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LETTER TO AN EDITOR

 

 

 

James Shellow writes

While it is certainly correct that the Federal Bar is a trial bar and those that practice before it should be capable of knowledgeable, skillful, and vigorous advocacy, it appears to me to be unwise to place in the hands of the federal judiciary the power to set standards for counsel who appear in their courts. The grandeur of the American trial bar reflects the diversities of the background of its members. We are not a homogeneous people. The restraint, solemnity, and decorum of the English bar, so admired by our chief justice, are alien to our jurisprudence, to our history, and to our concept of the proper relationship between public officialdom and the citizenry. As Learned Hand suggests that our freedoms may have been forged in controversies involving not very nice people, so in some instances those who have fought for these freedoms in our courts may have been less than genteel.

I join with Justice Burger and Judge Wilkey in deploring the incompetence that regularly appears among those who defend persons accused of crime. I suggest to Judge Wilkey [September Journal, page 1091], as I suggested to Justice Burger at the A.A.L.S. conference in New Orleans, that when the United States Supreme Court begins reversing convictions on grounds of this displayed incompetence, we will be on the way to improving the quality of representation and not before.

The power to establish admission standards is the power to expel members who are found to be unacceptable. I am afraid that the suggestion of Judge Wilkey, while it may lead to a knowledgeable bar, will inevitably lead to a docile one.

 

Letter to the Editor, ABA Journal