Are bar associations oppressive monopolies, harmful to the public? Is the U.S. Government a law-breaking warmonger that needs to give up its international dominance? Is the gagging of domestic violence victims to silence them unconstitutional?
This year’s annual meeting of the California Bar Association has been reported as the smallest annual meeting in many decades. While bar leaders blamed the unpopularity of San Jose, convention attendees had a different concern. Many felt the bar had fallen from grace and that the program lacked courage and depth. Unlike prior years, there were no programs on the PATRIOT Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, or Habeas Corpus.
When asked what happened to the formerly bold programs previously sponsored by the public law section regarding the threats to the freedom and privacy of the American people, the new chairman stated that most of the members now worked for the government. They weren’t interested in objections to the PATRIOT Act or the NDAA. That section’s reception was attended by a very, very small crowd, compared to other receptions. Actually, the chairman’s point was well taken. Attorneys working for Homeland Security (the organization charged with rounding up Americans who might get out of line) were in attendance. The business law section helped to make up for the lack of public interest programs in the public law section through sponsoring a breakfast panel on the subject of privacy. While that breakfast was well attended, most conference participants arrived expecting a pretty dull convention.
With a non-controversial agenda taking over the bar convention programming, how is it that liberal activist attorneys came away saying this was the best convention ever?
The answer is that a non-controversial agenda couldn’t hide the fact that revolution was in the air. Speakers broke ranks with expectations and let the bar and the government know that the world and the public want change.
To a standing ovation, Dr Oscar Arias Sanchez , the Nobel Peace Prize winning two-time President of Costa Rica diplomatically but boldly called on the U.S. to end its illegal military intervention into the Middle East and to follow the laws and Constitution of the United States. He spoke of the need of the United States to step back from its international dominance and let other nations take the lead. Sanchez made a very strong case for nuclear disarmament and for the United States to reduce its stockpiles of weapons. For his courage, he was met with a thunderous standing ovation. His speech was largely unexpected from a crowd used to thinking of Costa Rica as a U.S. puppet zone for retiring rich Americans. His eloquence and wisdom were a very pleasant surprise to an audience which seemed glued to each word. Looking around the room, one could see tears in the eyes of attorneys, most of whom appeared to be in full agreement with the passion of his words.
The first convention session included a program called, “When Judges Cross the Line,” Attorneys got an earful of situations wherein judges had been kicked off the bench for misconduct against litigants or attorneys. Victoria Henley, Director and Chief Counsel of the California Commission on Judicial Performance, attorneys Anthony Capozzi and Nanci Nishimura let attorneys know that misconduct from judges was being taken very seriously.
The state bar, itself, seemed to lose control of the agenda on Friday as David Yosifon, a professor at Santa Clara University’s School of Law , took on the State Bar of California itself and rocked the house to enthusiastic ovations and audience requests that he extend his time. Yosifon presented allegations that the State Bar of California was an oppressive monopoly. In a session where other presenters were trying to figure out how to stop the unauthorized practice of law this was a very bold move. Professor Yosifon spoke of the public harm that the monopoly was causing. The bar has become a tool of the rich to force their will on the less affluent. It deprives those unable to afford attorneys of their rights, their freedom and any chance at equality in our society. Justice has become a thing of the past in the courtrooms and the culprits are attorneys who are well paid by the rich to create injustice. At a convention run by the organization characterized as an arrogant monopoly, it took tremendous courage to call the profession what it was. Yosifon’s brave presentation was a subject for discussion and admiration among participants for the remainder of the convention.
“CLEARLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL” — UCI Law School’s Dean Erwin Chemerinsky spoke of the solid body of law making the gagging of Cindy Lou (a person who may or may not exist and who may or may not have been gagged by a judge in Chemerinsky’s county) unconstitutional. In the article, Strip-searching a child — ‘What’s the big deal?’, Cindy Lou (if she exists) may or may not have been a domestic violence victim of horrific beatings, death threats and extreme violence verified by doctors reports, shelter-taken pictures of injuries, recorded death threats and a recording of an attempt on her life. After all this, Cindy Lou may or may not have been gagged by an order, which may or may not have read that Cindy Lou, “shall not publish articles pertaining to or referring to the current ongoing or past court case for dissolution, the parties, the attorneys or the judicial officer.” Of course, Cindy Lou could be fictional and there could be no such person or order. However if Cindy Lou does exist and there was such an order, it was clearly unconstitutional according to Erwin Chemerinsky. Chemerinsky’s brief received the final Supreme Court word on such prior restraints.
At a seminar regarding the legacy of Martin Luther King, there were many revolutionary presenters but the one who spoke out the most was Thomas Saenz (President and General Counsel for MALDEF). Dr. Saenz spoke out for the undocumented Mexican immigrants, noting that the immigration policies, making them wait longer than people from other countries, were the reason they were forced to remain undocumented. He also spoke of the oppression of local ordinances requiring tenant licenses, which invade the privacy and rights of people renting housing.
At the King Seminar, other civil rights leaders, such as Eva Paterson, Clarence Jones and Jenny Pizer, the Honorable Cynthia Lou and Dale Minami made strong civil rights presentations. Dale Minami’s family had been interned in the World War II camps for Japanese Americans and he compared the treatment of Arabs in the post-9/11 world to the treatment of Japanese Americans in World War II.
At the privacy breakfast, focused more on business privacy than individuals rights, Kevin Paulson spoke of the plight of Edward Snowden and the lessoning of standards of encryption to make it easier for governments to break into our computers. He was joined by radio host Dr. Moira Gunn and by former George W. Bush information officer Theresa Payton.
The respect for the legal profession is at an all-time low, according to polling. Most Americans would agree with Dr. Yosifon regarding the monopolistic aristocratic inequities created by the bar.
Citizens are not without power. They theoretically have the power to elect their leaders and they can require their leaders to open up the profession of law so as to allow non-attorney representation in situations where one side of a case cannot otherwise find representation. They can require judges to appoint counsel for domestic violence victims or unrepresented parties in lop-sided divorces. They can require appointed council for citizens who are fighting corporations having large legal staffs. The citizens could even dismantle the courts, such as they are, and create new more-representative courts by amending the Constitution. They can do one other thing and the bars hope you don’t find out about this: citizens could order their legislature to disband the bar as a mandatory licensing body and enable it only to provide credentials to add prestige to holders of those credentials. Who would you rather have represent you in a Constitutional case: Joe-I-Want-Your-Wallet, Attorney-at-Law, or someone like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul, neither of whom is a lawyer, but both of whom know more about U.S. Constitutional law than most attorneys in the nation?