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Letters to the Editor

Reader weighs in on discipline, professor’s proposal

Two items in the latest Bar Journal leave me obliged to comment. I am on inactive status with the California bar, having practiced in San Mateo County for 40 years before retiring. During that period I worked in and out of courtrooms in a variety cases, dealt with countless numbers of attorneys, and also served the bar as a referee and presiding referee in the State Bar court system. Looking over the latest list of lawyers disciplined by periods of suspension measured only in days or months, I am amazed by the lenient treatment given to so many offenders; their violations appear numerous and in many cases not just violations of trust but criminal in nature, for example, trust account theft of large sums, lying, client abandonment, disobedience to court orders, refusal to return unearned fees or even to communicate with clients. I wonder, will a review of disciplinary standards produce longer suspension periods or, possibly, more disbarments? The cases, it seems to me, call for that.

The other item is the letter of Mr. Thompson concerning a previous article about Professor Gillian Hadfield, a person whose list of accomplishments, degrees, committee memberships, teaching posts, international connections and publications is possibly the longest of anyone in the world. She proposed that attorneys need to start charging only $40 per hour in order to supply needed legal services to the poor. I agree completely with Mr. Thompson's assessment of her proposal as ridiculous, even stupid. Looking through Ms. Hadfield's bio, I see that in 1987 she worked as a summer intern in a law office; however, even without more experience working in a law office, representing clients in court proceedings, or assisting them with documents, it is remarkable to suggest that there might be enough, or any, lawyers able to effectively represent anyone at her suggested hourly rate. Office staff makes that much or more per hour, leaving the attorney with nothing but the remaining overhead expenses. And who is to pay costs of litigation such as filing fees and cost of travel and investigation? Can a person so accomplished be so out of touch? Apparently, yes.

Parker Kelly
Whitefish, Mont.