Turning the Tide

Letters from the week of January 2, 2003

Save the Children

Irresponsible pool owners: I have been a reader of your newspaper for about eight years, and I would like to say that you are the only voice of reality in the Valley.

Also, as a somewhat new parent, I have to say the story that you ran in your last issue ("Kid Drownings," Quetta Carpenter, December 26) was one of the most well-thought-out and well-written pieces that I have seen in some time. The sad fact of living in the desert is that many people have pools, and not necessarily those who are responsible enough to tend to them properly. It is appalling that kids have to die for this safety problem to be addressed, yet I commend New Times for this article. Please follow up this story in the coming months to allow us readers to see what (if any) progress is getting made to stop these horrible drownings that seem to occur far too often in Phoenix.

K. Adams
Phoenix

Drowning sorrows: I have some observations to make after reading your article on the dauntless campaign against backyard pool drownings in the Maryvale area.

Child drowning did not seem to be a problem back in the '50s and '60s for these same unfenced pools when Maryvale was essentially an Anglo, middle-class neighborhood.

Since many of the unfenced pools are at rental homes, if one is affluent enough to own rental property or, more likely, properties, I suggest the lack of pool fencing is a realty profit decision which government is directed to ignore.

The article seems to confuse the state of having low income with being ignorant and/or stupid.

If the families who supposedly cannot afford to fence their pools were given $100,000, I am sure most would spend all of the money on everything but a pool fence.

And the disgusting condition of the untreated pool water as seen on TV footage of drowning locations and, I would assume, also of a significant percentage of the 1,700 pools in Maryvale should be of great concern to Phoenix, county and state health authorities but apparently isn't. We stand together. You bet!

Jim Napier
Sun City

Secret Agents

Tight grip on injustice: I am a registered private process server and an officer of the court. I get my "authority" to serve legal process from the Arizona Supreme Court through the clerk of the Maricopa County Superior Court. To be registered, I need to pass a test, come out clean on a criminal background check through the DPS and the FBI, and pay a $125 fee for a three-year registration. I carry a registration card showing my authority to serve legal process. However, I have a problem with what the Arizona Bar Association is trying to do to document preparers under the disguise of the "unauthorized practice of law."

The word "license" and the phrase "licensed to practice law" are used extensively in your article about the unauthorized practice of law ("Courthouse Scoundrels," Paul Rubin, December 19). I know Paul Rubin is a thorough investigative journalist and researcher, so I recommend he look under the heading "License" in the index to the Arizona Revised Statutes. He will find references to many professions and occupations required to be licensed by the state, but none for attorney or lawyer (or reporter or journalist).

The fact is, attorneys are not licensed by the state but get their privilege to practice law from the Arizona Bar Association through the Arizona Supreme Court. I submit that lawyers are not licensed but hold a "union bar card" issued by a private association in a right-to-work state. The proposed changes in the rules come from the bar association, not the Supreme Court.

You cite the hundreds of complaints against document preparers and non-lawyers posing as lawyers, but just how many have been filed against lawyers? You will have a difficult time finding out because the bar keeps it secret. Complaints against attorneys are filed with the bar association but never forwarded to the AG's office. However, the bar association does publish a list of disciplined attorneys.

The bar association has a tight grip on the justice system that will get much tighter if the Arizona Supreme Court approves these rule changes next year. More people will get shut out of the court system because they can't afford the high hourly fees that lawyers bill to clients, and have the work assigned to underpaid paralegals – which is another story.

Bill Blankstyn
Via e-mailMake the damn lawmakers decide: Paul Rubin's article deserves clarification on a couple of salient political and constitutional points. The lack of a general "unauthorized-practice-of-law" statute, is not, as the article appropriately suggests, the sole reason why non-lawyer practice is flourishing in Arizona. Stanford University law professor Deborah Rhode has written extensively on this issue and reports that non-lawyer services "are flourishing because of inadequacies in lawyers' services." It is these deficiencies in lawyers' services that should be the focus of the State Bar of Arizona's concern.

On the other hand, public access to legal-service delivery is a matter that falls squarely under the authority of state legislatures. Because unauthorized practice provisions regulate the conduct of non-lawyers, nearly all states' unauthorized practice provisions exist in statute rather than – as the State Bar of Arizona would have it – in Supreme Court procedural rules.

The reason for this is simple: Judicial branches are not lawmaking bodies; they instead construe laws made by elected state representatives and the citizenry. Moreover, public access to legal-service delivery should not lie exclusively with the judicial branch of government because the interests of organized bars and their members are distinct from those of the public. While the organized bar's interest in unauthorized practice typically rests with whether the work performed by non-lawyers requires legal skills, the public's interest is focused on an accessible and affordable legal-service delivery system. Today, studies indicate that the legal needs of the majority of low- and middle-income households go unmet because legal services are unaffordable.

Legislatures in many states are taking note of this issue. Utah's 2001 legislature had concerns over the lack of access to legal services and charged the judiciary with studying the issue and suggesting changes.

Few non-lawyers would argue against regulation of non-lawyer legal-service providers. The branch of government under which non-lawyer regulation is initiated is what generates serious concern. At a public hearing concerning the Texas State Bar's sunset review audit, bar president-elect Guy Harrison remarked: "I don't think there's any question that the ultimate debate on [unauthorized practice of law] is going to have to take place in the legislature." Similarly, the debate on legal-service delivery and the unauthorized practice of law in Arizona should be held in this state's legislature.

Joan Dalton
Phoenix

Mars Madness

Ground control to ASU:Thank you for the nice article on researchers accusing ASU's THEMIS of fraud ("To Spite the Face," Quetta Carpenter, December 5). I am curious to see if there will be more on this subject. It would be very interesting to have a journalist visit NASA Ames Research Center consultant Keith Laney to examine the two images he downloaded from what he believed was the ASU Web site, and to observe firsthand his use of imaging software to obtain his surprising results.

The next step would be to visit Dr. Philip Christensen, principal investigator at THEMIS, and invite him to demonstrate his Photoshop technique that makes the ASU image look like Mr. Laney's. He might be able to make his degraded image look like Mr. Laney's if ASU had used Photoshop to degrade the image in the first place and then reversed those steps to produce a pristine image identical to the one Mr. Laney got off the Web site. If he is able to produce a duplicate of Mr. Laney's image, he should then be asked to process this image as Mr. Laney did.

Of course, in doing this, he would produce the same unmistakable images Mr. Laney produced -- ones that are eerily similar to those taken by the Russian Mars probe Phobos back in 1989. Obviously, this scenario will not happen. While I believe that Mr. Laney would be cooperative, I bet that Dr. Christensen would not be as forthcoming.

Brian F. Bowie
Via e-mail

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