Letters to the Editor

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ABA Journal April 2018 Cover

A Birth and Many Firsts,” April, was an excellent article on Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, although space did not really allow you to elaborate on all the many firsts that she has to her name. She is one of the all-time trailblazers for women of color in the law. I was particularly proud that, while she was serving as a member of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles, she agreed to swear me in as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in 2002!

Judge Kelvin D. Filer
Los Angeles


In reference to “Inclusive Legal Writing,” April: As a former young fogey educated in the 1980s, I must admit that I resisted gender-inclusive language. Gender-inclusive language seemed awkward and inelegant. But taste is a real thing—and it does change. Now it is the gender-exclusionary language that obtrudes like an inflamed digit.

Christopher Smith
Warsaw, Poland


Concerning “Pet Threat,” April, the argument is like that for the criminal exclusionary rule: People object to the principle of it, arguing (correctly) that there is no “fairness” in letting clearly guilty people go free just because a cop makes a mistake (intentionally or unintentionally).

The exclusionary rule only protects guilty people, right? If you’re guilty and the cops illegally search you, your remedy is exclusion. But what if you are innocent and the cops illegally search you? No remedy at all, except you can sue the officer. But juries are notorious for refusing to compensate people for being the victims of illegal searches.

So, since juries won’t punish cops who violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights in a civil lawsuit, the only way to motivate the cops to follow the Constitution is to make sure they know that evidence they seize illegally will not be usable in court. Same thing here: This is all about motivation. When departments start having to cut back on chief salaries and expense accounts because their rank-and-file cops are psychologically incapable of doing their jobs correctly—then, just maybe, they will start training them properly.

David W. Simon
San Bernardino, California


In regard to “Fighting Words,” April, gross abuse of profane language reflects badly on the person who is abusing the language, and it also will cause doors of opportunity to slam. The command of the English language and polite manners coupled with emotional control never go out of style.

Felicia Mercer
Colorado Springs, Colorado


I was bemused by the juxtaposition of ABA President Hilarie Bass’ very fine message, “The Balance of Power,” April, and the article “DOJ Rescinds Guidance on Excessive Court Fines and Fees,” page 9. Bass’ message encourages attorneys to do whatever we can to help enhance the separation of powers and federalism, lamenting, for example, the imbalance caused when the executive branch circumvents local courts by slashing judges’ pay.

The facing article, however, asserts “U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked Obama-era guidance warning local courts … .” The slant of this article is that it was horrendous to roll back the “warning,” but perhaps the executive branch should not issue threatening warnings to local courts in the first place. Federalism and the separation of powers should be considered first.

While some may feel the attorney general’s rescission “dealt a blow to civil rights,” the rescission also landed a punch for the separation of powers and the concept of federalism.

It is not the job of the DOJ to “embarrass” state courts, contrary to the article’s contention. The attorney general’s rescission rectified an overreach, thus rebalancing the separation of powers and federalism. The positioning of the second article unnecessarily diminished the impact of the president’s message.

Ronald F. Larson
Sun City, Arizona

You may submit a letter by email to [email protected] or via mail: Attn: Letters, ABA Journal, 321 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60654. Letters must concern articles published in the Journal. They may be edited for clarity or space. Be sure to include your name, city and state, and email address. Read more Letters to the Editor from the ABA Journal magazine.

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