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BAR’S VOTING SYSTEM KEEPS ITS POWERS TURNED INWARD State Bar President Sheldon Sloan raises some interesting questions in defending the electoral structure of the State Bar � a structure that gives the right to vote for Bar president only to 23 governors and not to any of the other 210,000 members of the State Bar [ Letter to the Editor, June 29]. Mr. Sloan argues: “The governors are in a position to know which candidate has evidenced the best leadership qualities. The governors have all served with the candidates for three-, two- or one-year terms and have worked closely with them all. They are truly the best qualified to make that decision. It is the same reason that the House of Representatives chooses its own speaker, rather than the general public.” But the speaker of the House of Representatives is chosen by all members of the House, not by a selected few. This is as it should be, since they are all full-fledged members of the House. In addition, the Bar president presides over the entire State Bar, not just one legislative chamber as does the House speaker. So denying California lawyers the right to vote for their president � as the present system does — disenfranchises them even more thoroughly than would a comparable arrangement in the House alone. Mr. Sloan fails to appreciate that voting rights are not just more or less efficient ways of choosing leaders; they are emblems of self-government. State Bar members’ right to vote should be accorded special respect by the State Bar, which exists on mandatory dues mulcted from its members. The Bar’s present voting system, with its tight limits on the constituencies and powers of the president, in fact seems designed to keep the Bar’s powers turned inward toward its bureaucratic staff and away from the general membership. Mr. Sloan’s next argument is a familiar one of campaign finance. He says a different system could bring “unfair advantage” to candidates “who come from a large constituency (DAs, public defenders, etc.) or large law firms willing and able to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to run a political campaign to elect their member president. The field here is not level.” Like this system or not, the Supreme Court, in decisions running from Buckley v. Valeo to last week’s Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (June 25), has scotched the notion that the First Amendment allows “leveling the field” by limiting campaign expenditures. As for Mr. Sloan’s suggestion that I run again for the Bar’s Board of Governors, I am flattered, but will have to leave that to younger hands. As for Mr. Sloan’s suggestion that the present system on its face “works well,” I return to former Bar President James Heiting’s observation that it is “certainly not always true” under the present system that Bar governors choose presidential candidates “for the advantage of the lawyers of the state.” I ask Mr. Sloan: Is that a system working well?

Stephen R. Barnett Berkeley

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