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Letters to the Editor

Court closures place us at risk

Our law practices, whether large firm or solo practitioner are in peril. Court closings and personnel cutbacks are not something that affect others. Rather, they bite into our incomes directly. And that bite will get cumulatively larger over time.

Every member of the bar should read the minutes of the Judicial Council meeting of Jan. 21, 2010 -- particularly the economic study attached to the letter from Charles McCoy, Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, which quantifies the economic impacts upon all stakeholders.

When you have read and considered that economic study, four things will be quite clear:

  1. These cuts in court services and personnel will drastically adversely affect our incomes -- even the incomes of members who never go to court.
  2. For our own self-interest, even the most unenlightened of us must actively work to prevent or ameliorate these closures and personnel cutbacks.
  3. Our bar “leaders” have not been out in front on this issue. If we are going to preserve our practices, we will have to do this ourselves, organizing from the bottom up, and probably outside the existing structures of the bar.
  4. Failure is not an option. If we do not succeed in significantly ameliorating court closures and personnel cuts, we can kiss our lifestyles -- whether we enjoy financial success presently or hope for it in our future -- goodbye.

Leric Goodman
Tarzana, CA

Challenge to the chief

In the March issue, Chief Justice George says that the courts are “possibly” bearing more of the budget cutbacks “than our share.” He explains that the court budget is only 2 percent of the total state budget. I agree that the courts are bearing more than “our share” of the cutbacks, but I think the Chief Justice did not go far enough. The real question is whether the courts are actually a positive revenue source whose treatment by legislators is nothing less than an outrage.

Every day the courts take in a huge amount of money. The plaintiff and each defendant in a civil case (except those with fee waivers) must pay $355 merely to appear in the case. After that, they are charged $20 for each certified copy, $40 for each hearing, $20 to have a stipulation signed and over $600 a day for court reporter services.

Probate is much worse, requiring payments of $355 to file required accountings and another $355 to have the estate distributed and the case closed. The criminal courts levy tens of thousands of dollars in fines, penalties and assessments every day per court.

Is the court budget 2 percent of the state budget after all the money the courts collect is accounted for? Or does all of that money just go into the general fund? Are the courts treated as an expense when they might really belong on the other side of the ledger?

Mr. Chief Justice, I challenge you to really look into this court funding mess. You have the clout and the ear of the press. Demand an accounting of costs vs. income. Make the accounting public. Or, perhaps the powers to be really want us to be ignorant and not ask such inconvenient questions. Either way, I would like to know.

C. Timothy Lashlee
Long Beach

A heart-warming example

Thank you for your editorial on Albie Sachs. It gets so depressing just reading about lawyers frantically grubbing for the green, running cheesy con games and robbing old ladies of their life savings. It does the soul good to hear about a real live hero like Albie Sachs.

Senya Means

No shame?

I suppose it is fitting that our inaugural edition is headlined with our crimes, arrests, jailings, penalties, embezzlements, suspensions and disbarment of our members. It’s a sad day for you and me that this is our newsworthy lot. I hope you are not proud.

George Nicoletti
Woodland Hills

Who’s accountable?

So Sharon Pearl gets 2-plus years for embezzling $600,000 from bar members? That works out to about $20,000 per month; not a bad paycheck by most people’s standards. I’d much prefer that she work it off digging ditches or fighting forest fires at minimum wage. Then we would get something for our $600,000.

Now, let’s say I let $600,000 disappear from my attorney-client trust account. Wouldn’t I be held accountable? How is the State Bar’s Board of Governors held accountable for the loss of $600,000 entrusted to them?

Brian J. Sheppard

The wrong message

70 years for 100 felonies? This cannot possibly send a “we’re looking out for you” message to the 36 million Californians who look to us to make the law just.

Kurtiss Jacobs
San Jose

Is the bar protecting itself?

Lawyers are ultimately responsible for all financial aspects of their practice. An employee of a law firm, who is embezzling law firm funds from an attorney/client trust account, even without the attorney’s knowledge, makes the attorney(s) liable for her misconduct for “failure to maintain client funds in trust.”

Is the bar going to prosecute the attorney at the helm at the time of this embezzlement, or is the bar simply going to confirm that they never discipline their own?

Robert Gorman


I just wanted to comment that you’ve done a great job on the new electronic eJournal. The links are great and the format is very user-friendly.

Amber Eisenbrey


I spend 90 percent of my time with a screen of some sort in front of me daily. Believe it or not, I enjoyed reading the Bar Journal in print form while in transit from one place to another. After this curiosity visit I will most likely not view the Journal. A sarcastic thanks.

Robert Lerma

An excuse or a necessity?

I recognize the cost-saving reason to quit printing the Journal. I used to read the paper version regularly, and fairly carefully, to keep up with bar activities and actions.

I find the e-version virtually unreadable. If we’re going to “print” it electronically, at the very least, give us an index of articles that we can click on and print, or read on the screen.

I’m a great supporter of the bar both in words and deeds. I was a chair of the Tax Section/Committee, and a six-year member of the Board of Legal Specialization.

To me, the move from print to electronics is as much an excuse to avoid public notice of the bar’s activities as it is a money-saving necessity.

Dan Olincy
Los Angeles

Bigger font needed

Although I am generally in favor of electronic communication, I join those in your recent “Letters to the Editor” section lamenting the California Bar Journal’s decision to switch this publication to an electronic format. I will not repeat their remarks, but would add that your choice to go with a very small font on sections like “Letters to the Editor” and “Trials Digest” is extremely hard on my aging eyes.

Janet Kulig
San Jose

Welcome to the 21st century

Judging by letters reacting to the demise of the print edition of the CBJ, the unexpected arrival of the 21st century at the end of the 20th was jarring to some. You whipper-snappers at the State Bar better slow things down or you'll get a whole passle of nasty telegrams.

Robert A. Edwards

Confusing rule

With respect to Rule of Professional Conduct 3-410(A) which provides in relevant part that “A member who knows or should know that he or she does not have professional liability insurance shall inform a client in writing… ” (emphasis added) Do the member’s specific deductible and policy limit amounts have to also be disclosed? After all, to someone trying to follow this vague new rule, it would appear to be common sense that a lawyer simply does not “have” any malpractice insurance coverage below the policy’s deductible amount, or above the policy’s limit.

In this regard, suppose a malpractice insurer offered a very cheap $100,000 malpractice insurance policy with a deductible threshold of $99,000? Would a lawyer be permitted to avoid notifying a client “that he or she does not have professional liability insurance” … even though such a hypothetical policy provides $1,000 of actual protection for the client only after the lawyer ponies up the first $99,000?

Personally, I think the rule makers have to rethink this one. Or am I just being a nit-picky lawyer?

Michael W. Szkaradek
Santa Ana


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