Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Conference of Delegates Calls for Moratorium On Death Penalty, Probe Into Fairness, Cost
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations, meeting for only the second time as a body independent of the State Bar, voted Saturday to call for a moratorium on the death penalty in the state.
The resolution, which passed on a voice vote with only scattered opposition, also calls for the establishment of a commission to investigate whether the death penalty is being administered fairly in California and whether it is a cost-effective means of preventing crime.
Proposed by the Bar Association of San Francisco, the resolution would—if enacted into law after lobbying by the CDCBA—create a commission modeled on the one established in Illinois by then-Gov. George Ryan.
The resolution’s author, San Francisco attorney Jon B. Streeter, said a “complete reexamination” of California’s death penalty is needed. Some 625 persons are now awaiting execution in the state, he said, predicting that executions will soon begin to become much more frequent.
Streeter also asserted that the cost of administering the death penalty in California is now about $90 million per year.
Los Angeles County Bar Association delegate Danette Meyers, a deputy district attorney, said she favored the measure though she is a prosecutor who has put two defendants on death row.
The resolution is not against the death penalty, but “about implementation of the death penalty,” Meyers declared.
“If we are wrong, let’s find out before it is too late. You must be sure.”
Another San Francisco lawyer speaking in favor of the resolution, Frank Z. Leidman, said proponents already have enough support in the state Senate to assure passage of a moratorium. The difficulty, he said, will be securing passage in the Assembly.
A similar death penalty moratorium proposal was passed by the conference in 2000, and a proposal to establish a similar commission was defeated last year.
Over 100 resolutions were proposed for conference consideration, including 12 sponsored by LACBA, eight sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and seven sponsored by the Beverly Hills Bar Association.
The conference chair, Encino lawyer Marc Sallus, told the delegates that over the past two years the CDCBA has succeeded in getting 15 bills enacted into law. The CDCBA, founded 70 years ago, has an annual budget of about $250,000 and employs a part-time lobbyist.
One of the group’s goals, Sallus said, is to be able to fund its lobbyist to work for the CBCBA full time.
Among the legislative proposals endorsed by the conference during its three-day meeting in Monterey this year:
•A proposal to support same-sex marriage, which passed over the opposition of LACBA. Glendale lawyer Herb Barish, speaking on behalf of LACBA, said the conference should not act on a matter which is currently being litigated.
•A proposal to amend sections of the Penal Code making it illegal for women, but not men, to expose their torsos, so that such exposure by women would be legal on state beaches.
•A proposal to permit sanctions against lawyers who provide answers to a demand for further responses to interrogatories only after a motion to compel has been made. The resolution passed on a vote of 90-80.
Proponents said judges in several counties have rejected such sanctions, though opponents argued they are already permitted under existing law.
•Proposals to ban discrimination by insurers based on sexual orientation, or on the distinction between marriage and domestic partnership.
A proposal to codify procedures for practicing “collaborative” family law was defeated by a 73-109 vote. Opponents said the practice, a variety of alternative dispute resolution in which lawyers seek to resolve family law issues without court involvement and with all parties and their lawyers present during all discussions, is too new to be incorporated into law.
Also defeated, on a 67-99 vote, was a proposal to allow litigants wrongfully accused of elder abuse to recover attorney fees upon a showing of bad faith. Opponents said the change would contravene the intent of legislation allowing plaintiffs in elder abuse cases to recover attorney fees, which was to encourage lawyers to bring the often difficult cases.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company