Letters: Dr. Lawyer?
Editor’s note: David M. Fryson wrote a Your Voice column that appeared on ABAJournal.com on May 8. It quickly became one of the most-read stories of 2023, and it generated a number of responses from readers. Here are some of those letters.
In “The curious case of why lawyers are not called ‘doctor,’” it was stated that lawyers are the only ones in this proverbial boat. But I disagree. My mother has a PhD in nursing, and she received a letter from a hospital where she was working as a nurse practitioner telling her she could not be referred to as “doctor” even though her primary role is and was as a graduate-level nursing professor in Arkansas. She was called “doctor” only one time and by one of her students, and this one instance was overheard by someone that was so incensed, they had the hospital legal team write my mother a letter telling her she could not be called “doctor.” She was not surprised in the least; I was and am still appalled. The hospital did admit that she could be addressed as “doctor of philosophy,” however. It was at this time that I realized how delicate the egos of “real” doctors might be. I wonder if, in the same hospital settings, they also will make those that are called “Father” start calling themselves “Father of religion” unless they are “real” fathers.
As a PhD who at times uses “Rev. Dr.” (even though my doctorate is in communications and not a religion area), I hesitate to comment. But David M. Fryson’s article had an incorrect sentence: “In America, among those with earned doctorates, only juris doctors are not afforded the courtesy of the title ‘Dr.’” Tell that to the pharmacists and physical therapists, PharmDs and DPTs, who aren’t called “doctor” in their workplaces.
In reference to lawyers being referred to as “doctors” in the university theater: A doctorate is based upon extended studies beyond the basic graduate degree. I was required to have a minimum of a four-year bachelor’s degree before I would be considered for admission in 1973 to Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. The school offered a traditional LLB after completing the three years of the required curriculum. To obtain a JD, a student was required to complete the three-year required curriculum and an additional year of electives or submit two doctoral theses. I submitted the two doctoral theses and was appointed to the editorial board of the law review in my third year.
I propose that the use of the “Dr.” prefix should be based on educational and legal literacy, competency and “extended curriculum” beyond the required base three years and not on the fact one has successfully completed the four years of undergraduate studies and three years of law school.
Miami Shores, Florida
I do not agree with the author of the article. The argument that a JD is a graduate degree does not hold much weight, as all master’s degrees are graduate degrees, but we do not call the holders of master’s degrees “doctor.” In addition, there is an LLM and an LLD. While many attorneys have an LLM, very few have an LLD, and I will be happy to address a holder of an LLD as “doctor.” As a holder of a PhD in engineering, I am addressed as a doctor mostly in the academic environment and at conferences and occasionally outside of those two. Finally, are titles important? I do not think so. We should all be proud of our work, and in my opinion, there is no need for advocating for fancy titles.
M. Usman Ghani
“Parental Penalties,” by Julianne Hill (June-July, page 48), underscores the new approach of creating new criminal penalties for those who have already paid their debt to society. This is a part of the overcriminalization that feeds the industrial criminal justice complex. The claim that these continued collateral consequences are necessary for public safety is without verified facts, sound analysis or real-world experience. At best, the arguments for collateral consequences are merely hypothetical claims from bureaucrats seeking federal grants to expand staff and raise salaries. We have created a self-licking lollipop by continuing to kick those who are already down. The continuation of punishment destroys the sentencing goal of a person reentering society becoming a productive member. Due to collateral consequences of their prior convictions, those who have served their time will continue to struggle with employment options, housing, rebuilding families, addiction and mental health.
Robert Don Gifford
Julianne Hill’s article “States Reconsider the Permanent Sanctions of Child Abuse Registries” (June-July, page 56), serves as a chilling reminder of the draconian collateral consequences that registries impose on ex-offenders who have been released from prison.
Registries have created a myriad of litigation issues, some of which have led legislatures to rewrite laws that comply with court opinions. One such challenge is playing out in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Torsilieri.
Legislators and courts are struggling to balance politics, justice, fairness and civil liberties of ex-offenders while protecting public safety.
As professionals in the child protection services field now question the effectiveness and fairness of the registry, the ABA will need to examine its role in advocating for or against the removal or modification of these barriers that undermine an ex-offender’s successful reintegration into the community while protecting public interest.
Jon P. Frey
Difference of opinion
Great article by Josh Blackman (“The ABA needs ideological diversity to ensure its future,” ABAJournal.com, April 20). The author hit the nail on the head. He called out exactly what is wrong with the ABA, which is supposed to represent all lawyers, not just those with left-leaning viewpoints. This is the first time in a number of years that I can recall where I have heard a conservative or nonprogressive viewpoint. What a breath of fresh air.
As the article indicates, the reason why I have not renewed my ABA membership is because of all the left-leaning progressive nonsense that the ABA has been pushing. The majority of the articles are total clickbait and completely one-sided to match the authors’ and the ABA’s narrative. If the ABA pushes more articles and viewpoints like the one in this article and has diversity of its ideology, then there may be hope for the ABA, and I would consider renewing my membership. Kudos to Mr. Blackman for calling it like it is. Keep it up!