Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Lawyers Have Ethical Duty to Be ‘Public Citizens,’ Reynoso Tells ACLU
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Many social ills could be alleviated if lawyers would honor their ethical duties to use their special skills for the public good, former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso supporters of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California yesterday.
Reynoso, who was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the organization, noted that under the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer is not only a representative of clients and an officer of the legal system, but also a “public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”
Lawyers aren’t always living up that responsibility, the ex-justice said. He cited a couple of examples based on a recent visit to Florida in his capacity as vice chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
The commission, he explained, went to the Sunshine State to follow up on its hearings there last year about the problems that plagued the 2000 presidential balloting there. It is clear, he said, that the November 2000 “fiasco” was the product of “problems that existed in Florida for a long time”—problems that lawyers should have seen and tried to fix before “tens of thousands” of citizens lost their right to vote.
Reynoso, who now teaches at UC Davis School of Law—he moved there from UCLA last summer to be the first to hold the Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality—predicted that there would again be “a lot of problems” in Florida when the 2004 elections come. He said the legislature there failed to fix several of the flaws in the state’s process identified by the commission.
Reynoso also criticized the government’s continuing policy of detaining Haitian asylum-seekers without hearings at a prison camp near Miami. The former justice, who visited the camp, said staff members there acknowledged that the Haitians are victims of “blatant” discrimination, since asylum-seekers from other countries are given hearings within a few weeks of arrival and are usually released pending determinations on their asylum petitions.
“If it’s that blatant, where is the bar?” Reynoso asked rhetorically.
Reynoso, who headed California Rural Legal Assistance, was appointed to the state’s highest court by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1982. He was ousted by voters, who also denied retention to the late Chief Justice Rose Bird and then-Justice Joseph Grodin, in 1986.
Also honored at yesterday’s luncheon at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel were attorneys Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. and Tanya M. Acker of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who received the First Amendment Award; Nancy Mintie of the Inner City Law Center, who got the Pro Bono Advocacy Award; philanthropist and Internet entrepreneur David Bohnett, recipient of the Citizen Advocate Award; UCLA professor and homeless activist Gary Blasi, who received the Distinguished Professor Award; Molly Munger and Stephen English of The Advancement Project, who received the Equal Justice Advocacy Award; Simon Frankel, Douglas Winthrop, Annette Hurst and Peter Drobac, who shared the Artistic Freedom Award; and Bradley Phillips, Steve Kristovich, and Deborah Pearlstein of Munger, Tolles and Olson, as well as San Francisco lawyers John Ulin, Stephen Berzon, and Jonathan Weisglass, who received the Voting Rights Award,
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company