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I enjoyed seeing The Recorder’scoverage of AB 1700 [ "Secret settlements back on agenda," March 1]. Having been involved with the issue of court secrecy for some years, I have been working with Assemblywoman Pavley on the bill. I found lawyers’ criticisms of AB 1700 interesting. The bill has clear protections for trade secrets andproprietary business information. And the bill is actually narrowerthan the 2001 bill, SB 11, because that bill would have prohibited secret agreements for financial and insurance frauds that have nothing to do with bodily harm. The bill is also narrower than the Florida statute, which is triggered by any injury, rather than the “substantial bodily injury” required in AB 1700. More significantly, while some small number of lawyers may favor secrecy, peopledon’t. Neither do law students. When I ask my ethics students what they think, they are unanimous in their view that secret settlements that affect public safety should be void as against public policy. And dozens of ethics professors like myself — perhaps a more objective group than either plaintiffs’ trial lawyers or defense counsel — have endorsed the concept of doing away with secrecy agreements such as those described in AB 1700. In fact, these professors have said that it should be unethicalfor a lawyer to engage in “secretizing” information that is likely to cause harm to the public. Why? Because lawyers secretly settle cases precisely becausethey want to avoid public awarenesof information that would expose a danger to us all, and thatis simply wrong. Richard Zitrin San Francisco

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