tv [untitled] April 24, 2012 1:30am-2:00am PDT
[laughing] and all of that stuff. i'm not answering the question, but i'm getting stuff off my shoulders. >> let me get something off my shoulder. with no lack of respect. wall street lawyers are serving capitalistic corporations who have taken our democracy in hostage. you served one dinosaur fighting another dinosaur for the last firms. that is shifting money, you know, from one capitalistic entity to another. so if you think that works, i think it's a manifestation of the malfunction of the entire system. [applause] >> why do i think this audience is going to be on his side?
[laughing] i actually -- i don't disagree with what you're saying. but i'm saying, from a functional standpoint it works. i mean, wall street law firms work. they do great work. they do the best practice of law that is done in the country. and if you don't believe that, you're just wrong. [laughing] >> no. the death penalty, appellate lawyers do the best work in the country. their objective is valid. and their industry matches your industry and the competency that you speak of. >> this could be fun. >> i disagree. >> ok. i think we can agree that, you know, when you're talking about the law, it's really a question of whose interest you serve. and when you talk about, you know, for example, defending
poor people or the criminal courts, the resources just aren't there. it is interesting. i met the public defender in england. they told me -- he told me there that an indingon person can go to any of the big law firms, like morris and forestier, and ask them to represent you and the government will pay for it. they will pay every penny. and he told me that they spend something like $1.5 billion there on representing poor people in criminal cases. and they spend less than a third of that on prosecution. and i said to him, well, you know, what do people say about that? he goes, oh, the prosecutor's always complaining, saying that we're out resourced and it's not fair. but it's just the way it is. because that's the price of insuring that a poor person gets the same amount of justice as a
rich person. here, for every dollar that goes 23450 law enforcement -- goes into law enforcement, incarceration, there's probably about five or six cents that goes to representation of poor people in terms of legal rights. so, you know, fundamentally it raises, i think, the discussion here, a very good question. that it comes down to really a question of resources. sheldon, let me ask you. in the stories that you try to tell, there is a moral there. you do talk about the death penalty. you do talk about -- and obviously there's a sensationalism that comes with it. what are you trying to communicate about the justice system? is it just entertainment or is there something that's more than that? >> you know, at the heart of it i'm trying to tell a good story and keep the readers turning pages if they're flying across country.
but i do try to sneak in a little bit of gentle, social commentary. i think if you get up on a soapbox, you lose effectiveness. somebody was pointing out to me not long ago that i've actually written books that deal with homelessness, that deal with corruption in the church. "death penalty" was a book that i wrote. the book that just came out, "perfect alibi" has a whole story line involving massage parlors here in san francisco and how young people from asia are being exploited. and, you know, somebody said to me, i read this whole book and realized you had covered that, had done it defendantly, and then i realized you were making a point there. so i try not to beat my readers over head, but i do try to get some of that in. because i think that's important. if you're writing books about lawyers and about crime, you
know, there are victims. and i do try to set the world right at the end when i possibly can. and that is, as i said earlier, the advantage of writing novels as opposed to trying real cases. the other point i would make -- and everybody's kind of touched upon it here a little bit. lawyers are not portrayed, in many cases, particularly positively in the media. and a lot of that we bring upon ourselves. but i would also point out that, you know, we all operate in an environment where you have to deal with the cards that are out there. aties cuss finch -- atticus finch didn't have to deal with a 24-hour news cycle. tony serra didn't have to deal with bloggers in his career. i think what's going on in new york city where the head of the i.m.f. was arrested for doing some untorrid things in a big
hotel. i found it ironic last night that eliot spitzer was interviewing people talking about these sorts of activities, and that cycle is going on and on. if you want to play a drinking game, you know, who wants to take bets of when we're going to have the first appearance of gloria allred? it's inevitable. i'm getting off the point a little bit here. but at some point i think it was around the time of the o.j. case where you had this confluence of a big public figure, it was a juicy trial, and cable news was just becoming a force. it changed the environment in which we operate, at least criminal system operates. because it's not just cases anymore, it's entertainment. it's a whole media frenzy on big cases. and i don't think that's a very
good thing, but that is the environment in which we operate. and lawyers have to deal with that now. >> a very good point. we have some questions from the audience. i'm going to ask the first one for paulette. in taking tony's essence, who he is as a trial lawyer, how does you tell that story in the book? paulette's book is for sale in the lobby and also at green arcade books here in san francisco. how did you do that? you used your art, obviously, and you used writings. but how did you tell that story? what was your hook? >> well, i am not a particularly cerebral person. the king that connected me with tony to begin with is that i connected with his energy at the
advice relevant level -- visceral level. i felt his energy. and that's how i could translate it, if you will, into my own sense of emotions, the compassion, the rage, the passion, all the various faces that he has. and then in court he acts out all the roles. so you get the full gamut of the human condition going on. i connected with tony at that visceral level. and then i went to a translation process and a sort of distilled, if you will, process of putting it into context. and i was there in many of the trials, the trials that i was present in. so it is storytelling, but it's
storytelling from the gut rather than from the head which i kind of call window shopping. i wasn't interested in window shopping tony. i wanted it to be his energy. i wanted it to encapsulate a life force. i wanted it to show the great range of his humanity which is the full spectrum and extremely difficult to put on a page to say the least. >> the next question i have is for both john and tony. you both agree that the criminal justice system doesn't work, particularly for poor people in the criminal justice system. what would you do to improve it? we'll start with you first, john. what would you improve? this is an imperfect society that we have. we know that. what can we do to improve it? >> gee. you know, i don't know anything about the criminal justice system. but i think you need to start
out in, you know -- we need to have income redistribution in the country. i mean, it's crazy. and if you do that, you know, in an important way, then a lot of these problems are just going to get fixed by themselves. they're fundamentally economic problems. we used to have 90% taxation of, you know, very high income individuals. we don't do that anymore. i meek, god, dividends and capital gains are taxed at 15%. that's just incredible. it's an incredibl incredible st. -- steal. so that's what i would say. >> well, it's a subject matter that's ripe for hours of discussion. but very quickly, we litigate in
the criminal form too many times of actions and behaviors. so the first thing is, take out all the so-called victimless crimes, all the so-called drug or drug-related cases. can you place them in medical forums or other social forums. secondly, mandatory sentences have to go out. thirdly, grand jury has to go out. fourthly, the informant system has to be eliminated. the police powers, which are ever increasing, have to be at least dropped or minimized. fourth amendment, fifth amendment, first amendment rights have to be given more strength than they have, more resources for the defense because, yes, public defenders and good lawyers who are on the panels, they are defending most of the people who are accused. and they lack the resources because ultimately prosecution with unlimited resources and
defense with very, very limited resources. the deeper issues are where the jurors come from and how they're selected, whether or not judges are curtailing due process in court. reform, reform, reform. and it can only come from the inside, from us, the lawyers. from the judicial process. and from those activists who are interested in reforming the system. but we are in grave crises now because the judiciary has been swallowed by the executive and the balance of powers is sad lay miss. [applause] >> we're going to have to bring the panel to a close in a few minutes. we were just asked if there are any closing thoughts that you have for the audience, before we close it.
>> i keep following tony. it's not fair. you know, the system is only as good as the people who are operating within it. and it's only as good as how the resources available to it can be used. and that's not an easy fix. that's a long-time issue. and i don't have a good answer for that attorney i am hopeful we can try in some manner to level the playing field a little more, at least so that the attorneys in my fictional world have it a little easier. but more important, you know, i have it easy. i write stories. we met the gentleman who is on death row for a long time. you hope at the very least you can avoid serious, serious
mistakes. and allocating the resources to make sure those mistakes don't happy think is a very important thing. >> my view, be more activistic, have more courage, where there's manifest, protest it. everyone should choose an issue. everyone then should be behind that issue and strive for change. the first thing is identify. and then to demonstrate. and then to do actions. and maybe, you know, i'm old and i'm thinking how the 1960's sought to reform things like war and racism, and they took it to the streets, and they cried out loud, and they demonstrated, chanted, boycotted tax. we have to wake up! we're in a slumber because life is fat in the united states. and we're willing to surrender
constitutional rights for our own, you know, image of self-protection. and terrorism abounds. and isn't the police force, you know, wonderful to protect us? that's all era. and what we have to do is point at what is wrong and seek in every fashion or address it within the circle of your own ability to communicate. [applause] >> my book is called "lust for justice" and the word lust imply a certain passion. i think that what is missing over the decades as i have lived is exactly what tony is saying. the dissident voice has become either silent or is yawning itself to sleep. and we can all do something about that. i wrote this book because i wanted tony's dissident voice to be heard. i wanted the art that i did of
him showing his passion and his aliveness to be seen. i thought the two of them together gave a bigger picture than just one alone. and we're all capable of in some way voicing our passion, voicing our lust for the injustices that we are all subject to. and we are all subject to the law. and, therefore, it's important to get this terrible imbalance at least started pointing in the right direction. [applause] >> john? last word. >> ok. i'm not going to say anything about social justice. i have a thought for you. go out and rent the movie "to kill a mockingbird." it is a really, really good movie. and it's a really sophisticated
movie. you know, the script, you know, you can't get any better. the producer, the performances are wonderful. every bit of that movie -- when you look at it, try to look, you know, into the actual scenes what they're doing. it's fascinating. it's all shot on a sound stage. this movie is made at the same time that they're making -- what was that huge thing in the sand? oh, "lawrence of arabia." right? [laughing] the same time they're shooting "to kill a mockingbird." they're doing it all on the sound stage. there's a reason for that. they're doing it in black and white. you know how they had to push to get that through the studio, to make a black and white film when everybody wants color? they finally invented technicolor and all of this crap and these guys say they want to do "to kill a mockingbird" in black and white? and they're going to shoot it on
a sound stage? these are very, very smart filmmakers. so i suggest you go back and watch it, and hopefully think about some of the things that i said about it. and the time it's shot. you know, the beginning of the 1960's and what's going on in the country. and i think you'll find it is a greater experience than you remember it. not because atticus finch is the smartest guy on the block, but because the movie makers are the smartest guys on the block. [applause] >> once again we have all the books by our novelists here and our writers here in the front. or you can find them on amazon.com. i'd like to thank mary mcdonagh murphy, who joined us from new york via skype, and john -- john is actually a descendant of the
first chief justice of the u.s. supreme court. paulette frankl, "lust for justice," tony serra, and sheldon siegal. so before we take a break, i do have a surprise. a few years ago, i guess six or seven years ago, i met an amazing artist. i was visiting his home. and he had created this wonderful sculpture. i immediately recognized it as being clarence. it turned out that he had created a number of just amazing sculptures of trial lawyers. and he went on to do one of clara fults, the first woman attorney in california and became the leader of the public defender movement. and just by happenstance, he
called me and had this idea of encapsulating one of the greatest trial attorneys of our times. so, bill? is he here? this is not a magistrate. [laughing] -- not a magic trick. >> i've never met tony serra, so i have to make use of the internet to get a sense of who he was and the imagery. what clearly came over was his passion for justice. and in some cases almost a rage for justice. and initially when i started the imagery with the clay, i tried to show this passion for justice, this rage. but then i had a conversation
with jeff about tony serra. and another element came out, his great heart, his deep generosity, and his respect for those he defended. so i've tried to incorporate both of these things in this piece. and i depicted him as i would see him making his plea to the jury on behalf of his client. i hope tony likes it. [laughing] [applause]
>> we knew this would be tremendously embarrassing to tony, because tony, you know, doesn't like to be recognized in any way. but the reason we did this, tony -- and i want to thank the trial lawyers association or the northern california criminal trial lawyers association as well as stuart hanlon. we're going to also have an image of you -- a sculpture of you, in our trial room to help inspire the next generation of attorneys. but this one is yours. [applause] so thank you very much to all of our panelists. we're going to take a five-minute break and then come back with our next p
>> the second panel. this panel is going to be incredible. it really is. we have a superstar panel and, of course, a superstar moderator that i'm very honored to introduce, and that's judge lee baxter. and judge lee baxter is retired now from the bench, although you would never know it. and she's enjoying a new career as a photographer, is a great photographer. but during the time that she was on the bench in san francisco, we had the opportunity to try cases in her court. and she was somebody who represented fairness to everyone. and i think some of the ideals that we talked about in the last panel really were embodied by the way that she ran her court. and at the end of the day it was always about making sure that whoever appeared in her court and before the court walked out
of there feeling that they had their case heard and their concerns heard. so, again, judge lee baxter, retired from the san francisco superior court bench. [applause] >> thank you for your kind words. i have been away for a while, but i certainly enjoyed my time on the bench, particularly at the hall of justice. i love the community of attorneys there and the community of judges. i'm glad to be back today. i'm also very delighted and honored to be participating in our fabulous panel which i will introduce you to in just a few minutes. before we begin, though, i wanted to say a quick few words about a tony serra story.
i don't know if tony is still here or not. he probably is not. but i did want to tell you about this because i think it's important because it embodies something about tony that maybe you don't know. and maybe he'll watch the video of this and hear what i have to say. i was appointed to the bench in 1987, and i was assigned to a misdemeanor trial court, civil, actually. the very first trial, jury trial, that they sent to me was a simple assault misdemeanor case. and when the attorneys -- when i found out who the attorneys were, i was absolutely blown away because i had a district attorney -- it was not a civil case, by the way. i had a district attorney who was very, very inexperienced. i think he had had two jury trials at that point. i had had none. and lo and behold tony serra walks into my court representing
the defendant. i couldn't imagine why he was there for a simple misdemeanor assault case, but he was. and i thought, boy, this is just my luck. here i've got this famous tony serra, he's renown, he's in the press all the time, he has had a movie made about him, and i bet he's an arrogant jerk, and i get him. first trial he's going to make me look really bad. and this poor d.a., we're just going to look terrible. well, lo and behold tony serra comes in. he's a wonderful gentleman. he's gracious. he knows i've never tried a case to a jury. he knows that the d.a. has tried two cases to a jury. he guided us through this trial. he put on a fabulous show, as is his want, which was instructional and very, very interesting.
he never took advantage of my inexperience or the d.a.'s experience. and by the end of the day when that trial was over -- of course, he won. but nobody on that jury would have ever suspected that i had never tried a case to a jury or that the d.a. had not had any experience, virtually, either. so i have always wanted to thank tony serra for making me look really good my first jury trial. i had thanked him all my life. and i will never forget that trial. [applause] but let's get back to the issues at hand. well, it happened again this morning. when i read "the chronicle." it seems like it's an epidemic, but maybe it just appear that
way. of course i'm talking about the many allegations of police officer abuse and misconduct that we have been reading in the papers recently, along with, of course, misconduct by former governors and monetary fund honchos. but i divert. first, i think the first real scandal that broke several months ago was the theft of drugs from the police department drug lab. then we had the raiding of residential hotel rooms without search warrants. these, of course, are all allegations. we had lying on police reports. surveillance camera videos showing officers removing items from hotel rooms other than evidence that they were going to put into their report. we had drug theft by officers.
we had the so-called dirty d.u.i.'s, the drunk driving setups. we've had officers selling stolen drugs. and the one that just beats all is the one of setting up a brothel. now, if i saw a movie that included all of these things in a movie, i would think, well, this is not realistic. it just doesn't happen this way. but apparently it does. so today we're going to talk about the ethics of law enforcement, prevent ago boose of power -- preventing abuse of power. i wanted to read to you a letter to the editor that i happened to run across in the chronicle the other day when i was thinking about this panel. i just ant to read it to you. it's entitled "betrayal of trust in the san frci