California Lawyer


October 2013

Open Admirer
As a lawyer, cyclist, and cancer survivor, I was disappointed by "Headstrong" [July], which highlights Lance Armstrong's doping and legal troubles with scarcely a word about his fight against cancer. Bar members who know little about cycling and only headlines about Lance deserve a more balanced context.

I have known for well over a decade that Lance's teams used performance-enhancing drugs and exactly what they were. So did nearly every other professional racer, and most have admitted it. Rather than excoriating Lance and everyone else in the racing peloton, as lawyers we would do better to expose the governing bodies and sponsors that knew about, perpetuated, and benefited from a system in which it was impossible to win without drugs.

The reality is that cycling was always a level - if increasingly dangerous - playing field for everyone. In that context, Lance won every one of his maillot jaunes, the unique jersey presented to Tour de France winners which, unlike more common yellow racing jerseys, is never copied.

Yet he signed one of those jerseys over to me to wear to take to every one of my 39 cancer treatments, and it hangs proudly on my office wall, because I "won" too. For many others and for me, Lance Armstrong is still our inspiration. - Robert McMurry, Santa Ynez

I was intrigued by use of the word "Contrition" on your July cover along with Lance Armstrong's picture. This seemed a very unlikely juxtaposition.

As a cyclist who has closely followed international cycling and the Tour for many years, I was interested to read how a magazine for attorneys was going to discuss the Lance/Oprah show. To my surprise, your article describes the event as a "confession." I find it amazing that the dialogue between "mommy" Oprah - "Did you do such and such? And do you mean to tell me that you did it on purpose?" - and little Lance - "Yes, yes, yes, I did ..." - can seriously be considered a confession. As for contrition, I guess I missed that part.

Lance Armstrong has profoundly sullied the Tours de France that he rode in not just by cheating, but also through threats and bullying. The words confession and contrition only make the whole debacle more ludicrous - if this is even possible. - Robert J. Matthews, Greenbrae

A Weighty Proposition
"Tinkering with a Tax Revolt" [July] is based on the assumption that the government has a right to tax the appreciation of one's home. In fact, property tax is an immoral and unlawful undertaking, having its most brutal effect on the elderly.

Consider that as we age and our income goes down, our property taxes go up. When we bought our home in California some years ago, we stupidly thought that Proposition 13 banned any increase in the sizeable annual property tax. We missed the fine print - it allows an annual 2 percent increase if property values rise. Our property tax is now 60 percent higher than when we bought.

Where else can an owner of any kind of property be taxed on appreciation in the value of that property without a "taxable event"? And be taxed on that appreciation year after year?

Bills should be introduced in the California Legislature restoring the tax to its lowest amount historically for each taxpayer, and reducing it each year thereafter for those over 70 years of age. - Richard Michael Coleman, Malibu

I am distressed by Sasha Abramsky's support of the Democratic (big D) solution to every revenue shortfall. As Kris Vosburgh of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association stated in the article, we Californians have the nation's highest income tax, sales tax, and gas tax. Are the taxoholics disgruntled with California not being number 1 in the nation for the highest property tax, too? Put another nail in the coffin of the golden goose that was once California business: Raise taxes and drive more businesses out (and thereby further decrease the state's tax base). - Ronald Cane, San Jose

Prop. 13 is just another time-phased "reallocation of wealth" mechanism designed to favor one group of people by disfavoring everyone else.

First, California property owners should be educated as to the true impact of Prop. 13. Such a disclosure would present the countywide and statewide hard dollar statistics proving that persons who purchased their properties between about 1987 and 1992 were and are paying far higher property taxes so that pre-1987 property purchasers can continue to pay far lower property taxes.

Second, a law should be passed that would limit the security value of any particular property to its phony Prop. 13 assessed value. For example, if a property with a market value of $1 million had a phony assessed value of $200,000, then the property owner should be limited by state law to borrowing no more than $200,000 against that property.

I am a full beneficiary of Prop. 13 who is paying property taxes based on a phony assessed value that is less than 18 percent of the market value of my property. And I am against Prop. 13 because it is grossly unfair, and because I believe that too many later California property purchasers are completely oblivious to the fact that they are paying five times more property tax. - Michael W. Szkaradek, Santa Ana

Correction: McDermott Will & Emery's survey arrived too late to be included in the California 50 [September]; the firm would have been ranked 37th. Also, two firms reported incorrect numbers: California lawyers at Nossaman contributed 2,181 pro bono hours. Gordon & Rees has 34 women partners in California and should not have been on the chart for firms with the highest percentages of women partners.

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