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Bias against the Bar? Before I criticize the article “Nothing new under the sun” \(Obs., would like to give you a few facts about me. I am a brass-collar Democrat, being one of the few in Limestone County who will admit voting for McGovern, and a partner in a two-man law firm serving a town of 2,500. 1 have previously served on the State Democratic Executive Committee, as Limestone County Democratic chairman, and in the House .of Representatives for three terms, where I was considered somewhat of a bombthrower. However, the article by Eric Hartman criticizing my profession disturbed me greatly because of the inaccurate and prejudicial statements contained therein. It was obvious to me that Mr. Hartman had neither read the Sunset Commission’s proposed act nor had it read to hirn He obviously had not read the bill which was enacted into law and signed by the governor. This disturbs me in that the Observer has generally been an objective and fair-minded publication, even as to policies and programs which it opposed. Mr. Hartman writes that the Sunset Commission staff drew logical :conclusions that the Bar’s regulatory funds should be separated from its trade association activities; that the agency advertising rules should be liberalized, that the funds be subjected to legislative appropriations, and that public members be included in the board of directors and the grievance committees. That paragraph concludes with the words, “the whole reform program was torn apart forthwith.” Two paragraphs later appear the words, -A 101-to-38 vote against transferring the Bar’s funds to the state treasury revealed the hopelessness of the reform cause.” Obviously, Mr. Hartman did not know that 30 reform provisions were included in the State Bar Act, including public members on the board of directors, one-third public members on the grievance committees. a state audit of the Bar funds, a judicial appropriation of Bar funds by the Supreme Court of the state of Texas: the agency’s subjection to the Open Meetings Act and the Open Records Act: as well as the creation of the entirely new committee called the grievance oversight committee. aimed at improving the bar grievance committee system. How can a writer say that no reform was made in an act such as that? Incidentally. I approve personally of the reforms made, and believe that the Bar will be stronger because of them, and that the public will be better protected and served. I agree that our advertising rules must be liberalized to conform to the ruling set down in the Bates-O’Steen case. An effort was made to do this by submitting a rule change in a referendum to the attorneys. The referendum overwhelmingly passed, but less than 51 percent of the attorneys voted, therefore not allowing a change in the Bar rules. The Texas Supreme Court will probably submit another rule change to members soon. Another area in which 1 disagree totally with the Observer’s opinion is that the regulatory function of the Bar should be separated from the Bar’s public service activities and continuing legal education programs. The integrated bar, as well as each individual member, owes a greater duty to the public than a mere licensing and regulating of the attorneys. The Bar has an obligation to see that the administration of justice is continued in the state of Texas, that the profession be upgraded to the extent that the consumers of legal services will be provided with adequate legal counsel; and providing the public with services such as TelLaw, publications, and other legal information. Overlooked in the story was the fact that under the sunset staff’s proposed bill, a great probability existed that $1.4 million in grants might be lost to certain classes of people in the state of Texas. The Bar presently administrates these grants and the staff report acknowledged that it would no longer be able to do so were the sunset adopted. No mention was made of any agencies which might qualify for them. These grants assisted the elderly, the indigent, and the developmentally disabled. Generally, the Observer fights for the rights of these people. Further, the sunset staff bill abolished the Texas Young Lawyers Association, possibly abolished the aforementioned grants, and was so poorly drafted and hastily prepared that it abolished the State Bar of Texas itself. Because of the manner in which it was drafted, the board of directors could never have met and the board, under the sunset staff bill, was the State Bar. The Bar has often been called a “sacred cow” and I assume we will continue to receive criticism. Certainly, the State Bar is not perfect, but the bill presented by the Bar was so far superior to the sunset staff s bill that the legislators had to work with the Bar bill as the primary vehicle in enacting a new Bar Act. In my opinion. the only “sacred cow” was the sunset staff, which generally performs at a level far above the level shown in evaluating the State Bar of Texas. Mr. Hartman criticizes the act for leaving the appointing of the consumer directors with the Supreme Court and not the governor. notwithstanding that this was the recommendation of the sunset staff. The only lousy bill was the sunset staff bill. This letter is not meant as one to criticize either the Sunset Act or the Sunset Commission which served last summer. These men were grossly underpaid, overworked, and obviously understaffed. They individually did as fine a job as they possibly could have done under the circumstances, for reviewing some 17 agencies, they were presented too much information to absorb. I hope the incoming commission can profit from the experience of the past commission. I personally approve of the sunset concept, as I realize there are many duplications in the state agency functions, and it is heartening to see the state economize in this area. I know of the fine investigation that the Observer has done in the past, tOgether with the scandals which only it would reveal. However. I do get ticked off when I read articles which I know to be slanted. This article ranks with the “reporting” of a rather large metropolitan Texas newspaper up North of here. Oh, for the good old days of Dugger and Morris, when even the guys in the black hats received fair play. Joe Cannon Groesbeck Mr. Cannon, a member of the State Bar board of directors, portrays a dill ference of opinion about the Bar’s sunset bill as a dispute about the facts. The author of the article in question, himself a member of the Bar, had thoroughly perused the sunset staffs report, the Sunset Commission’s recommendations, and the various versions of the Bar bill, including the one the Bar successfillly substituted for real reform measures \(not, let it be said, out of lawyerly scruples over draftsmanship, but rather in the interest of article acknowledged that some reforms survived the legislative process, and the Observer joins Mr. Cannon in applauding those improvements. But we stand by the assertion that instead of stringently implementing sunset principles, the Legislature made an exception for the Bar because of its political clout, not beause of the merits of its arguments. –Eds. Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, 600 W. 7th, Austin, Texas 78701 32 DECEMBER 14, 1979