Tuesday, October 10, 2006
George Endorses Free Legal Services in ‘Core’ Civil Matters
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Chief Justice Ronald M. George has endorsed a resolution passed by the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations, calling for free legal representation for those who cannot afford it in matters affecting sustenance, shelter, safety, health and child custody.
George told the MetNews Sunday, the day after the conference vote:
“I think that access to justice really requires that we extend the availability of both counsel and interpreters, at least in the core category of civil cases such as landlord-tenant and family law matters, and perhaps small claims as well.
“So, I think this is a very worthwhile objective, and of course, to make it feasible, it will require that funding is made available to the courts to pursue it.”
The chief justice continued:
“I know that Assemblymember Dave Jones, [D-Sacramento] who is chair of the Assembly Judiciary [Committee], is very much in favor of this type of effort. I can’t naturally speak to his reaction to this precise resolution, but I think in that position he’ll be able to offer some legislation to that effect.”
A call to Jones, who was named by the delegates as “legislator of the year,” but did not attend the conference, was not returned.
The vote came after vigorous debate during the delegates’ annual conference. Former State Bar President John Van de Kamp argued for the resolution, saying “the quality of justice is strained it’s there for the select few.”
San Diego attorney Virginia Gaburo argued that the resolution was “unfeasible,” saying,
“I would like to see everyone have an attorney. I would also like to see everyone happy.”
Former conference President James Aguirre, with the Los Angeles firm Richardson Bambrick, said that he opposed the resolution despite a 30-year history of representing poor people because it was “beyond any hope of accomplishment.” Describing the resolution as “tilting at windmills,” Aguirre argued the proposal couldn’t be funded because it would cost “billions.”
But San Francisco attorney Geoffrey Holtz said, “This won’t break the bank,” and Beverly Hills attorney J. Anthony Vittal asked,
“When are we going to stand for what is right, regardless of what it costs?”
In other matters, the conference, led by outgoing chair and Valley Village attorney Linda Mazur, approved resolutions:
•Urging the Board of Governors of the State Bar not to adopt a proposed rule of professional conduct requiring an attorney not covered by lawyers’ professional liability insurance to disclose that fact to his or her clients
•Calling for an investigations into the reasons given by the executive branch of the national government to support the war in Irag and its use of warrantless electronic surveillance and
•Calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to establish an inalienable right to privacy in one’s person and property.
The delegates rejected a proposal calling for the direct election of the State Bar president by all bar members, and a proposal supported by Los Angeles attorney Joel B. Douglas, with the firm Bonne Jones Bridges, requiring Courts of Appeal to issue written tentative rulings before oral argument.
During the conference, new chair Joan Stone of Sacramento was sworn in by George, who congratulated the delegates “on passing a resolution to guarantee legal representation.”
This was the fourth conference since the delegates became independent from the State Bar, and no longer entitled to receive a portion of mandatory bar dues. Stone said that the state of the conference was “absolutely fabulous.” But, in his welcoming remarks, outgoing State Bar President Jin Heiting noted:
“I see the numbers are dwindling. We need to get the younger people involved. We need to fill this room up.”
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company