* At last I can join the cult and culture of victimhood! Being an able-bodied heterosexual white male had left me few entrees into the fold. But now, according to Harvey Saferstein, State Bar Assn. president, my status as a lawyer should accord me the same protection against criticism or pointed humor as that afforded the disabled, minorities and women (July 6).
To equate society's dislike of lawyers with racial animus or misogyny is to engage in the worst kind of sophistry. People choose to be lawyers--they do not choose to be black, female or disabled. Further, there is no causal connection between lawyer jokes and violence against lawyers. Those who fell in the San Francisco slaughter were victims of an insane person with a lot of ammunition who held a grudge. They were not victims of a hate crime brought on by society's scorn of them as a class of people. Yet once again lawyers prove that if anyone can benefit from the letter but not the spirit of a law, they can.
The legal profession is not for the thin-skinned. We're the brunt of humor because we deserve the criticism and we can take it. Saferstein would do well to lighten up and get to the business at hand--cleaning up the profession so it is not such an easy target.
C. HOWELL ELLERMAN
* Your article on lawyer-bashing instantly reminded me of this joke: What's the difference between a lawyer and a puppy? When the puppy grows up it quits whining.
PATRICK J. CLARKE
* For the president of the State Bar to suggest that lawyer jokes should be criminalized is not only contrary to the freedoms which lawyers are charged to uphold, but it is also a regrettable display of arrogance. Perhaps it is precisely Saferstein's attitude which is at the root of a general animosity and resulting ridicule toward the profession. He might well redirect the energy spent in his paranoid whining toward cleaning up the image.
DAVID W. ANDERSON
* As the mother of two attorneys, and a concerned citizen, I am weary of the continual lawyer-bashing. Our daughter used law as a vehicle in helping people. She initially worked for the Center for Law in the Public Interest. One of her proudest achievements was providing a young Salvadoran the opportunity to remain in our country to avoid the persecution he would have been subjected to if returned.
When working as mediation director for the American Arbitration Assn., she was diagnosed with cancer. As a young man who worked with her wrote, at her recent passing, she cared about people and valued them more than things or power.
My son, daughter and son-in-law are but three among the countless young lawyers who work ceaselessly to uphold the tenets of law which are the structure of our society. It is unfair to stereotype the entire legal profession and judge it in such a narrow fashion.
* When the postal worker in South Orange County went berserk and shot his co-workers, lawyers actually filed suit against the Postal Service. They said it was somehow the post office's fault for not predicting the tragedy.
When another deranged person went berserk in the San Francisco law office, the legal profession is singing quite a different tune. Now, it is a hate crime filled with bigotry according to Saferstein.
It would seem that to the legal profession a tragedy is an opportunity unless it happens to a lawyer. Then it ranks up there with this country's great struggles, alongside the civil rights movement.
Let's keep our perspective. The deaths in San Francisco were the very sad results of one very sick individual. Jokes about lawyers are still funny and, for the most part, well-deserved.
* Certainly it is imprudent to bash lawyers or any other professional group and it goes without saying that lawyers should not be subjected to violence of any type. However, the public is fed up with the legal profession and for good reason. Lawyers, at least in California, charge between $175 and $400 per hour for their services, more than any professional group. They take years to resolve cases and they demand horrendous sums as retainers, which few citizens can afford either at a personal level or at a professional one.
Law has become big business and most people do not even go to lawyers because they cannot afford them. This means that only the rich get justice and the middle or poor classes have no recourse to the law. It is time to end this abuse of the system. Let lawyers lower fees, become more humanistic and start to regain the public trust. Then perhaps the bashing will stop.
* So Saferstein wants an end to lawyer jokes and additional jail time for violent crimes against lawyers? He has got to be joking; lawyers themselves have brought on their well-deserved professional ranking and trust factor to below that of used car salesmen. Violence against any group is intolerable but free speech and humor is another matter entirely; people will always call a spade a spade.
* Lawyers deserve the same protection as other cunning predators native to our land, but not before they become an endangered species. Just kidding.
* The lawyer-bashing will continue as long as their basic credo is that they will champion any cause whether right or wrong, moral or immoral, just or unjust, providing that they are being paid well to do so.
JAMES L. HARDEMAN
* Q: What do you call 5,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A: An excellent start.
That's one of about 150 "lawyer jokes" I know and continue to tell with gusto.
Saferstein wants to outlaw the telling of such jokes as "hate speech." Lighten up, Harv. Making any sort of speech a crime is incompatible with a free society. But whereas at least a flimsy sort of rationale can be found for outlawing "hateful" speech against ethnic minorities, none can be found for outlawing it against lawyers. Ethnic minorities, after all, have no choice in being what they are. Lawyers become lawyers through deliberate choice.
Oh, and why won't sharks eat a drowning lawyer? . . . Professional courtesy. And what do you have if you have a lawyer buried up to his neck in sand? . . . Insufficient sand!
So sue me, Mr. Saferstein.
JAMES F. GLASS
* I agree that it is time to stop the lawyer-bashing as requested by the State Bar. But why stop there? Let's also stop jokes about blondes, priests, Polacks and farmers' daughters. And less attacks (real and in the media under the guise of First Amendment protections) on police officers would be a big step in the right direction.
* Lawyer jokes didn't kill the staff at Pettit & Martin: Guns did.
* Saferstein has proposed a novel idea: Make lawyer jokes a "hate crime" akin to the current laws against race-baiting and sexism. Folks who "exhibit hatred of lawyers and then commit criminal acts against them should face the same additional penalties" as louts who burn crosses in the front yards of black folks.
No lawyer jokes? C'mon. Most of the lawyers I know are jokes. And many of them think this lawyer is worthy of all manner of ridicule. Saferstein's proposal would put half of America behind bars, and the likes of Jay Leno on Death Row.
Lawyers, politicians and white males are about the only unprotected species we have left to laugh at. I had thought that in California, at least, someone might have told Saferstein to "chill." Enough of this "victimhood" mantra. Get a life.
Did I tell you the one about this lawyer who went into a bar with a kangaroo? Some other time, maybe.
DONALD E. deKIEFFER
* No one will ever know if lawyer-bashing really had anything to do with the murders at the San Francisco law firm. However, as the wife of an attorney, I am certainly aware of the increase in lawyer "jokes," especially those advocating violence toward lawyers. Lawyers as a group are not any more greedy and unethical than are doctors, engineers, plumbers, shoemakers, hairdressers, etc. Our adversary system requires that lawyers be extremely partisan, and most of the attorneys I know work hard at doing what is in the best interests of their clients without impropriety. What many people seem to forget is that lawyers don't act without clients, and it may be the client who is the unscrupulous one.
* When we tire of "Jurassic Park," could we attend to that other dinosaur preserve, the United States Congress?
STEVEN M. SMITH
* Lawyer-bashing: The Times has received 136 letters so far on the campaign by the president of the State Bar of California to end lawyer-bashing; 10 letters supported the call to end lawyer-bashing jokes, while 126 were critical of the proposal.