California Bar Journal
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Legal services staff will be sorely missed

No way to recreate service . . .

The dismantling of the Office of Legal Services is a great loss to the public and our profession. No one can justify this loss.

The OLS was, quite simply, the best and most complete program anywhere for the support of efforts to meet the needs of clients who are not adequately served by the market for legal services. It will not be possible for volunteers and a much smaller staff to recreate what the office achieved.

We will try to make the most of other methods. We will always be grateful for your dedication and your accomplishments.

Jack W. Londen
San Francisco

Accomplishments shine through . . .

It is with enormous pride and great sadness that I write to thank the Office of Legal Services staff for many years of truly exceptional work. It seems the State Bar efforts we can all be most proud of originated in the OLS.

The staff consists of people who genuinely believe in helping the poor and underrepresented, possess the initiative to solve problems, have the temerity to implement responses, and the heart to see it through. This absurd display of partisan politics must not for a moment minimize the extraordinary accomplishments of the OLS.

The California legal profession owes you and your staff an enormous debt of gratitude.

Karen A. Lash
Associate Dean, USC Law School

No greedy lawyers here . . .

Everything that the Office of Legal Services stands for, and much of what the State Bar stands for, is directly counter to the widespread conception of greedy lawyers who put their own interests before the public good.

I have tried to convey to my staff the importance of OLS and the damage to the cause of equal justice that the debacle over the State Bar has caused.

In many ways, we at LAFLA are fortunate. When we help a client, we know immediately. The work of the OLS staff results in helping poor people also, but there are many faces you never see and many hands you never shake. I can only assure you that from my vantage point, the contributions of the OLS have been tangible and vital.

Bruce Iwasaki
Executive Director, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

ADR support efforts are gone . . .

Your office has played a key role in the development of alternative dispute resolution as an important component of the delivery of legal services in this state. You have always provided timely, high quality support for those of us out in the field, working to promote and improve available ADR services.

I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do without your assistance.

Howard A. Herman
ADR Program Counsel, U.S. District Court San Francisco

The bar does have some fans . . .

It is no secret that we are big supporters of the State Bar, but even we forget to say thank you sometimes. For your assistance in improving our service delivery models, thank you. For your guidance on fund-raising and board development, thank you.

For your promotion of the ideals that make the legal profession proud, thank you. For your support of our staff and board members, thank you. For the leadership provided by OLS director Mary Viviano and the rest of the staff, thank you.

Scott Wylie
Executive Director, Public Law Center, Santa Ana

Just say no to pressure for political appointees

Gov. Wilson’s and Prof. Robert Fellmuth’s suggestion that our bar be governed mainly by appointees of the governor is not a good idea. Neither California lawyers, nor the public, should tolerate a bar which is controlled by political appointees of the governor. The maintenance of freedom in a democracy makes it as critical for the bar, as it is for the press, to remain independent of the executive branch.

Historically, the bar has been supervised, both as to admissions and discipline, by the courts. There continue to be sound reasons for this: The bar is an integral part of the judicial branch of government, and under the principle of separation of powers, should remain so; and, countries which have placed the bar under political control have suffered unfortunate experiences, leading to loss of freedoms.

Charles B. Parselle
Los Angeles

A reconstituted bar should have an appointed board

Robert Fellmuth has it right and Marc Adelman has it wrong in the June issue. Fellmuth suggests that a board appointed by the court, with five legislative and executive appointees, should regulate attorneys. The Conference of Delegates or some other body would take on the advocacy function. Adelman “feel[s] strongly that lawyers should continue to have the privilege of self-governance.”

A slavish defense of self-regulation is a waste of time. We need to get into the upper loop of thinking. We need a slash-and-burn approach to eliminating the professionally, morally and ethically unqualified members of the bar. We don’t need the patronizing “disciplinary” approach to quality assurance that the current system promotes. We need an independent regulatory body that will uncompassionately but fairly decide if an individual is qualified to practice law.

I’m confident that anyone the court appoints can do this.

Steven A. Hillyard
San Francisco

In defense of tribes

I take exception to the inaccurate, overbroad and loose characterization of tribes as “harsh with their own outcasts, [who] tend not to change their own rules,” made by Robert C. Fellmuth. In his effort to challenge the legal profession, Mr. Fellmuth has unfairly disparaged the more than 50 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States.

Far from being the static entities suggested by Mr. Fellmuth, tribes for centuries have been and continue to be dynamic and resilient governments and societies. Tribes, more than most governments and societies, have demonstrated an unusual ability to “change their own rules” to meet the needs of their people and to survive in a rapidly changing world while at the same time maintaining a core set of unique cultural values and traditions that define each of them as a distinct people.

Colin Cloud Hampson
Arlington, Va.

One more time: dump the lobbyist

It is truly a shame that employees of the State Bar will suffer the most from the many machinations of lawyers and politicians over bar structure.

If the bar needs some carry-over funding, it should consider terminating "our" Sacramento consultant’s contract based on either illegality of purpose and/or failure of consideration. Since a great amount has been paid to him already, actions for restitution or unjust enrichment might also be available.

Righting this wrong may well breathe life into a unified effort to get on with fixing the bar.

Bernard A. Meany
Washington, D.C.

While you’re at it, dump the biased newspaper

I find it interesting that, in the midst of the bar’s largely self-inflicted "crisis," it continues to publish its color, 30-plus page monthly newspaper.

Even if the production, publication and distribution costs of the California Bar Journal are covered or exceeded by advertising revenue, it seems that the bar’s employees might be better served by a shift in resources.

As it stands, a majority of the Bar Journal reads like a biased tract attempting to disguise itself as a balanced paper.

Martin L. Pitha
Beverly Hills

California Bar Journal has a conflict of interest

You are to be commended for keeping your letters section fair and open to all views of the State Bar during recent months.

However, I chastise your editors for not printing updates on the MCLE litigation pending at the Supreme Court. Inasmuch as the Journal receives a significant part of its funding from MCLE provider advertising, don’t you have a conflict of interest regarding the future of MCLE, which is a $50 million business?

I must register my dissent to Judge Roderic Duncan’s views on the bar. It’s easy for him to support the bar, since as a judge he hasn’t paid bar dues at all during the past 20 years. Moreover, he’s been saving another $500 annually since he’s excused from MCLE, unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise in the pending appeal. No wonder he thinks the State Bar is a great deal.

Jerome M. Garchik
San Francisco

The Bar Journal does make money from MCLE. We also report regularly (most recently in the main story in the July issue) that the Supreme Court has yet to set a date to hear the bar’s appeal on MCLE.

The bar, not its opponents, is playing game of politics

It is symptomatic of the State Bar’s current political posturing that I must read about the dismantling of the lawyer disciplinary system in the glossy, four-color newspaper which the bar still manages to produce each month, even as it decries the latest layoffs and imperilments to the public good.

The bar is playing an age old game which is the antithesis of bread and circuses, discontinuing the most conspicuous services to incite the greatest public outcry, while administrative and lobbying arms feed on the bar’s remaining resources, perpetually promoting the continuation of a system whose abuses catalyzed the present crisis.

It is ironic that the leadership of an institution engaged in such shameless tactics would accuse opponents of playing politics, especially when the State Bar has conspicuously avoided acknowledging its total responsibility in creating this predicament.

Jeffery A. Garofalo
San Diego

The bar is twisting Jeffersonian precepts

It is absolutely hypocritical for Marc Adelman to be invoking the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson in defense of the mandatory State Bar structure.

As Jefferson so aptly noted: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”

The State Bar engages in precisely the conduct Jefferson condemned when it forces me (and other similarly minded attorneys) to contribute money for its lobbying efforts supporting an unconstitutional, politically correct MCLE program which I abhor, a law forcing me to belong to a mandatory trade association which I do not wish to join, and to effect changes to medical malpractice laws which I cannot condone.

Richard L. Rubin

Equal treatment for haoles

I am anxious to pay my bar dues — for education, ethics and protecting the consumer.

I do not want to pay one red cent for political correctness, gender bias or discriminatory treatment of men and haoles.

William Fenton Sink

So long, but not farewell

Bye, bye bar! I can’t say I’ll miss you and your exorbitant dues.

The only question I have is: Why are there still 200 employees?

Kim Malcheski
San Francisco

The Beach Boys ought to know how to surf

Question 5 (June MCLE test) is somewhat ambiguous. For all we know, the Beach Boys do subscribe to the adage as stated (“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”).

Sounds like they would, anyway.

Richard Cotta Jr.

We just wanted to show that, despite stressful times within the bar, some of us still have a sense of humor.

Discipline of med-mal attorney is disgraceful

The discipline of David M. Harney (July 1998) is a disgrace. I too believe that MICRA is unconstitutional. In the medical profession, the higher fees for specialists go unquestioned because they have the expertise a general practitioner does not.

Mr. Harney possesses far more medical knowledge than the average attorney and far more expertise in the prosecution of plaintiff claims of injury or death due to medical malpractice. His fees should not be subject to the likes of MICRA. He is an exceptional trial lawyer with the highest standards of ethics.

If all lawyers practiced to Mr. Harney’s standards, there would be no reason to have disciplinary proceedings.

Lillian Finan
Woodland Hills

Discipline ambulance chasers, not petty offenses

I am a personal injury attorney. I practice in a community where personal injury attorneys commonly employ ambulance chasers and cappers. Attorneys such as myself who refuse to violate the law and who refuse to use cappers or to buy cases are thus at a huge disadvantage.

The State Bar does nothing about this open and notorious problem. When is the last time you read about a lawyer being disciplined for ambulance chasing? As a result, honest attorneys lose millions of dollars in potential fees each year. However, the bar does vigorously investigate every other minor and petty complaint which comes its way.

Guess how I vote on the continued existence of this corrupt and useless organization.

Stephen B. Austin

Look to real estate trade for inexpensive role model

I just received the “Summer 1998 Real Estate Bulletin” that states that as a result of “increased operating efficiencies, self-imposed cost-saving measures and an improved economy,” the cost to renew my broker’s license has been reduced from $285 to $210.

And did I mention that license is good for four years?

If the Department of Real Estate can license and discipline the real estate profession for $52.50 per year per licensee, why can’t the bar do the same for $77 per year?

Kristin S. Door
Gold River


California Bar Journal invites its readers to send letters on any topic. All letters must be signed with a daytime telephone number and complete address.

All letters are subject to editing, and no anonymous letters will be printed. Send letters to Editor, California Bar Journal, 555 Franklin St., San Francisco, CA 94102-4498; fax to 415/561-8247; or e-mail: