California Lawyer


September 2013

Nothing Attractive Here
In "Projecting Doubt" (June), Bill Blum writes that when he first met John Barnett, Barnett was "dapper, outfitted in a tailored three-piece suit." This wasn't long after Barnett was retained to defend former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos, who has been charged with second-degree murder for suffocating a mentally ill homeless man to death, with no reason to believe the man - Kelly Thomas - was dangerous. Barnett may look stylish, but there's nothing attractive about how he makes his money. Indeed, his overzealous representation of brutal police officers is frankly disgusting in its blatant rejection of any form of accountability.
Tim Phillips, Minneapolis, Minnesota

I found the article disgusting on John Barnett defending the cop charged with second-degree homicide in the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man. Why do we celebrate and applaud such legal tactics? No wonder lawyers are so reviled in our society.
Jennifer Cowan, San Rafael

Still Life
Having read the recent article on meditation classes and other contemplative practices in ABA-approved schools ["Keep Calm and Lawyer On," ESQ., June], please note that these types of courses are also offered at state-approved schools. Inspired by Charlie Halpern, Rhonda Magee, and Trudy Paul (a Santa Barbara attorney), I have had the privilege to teach a "Contemplative Practices" course at Empire College School of Law since 2011. Alumni from Empire in Santa Rosa now comprise 25 percent of the local bar and 20 percent of the judicial officers in Sonoma County. The impact of contemplative practices on the legal profession is growing.
Joel R. Rubin, Santa Rosa

Great article. After 1L stress nearly tore me to pieces, another law school friend and I turned to meditation and mindfulness practice. We have never been happier or more focused. I truly believe that the negative stigma plaguing the legal profession could fall away if more law schools encouraged mindfulness, empathy, and calm during the school day.
Melissa Wheeler, Redwood Shores

Fighting Fire with Fire
I read with interest "The Fight Over Guns" [Legally Speaking, June], however I must respectfully disagree with a few of Adam Winkler's premises. The government has only itself to blame for the citizenry's recalcitrance on gun issues. Winkler observes that the Second Amendment does not provide the citizenry the right to engage in insurrection against the government. Yet the Second Amendment was unquestionably intended to provide citizens the right to self-defense not only against marauders, but against tyrannical actions by the government itself.

Today, we live perilously close to a police state: Every cautious citizen must assume that his emails, texts, and phone calls are archived and monitored by government spy programs; and we are monitored by a quantum of laws and compliance paperwork. Much as I will be saddened by the next shooting like Newtown, there is simply no way that even I - a nonenthusiast, generally liberal, usually Democratic-voting person - could advocate stricter gun controls. As long as the government continues to chip away at the liberties and privacy of the people, the citizenry will understandably insist on its precautionary right to arm itself to the teeth.

Benjamin Pavone, San Diego

Reader Comments

Stephen Miller - September 11, 2013
Tim Phillips’ and Jennifer Cowin’s letters, reacting to your June article “Projecting Doubt,” express disgust with the “overzealous representation” and the “tactics” used by John Barnett in defending Police officers charged with brutality. Did they miss the part in law school that said the bedrock of our criminal justice system is every defendant is entitled to an aggressive defense by a competent lawyer? That both sides are supposed to make their best case and the jury sorts it out. So what are they suggesting? That lawyers stop effectively representing defendants they do not like, or that Mr. Barnett should strive to give clients a half-hearted defense? Given your circulation I assume Phillips and Cowin are lawyers and I expect more from members of the bar; they should be educating the public on why all defendants deserve a good defense, not publically saying some defendants should be on their own.

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