Letters to the Editor: How a state bar plan could make shoddy legal service flourish
To the editor: As longstanding legal aid attorneys, we were surprised by the editorial board’s support of the California Bar Assn.’s proposed paraprofessional program.
Rather than choose between private attorneys trying to protect their turf and a state bar trying to expand its own, The Times should have attended to objections by nonprofit legal services attorneys committed to expanding access to justice for less-resourced Californians.
True enough, “the focus must be on the needs of Californians who deserve a fair shot at justice.” But not every paraprofessional program advances that goal. In California, “notarios” self-styled as paraprofessionals infamously prey on desperate immigrants by providing shoddy services, often with dire consequences.
Poor legal services can be (much) worse than none at all. That is why safeguards matter so much. Yet, the bar’s proposal omits or slights attorney supervision, limited roles, training and regulation and enforcement. Licensure here would paper over — and thereby legitimate and entrench — California’s existing two-tiered system of justice.
Leigh Ferrin, Santa Ana
Julianna Lee, Los Angeles
Ferrin is director of litigation and pro bono at the Public Law Center. Lee is supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.