Letters to the Editor

Oh, those Wiley cartoons . . .
. . . They've got to go

I have decided to write with my most strenuous objection to the two Wiley cartoons that appeared in the July issue.

The official publication of the members of the State Bar should not permit these insulting attacks that Mr. Wiley presents. The lawyers of this state have had to put up with much criticism, albeit deserved by a small minority at times, and there is no good reason why the leaders of our professional organization should condone this outrageous, mean-spirited attack that appears to be quasi-official.

It is just this sort of insensitivity that aroused so many members to show dissatisfaction with the State Bar. I believe in the present State Bar arrangement and voted to retain the current organization.

Seymour Seidscher
San Francisco

. . . They're good for the profession

Debra K. Butler of Pasadena says that cartoons depicting trial attorneys as liars is an insult to all trial attorneys. I disagree. Criticism against dishonest attorneys distinguishes the good attorney from the bad. No one hates bad cops more than good cops, and no one hates bad attorneys more than good attorneys. Dishonest attorneys harm honest litigants and ruin the reputations of good attorneys.

The quest for truth and justice becomes twisted into a search for protection against these wretches. The result is a passive legal profession which hides its impotence under a mask of philosophical detachment.

Mona Montgomery

Argument against CCRI passage is fatuous

The argument by Abbie Leibman (CYLA Quarterly July '96) that passage of the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) is an "aggressive assault on women's rights" is at best unpersuasive and at worst simply fatuous.

Pointing out that in 1970 only 8.5 percent of law students were women, Leibman argues that women are not integrated into the legal profession as only 26 percent of California lawyers are women. The second statistic is a natural consequence of the first. Only in recent years have women comprised anything close to half of all law students. It will be many years before they could make up half of all California lawyers.

Next, Leibman states that only 14 percent of partners in the 50 largest law firms are women. That figure is the natural consequence of the small percentage of women in the law school classes of the 1960s and '70s. Unless law firms actively discriminate against men by selecting women for partnership based on gender alone, the proportion of female partners will grow only as quickly as does the percentage of women lawyers who have the years of requisite, successful legal experience.

Finally, after stating that only 8 percent of engineers, 26 percent of dentists and 33 percent of doctors are female, Leibman makes the incredible assertion that women's advances in these non-traditional occupations will be lost with the passage of CCRI. She offers no suggestion why professional schools would bar or limit the number of female students or how they could escape widespread condemnation for doing do. Further, how passage of CCRI would permit firms to discriminate against female engineers and dentists is a mystery.

Tom Lawrence
San Diego

Abbie Leibman complained about a provision of the CCRI which permits sex or religion to be taken into account as a bona fide occupational qualification when it is "reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public education, employment or contracting." This provision is virtually identical to a provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the nation's primary weapon against sex and race discrimination (42 U.S.C. §2000e-2).

While this language allows gender-specific measures necessary to protect the privacy rights of women and men, the federal courts have emphasized that it does not tolerate discrimination against women in "typically male-oriented jobs," as Leibman claims.

The CYLA showed poor judgment in failing to disclose that Leibman heads the California Women's Law Center, which has a record of supporting racial and sexual preferences that sharply conflict with the Supreme Court's recent civil rights rulings and CCRI's broad prohibition on discrimination. As an organization funded by compulsory bar dues, the CYLA should focus on serving the entire community and not allow itself to be used for a narrow political agenda.

Hans Bader
Arlington, Va.

Supreme Court needs
more private lawyers

Our entire seven-justice Supreme Court is made up, unfortunately, of lawyers who each have a substantial public law background. How many have a background in private practice? Which ones earned a living in the private sector? We need diversity and understanding of the day-to-day problems in the private sector, as well as those in the public sector. Why doesn't the governor select each justice from one of the eight certified legal specialties recognized in California, or perhaps an outstanding lawyer in other growing specialties such as elder law and international estate planning?

The apparent explanation for the choices currently being made in selecting justices seems to concentrate on those with a background and experience which has been known to and publicized by the media. Another factor is the need to make concessions to race, sex, creed, color and ethnic origin. The governor should not limit his choices to public lawyers who are politically knowledgeable and in the best position to kiss the Pontiff's ring.

Rawlins Coffman
Red Bluff

Legal world canvassed
in shades of gray

In response to Joseph C. Sommer's "Facts should rule" letter in the July issue, I wholeheartedly concur. Legal argument should not be used to evade justice. However, it should be noted that "facts," although seemingly certain and absolute, are often anything but. Truth, which is often gleaned from the facts in a given case, is dependent upon the perspective through which it is viewed.

All attorneys learn early in their career that the legal realm is one of ambiguity and vagueness -- a world canvassed in shades of gray. The much sought after contrast of black and white is rarely found.

My intention is not to paint a bleak picture of the legal profession and its notoriety for dealing in shades of gray. Not all hope should be forsaken. Attorneys should not use their linguistic license to perform acrobatics with which to evade "true" justice. The challenge comes in reconciling the ambiguity and vagueness intrinsic to the legal profession, with the need to generally seek justice.

Alidad Vakili
San Diego

What mandate?

The July issue quoted bar President Jim Towery as saying "the lawyers of California have shown their decisive support for an independent profession" and reported that State Bar executives are elated by the "resounding" vote against abolishing the unified bar.

I find it difficult to conclude that approximately one-third of the active membership's "no" vote is a mandate. I agree with Sen. Kopp that 21,589 unhappy lawyers should alarm the State Bar, as should the failure of 49 percent of active lawyers to even vote.

I spoke with a number of attorneys who told me they were going to vote "no" primarily because there was nothing in the plebiscite to indicate what or who would replace the unified bar in the event the "yes" votes prevailed. My guess is that a great many of the "no" votes were cast due to that omission.

LeVone A. Yardum

Three strikes ruling reaffirmed judges' power

In the July issue of the California Bar Journal, the article "High court strikes out at '3 strikes'," says "Opening a wedge in the stiff sentencing rules, the court gave judges authority to overlook a defendant's prior convictions only 'in the interest of justice'." That is an inaccurate statement of the holding of the California Supreme Court.

The high court didn't give the judges anything. It held that the language used by the lawmakers did not take away from the judges the power they normally possess under Penal Code §1385 to strike prior convictions in the interest of justice.

Maurice H. Oppenheim

New lawyer disillusioned by greedy colleagues

In June, I was relieved to have finally completed all of the steps to becoming an attorney licensed to practice law in California. In August, I received my first issue of the California Bar Journal and was utterly disgusted by the Esquire-esque display of "important trials in California" on page 16.

I noted the two similarities between each of the listed cases: (1) In each case the plaintiff won and (2) In each case summary there is the notation "Award: $ . . ."

Is this what makes a trial important in California? Is it called an award because it's like a prize or a trophy? Silly, me, I thought plaintiffs were supposed to be compensated, not given a prize.

The underlying problem with the tort system is that it shifts the blame to the deepest pocket and justifies that transfer.

Not only do we live in a society that believes in entitlements and refuses to accept fault for its own actions, we are active leaders in promoting this viewpoint.

Take the case of someone who drives his car into a guardrail and is told the fault lies with the rail, which gave way. Behind this case, no doubt, is a greedy lawyer who convinced his client that he was without fault. This type of attorney is an embarrassment to the legal profession. As a new member of the bar, I will suffer at the hands of the public which will categorize me as the same quality of human being.

Michael Schulte

I never received a ballot

Please add me to the list of lawyers who did not receive a ballot to vote in the recent plebiscite.

William Waters

Discipline reports difficult to sort through

I find it most inconvenient that while you report matters of discipline, these actions are not listed in summary form, either at the beginning of the report or at the end. It would be most helpful if you did so.

I take discipline reports seriously and try to keep a record so I will be aware if I am dealing with a disciplined attorney. It is most difficult to keep a record when one must sort through all of the reports and condense the information.

Daryl H. Hansen