses. I had no idea, however, that I would be forced to take classes on substance abuse - not just once, but for every single MCLE compliance period. I soon realized that these mandatory courses were more lucrative to the providers than they were helpful to me. Now the legislature wants to increase dues by $10 so that those of us who stay clean and sober will have to pay to rehabilitate the drug and alcohol abusers.

Now that I'm inactive, I've been told that I'll still need to pay bar dues for the rest of my life. I understand that $50 a year for the next 40 or so years may not amount to much, but why do I need to pay anything at all? What benefits am I deriving from the bar such that I need to pay them each year? All I get is a newspaper featuring commentary from left-wing professors like Erwin Chemerinsky, who claims that the U.S. Supreme Court is made up of conservatives and moderates but not liberals. Right. Of course, it is also educational to read about people who have been disbarred, but I've never seen the names of the attorneys I dealt with who fell asleep during depositions, showed up drunk in court, padded their bills and used MRI facilities to manufacture insurance claims. Even so, this entertaining newspaper is not worth $50 or more per year.

The DMV used to require owners to pay a non-op fee year after year, even when they had no intention of ever taking their automobile back on the road. The legislature finally ended this practice, which did nothing but fill the DMV coffers. It is time to do the same with regard to inactive dues. An inactive attorney who has no desire to ever return to the practice of law should not be forced to pay money to support the bar every year. In fact, the state should pay us for voluntarily reducing the lawyer population.

Mark Androvich

Don't call them moderates

Erwin Chemerinsky characterizes Supreme Court Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer as "a moderate block," such that "there are no liberal justices in the mold of a William Douglas or William Brennan or Thurgood Marshall (August)."

This is so objectively wrong, and so fundamentally different from the perception of anyone who reads the opinions of the court or follows other analysis of them, as to destroy forever any remaining semblance of credibility that Mr. Chemerinsky may possibly have had as an objective court commentator.

Let's be intellectually honest, please. This is the liberal wing of the court, everyone knows it, and no amount of saying otherwise, even perpetuated by card-carrying liberals like Mr. Chemerinsky, will make it otherwise.

Christopher J. Palermo
San Jose

A common liberal canard

Erwin Chemerinsky's article begins with the staple liberal canard about Bush v. Gore: "For the first time in American history, the Supreme Court decided the outcome of a presidential election." I believe even Chemerinsky would agree that George W. Bush is currently the president. To say that the Supreme Court "decided" the outcome is to imply that, except for the court's action, Al Gore would now be president.

Pray tell, under what scenario is that accurate? The Florida secretary of state certified Bush as the winner, and even had Gore been granted the requested recounts in the three counties he very selectively chose, subsequent recounts clearly indicate Bush won anyway. An honest statement would have been that for the first time in American history a nominee tried to steal a presidential election by cynically manipulating the justice system. That nominee was Al Gore.

Leonard R. Lamensdorf
Santa Barbara

Left-of-center viewpoint

Maybe the editorial staff took it as a given that lawyers know Erwin Chemerinsky's political proclivities, but it seems that responsible editorial policy would warn us Mr. Chemerinsky was going to offer an opinion column disguised as a news column.

Todd M. Thacker
Los Angeles