California Lawyer


January 2014

Chartered Territory
As an education consultant and writer who has followed the Bullis Charter School saga since this sad story began, I'm impressed with the balance and clarity of "Schoolyard Fight" [October]. However, I want to make a point that is implied but not clearly stated.

When my children went to the original Bullis school in the 1980s, parents would approach the principal and make offers like this: "The school really needs a science (or music or PE) specialist. I'll be happy to donate the money to hire one." The principal would then tell them that such contributions had to be made to the Los Altos district foundation and shared among all the schools; otherwise schools in the wealthy part of the community would have a more enriched program than the other schools. Invariably, the parents lost interest in donating the money.

Three years ago, I attended a BCS open house for prospective parents interested in entering the [admission] lottery. One of Bullis principal Wanny Hersey's big selling points was especially disturbing: "Just think, all the money you donate to BCS stays here. It doesn't have to be shared with other schools in the district like donations to LASD." I hope state policy makers will realize the danger of allowing affluent parents to split off from districts to establish charter schools. Establishing quasi-private schools was not the intention of the original charter movement.
Nancy Ginsburg Gill, Los Altos

It's unfortunate that the author of "Schoolyard Fight" did not choose to actually evaluate the state of charter school law. After all, the article appears in California Lawyer, not a charter school-themed publication. LASD chose to decline granting a charter to BCS. Twice. The county agreed to charter the school, yet LASD is still obligated to provide facilities - that is the law. Still. Yet, as far as I can tell, LASD wants to provide facilities that fundamentally mess with the K-8 program at BCS. The author missed an opportunity to evaluate Proposition 39 and what it means to charter schools that don't have a good working relationship with their district.

It seems like LASD is following the letter of the law (provide facilities) but not the spirit of the law (facilities that are "reasonably equivalent" to other facilities for other schools in the same district). Too many games can be played with calculating classroom and nonclassroom space, in-district and out-of-district kids, etc. That would have been a much more interesting article.

The author [Lisa Davis] also trots out the same old fear, uncertainty, and doubt about charter schools - creaming the best students from the school district, and fund-raising for BCS as taking money out of the pockets of LASD. But she fails to address the necessity of fund-raising at BCS (or other charter schools) when the charter school gets $6,000 per student and the District gets $10,000 per student.

Charter schools exist because parents want choice no matter what their income level is or what student test scores are in their district.
Sonya Sigler, San Carlos

Safety First
"Sync into the Cloud" [Technicalities, October] fails to discuss the storage programs' vulnerability to hacking. Security includes not only protecting your clients' information from being lost, but also protecting the confidentiality of that information from hackers. Author Adam G. Slote seems to assume that only family members or someone who obtains your name and password are a threat.

We must realize that we don't know how much we don't know about the people who wish to hack our computers and cloud storage sites. Between criminals and people who pass background security checks but shouldn't (see Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning), I think I'll stick with my clunky Memeo and Acronis backup software.
Brian Sheppard, Encino

Company Man
James Bopp Jr. and his paymasters are wrong ["Killing Campaign Finance Reform," Legally Speaking, October]. A complete and honest reading, particularly of the Ninth and Tenth amendments, makes it clear that the Bill of Rights applies to people. The doctrine of corporate personhood - which postdates the Constitution and Bill of Rights - does not hold that corporations are real "people," and it doesn't grant corporations all the rights of citizens.

Bopp says the First Amendment is absolute, yet in the same paragraph he acknowledges "a doctrine that recognizes there are compelling government interests" to which the right of free speech must yield. Citizens' voices cannot possibly match the volume of, for one example, a deep-pocketed media corporation without regulations to even the playing field. If that's not a compelling interest, we may as well let the New York Times publish those wartime convoy schedules.
Thomas Bliss, Los Angeles

The First Amendment adopters could not have contemplated the wealth, power, and influence of huge domestic and multinational corporations that, today, are capable of using their vast wealth, offshore bank accounts, and manipulation of foreign tax havens to secretly further their U.S. political agendas. Mr. Bopp, no doubt a brilliant and superb lawyer, has a Pollyannaish view regarding the corrupting influence of the unbridled power (spending) of corporations and unions which, I argue, will result in the marginalization of American democracy.
Ron L. Scott, Houston

Bad Behavior
I am always amazed, appalled, and embarrassed for my profession whenever I read the Discipline reports [page 55] that list a lack of prior disciplinary history as mitigation. As an attorney who formerly represented the California Department of Consumer Affairs licensing boards in disciplinary actions against their licensee physicians, psychologists, dentists, contractors, and the like, I can assure you that attorneys stand alone in considering lack of prior discipline to be mitigation.

Why are our standards so low? I strongly suggest an examination of what true mitigation might be (e.g., exemplary pro bono contributions, overwhelming personal or family problems) so as not to cheapen it and our profession.
Linda J. Vogel, Pomona

Helpful Answers,
Thanks to Shilpa Mathew for sharing her experience in "From JD to MD" [In Pro Per, October]. I've been toiling to commit myself to graduate school since I graduated from college in 2010, but I just can't seem to make a decision between law and medical school: Both professions have appealing qualities and job characteristics. However, this article helps answer some of the chronic questions that will determine which is better for me, law or medicine.
Christopher Wieland, Los Angeles

Corrections: December's Expert Advice column ["Keep Your House(hold) in Order"] incorrectly stated that all California domestic workers are entitled to overtime pay starting January 1. In fact, the change is limited to personal attendants, who were not previously eligible under the Labor Code.

"Live from the Courtroom," a sidebar to the December cover story "TMZ's Troubleshooter," should have stated that Walker v. TMZ Productions, Inc. (No. Civ. 13-02268 (C.D. Cal.)) was dismissed with prejudice, pursuant to a stipulation by the parties.

In "Solidarity for Later" [Full Disclosure, December], a quotation from labor lawyer Eli Naduris-Weissman about worker centers and the NLRA was mischaracterized. It should have read: "In many cases the concerted activity they promote is protected under Section 7. But that does not make them labor organizations."

In our review of Math on Trial [Books, November], the name of mathematician Edward O. Thorp was misspelled.

California Lawyer regrets the errors.

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