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‘Exoneration’ misused The word “exoneration” is being used a little too freely these days. In the context of our judicial system, it means that the person was discovered to be actually innocent. Only some of the people “exonerated” by the innocence projects described in Tresa Baldas’ story ["Exoneration as a cottage industry," NLJ, Oct. 4] would fit that qualification. It is more than a little ironic to see some of the criminal defense attorneys now singing the praises of DNA. Nor does it make the news when prosecutors and police use DNA almost daily to clear-or exonerate, if you will-people who did not commit the crime and as often to convict the guilty. In the 1980s when prosecutors started attempting to introduce DNA as valid science it was the legal equivalent of house-to-house ground combat as criminal defense lawyers derided DNA as voodoo science. Now that the technology can on the rare occasion be used to the advantage of a criminal defendant, what has come forward is hardly the “new civil rights movement,” claimed by Peter Neufeld. That requires a wide-ranging DNA databank, something Neufeld and others have opposed, claiming it infringes on the donor’s civil rights. Since DNA samples can now be taken easily and the type of DNA collected does not contain data about possible genetic problems, what reasonable objection can anyone who claims to be interested in seeking the truth find for near-universal DNA sample collection? Joshua Marquis Astoria, Ore. The writer is district attorney of Clatsop County, Ore. Client-fund problems Eliza Amon’s article ["Client funds improved, still flawed," NLJ, Sept. 27] has sent a much-needed wake-up call to our profession. All too many client compensation funds still provide only token recompense, teeter in and out of bankruptcy, operate in secret and manifest overt hostility toward claimants. Sadly, the legal profession’s commitment to assist the victims of unethical attorneys remains an unkept promise. Of the many problems, caps on client security fund awards may be the most glaring and the least justifiable. Those states that fully reimburse clients do so at the simple cost of one billable hour a year per lawyer. Such caps must be eliminated. These nationwide failures in providing financial redress to injured clients are all the more significant because the other methods of ensuring lawyer accountability are also seriously flawed. Lawyer-discipline systems across the nation are plagued by secrecy, laxity, bias and delay. The American Bar Association’s latest findings show that 94% of attorneys against whom complaints are filed are not disciplined. In every state except Oregon, lawyers are not required to carry even minimal malpractice insurance; clients’ chances of full restitution are still slim. Without delay, state bar associations must increase funding to make funds solvent, raise payouts to fully reimburse clients and publicize the funds’ availability. Responsible members of the bench and bar must show a commitment to implementing systems that create real accountability and restore public trust. Suzanne Mishkin Kristin Weber Washington, D.C. The writers are associate counsel and program associate, respectively, of Halt-An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform. Posthumous donors The op-ed piece by Sharonna Hoffman on Sept. 6, “Posthumous conception: Protect intent of donor,” makes some sound recommendations, but like other discussions of the subject, it misses an important point. Who is the “donor”? It is appropriate to focus on the parents’ wishes or presumed wishes when the question is how to divide the deceased parent’s estate, or some other fixed sum, but the concerns are entirely different if we are talking about support under a government program that is designed to take care of minor children who have lost a parent. When, if ever, should a child who was never dependent on that parent in the first place be entitled to “dependent” benefits? Robert Alan Wake Augusta, Maine

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