Some afterthoughts on the bar's victory

Nothing resounding about it

While the recent plebiscite concerning abolition of the State Bar was advisory only, the turnout of only 51 percent of active members is deplorable. Both President Towery and President-elect Stolpman called the results a resounding vote of confidence concerning self-regulation.

Twenty-six percent of the membership of the bar not voting to abolish it cannot be characterized as a resounding vote by any stretch of the imagination. I can readily understand a comparable turnout in local and even in national elections. Such should not be the case where one's profession is at stake, and where each and every member of the bar has a personal stake in the outcome of the vote, whether it is advisory or not.

Alas, it appears that the members of the State Bar are just as apathetic, disinterested and lazy as the population in general.

Lawrence E. Mason
Canoga Park

The 'pout kids' just won't quit

Any election where a candidate or issue receives 65 percent of the vote has traditionally been considered a landslide. The abolitionists now say this vote is irrelevant. Nevertheless, California attorneys have spoken, loudly and assertively. They approve of the State Bar.

I think it's time to rename the abolitionists. I prefer to call them the "pout kids." Instead of trying to improve the existing and overwhelmingly wanted State Bar, the pout kids are discussing the next plebiscite.

Enough, already. Their collective actions and responses display their arrogance and ignorance. When a trial attorney loses a trial (and every trial attorney has lost), he or she is upset but they recognize that the jury ultimately decides the case. The jury, comprised of California lawyers, voted overwhelmingly to retain the State Bar. The pout kids should cease and desist because the jury has spoken.

Paul S. Hohokian, President
Fresno County Bar Association

Nothing will change now

The supposed results of the plebiscite -- the two to one vote to maintain the unified bar -- are so literally unbelievable as to be suspect.

Clearly, nothing is going to change from within the bar now. Emboldened by the vote, officials of the bar are going to be as arrogant and out of touch with the concerns and burdens of the average California attorney as ever. The sneery comment of President-elect Tom Stolpman that the plebiscite was "dead on arrival" proves that.

The bar will continue to treat its members like children. The parade of presidents coming into office swearing to bring the bar closer to its members, then leaving spouting the official line that everything is fine as it is, has got to stop. At a minimum, the current practice of bar presidents being elected nearly in secret -- almost like popes -- and being imposed on the rest of us has to change.

Bar presidents must be elected by the membership they are supposed to serve, not by the Board of Governors. We are entitled to have our would-be leaders come directly to us, listen to what we have to say, and explain to us why they should get the job.

Mark A. Leinwand
Woodland Hills

Alarm, not elation

A view of the entire situation should, in my opinion, provide as much reason for alarm as for elation.

First, the plebiscite was flawed in that it did not specify what entity would replace the bar to handle lawyer regulation. The specter raised by bar officials as to how the bar would be regulated, for example, "by a different state bureaucracy," is significant.

Second, based upon the input to the decision, one should understand that 35 percent of those who took the time to respond voted yes.

Last but not least, it is clear that barely half the potential voters participated. This would suggest that 49 percent of the members of the bar either do not care, were concerned about the specter raised by bar officials, or chose to abstain because they were undecided on the issue.

While an abstention is not necessarily a strong endorsement of the yes position, it is most certainly not a strong endorsement of the no position. Consequently, it could be argued that about two-thirds of the bar did not support the no vote.

President-elect Stolpman has suggested he will look to further reforms of the bar. It would be a wise effort if he does. However, the fact that Stolpman considers the plebiscite as merely a "disruption" or as being "dead on arrival" is cause for some alarm.

Stolpman is now reported to have said he will "fight any effort by the legislature to reduce dues" and has called upon the same legislature to "give us the freedom with the dues bill to continue to do a good job."

If the State Bar members perceive Stolpman's approach as heavy-handed as his comments appear, the next plebiscite might have a different outcome.

G. Donald Weber Jr.

I never received a ballot . . .

I am very suspicious about the validity of the recent plebiscite regarding mandatory membership in the State Bar due to the fact that I never received a ballot. In fact, after I learned that some of my friends received ballots, I called the organization that was handling the ballots (Price Waterhouse) and was promised I would receive such. The ballot never arrived.

I wonder how many California lawyers actually received ballots. For those of you who did not receive ballots, I urge you to notify Sen. Quentin Kopp, State Capitol, Sacramento 95814.

Richard J. Burton

. . . nor did I

As a paid-up member and a well-known opponent of the State Bar, I read with interest that members of the bar had voted to retain the State Bar. I never received a ballot and I wonder how many other bar opponents also were denied the opportunity to vote.

Jack Allen
Pacific Palisades

Good course; bad judgment?

The reason I voted to abolish the bar is perfectly illustrated by a recent incident involving a bar staff attorney. This individual came to Madera to give a one-hour talk to our local bar association. Instead of driving the 180 miles each way in around 5 1/2 hours, this individual drove to the San Francisco airport, parked, flew to Fresno, rented a car, drove to Madera, and then reversed the process. There was no savings in time and probably five times the cost. Why?

Incidentally, the presentation was very well done and highly informative and earned MCLE credit for all attendees.

Daniel D. Pursell

And letters on other subjects . . .

JNE should not cave in
to political pressure

I am writing because of the furor raised over the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. Whenever a politician gets stung, he or she is likely to look for someone else to attack as the best defense.

Gov. Wilson, having picked an unqualified appointee to the state Supreme Court, was called on that appointment by JNE. He and his cohorts, instead of withdrawing a bad nomination, have instead sought to attack JNE. That is the equivalent of shooting the messenger because you don't like the news.

It is incumbent on the bar to defend JNE from this political debate and to ensure that it not back down in the future from conducting similar evaluations of appointments, by any governor, of whatever political party.

California used to have the finest state Supreme Court in the nation; a court looked up to by both the federal courts and other state courts as a leader in judicial erudition and intelligence. Today, after the Deukmejian and Wilson regimes, we have a mediocre court that is not looked up to anywhere by anyone.

The bar can cave in to the political pressure and noise or it can seek to restore the integrity by which the California courts were once known.

Malcolm Burnstein

No more insults, please

As an active plaintiff's civil trial lawyer, I was disappointed and insulted by the cartoons in June's opinion pages. Both say outright that trial attorneys are liars and I personally take offense at that. I have never lied to a jury, nor do I need to. The truth is enough to win a case.

What I am having a really hard time believing is that these cartoons are in the "official publication of the State Bar of California." So I paid good money to be insulted.

When the cover story of the issue is that 34 percent of California attorneys voted to keep the State Bar, ergo showing their faith in the heavy hand of discipline it keeps poised, I consider it nothing less than absurd that our official organization thinks its members will enjoy cartoons about lawyer dishonesty. It's high time the bar started supporting attorneys by working to improve the image of our profession, including, and perhaps especially, our self-image.

Debra K. Butler

Bar Journal displays insensitivity and bias

Two articles in the April California Bar Journal have made it clear the Journal is out of touch with its readership and should have no claim to be the "official publication of the State Bar of California." California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the state's largest criminal defense organization, is appalled by your insensitivity and apparent political bias.

First, your "quotable" column prints that Arthur Garfield Hays said, "More lawyers (considering the number who play the game intensively) have been ruined by politics than liquor, women or the stock market." Implicitly, this editorial comment suggests that women do not play the game intensively, that women are not lawyers, and that male lawyers, if not the entire male population, "have been ruined by women."

Second, your lead article is simply a free political advertisement for Pete Wilson, who has made a career of running for higher office at the expense of all civil liberties. To allow him to say that "when you're at the point you have hung juries in about 10 percent of cases, you're facing . . . loss of public confidence . . ." is simply outrageous. Moreover, without any equal time for response, it clearly chokes the spirit of the First Amendment.

Third, your apparent endorsement of Pete Wilson for whatever office he may decide is his next political quest has no place in a presumably non-partisan publication. The Bar Journal should address the concerns of all California lawyers -- fairly, accurately and without bias based on gender or political party.

Nanci Clarence
San Francisco

James S. Thomson

Money-grubbing lawyers should get no respect

Congratulations to Peter Riga for a no-holds-barred dedication to truth and integrity in the legal profession, as he described in your May issue.

We are not lawyers just to win cases, and we are certainly not lawyers to win cases at all costs or to win cases just to make money. We are lawyers to represent clients and the law. Whenever it comes to a choice between representing the client and representing the law which is clearly not in the client's favor, the lawyer is obliged to so advise his client and, in an appropriate way, discuss it with the other side as well.

Lawyers whose interest in the profession has narrowed to winning and earning money are entitled to no respect whatsoever from the public, nor, I would like to think, from other lawyers. They have no respect for themselves. The practice of law for them is nothing but a shield behind which to magnify themselves, not a means for helping deliver justice to clients or society.

I, for one, shed no tears for F. Lee Bailey -- no tears at all. But I feel immense pride in Peter J. Riga.

Richard Larson
Pradesh, India