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Sullivan

Keeping Judges Honest

In his response to my recent Business Journal commentary (“Attack on Lawyers Misguided,” Feb. 9), the Los Angeles County Bar’s president in effect argues that when assessing gubernatorial candidates it is not appropriate to consider the qualities of future judges a candidate might appoint if he or she is elected governor. That assertion is so amazing one hardly knows how to begin responding to it.

Let me just say that California’s system for appointing, electing and retaining judges is among the best of any state’s. Overall, it gives us better, more independent judges than in states where all judges are elected in partisan races. It is the governor’s role in appointing judges from a pool of experienced, qualified attorneys and judges that helps keep individual judges from becoming “hometown referees” or the focus of “potential political repercussions.” However in Los Angeles, where the media for months have been investigating lawyers assembling a group of local judges for a chartered Mediterranean cruise, the county bar may have some justifiable “hometown referee” concerns. Has the L.A. County Bar Association written letters to the editor on that situation?

Regarding the state bar dues bill, I reassert that Gov. Wilson’s veto was a courageous way of dealing with a situation in which lawyers’ mandatory dues were being used to run an organization that was taking political positions on issues unrelated to the bar’s essential role of licensing and disciplining lawyers. New bills to restructure the state bar are being considered right now. I believe the Legislature and the governor will collaborate to craft one that will restore appropriate funding and produce a bar that will better serve the legal profession and all Californians.

Lastly, I apologize to L.A. Bar Association President Pasternak, the Business Journal, and the Rand Institute for Civil Justice for our typo that identified the Rand punitive damage study as being published in 1977, instead of 1997.

JOHN H. SULLIVAN

President

Association for California Tort Reform

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